Watchdog: Comey ‘insubordinate,’ not biased in Clinton probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a stinging rebuke, the Justice Department watchdog declared Thursday that former FBI Director James Comey was “insubordinate” in his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation in the explosive final months of the 2016 presidential campaign. But it also found there was no evidence that Comey’s or the department’s final conclusions were motivated by political bias toward either candidate.
President Donald Trump had looked to the much-anticipated report to provide a fresh line of attack against Comey and the FBI as Trump claims that a politically tainted bureau tried to undermine his campaign and, through the later Russia investigation, his presidency. He is likely to use the harsh assessment of Comey as validation for his decision to fire him, an act now central to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice.
Clinton and her supporters, on the other hand, have long complained that she was the one whose election chances were torpedoed by Comey’s investigation announcements about her email practices, in the summer and then shortly before the election.
Yet the report’s nuanced findings — that the FBI repeatedly erred, though not for politically improper reasons — complicated efforts by Republicans and Democrats alike to claim total vindication.
The conclusions were contained in a 500-page report that documents in painstaking detail one of the most consequential investigations in modern FBI history and reveals how the bureau, which for decades has endeavoured to stand apart from politics, came to be entangled in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump accused in lawsuit of misusing charitable foundation
NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s attorney general sued President Donald Trump and his foundation Thursday, accusing him of illegally using the charity’s money to settle disputes involving his business empire and to boost his political fortunes during his run for the White House.
The president called the case “ridiculous.”
The lawsuit against Trump and the foundation directors — his children Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka — seeks $2.8 million in restitution, additional unspecified penalties and the dissolution of the foundation, which Trump had already pledged to dismantle.
The attorney general’s office detailed what it said was a closely co-ordinated effort by Trump’s campaign and the foundation to burnish his political image by giving out big grants of other’s people money to veterans’ organizations during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nominating contest of 2016.
“The foundation’s grants made Mr. Trump and the campaign look charitable and increased the candidate’s profile to Republican primary voters and among important constituent groups,” Democratic Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s lawsuit said.
Trump approves plan to impose tough China tariffs
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has approved a plan to impose punishing tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of Chinese goods as early as Friday, a move that could put his trade policies on a collision course with his push to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.
Trump has long vowed to fulfil his campaign pledge to clamp down on what he considers unfair Chinese trading practices. But his calls for billions in tariffs could complicate his efforts to maintain China’s support in his negotiations with North Korea.
Trump met Thursday with several Cabinet members and trade advisers and was expected to impose tariffs on at least $35 billion to $40 billion of Chinese imports, according to an industry official and an administration official familiar with the plans. The amount of goods could reach $55 billion, said the industry official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter ahead of a formal announcement.
If the president presses forward as expected, it could set the stage for a series of trade actions against China and lead to retaliation from Beijing. Trump has already slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and European allies, and his proposed tariffs against China risk starting a trade war involving the world’s two biggest economies.
The decision on the Chinese tariffs comes in the aftermath of Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The president has co-ordinated closely with China on efforts to get Pyongyang to eliminate its nuclear arsenal. But he signalled that whatever the implications, “I have to do what I have to do” to address the trade imbalance.
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. WHAT NY ATTORNEY GENERAL ACCUSED TRUMP OF DOING
New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of illegally using money from his charitable foundation to settle disputes involving his business empire and to burnish his image during his run for the White House.
2. WATCHDOG SEES ERRORS, NOT BIAS, IN COMEY’S CLINTON PROBE
In a stinging report, the Justice Department watchdog said that former FBI Director James Comey was “insubordinate” in his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the 2016 presidential election, but found no evidence that Comey was biased.
White House: Trump salute to NK general ‘a common courtesy’
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Thursday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to return a military salute to a North Korean three-star general.
“It’s a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes, that you return that,” presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters two days after Trump returned from his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
North Korean state media released video from the visit of Trump reaching out to shake the hand of the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, who instead saluted during the summit in Singapore. The two then reversed gestures, with Trump saluting and the general reaching out to shake hands. The two eventually shook hands.
The awkward moment raised some eyebrows because the U.S. and North Korea technically are still at war.
“I have never seen an American president salute an officer of another military, let alone a military that acts as a brutal enforcer of human slavery and awful prison camps in a gulag across its nation,” said James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral who served as the top NATO commander. “It was a mistake.”
