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Trump commutes Roger Stone’s sentence

Trump commutes Roger Stone’s sentence

President Trump is commuting the prison sentence of Republican political operative Roger Stone via an executive grant of clemency, the White House said in a statement. Mr. Trump extended reprieve to his longtime informal adviser and ally days before he was expected to report to prison.

The statement from the White House called Stone a “victim of the Russia Hoax” and said there was “never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia.” Stone was convicted in November of lying to Congress about his efforts to collaborate with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign and threatening a witness to cover up his actions.

“As it became clear that these witch hunts would never bear fruit, the Special Counsel’s Office resorted to process-based charges leveled at high-profile people in an attempt to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface,” the statement said.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted Friday night that the committee would be conducting an investigation. “A jury found Roger Stone guilty,” Nadler wrote. “By commuting his sentence, President Trump has infected our judicial system with partisanship and cronyism and attacked the rule of law.”

Stone’s attorney, Grant Smith, said Stone and his wife are “incredibly honored that President Trump used his awesome and unique power under the Constitution of the United States for this act of mercy.” Mr. Trump, returning to the White House on Friday after spending the day in Florida, did not take questions from reporters about Stone.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called Trump’s decision “among the most offensive to the rule of law and principles of justice.”

“With this commutation, Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else,” Schiff added. “Donald Trump, Bill Barr, and all those who enable them pose the gravest of threats to the rule of law.”

In a statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi decried the “staggering corruption” of commuting Stone’s sentence.

“Congress will take action to prevent this type of brazen wrongdoing. Legislation is needed to ensure that no President can pardon or commute the sentence of an individual who is engaged in a cover-up campaign to shield that President from criminal prosecution,” Pelosi said

Republican Senator Mitt Romney also criticized Stone’s commutation, calling it “unprecedented, historic corruption” on Twitter.

The move from Mr. Trump caps months of speculation as to Stone’s future after he was convicted of seven federal charges in November. Stone was sentenced to 40 months behind bars in February and was ordered to surrender to a federal prison in Georgia on July 14. On Friday night, a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., denied Stone’s emergency motion to further delay his surrender date to prison.

The president has been vocal in his support for Stone, hinting numerous times he might grant clemency to his close confidante and lambasting his prosecution. Early last month, Mr. Trump tweeted that Stone was the “victim of a corrupt and illegal witch hunt” and wrote “he can sleep well at night.” Further fueling speculation, the president retweeted a user who said that “it’s time to #PardonRogerStone.”

You can read the rest of Paula Reid, Kathryn Watson, and Melissa Quinn’s article at CBSnews.com

Mary Trump’s book offers scathing portrayal of president

Mary Trump’s book offers scathing portrayal of president

President Donald Trump’s niece offers a scathing portrayal of her uncle in a new book obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday that blames a toxic family for raising a narcissistic, damaged man who poses an immediate danger to the public.

Mary L. Trump, a psychologist, writes that Trump is a compulsive liar whose reelection would be catastrophic.

“By the time this book is published, hundreds of thousands of American lives will have been sacrificed on the altar of Donald’s hubris and willful ignorance. If he is afforded a second term, it would be the end of American Democracy,” she writes in “Too Much and Never Enough, How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

Mary Trump is the daughter of Trump’s older brother, Fred Jr., who died after a struggle with alcoholism in 1981 at 42. The book is the second insider account in as many months to paint a deeply unflattering portrait of the president following the release of former national security adviser John Bolton’s bestseller last month.

In her book, Mary Trump, who is estranged from her uncle, makes several revelations, including alleging that the president paid a friend to take the SATs — a standardized test widely used for college admissions — in his place. She writes that his sister, Maryanne Trump, did his homework for him but couldn’t take his tests and he worried his grade point average, which put him far from the top of the class, would “scuttle his efforts to get accepted” into the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which he transferred to after two years at Fordham University in the Bronx.

“To hedge his bets he enlisted Joe Shapiro, a smart kid with a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SATs for him,” she writes, adding that, “Donald, who never lacked for funds, paid his buddy well.” White House spokesperson Sarah Matthews called the allegation “completely false.”

Mary Trump also writes, in awe, of Trump’s ability to gain the support of prominent Christian leaders and White Evangelicals, saying, “The only time Donald went to church was when the cameras were there. It’s mind boggling. He has no principles. None!”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany slammed the book Tuesday, saying “It’s ridiculous, absurd accusations that have absolutely no bearing in truth.”

Mary Trump traces much of her pain to the death of her father when she was 16, after a years-long struggle with alcoholism. Trump, who rarely admits mistakes, told The Washington Post last year that he regretted the pressure he and his father had put on Fred Jr. to join the family business when he wanted to be a pilot instead.

“It was just not his thing. . . . I think the mistake that we made was we assumed that everybody would like it. That would be the biggest mistake. . . . There was sort of a double pressure put on him,” Trump told the paper.

Mary Trump speaks at length about her grandfather Fred’s penchant, as she describes it, to sow division in the family.

You can read the rest of Larry Neumeister and Jill Colvin’s article at ABCnews.com

Former Jeffrey Epstein companion Ghislaine Maxwell arrested

Former Jeffrey Epstein companion Ghislaine Maxwell arrested

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former companion of Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire on Thursday morning.

