Greg Craig, former Obama White House counsel, pleads not guilty to lobbying violations

Political News Greg Craig, former Obama White House counsel, pleads not guilty to lobbying violations

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(WASHINGTON) — Gregory Craig, a high-profile Washington attorney who served in the Obama White House, formally pleaded not guilty on Friday to alleged violations of foreign lobbying laws for his work in Ukraine.

Prosecutors indicted Craig, 74, on charges of “hiding material facts” and lying to lobbying regulators under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, on Thursday.

In court documents, prosecutors accused Craig of failing to file as a lobbyist for his work in Ukraine in 2012 pursuant to FARA guidelines because “doing so could prevent him … from taking positions in the federal government in the future,” among other reasons.

Confronted by regulators at the Justice Department about his failure to register, Craig repeatedly lied and concealed information about his work for Ukrainian clients, prosecutors wrote.

Attorneys for Craig called prosecutors’ indictment “unfair and misleading” on Thursday.

“It ignores uncontroverted evidence to the contrary,” William Taylor and William Murphy, attorneys for Craig, wrote. “Mr. Craig had no interest in misleading the FARA Unit because he had not done anything that required his registration. That is what this trial will be all about.”

During the course of his work in Ukraine, court records show Craig shared clients with Paul Manafort, the onetime campaign chairman for President Donald Trump who was convicted of engaging in a secretive lobbying operation for Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Craig issued a statement in anticipation of charges, arguing that Craig acted only “as an independent expert on the rule of law, not as an advocate” for the Ukrainians.

“Mr. Craig is not guilty of any charge and the government’s stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion,” his lawyers wrote.

Court documents show Craig “repeated certain of the false and misleading statements” during an October 2017 interview with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

The special counsel’s office used lobbying violations in half a dozen cases brought against high-profile defendants over the course of his investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

Notably, the law was cited in indictments of former chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted of engaging in a secretive lobbying operation for Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president back in 2012, and former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who admitted to a foreign lobbying violation when he pleaded guilty to making false statements.

If found guilty, Craig could face up to ten years in prison. The case was investigated by the FBI’s New York field office and is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C.

Craig has held a number of high-profile jobs in Washington, including as defense counsel for President Bill Clinton during impeachment proceedings and as counsel in the Obama White House.

The federal judge overseeing Craig’s case ordered parties to return to court on April 15 for a status hearing.

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Posted On 12 Apr 2019

US saw 27 active shooter incidents in 2018, FBI report says

U.S. NEWS US saw 27 active shooter incidents in 2018, FBI report says

cmannphoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) — From schools to synagogues to newsrooms, reports of an “active shooter” have become more and more common in American life and a new FBI report says there were 27 such incidents in the U.S. in 2018, resulting in 213 casualties including 85 deaths.

The situatuon has gotten to the point that the FBI report called for members of the public to be trained in how to thwart active shooters.

“As in past years, citizens were faced with split-second, life-and-death decisions. In 2018, citizens risked their lives to safely and successfully end the shootings in five of the 27 active shooter incidents,” the report reads. “They saved many lives. Given this reality, it is vital that citizens be afforded training so they understand the risks they face and the options they have available when active shooter incidents are unfolding.”

The number of incidents in 2018 was down slightly from 2017, which saw 30 active shooter incidents according to the report released this week.

The FBI defines an active shooter as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people,” formal language that doesn’t fully convey the horror of shootings that repeatedly shocked the nation.

The worst shooting in 2018 was in February when a student gunman allegedly opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people, the eighth largest number of deaths of any active shooter incident.

Twenty-three of the 27 shooters were male, but that should come as no surprise given Secret Service data that profiled mass shooters. The FBI says 16 of the 27 shootings took place in businesses and five were committed in “education environments.”

The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md., in which prosecutors say a shooter walked into the newsroom and killed five people is categorized as a place of business by the FBI. One “education environment” the FBI talks about was Santa Fe High School, in Santa Fe, Texas, just outside of Houston, where 10 people were killed and 12 were injured according to the FBI.

Only one shooting took place in an FBI-designated “house of worship” in 2018, and that was the shooting at the Tree of Life Shooting synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., which claimed 11 lives.

The FBI says the youngest active shooter was 13-years-old, a male student who walked into Noblesville West Middle School in Noblesville, Ind., allegedly with two hand guns and opened fire.

