13 Days in July: The Trump White House’s crucible
WASHINGTON (AP) — They were the 13 days that transformed the White House.
Even for an administration that spent most of 2017 throwing off headlines at a dizzying pace, events in the second half of July unfolded at breakneck speed. They encapsulated both the promise and peril of President Donald Trump’s first year in office — and yielded aftershocks that reverberate within the White House even as the calendar turns to 2018.
The two-week span laid bare the splintering of Trump’s relationships with two influential Cabinet members, foreshadowed the reach of the Russia probe into the interior of his orbit; saw the dramatic, last-minute defeat of one of the president’s signature campaign promises; and featured a senior staff shakeup that reset the rhythms of this presidency.
From the outside, it was an unruly stretch that threatened to turn the White House into a sideshow. Inside the West Wing, the chaotic days between July 19-31 stand as a panicked memory but also one that also paved the way for future successes, according to nearly two dozen administration officials, outside advisers and lawmakers. Most of those interviewed for this account spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to talk publicly about private discussions.
For the record, though: “That was the extreme,” said former press secretary Sean Spicer.
Cities sue Defence Dept. over gun-check system failures
NEW YORK (AP) — Three large U.S. cities filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Department of Defence, arguing that many service members who are disqualified from gun ownership weren’t reported to the national background check system.
New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia said in court papers that the military’s broken system for relaying such information helped spur the massacre of 26 people inside a Texas church last month.
“This failure on behalf of the Department of Defence has led to the loss of innocent lives by putting guns in the hands of criminals and those who wish to cause immeasurable harm,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defence and demand they comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system.”
Local law enforcement officials rely on the FBI’s database to conduct background checks on gun permit applications and to monitor purchases. It must be up-to-date in order to prevent people from wrongly getting guns, the cities’ attorneys wrote.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, seeks an injunction and judicial oversight to ensure ongoing compliance with the Defence Department’s obligation to submit records.
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. HOW 13 DAYS IN JULY SHAPED TRUMP WHITE HOUSE
The chaotic, two-week span from July 19-31 featured a senior staff shake-up and forewarned of the Russia probe’s reach into the president’s orbit.
2. WHO WANTS TIED VA. VOTE REVOKED
Shelly Simonds, the Democrat in Virginia House race that ended in a deadlock, says a court failed to follow the law during a recount.
Kremlin: Russia election boycott campaign may be illegal
MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin hinted Tuesday at possible legal repercussions for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny over his calls for a boycott of the March presidential election.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, wouldn’t comment on the Election Commission’s decision to bar Navalny from running but said the “calls for boycott ought to be carefully studied to see if they are breaking the law.”
As expected, Russia’s top election body on Monday formally barred Navalny from a presidential run. Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin’s most prominent rival, promptly put out a video statement saying that the ban shows “Putin is terribly scared and is afraid of running against me.” He called on supporters to stay away from the vote in protest.
Meanwhile, Putin’s backers convened Tuesday afternoon to formally nominate him for presidency after he announced that he will run as an independent candidate.
Prominent lawmakers, film actors, musicians and athletes gathered at a Soviet-era exhibition hall to endorse him. Putin did not attend because of other engagements, Peskov said.
Treasury issues sanctions against 2 North Korean officials
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department issued sanctions Tuesday against two officials it describes as “key leaders of North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs.”
The sanctions against Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol block them from any property or interests in property within U.S. jurisdiction, and prohibit them from transactions with American citizens. Treasury said the men are senior officials in North Korea’s Munitions Industry Department.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions are part of the United States’ “maximum pressure campaign” to isolate North Korea and “achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula.”
The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea on Friday in response to its latest launch of a ballistic missile, which Pyongyang says is capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, expressed hope Wednesday that the continuing campaign of sanctions and pressure will eventually force North Korea into “making the right decision” and engaging in dialogue over its nuclear program.
California preps for pot-infused fare, from wine to tacos
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The sauvignon blanc boasts brassy, citrus notes, but with one whiff, it’s apparent this is no normal Sonoma County wine. It’s infused with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that provides the high.
Move over, pot brownies. The world’s largest legal recreational marijuana market kicks off Monday in California, and the trendsetting state is set to ignite the cannabis culinary scene.