Maxwell, 58, was charged by the Southern District of New York, which did not stop investigating Epstein’s associates after his death, with conspiring to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, perjury and other offenses.

From at least 1994 to 1997, Maxwell assisted, facilitated and contributed to Epstein’s alleged abuse of minor girls, the six-count indictment claimed.

Federal prosecutors in New York alleged Maxwell helped Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately abuse girls as young as 14. In some cases, she allegedly befriended the girls, took them shopping and to the movies before turning them over to Epstein for alleged abuse at his properties in New York City, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, prosecutors said.

“She pretended to be a woman they could trust,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said at a news conference Thursday. “Today, after many years, Ghislaine Maxwell finally stands charged for her role in these crimes.”

The perjury charges stem from statements Maxwell made in civil depositions, according to the complaint.

Attorneys who represent Maxwell in civil lawsuits filed by women who allege Epstein abused them didn’t immediately return messages to ABC News for comment. Maxwell previously denied any wrongdoing.

She was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, without incident. Later in the afternoon, Maxwell appeared virtually before a federal magistrate and waived her right to a detention hearing in New Hampshire, clearing the way for her transfer to New York, where she’ll be temporarily detained.

Prosecutors will request that Maxwell remain behind bars pending court hearings since she has “a strong incentive” to flee, according to a detention memo obtained by ABC News. The detention memo said that in the last three years, Maxwell has taken at least 15 international flights, and she has three passports, large sums of money and many international connections.

“The strength of the Government’s evidence and the substantial prison term the defendant would face upon conviction all create a strong incentive for the defendant to flee,” the memo said.

You can read the rest of Aaron Katersky, Ivan Pereira, and Alexandra Svokos’ article at ABCnews.com

Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion restrictions

Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion restrictions

The Supreme Court reaffirmed abortion protections on Monday, striking down a Louisiana abortion restriction that, if allowed to be implemented, could have made the state the first to be without a legal abortion provider since Roe v. Wade.

The decision — with Chief Justice John Roberts concurring with the court’s four-member liberal minority — is the court’s first major abortion rights decision since two Trump appointees took the bench, delivering a major win to abortion rights supporters who’ve been concerned about the court’s new ideological makeup and how that would impact the future of abortion access.

Thursday’s 138-page decision, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, found Louisiana’s restriction — which requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital — violated precedent set in the 2016 Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt ruling, a case that dealt with a nearly identical regulation in Texas.

In his opinion, Breyer wrote that Louisiana’s law was “unconstitutional.”

“This case is similar to, nearly identical with, Whole Woman’s Health. And the law must consequently reach a similar conclusion,” Breyer wrote. Chief Justice Roberts did not join Breyer’s opinion but concurred with the ruling on the basis of maintaining precedents previously decided by the Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs in the case, known as June Medical Services v. Russo, challenged Louisiana’s “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,” a law that has been blocked by courts since its passage in 2014. Supporters of the law say it was designed to improve patient safety, but critics say its intention was to shut down clinics that provide abortion.

Major professional medical organizations — including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — disagreed with the health claims, saying that given the safety of the procedure, admitting privilege laws for abortion providers are medically unnecessary.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the law firm that challenged the law, praised the decision on Monday, but added that abortion rights remain uncertain.

“We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow,” said Nancy Northup, the center’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement emailed to CBS News on Monday. “[T]he Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president, sounded a similar warning, saying “the fight is far from over.”

“While today is a victory for Louisianans, we must remember that we are in a world where politicians have pushed basic health care almost out of reach for millions of Americans, and where your ability to access abortion is still determined by where you live, how much money you make, and in this country that effectively also means the color of your skin,” McGill wrote in a statement to CBS News.

The White House called the Monday’s decision an “unfortunate ruling,” and defended states’ authority to regulate abortion.

You can read the rest of Kate Smith’s article at CBSnews.com

Court sides with Trump in ‘sanctuary cities’ grant fight

Court sides with Trump in ‘sanctuary cities’ grant fight

The Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to force states to cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement, a federal appeals court in New York ruled Wednesday in a decision that conflicted with three other federal appeals courts.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan overturned a lower court’s decision ordering the administration to release funding to New York City and seven states — New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia and Rhode Island.

The states and city sued the U.S. government after the Justice Department announced in 2017 that it would withhold grant money from cities and states until they gave federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released.

Before the change, cities and states seeking grant money were required only to show they were not preventing local law enforcement from communicating with federal authorities about the immigration status of people who were detained.

At the time, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes.”

In 2018, the Justice Department imposed additional conditions on the grant money, though challenges to those have not yet reached the appeals court in New York.

The 2nd Circuit said the plain language of relevant laws make clear that the U.S. attorney general can impose conditions on states and municipalities receiving money.

And it noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly observed that the federal government maintains broad power over states when it comes to immigration policies.

In the past two years, federal appeals courts in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco have ruled against the federal government by upholding lower-court injunctions placed on the enforcement of some or all of the challenged conditions.

“While mindful of the respect owed to our sister circuits, we cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue,” the 2nd Circuit three-judge panel said in a decision written by Judge Reena Raggi.