The FBI says law enforcement must remain vigilant and “train aggressively.”

“The FBI remains committed to assisting state, local, tribal, and campus law enforcement in its active shooter prevention, response, and recovery efforts,” the report said.

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Posted On 12 Apr 2019

Bus driver surprises student with decorated school bus in honor of her birthday

Courtesy Kathleen Hopson(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — A school bus driver has pulled out all the stops to make one of her little passengers feel special on her birthday.

Arletha Sherman, 64, of Jacksonville, Fla., decorated her school bus this week in honor of Anna Hopson’s fifth birthday.

“She’s touched my heart,” Sherman told Good Morning America of Anna. “She never complains. She has the most beautiful smile and it inspired me to do something for her.”

Anna Hopson is a pre-kindergarten student at Sabal Palm Elementary School in Jacksonville, Fla. Anna has a progressive neuromuscular disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which causes nerve damage mostly in the arms and legs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Mom Kathleen Hopson told GMA that Anna, who has been using a wheelchair for the last six months, rides Sherman’s wheelchair-accessible bus.

“Anna’s pretty independent and she’s been riding the bus without a parent since she was 3 years old,” Hopson said. “Arletha [Sherman] is an excellent bus driver and a very caring person. She loves all the kids that she drives and always goes above and beyond to make them feel safe and happy on the bus.”

Hopson said Sherman gave a princess gown and tiara for Anna. When Anna boarded the bus on April 10, it had been decorated with streamers and a “Happy Birthday” banner.

“[S]he looked around and asked, ‘Is this all for me?'” Hopson recalled. “Anna was thrilled and surprised.”

Sherman said some of the children on the bus sang “Happy Birthday” to Anna. Local news stations reported on the story after Anna’s aunt shared photos of the surprise on social media, Sherman said, adding that Anna is going to serve as flower girl in her July 27 wedding.

Sherman hopes Anna’s story encourages other bus drivers to spread kindness to children.

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5-year-old may have been thrown off 3rd floor of Mall of America: Police

U.S. NEWS 5-year-old may have been thrown off 3rd floor of Mall of America: Police

vmargineanu/iStock(BLOOMINGTON, Minn.) — A 5-year-old suffered “significant injuries” after falling from the third floor of the famed Mall of America in Minnesota and may have been thrown or pushed, according to police, who cited witnesses.

Cops were called to the mall, in Bloomington, around 10:15 a.m. Friday after the child landed on first floor, Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts said at a news conference.

The suspect, a 24-year-old man, initially fled the scene but was arrested, Potts said.

Police do not believe there is a relationship between the suspect and the child and the incident appeared to be isolated.

Investigators are working with mall officials to determine if there was video, Potts said.

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Posted On 12 Apr 2019

President Donald Trump confirms plan under consideration to release immigrants in sanctuary cities

Political News President Donald Trump confirms plan under consideration to release immigrants in sanctuary cities

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump confirmed on Friday that his administration engaged in conversations about a plan to transfer immigrants detained at the southern border onto the streets of “sanctuary cities.”

“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!” the president said in a series of tweets on Friday.

Senior-level sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that the plan was aimed, in part, to punish political rivals by placing immigrants in their respective districts.

Prior to the president’s tweet, a White House official told ABC News “This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.”

An official at the Department of Homeland Security had released a nearly identical statement asserting that the discussion is now over.

Sanctuary cities, such as San Francisco and New York City, do not cooperate with the federal government in complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests.

The proposal, first reported by The Washington Post, would have targeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco, among other Democratic strongholds, according to these officials.

“The extent of this Administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” said Ashley Etienne, Pelosi’s communications director.

“Using human beings – including little children – as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable, and in some cases, criminal,” she added. “The American people have resoundingly rejected this Administration’s toxic anti-immigrant policies, and Democrats will continue to advance immigration policies that keep us safe and honor our values.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented on the reporting Friday, saying the plan was “unworthy of the presidency.”

“Well, I don’t know anything about it but again it’s just another notion that is unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful to the challenges that we face as a country as the people to address who we are as a nation of immigrants,” Pelosi said.

The proposal was under discussion in November and February, according to these officials. During both of those months, President Donald Trump was aggressively seeking a political win on border issues. In November, a migrant caravan was approaching the border in the heat of the midterm elections. In February, he was involved in budget negotiations with Democrats over the border wall.