Chefs and investors have been teaming up to offer an eye-boggling array of cannabis-infused food and beverages, weed-pairing supper clubs and other extravagant pot-to-plate events in preparation for legalization come Jan. 1.
Legal pot in states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado and California’s longstanding medical marijuana market already spurred a cannabis-foodie movement with everything from olive oil to heirloom tomato bisques infused with the drug.
Cannabis-laced dinners with celebrity chefs at private parties have flourished across Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego in recent years, but a medical marijuana card was required to attend.
Media face challenges in rush to sexual misconduct reckoning
NEW YORK (AP) — Talk-show host Tavis Smiley isn’t just upset with PBS for firing him on sexual misconduct charges. He’s upset about his depiction in the media.
Smiley believes that if he hadn’t talked publicly about romantic relationships with subordinates at his company, the behaviour that led to his downfall, the public would make little distinction between him and those who have been accused of sexual assault or rape.
Conflation of different forms of misbehaviour — the idea itself is controversial — is one of the issues facing media organizations covering the fast-moving story of sexual misconduct that went into overdrive with investigations into Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour.
“The media is painting with too broad a brush,” Smiley said. “We have lost all sense of nuance and proportionality in how we cover these stories.”
Actor Matt Damon was torched for broaching the topic recently. He told ABC News that all accused men shouldn’t be lumped together because there’s a spectrum of behaviour. There’s a difference between a pat on the rear and child molestation, he said.
APNewsBreak: Ex-trooper charged had other Taser misconduct
DETROIT (AP) — Michigan State Police tried but failed to suspend a trooper for his use of a stun gun months before he fired a Taser at a teenager who crashed an all-terrain vehicle and died, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.
Mark Bessner is charged with murder in the death of Damon Grimes, but it wasn’t his only incident involving a Taser. Details are in personnel documents released to the AP through a public records request.
State police wanted to suspend Bessner for 10 days for firing his Taser twice at a handcuffed man who was running away in 2016. But an arbitrator said there was no “just cause” for discipline.
In 2014, Bessner fired his Taser at a suspect who was handcuffed. He agreed to a five-day suspension, records show, but four days were eventually dropped. It apparently was his first case of misconduct.
Bessner, 43, now faces serious legal trouble. He was charged last week with second-degree murder in the August death of Damon Grimes of Detroit, who was joyriding on an all-terrain vehicle when the trooper fired his stun gun. The 15-year-old crashed and died.
Construction halted at church destroyed in Sept. 11 attacks
NEW YORK (AP) — Construction on a Greek Orthodox church to replace one that was crushed in the Sept. 11 attacks has been temporarily suspended amid rising costs and questions over how donations have been managed.
The St. Nicholas National Shrine next to the World Trade Center memorial plaza was to replace a tiny church obliterated when the trade centre’s south tower fell in 2001. The new building was designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, who created the soaring white bird-like mall and transit hub nearby called the Oculus.
But unlike the transit hub, built largely with federal transportation dollars, the church is being funded through donations including from the Greek government, Greek Orthodox church members around the world, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the Italian city of Bari, whose patron saint is St. Nicholas.
In September, the estimated cost was $50 million. But according to The New York Times , which first reported the work suspension, the cost had jumped to an estimated $72 million to $78 million as of this month.
Two firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers and BakerHostetler, were hired to perform an independent investigation into the construction, according to a Dec. 9 statement posted on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Christmas storm brings record snow to Erie, Pennsylvania
ERIE, Pa. (AP) — A Christmas storm has dumped a record amount of snow on Erie, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas.
The National Weather Service office in Cleveland says Monday’s storm brought 34 inches of snow, an all-time daily snowfall record for Erie.
Another 19 inches fell before dawn Tuesday, bringing the total to 53 inches, the greatest two-day total in commonwealth history. The previous record was the 44 inches that fell in Morgantown in March 1958.
Erie issued a snow emergency, citing “dangerous and impassable” roads. It asked residents to stay off streets until the snow stops and roads can reopen.
State police and the state Department of Transportation are urging people to avoid travel, citing poor visibility and deteriorating conditions.