“These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations. But more to the authorization point, they ensure that applicants satisfy particular statutory grant requirements imposed by Congress and subject to Attorney General oversight,” the appeals court said.

The Justice Department praised the decision, issuing a statement calling it a “major victory for Americans” and saying it recognizes that the attorney general has authority to ensure that grant recipients are not thwarting federal law enforcement priorities.

The department added that the ruling’s effect will be limited because other courts have ruled the other way, giving the plaintiffs in the New York case the opportunity to point to those as reasons to ignore the new conditions.

Cody Wofsy, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, called the decision a “real outlier,” saying he believed the 2nd Circuit was the nation’s first court to side with the Trump administration on the issue.

“Over and over, courts have said the Department of Justice doesn’t have authority under governing statutes to impose these conditions,” he said. “These conditions are part of the administration’s attempts to bully, cajole and coerce state and local governments into participating in federal immigration enforcement activities.”

Under the Constitution’s federalism principles and the 10th Amendment, Wofsy said, states and municipalities “are entitled to decline to become part of the administration’s deportation force.”

In a statement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Trump’s “latest retaliation against his hometown takes away security funding from the number one terrorist target in America — all because we refuse to play by his arbitrary rules.”

He added: “We’ll see President Trump back in court and we will win.”

Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said in a statement that the ruling was deeply troubling.

You can read the rest of Larry Neumeister’s article at ABCnews.com

Hillary Clinton on Sen. Bernie Sanders: ‘Nobody likes him’

Hillary Clinton on Sen. Bernie Sanders: ‘Nobody likes him’

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton levied scathing attacks on Sen. Bernie Sanders in a new Hulu documentary and in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Clinton, who competed for the 2016 Democratic nomination against Sanders and won, claimed that Sanders is unlikable and has been relatively unaccomplished during his congressional tenure.

“He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done,” Clinton said in the documentary. “He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”

Clinton would not pledge to support Sanders if he won the 2020 Democratic nomination citing the wide Democratic field and concerns about Sanders’ online supporters, calling them “Bernie Bros.”

“I’m not going to go there yet. We’re still in a very vigorous primary season,” Clinton said. “I will say, however, that it’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online ‘Bernie Bros’ and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it.”

When asked about Clinton’s comments, Sanders responded, “On a good day, my wife likes me, so let’s clear the air on that one. Look, today, right now I’m dealing with impeachment.”

“Secretary Clinton is entitled to her point of view, but my job today is to focus on the impeachment trial,” he added. “My job today is to put together a team to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of the United States of America.”

Asked further why he thought Clinton was still talking about 2016, Sanders said: “That is a good question. Ask her.”

The Sanders campaign echoed a similar sentiment in a statement released Tuesday.

“My focus today is on a monumental moment in American history: the impeachment trial of Donald trump,” statement from the senator read. “Together, we are going to go forward and defeat the most dangerous president in American history.”

Sanders, in a CBS interview Monday, said he didn’t agree with the social media attacks waged by his supporters. Instead, he urged them to “engage in civil discourse.”

In the interview, Clinton also weighs in on the controversy surrounding a 2018 private meeting between Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others. A report from CNN claimed Sanders disagreed with her that a woman could win in 2020 against President Donald Trump. Warren confirmed the report and Sanders vehemently denied them.

You can read the rest of Averi Harper and Adam Kelsey’s article at ABCnews.com

Trump administration raises legal age to buy tobacco in US to 21

Trump administration raises legal age to buy tobacco in US to 21

President Donald Trump gave his stamp of approval on Friday to raising the federal age requirement of who can legally purchase tobacco products to 21 when he signed spending bills approved by Congress this week.

This change means that in less than a year it will become illegal for anyone under 21 in the United States to purchase vape products and e-cigarettes, as well as more traditional tobacco products.

The new regulation comes amid nationwide concern about increasing nicotine use among young people and the possible health risks of electronic cigarette products.

With the president’s signature, the new age requirement will take effect in about nine months — the Food and Drug Administration has 180 days to update its regulations and they will go into effect 90 days after that.

Youth tobacco use became a point of discussion in Washington as the prevalence of e-cigarette use and vaping among teenagers seemed to skyrocket. Though the issue garnered more attention due to the hundreds of vaping-related illnesses across the country, raising the age to purchase tobacco won’t directly tackle that problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have traced the problems to illicit THC products adulterated with Vitamin E.

Tobacco use has long been a concern in the U.S. in both the health problems connected to combustible cigarettes and the addictive properties of nicotine, especially in young people. In 2018, 12.5% of middle school students reported they use a tobacco product, compared to 31% of high school students, a CDC survey found.

A CDC fact sheet also shows that more than 34 million adults in the U.S. — about 13.7% of the population — are cigarette smokers.

A bill to raise the legal age to buy tobacco — from 18 to 21 — was introduced earlier this year by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and was combined with another bipartisan bill on the issue to become part of the spending package.

Along with updating rules about how to enforce the new tobacco age, FDA is starting to evaluate applications for e-cigarette products it says are on the market illegally to determine if the agency will allow them to be sold or place restrictions on where they can be sold and how they can be marketed.