The November email contained the subject line “Sanctuary City Proposal,” according to the Washington Post who reviewed the emails. “The idea has been raised by 1-2 principals that, if we are unable to build sufficient temporary housing, that caravan members be bussed to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,” read the email, sent by May Davis, the White House deputy policy coordinator. “There is NOT a White House decision on this.” Sources familiar with the email confirmed the Post’s account of this email, but it has not been reviewed by ABC News.

A senior DHS official told ABC News that the president himself raised this directly with then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Nielsen asked the legal team to review the idea and they flatly rejected it saying it is illegal.

News of this discussion comes the same week Trump appeared to lament the loss of his child separation policy. While he refuted reports that there were discussions about bringing the policy back, he blamed the recent surge in border crossings on the fact that the policy was ended.

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Posted On 12 Apr 2019

Woman mysteriously pleads for help through Texas home security system: Sheriff

U.S. NEWS Woman mysteriously pleads for help through Texas home security system: Sheriff

(Wise County Sheriff’s Office) Authorities in Texas released this image asking for help in finding a young woman who they say mysteriously pleaded for help through a home’s security system before fleeing the scene, April 9, 2019. (WISE COUNTY, Texas) — Authorities in Texas are looking to find a young woman who they say mysteriously pleaded for help through a home’s security system before fleeing the scene.

The woman, believed to be between the ages of 15 and 25, was seen on surveillance cameras at about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday in the Indian Trails subdivision between Decatur and Bridgeport, Texas, the Wise County Sheriff’s Office said.

The woman, carrying a backpack, approached a home and left a message asking for help on the resident’s security system voicemail, according to the sheriff’s office.

“I’m really scared. Will you please open your gate? Please?” she said in the four-second video released, according to ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA.

Surveillance footage in the area showed her looking around as though someone was following her, the sheriff’s office said.

She stayed in the area “until something appeared to attract her attention,” the sheriff’s office said, and then she immediately turned and ran toward a wooded area.

“There’s some urgency in her voice,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told WFAA. “It’s troubling… to know that this young woman is apparently concerned, in some level of need.”

“The entire neighborhood has been canvassed and no one saw her or recognized her,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.

There were no reports of runaways in the area, the sheriff’s office said, and local school districts said no one matching her description was absent from school during that time.

Anyone with information is urged to call the sheriff’s office at 940-627-5971.

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Posted On 12 Apr 2019

Two women murdered, found in oil field in 1986, 1991 now identified: Police

U.S. NEWS Two women murdered, found in oil field in 1986, 1991 now identified: Police

ablokhin/iStock(LEAGUE CITY, Texas) — Two young women who were murdered and left in a Texas oil field decades ago have finally been identified thanks to the new investigative technique of genetic genealogy, according to local police.

One of the women, who police called Jane Doe, was shot in the back. Her body was found in an oil field in League City on Feb. 2, 1986, said the League City police.

The skeletal remains of the second woman, who police called Janet Doe, were discovered in the same area on Sept. 8, 1991, police said.

Authorities said they will reveal the victims’ names at a news conference on April 15.

The recovery of Janet Doe’s remains marked the fourth woman to be found dead in that area within seven years, according to the police department.

The other two women have been already identified as 25-year-old Heidi Fye, whose body was found in 1984, and 16-year-old Laura Miller, who was found dead in 1986, according to The Houston Chronicle.

A fifth victim was found a few miles away, League City Police spokesman Kelly Williamson told ABC News.

As police worked to identify Jane Doe and Janet Doe, one investigative technique the department said it employed was phenotyping analysis, which uses a victim’s DNA to make predictions about his or her characteristics, including eye color, hair color and skin color.

The analysis predicted Jane Doe most likely had fair to very fair skin, blue or green eyes, blond/brown hair and no or few freckles, said League City police. It’s believed her family is from Tennessee, the phenotyping analysis determined, said police.

Jane Doe was believed to be between 22 and 30 years old, coroners estimate. She likely died six weeks to six months before she was found.

Meanwhile, Parabon helped determine that Janet Doe most likely had fair skin, hazel eyes, brown hair and no or few freckles, said police. She was believed to be between 24 and 34 years old, coroners estimated, according to police. Janet Doe likely has family from Louisiana, the phenotyping analysis found.