Trump’s halt of ‘war games’ could weaken defences in Korea
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend major U.S. military exercises in South Korea could weaken allied defences, depending on the length and scope of the hiatus. But the potential for diplomatic damage seems even greater.
The United States, South Korea and Japan were making a public display of solidarity Thursday over the outcome of Trump’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. But analysts and former officials with experience in U.S.-Asia policy were shaken by Trump’s failure to inform the Asian allies — or even the Pentagon — before mothballing the military manoeuvrs.
“Those exercises are critically important because they are deterrence,” said Chuck Hagel, a former defence secretary in the Obama administration. He welcomed Trump’s willingness to talk to Kim but worried that the president has underestimated the complications he has introduced for the Pentagon by suspending the military drills.
“You don’t just shut them on and off like a water faucet,” he said.
The exercises in question go well beyond routine training, which apparently is unaffected by Trump’s decision. Large-scale exercises are done to ensure that evolving tactics, procedures and plans can be carried out smoothly and that U.S. and South Korean forces are in sync. They also are a means of showing allied solidarity, which is part of the psychology of deterring enemy attack.
House GOP unveils bill for young immigrants, $25B for border
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans unveiled a “discussion draft” of a sweeping immigration bill that includes a path to citizenship for young immigrants, $25 billion in border security — including advance funds for President Donald Trump’s wall with Mexico — and a provision aimed at addressing the crisis of family separations at the border.
Presented to lawmakers Thursday, the measure sticks to Trump’s immigration priorities while trying to join the party’s warring conservative and moderate factions on an issue that has divided the GOP for years. Passage is far from certain.
Speaker Paul Ryan wants to hold a vote as soon as next week to put the issue to rest before the midterm election. He called it a “very good compromise.”
“Our members felt very, very passionate about having votes on policies they care about, and that is what we are doing,” he said earlier Thursday. “So we’re bringing legislation that’s been carefully crafted and negotiated to the floor. We won’t guarantee passage.”
The 293-page bill represents the kind of ambitious overhaul of the immigration system Republicans have long considered but have been unable to turn into law. It shifts away from the nation’s longtime preference for family immigration to a new system that prioritizes entry based on merits and skills. It beefs up border security, clamps down on illegal entries and reinforces other immigration laws.
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its “zero tolerance” approach to illegal border crossings.
“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions had earlier cited the Bible in his defence of the border policy that has resulted in hundreds of children being separated from their parents. Speaking Thursday in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sessions pointed to a verse in the Book of Romans on obeying the laws of government, saying, “God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
The comments came as House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans said they were not comfortable with family separations, which spiked dramatically after the Justice Department adopted a policy in April of referring all illegal border crossers for prosecution.
“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” Ryan said Thursday.
Saudi-led troops fight rebel forces south of Yemen’s Hodeida
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s exiled government captured a town south of the port city of Hodeida on Thursday as fierce fighting and airstrikes pounded the area on the second day of an offensive to capture the strategic harbour that is the main entry point for food in a country teetering on the brink of famine.
A Saudi military spokesman said the forces were drawing closer to the Red Sea port in a campaign aimed at driving out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and breaking the civil war’s long stalemate.
International aid agencies and the United Nations have warned the assault could shut down the vital aid route for some 70 per cent of Yemen’s food, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies. Around two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.
The United Arab Emirates ambassador to U.N. agencies in Geneva maintained the Saudi-Emirati coalition had no choice but to act.
“Should we leave the Houthis smuggling missiles?” Ambassador Obaid Salem al-Zaabi told a news conference. “This comes from this seaport. We already gave the United Nations the chance to operate from this seaport, and (the Houthis) refused.”
Many animals are shifting from day to night to avoid people
NEW YORK (AP) — Lions and tigers and bears are increasingly becoming night owls because of us, a new study says.
Scientists have long known that human activity disrupts nature. Besides becoming more vigilant and reducing time spent looking for food, many mammals may travel to remote areas or move around less to avoid contact with people.
The latest research found even activities like hiking and camping can scare animals and drive them to become more active at night.
“It suggests that animals might be playing it safe around people,” said Kaitlyn Gaynor, an ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study. “We may think that we leave no trace when we’re just hiking in the woods, but our mere presence can have lasting consequences.”
Gaynor and her colleagues analyzed 76 studies involving 62 species on six continents. Animals included lions in Tanzania, otters in Brazil, coyotes in California, wild boars in Poland and tigers in Nepal.