You can read the rest of Stephanie Ebbs’ article at ABCnews.com

Elon Musk cleared of defamation in ‘pedo guy’ tweet trial

Elon Musk cleared of defamation in ‘pedo guy’ tweet trial

Elon Musk defeated defamation allegations Friday from a British cave explorer who claimed he was branded a pedophile when the Tesla CEO called him “pedo guy” in an angry tweet.

Vernon Unsworth, who participated in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped for weeks in a Thailand cave last year, had sought $190 million in damages for the shame and humiliation caused by the man his lawyer called a “billionaire bully.”

It took less than an hour for an eight-person jury in Los Angeles federal court to reject Unsworth’s claim after a four-day trial.

Musk said the verdict restored his faith in humanity as he quickly left the court with his security detail.

Musk — who deleted the tweet and later apologized for it — had asserted the expression was nothing more than a flippant insult that meant “creepy old man,” not pedophile.

Unsworth had provoked the attack by belittling Musk’s contribution to the rescue — a miniature sub his engineers built that was never used — as ineffective and nothing more than a “PR stunt.” He further earned the ire of the tech whiz by suggesting Musk stick the sub “where it hurts.”

On Friday, it was Unsworth who felt the pain.

“I accept the jury verdict, take it on the chin, and move on,” Unsworth said outside court.

Jury foreman Joshua Jones said the panel decided Unsworth’s lawyers failed to prove their case. He said they spent too much time trying to appeal to jurors’ emotions and not concentrating on the evidence.

“The failure probably happened because they didn’t focus on the tweets,” Jones said after the verdict was announced. “I think they tried to get our emotions involved in it.”

Attorney Lin Wood, in an impassioned and at times emotional closing argument, suggested the jury should award $190 million. Wood said $150 million of that figure should be a “hard slap on the wrist” to punish Musk for what he said was akin to dropping an atomic weapon on his client that would create problems for years like radioactive fallout.

He suggested the figure would be reasonable given that Musk testified his stock in Tesla and SpaceX is worth about $20 billion. But Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, ridiculed the suggested verdict as “numbers being thrown out like ‘The Price is Right.’”

Wood said it was important to challenge Musk’s tweet in court even if they didn’t win. Unsworth had said the statement would appear true if he didn’t sue.

“Anybody that knows this man knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Elon’s accusations were false,” Wood said outside court. “This was not the justice that he deserved under the evidence.”

While Musk was cleared of liability, the trial was just the latest incident where he’s faced legal problems because of troublesome tweets.

Musk and Tesla reached a $40 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year over allegations he misled investors with a tweet declaring he had secured financing to buy out the electric car maker. Earlier this year, the SEC sought to hold him in contempt of court for tweeting a misleading projection of how many cars Tesla would manufacture. That led to a new agreement imposing tight controls on Musk’s tweets about the company.

The day after Musk’s tweet about Unsworth, Tesla stock price fell 3% and shareholders and people within the company were urging him to apologize. Musk said he resisted at first because he didn’t want to look “foolish and craven” by doing so right after the stock dropped.

Musk’s lawyer told the jury the tweet did not rise to the level of defamation and cases over insults didn’t belong in federal courtrooms.

Spiro said Unsworth had tried to profit off his role in the cave rescue and basked in the many accolades he received.

Unsworth had been honored by the queen of England and the king of Thailand, had his photo taken next to British Prime Minister Theresa May and been asked to speak at schools and contribute to a children’s book, which showed that no one took Musk’s insult seriously.

“People accused of pedophilia don’t get celebrated by world leaders,” Spiro said. “Kings and queens and prime ministers don’t stand next to pedophiles.”

Unsworth hadn’t demonstrated actual damage to his reputation other than asserting over a couple minutes of emotional testimony delivered with his voice cracking that he felt isolated, ashamed and dirtied, Spiro said. There was no supporting testimony from his girlfriend or other friends who could discuss the impact they witnessed, no evidence he had lost business or relationships as a result of the tweet and he hadn’t sought psychological counseling or medication.

You can read the rest of Brian Melley’s article at ABCnews.com

Prince Andrew’s efforts to put scandal behind him backfire

Prince Andrew’s efforts to put scandal behind him backfire

Prince Andrew’s effort to put the Jeffrey Epstein scandal behind him may have instead done him irreparable harm.

While aides are trying to put the best face on his widely criticized interview with the BBC, royal watchers are asking whether he can survive the public relations disaster and remain a working member of the royal family.

The question facing Queen Elizabeth II and her advisers is how to protect the historic institution of the monarchy from the taint of a 21st-century sex-and-trafficking scandal and the repeated missteps of a prince who has been a magnet for bad publicity as he struggles to find a national role for himself.

“Prince Andrew, I think, really has to stay out of the limelight for the moment because there really, I think, is no coming back from the damage that was done … at least, not in the near future,” Kate Williams, a royal historian and professor at Reading University, told ITV News.

Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, tried to end years of speculation about his role in the Epstein scandal by granting a no-holds barred interview to Emily Maitlis, the respected presenter of the BBC’s Newsnight program. But the strategy backfired when the prince failed to show empathy for the young women who were exploited by Epstein even as he defended his friendship with the American financier who was a convicted sex offender.

Epstein died Aug. 10 in a New York prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. His death has been ruled a suicide by the city’s medical examiner.