Despite the composite images released through the phenotyping analysis, League City police said on Thursday that it was the new technique known as genetic genealogy that finally brought them answers.

Genetic genealogy takes the DNA of an unknown person and traces a family tree through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to public genealogy databases. Genetic genealogy first came to light as an investigative tool in April 2018 when the DNA of the “Golden State Killer” was plugged into public genealogy databases to lead to the name of a suspect.

The police department has not yet elaborated on how genetic genealogy led to Jane Doe and Janet Doe’s identities.

According to The Chronicle, police have previously said there were persons of interest who could not be eliminated in this mysterious case. Williamson declined to comment on potential persons of interest on Friday and said that would be addressed at the April 15 news conference.

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Posted On 12 Apr 2019

Star David Harbour wasn’t thinking franchise with ‘Hellboy’: “We just wanted to make a great movie”

Entertainment News  Star David Harbour wasn't thinking franchise with 'Hellboy': "We just wanted to make a great movie"


Mark Rogers/Lionsgate(NEW YORK) — Hellboy is in theaters today. It’s a reboot of Guillermo del Toro’s two-film series, which originally starred Ron Perlman as the red-skinned demon hero.  This new version stars Stranger Things’ David Harbour as Hellboy, and he tells ABC Radio he was quite familiar with the DC Comics source material even before the movies came out.

“I just love the comics. I was sort of introduced to them…when I was very depressed in my early 20s in New York, in sort of a darker phase of life,” Harbour says, referring to a time he’d battled alcohol addiction.

“And they really are very cathartic for that sort of thing, you know?”

In the movie, Hellboy is raised by a human father — played by John Wick vet Ian McShane — and becomes an agent for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), a kind of Men In Black for the supernatural world.

As Harbour notes, “I mean it’s a it’s a crazy, dark sort of concept: a half-demon who was spawned by Nazi occultists and is meant to bring about the end of the world — but has a good heart and wants to be a ‘good guy.'”

But while Marvel has managed to create an entire decade of interconnected superhero movies, Harbour isn’t going there.

“[T]here are some Easter eggy sort of things and some open threads, but we weren’t trying to…set up franchise, or set up a universe,” he explains. “We just wanted to make great Hellboy movie.”

Still, he admits that the source material is rich for a sequel, noting, “Sure, like, in my wildest fantasies, there are so many threads…and so many great characters.” 

Hellboy, which also stars Milla Jovovich and Daniel Dae Kim, is now playing.

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Posted On 12 Apr 2019

Ohio becomes the latest state with a heartbeat abortion ban, but will likely face legal challenges

Casimiro/iStock(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio has now added itself to a growing list of states where the governor has signed a ban on abortions after a heartbeat can be detected.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed the controversial ban, which is one of the most stringent in the country, on Thursday.

Similar bills had been proposed in Ohio in the past, but the state’s last Republican governor, John Kasich, vetoed those saying that they were unconstitutional.

The legality of abortion bans that start at the point of a detectable heartbeat — which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy when some women may not know that they are pregnant — has been challenged in a number of other states.

As soon as DeWine signed the Ohio bill into law, the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that they will be challenging it in court.

“This legislation is blatantly unconstitutional and we will fight to the bitter end to ensure that this bill is permanently blocked,” said Freda Levenson, the legal director of the ACLU of Ohio, in a statement. “SB 23 is one of the most aggressive, oppressive, and radical attacks against women ever seen in this state and this country.”

Already this year, there have been two other states — Kentucky and Mississippi — where similar so-called “heartbeat” bills have been signed into law. Kentucky and Mississippi’s new laws have both already faced legal challenges, and neither has taken effect.

While no six-week ban has actually gone into effect, abortion advocates claim lawmakers push for “radical abortion bans” as “part of a deliberate strategy” to get legal challenges that could take an abortion case to the Supreme Court, as Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said on a conference call with reporters in late March.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund reports that in the first three months of 2019, there were 16 states where a six-week abortion ban has been either filed, moved or signed into law.

The debate over such a ban in Georgia is ongoing, and the state’s legislature has approved of the bill but it is awaiting the governor’s signature.

One potentially unexpected group that came out against the Georgia bill is the Writers Guild of America East and West, which released a statement condemning the “draconian anti-choice measure.” The guild said if passed, “this law would make Georgia an inhospitable place for those in the film and television industry to work, including our members.”

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