Maitlis, writing Monday in the Times of London, said planning for the interview began after Epstein’s death. Andrew’s management team knew they had a problem with the prince’s well-documented ties to Epstein and that previous written statements by the prince denying any involvement by the prince in Epstein’s crimes “perhaps lacked the conviction of a human voice behind them,” she said.

“They feel that a Newsnight interview is the only way to clear the air. To put across his side of the story,” Maitlis wrote, describing discussions with the prince’s staff.

But when the 55-year-old prince got that chance in an interview broadcast Saturday night, he appeared awkward and overly legalistic.

While Andrew said he regretted staying at Epstein’s Manhattan home in 2010, after Epstein had served a prison sentence for a sex crimes conviction, Andrew defended his previous friendship with the billionaire investor because of the contacts it provided when he was preparing for a role as Britain’s special trade representative.

The prince denied sleeping with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says she was trafficked by Epstein and had sex with Andrew on three occasions, including twice when she was 17.

Andrew went on to say that an alleged sexual encounter in London with Giuffre couldn’t have occurred on the day that she says it did because he spent the day with his daughter Princess Beatrice, taking her to a party at Pizza Express in the London suburb of Woking and then back to the family home. He also said Giuffre’s description of him buying her drinks and sweating heavily as they danced together could not be correct because he doesn’t drink and had a medical condition at the time that meant he could not sweat.

Those answers have been widely mocked on social media, with Twitter users sharing pizza jokes and photos of an apparently sweaty Prince Andrew.

Nowhere during the almost one-hour interview, which took place inside Buckingham Palace, did the prince express sympathy for Epstein’s victims.

One exchange in particular captured the coldness for which Andrew is being criticized.

Andrew: “Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.”

Maitlis: “Unbecoming? He was a sex offender.”

Andrew: “Yeah. I’m being polite.”

Lisa Bloom, a Los Angeles-based attorney for five of Epstein’s alleged victims, called the interview with the prince “deeply disappointing.”

“He is entitled to deny allegations and defend himself,” she said. “But where is his apology for being so closely associated with one of history’s most prolific pedophiles?”

Attorney Gloria Allred called on the prince to voluntarily speak to the FBI about what he knows about Epstein. She made the comment during a news conference in Los Angeles about a new lawsuit filed against Epstein’s estate by a woman identified only as Jane Doe 15.

While Andrew’s older brother, Prince Charles, is heir to the British throne, he himself is only eighth in the line of succession. He served in the Royal Navy for more than 20 years, including during the 1982 war over the Falklands Islands, before retiring in 2001.

Civilian life has proved more problematic for the prince. He served as Britain’s special trade representative from 2001 to 2011, but was forced to step down amid questions about his links to a son of the late Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Andrew’s marriage to the former Sarah Ferguson ended in divorce in 1996, but in 2010 a British newspaper reported that it had filmed his ex-wife offering to sell access to the prince.

Andrew’s problem is also one of timing, according to celebrity expert Ellis Cashmore, author of “Kardashian Kulture.” The Epstein case was shaping up to be the biggest American female exploitation case of the #MeToo era since the movement was kicked off in 2017 by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“Epstein was the personification of #MeToo’s evil,” Cashmore said. “His apparent suicide robbed the movement of what looked certain to be colossal symbolic victory, so I sense there’s hunt for a prominent public figure” to be held to account.

Cashmore said Britain’s royal family has no realistic option now but to tell Andrew to maintain a dignified silence and hope interest in this case will dissipate. The problem, Cashmore said, is that if Andrew immediately cuts down on his public engagements, that could also backfire.

“The problem is that, when a public figure who is involved in a scandal, refuses to engage with the media, then it effectively gives us — the audience — license to think what we like and speculate wildly,’’ he said. “The prospect of gossip on Andrew circulating in supermarkets, at work and on social media is a horrifying prospect for the royals. But I suspect that’s exactly what’s going to happen.’’

The BBC interview is especially problematic because it comes at the end of a difficult year for the royal family, said Pauline Maclaran, author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.”

You can read the rest of Danica Kirka’s article at ABCnews.com

Judge blocks Michigan’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Judge blocks Michigan’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes

A Michigan judge temporarily blocked the state’s weeks-old ban on flavored e-cigarettes Tuesday, saying it may force adults to return to smoking more harmful tobacco products and has irreparably hurt vaping businesses.

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens put the prohibition on hold until “further order of this court.” The preliminary injunction will be appealed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who ordered the creation of the emergency rules in a bid to combat the epidemic of teen vaping.

The judge said two businesses that sued showed a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their contention that the rules are procedurally invalid, because state officials did not justify short-cutting the normal rule-making process.

“Thus, and at this stage of the litigation, defendants have undercut their own assertions of an emergency by the fact that they demurred on taking action for nearly a year, and in the case of some information even longer than that, after they were in possession of the information cited in support of the emergency declaration,” Stephens wrote.

She also said improved health outcomes for adults who switch to vaping products from combustible tobacco “could, and likely would, be lost under the emergency rules.”

Several states have banned the sale of flavored vaping products amid a rising number of vaping-related lung illnesses and an epidemic of teen e-cigarette use. As of last week, vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. had reached about 1,300 cases in 49 states and one U.S. territory, including at least 26 deaths.

Most who got sick said they vaped products containing THC, the marijuana ingredient that causes a high, but some said they vaped only nicotine.

In New York, a state appeals court this month preliminarily blocked the state from enforcing a prohibition on flavored e-cigarette sales.

The Michigan lawsuits, which were consolidated, were filed by Houghton-based 906 Vapor and A Clean Cigarette, which has 15 locations across the state.

“We are pleased today that the court saw the ban of flavored vaping products for what it truly is: an overreach of government into the lives of adults,” said Andrea Bitely, spokeswoman for the Defend MI Rights Coalition, a vaping industry group. “We are ready to work through the normal legislative process to arrive at a balanced solution that protects the rights of adults to use vaping products as an alternative to combustible cigarettes and at the same time get these products out of the children’s hands.”

Read the rest of the David Eggert’s article at ABCnews.com


Bill Clinton visited Jeffrey Epstein’s private island, unsealed court documents suggest

Bill Clinton visited Jeffrey Epstein’s private island, unsealed court documents suggest

A trove of documents released late Thursday could shed light on Ghislaine Maxwell’s relationship with late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The data include records of a 2011 meeting between accuser Virginia Giuffre and her lawyers where she talked about the powerful people in Epstein’s orbit who she said either flew on his private Boeing 727 or stayed on his private island in the Caribbean.

One of the names mentioned was that of former President Bill Clinton.

Maxwell’s lawyers had filed an emergency motion to stop the release of the new documents and have said the move would essentially eliminate any chance their client has at a fair trial. The lawyers said documents from a 2015 civil suit could “inappropriately influence potential witnesses or alleged victims.”

The newly released documents include a conversation that accuser Giuffre had with her lawyers nearly 10 years ago as part of her civil case against Maxwell in 2015.

At one point in the conversation, the subject turned to Epstein’s powerful friends. Jack Scarola, one of Giuffre’s lawyers, asked her if she had any recollection of Epstein telling her that Bill Clinton owed him “favors.”

“Yes I do,” she responded, according to the documents. “It was a laugh, though. He would laugh it off. You know, I remember asking Jeffrey [a] ‘What’s Bill Clinton doing here?’ kind of thing, and he laughed it off and said, ‘Well, he owes me a favor.’ He never told me what favors they were. I never knew. I didn’t know if he was serious. It was just a joke.”

The lawyer asked her to clarify what she was referring to when she mentioned Clinton, and she said the former president was on the island. She said Maxwell was also there, as well as a person named “Emmy” and two young girls.

“And were all of you staying at Jeffrey’s house on the island, including Bill Clinton?” Scarola asked.

“That’s correct,” she responded. “He had about four or five different villas on his island separate from the main house, and we stayed in the villas.”

Giuffre said sex orgies were a common occurrence there. In previous interviews, she has said she never saw Clinton behave inappropriately. A Netflix documentary titled, “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” includes an island tech worker’s account of once seeing Clinton at the villa — though only with Epstein.

Angel Urena, a spokeswoman for Clinton, told the New York Post at the time that, “This was a lie the first time it was told, and it isn’t true today, no matter how many times it’s repeated.”

Last year, Clinton’s office issued a statement saying the former president had traveled aboard Epstein’s private plane and briefly visited Epstein’s New York City apartment — but was always in the company of staff and Secret Service agents. Clinton also claimed to have had no knowledge of Epstein having pleaded guilty to sex crimes years ago in Florida.

Fox News tried to reach Clinton’s office after hours in connection with this story but did not receive a reply.

You can read the rest of Edmund DeMarche’s article at FoxNews.com

SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts splash down in Gulf of Mexico after historic test flight

SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts splash down in Gulf of Mexico after historic test flight

Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, strapped into a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule wrapping up its first piloted test flight, plunged back to Earth on Sunday with a fiery reentry to splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico to close out an historic 64-day flight.

Descending under four large orange-and-white parachutes, the Crew Dragon — named Endeavour by the astronauts — settled to a 15-mph impact about 39 miles south of Pensacola, Florida, at 2:48 p.m. ET.

“Endeavour, on behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams, welcome back to planet Earth, thanks for flying SpaceX,” radioed SpaceX engineer Mike Heiman.

“It was truly our honor and privilege to fly the (inaugural) flight of the Crew Dragon Endeavour,” Hurley replied. “Congratulations to everybody at SpaceX.”

A few hours later, on hand to help welcome the astronauts back home in Houston, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the flight marked a new chapter in human spaceflight.

“What this heralds, really, is fundamentally a new era in spaceflight, a new era in space exploration,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. And this is the result of an incredible amount of work from people at SpaceX, people at NASA.”

And, perhaps, a few prayers.

“I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one,” said Musk, clearly thrilled by the successful flight.

It was the first water landing by returning astronauts since the final flight of an Apollo capsule in 1975 and the first landing of a U.S. spacecraft carrying astronauts home from orbit since the shuttle program’s final flight in 2011.

Hurley and Behnken, both shuttle veterans, joked about getting nauseous and possibly throwing up while bobbing in the Crew Dragon awaiting recovery. But the landing zone provided the mildest of sea states with low, gentle waves and light winds.

Fast response crews in speed boats raced to the capsule, floating upright, within minutes of splashdown to prepare the craft for a lift to the deck of the SpaceX recovery ship Go Navigator.

You can read the rest of William Harwood’s article at CBSnews.com

Biden says he’ll have a vice presidential pick next week

Biden says he’ll have a vice presidential pick next week

Joe Biden says he’ll have his vice presidential pick ready “the first week in August,” which is next week. That would be days before he’s expected to accept the Democratic nomination during the Democratic National Convention.

He made the announcement in his home state of Delaware during a campaign event Tuesday. Biden had originally held out early August as a timeline for announcing his running mate, but appeared to back off on that last week.

The former vice president has already committed to picking a woman running mate.

Biden’s short list has included names like Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Michigan Governnor Gretchen Whitmer, Representative Val Demings, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujah Grisham and former national security adviser Susan Rice.

During the event, which was a rollout of part of his economic plan, Biden also spoke out against violence on the streets during some of the nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death. He said “arsonists and anarchists would be prosecuted” and blamed President Trump, who he said is “determined to stoke division and chaos” because “his campaign is failing and he is looking for a political lifeline.”

“Peaceful protesters should be protected and arsonists and anarchists would be prosecuted,” Biden said, adding that “local law enforcement can do that,” an implicit criticism of the president’s deployment of federal officers to cities to try to control the protests.

“When President Obama and I were in office we protected federal property,” Biden said. “We were able to do it without the Department of Homeland Security turning into a private militia. And it can be done today, but that wouldn’t help Trump’s political interests. He’s determined to stoke division and chaos. It’s not good for the country, but Donald Trump doesn’t care. His campaign is failing and he is looking for a political lifeline.”

You can read the rest of Bo Erickson and Kathryn Watson’s article at CBSnews.com

Oregon state police arrive in Portland in push to stop riots

Oregon state police arrive in Portland in push to stop riots

The Oregon State Police on Thursday will take over the duties of guarding a federal courthouse in Portland that has become a flashpoint during weeks of protests that have turned violent.

The state troopers will not be dressed in riot or tactical gear like the federal agents previously stationed at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, police Superintendent Travis Hampton said.

“It is obvious the current strategy is not sustainable and has the high probability of serious injury or death, as officers and community members clash,” Hampton said in a statement to Fox News. “OSP hopes to de-escalate the tensions around the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, facilitating peaceful free speech and proportional response if criminal activity is observed.”

The withdrawal of federal forces came after an agreement was reached between Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and the Trump administration, which cited growing unrest and lawlessness in its decision to deploy agents to cities across the country.

Brown has “made clear that her goal is to deescalate the nightly confrontations we have seen downtown since federal troops arrived in Portland,” a spokesperson for the governor told the Oregonian.

Many critics of the federal intervention have voiced concerns over the response of agents to the protests and the inability to decipher their identities or what agency they are with. Authorities have engaged nightly in violent confrontations with demonstrators.

In addition, buildings near the courthouse have been vandalized and set fire, including the Portland Justice Center.

“These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community,” Brown said Wednesday in announcing the phased withdrawal.

State troopers will focus on protecting free speech and the public, Hampton said, as protesters continue to call for police reform and an end to systemic racism.

About 100 state police employees consisting of members of the agency’s special operations team and supervisors from across the state will be sent to events in the Portland for a minimum of two weeks, Hampton said. Those responding have tactical and crowd control training, according to the newspaper.

You can read the rest of Louis Casiano’s article at FoxNews.com

How big a stimulus check would you get under the HEALS Act?

How big a stimulus check would you get under the HEALS Act?

Republican lawmakers want to send another round of stimulus checks to American households to help them weather the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The checks would be similar in amount to the first round, but not as generous as the package proposed by Democrats in May.

Details about a potential second round of checks emerged on Monday when Senate Republicans outlined their fourth phase of federal coronavirus response efforts, which would include other stimulus measures, such as enhanced unemployment benefits.

But the Republican proposal — called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS, Act — provides less money for children than would a competing stimulus bill from Democrats, which was approved by the House in May.

Nevertheless, the Republican stimulus package would provide households with almost identical benefits to the first round of checks, which were issued through the bi-partisan CARES Act beginning in April after its passage in March. Those checks helped buoy finances for more than 160 million households, with families paying bills or socking away money for a future emergency.

Almost half of all Americans have reported the loss of income from March through early July, according to Census data, underscoring the financial stress that many households are experiencing during the pandemic.

Another massive round of stimulus checks could even help the moribund economy rebound this fall, said Goldman Sachs analysts in a client note earlier this month.

“We expect the bulk of these payments to reach consumers in late August, which should boost consumption in September in particular,” the Goldman analysts noted. “It is well documented that the $1,200 stimulus payments paid out in early Q2 had noticeable effects on consumer spending, especially for lower-income households.”

How much would you get under the GOP bill?

Here’s how the GOP proposal for stimulus checks would work:

  • All single U.S. citizens and U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 would receive $1,200, or identical to what was delivered in the first round of checks.
  • Like the first round, married couples would be eligible for $2,400 as long as their income is less than $150,000.
  • To qualify, you can’t be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, and you’ll also need a work-eligible Social Security number.
  • Like the first round, payments would be lowered for single people earning more than $75,000 and married people earning more than $150,000, with the payments phasing out entirely for singles earning more than $99,000 and married couples with income above $198,000.
  • Dependents, such as children, would receive $500 each.

You can read the rest of Aimee Picchi’s article at CBSnews.com

Federal agents in downtown Portland to begin leaving, Oregon governor announces

Federal agents in downtown Portland to begin leaving, Oregon governor announces

The Trump administration and Oregon’s governor have agreed to begin withdrawing federal agents from downtown Portland following nightly violent clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators, the governor said Wednesday. But the White House and Department of Homeland Security said federal law enforcement will leave the city once attacks on the federal courthouse there — which officers were sent to protect — have stopped.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, said the removal of federal law enforcement from the Department of Homeland Security comes after discussions with Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials.

“After my repeated requests, the federal government has agreed to a phased withdrawal of federal officers that have been deployed to the Mark Hatfield United States Courthouse over recent weeks,” she said in a statement. “These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community.”

Officers with Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin leaving downtown Portland on Thursday, she said. They will also clean up the courthouse and remove graffiti.

“The local Oregon officers of the Oregon State Police will provide protection for free speech and the security of the exterior of the courthouse with the Federal Protective Service,” Brown said. “A limited contingent of federal officials, who act as building security year-round, will remain and will stay focused on the interior of the U.S. Courthouse.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a separate statement he and Brown reached a “joint plan to end the violent activity in Portland directed at federal properties and law enforcement officers.”

“This plan is possible due to the valiant efforts of the DHS law enforcement officers protecting federal property in Portland from violent activity for the past two months,” Wolf said. “The department will continue to maintain our current, augmented federal law enforcement personnel in Portland until we are assured that the Hartfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked and that the seat of justice in Portland will remain secure.”

Still, the details of the withdrawal are muddled, as White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said in a statement that “as the president and Secretary Wolf have both made clear, federal law enforcement officers will not leave until the seat of justice in Portland is secure.”

Devin O’Malley, Pence’s press secretary, said the vice president told Brown earlier this week federal law enforcement would stay in Portland until the violence directed toward them and the courthouse ceased.

You can read the rest of Melissa Quinn’s article at CBSnews.com

Federal agents tear-gas Portland protesters again despite plan for the agents to leave town

Federal agents tear-gas Portland protesters again despite plan for the agents to leave town

Federal agents tear-gassed protesters again and made arrests as several hundred people demonstrated in downtown Portland late Wednesday and early Thursday, hours after state leaders announced federal agents would soon leave the city, CBS Portland affiliate KOIN-TV reports.

It was the 62nd night in a row of protests there.

Governor Kate Brown said early Wednesday that all Customs and Border Protection & ICE agents would depart Portland and be replaced by Oregon State Police beginning Thursday. But acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the agents would stay put “until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked.”

Federal agents issued their first warning of the night shortly before 11 p.m., cautioning people to leave the fence around the courthouse alone or face potential arrest. A few minutes later, they started deploying tear gas and crowd control munitions.

Some people could be seen climbing over the fence and climbing back out at about 11:30 p.m. Federal agents fired another round of tear gas and stun grenades but a large crowd remained crushed against the fence, undeterred.

Federal officials declared an unlawful assembly at about 11:40 p.m. and asked “peaceful protesters” to leave the area.

At one point, some protesters holding American flags and veterans with signs met face-to-face in a silent standoff with federal agents.

Christine VanOsdol was one of the vets who refused to move as agents approached. She said she’s a U.S. Army Desert Storm veteran and doctor of occupational therapy.

You can read the rest of the article at CBSnews.com

COVID-19 vaccine testing now underway with 30,000 volunteers

COVID-19 vaccine testing now underway with 30,000 volunteers

The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study is now underway with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers helping to test shots created by the U.S. government — one of several candidates in the final stretch of the global vaccine race.

There’s still no guarantee that the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will really protect against infection.

Volunteers won’t know if they’re getting the real shot or a placebo. After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus still is spreading unchecked. Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said Monday that testing is taking place at 89 sites across the country. At an event with Vice President Pence in Miami, he said that over 100 vaccines around the world are in different stages, and he expects at least two more to be in phase 2 in the coming weeks.

Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain’s Oxford University began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries earlier this month.

But the U.S. requires its own tests of any vaccine that might be used in the country and has set a high bar: Every month through fall, the government-funded COVID-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study of a leading candidate — each one with 30,000 newly recruited volunteers.

The massive studies aren’t just to test if the shots work. They’re also needed to check each potential vaccine’s safety. Following the same study rules will let scientists eventually compare all the shots.

Next up in August, the final U.S. study of the Oxford shot begins, followed by plans to test a candidate from Johnson & Johnson in September and Novavax in October, if all goes according to schedule. Pfizer Inc. plans its own 30,000-person study this summer.

That’s a stunning number of people needed to roll up their sleeves for science. But in recent weeks, more than 150,000 Americans filled out an online registry signaling interest, said Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle, who helps oversee the study sites.

“These trials need to be multigenerational, they need to be multiethnic, they need to reflect the diversity of the United States population,” Corey told a vaccine meeting last week. He stressed that it’s especially important to ensure enough Black and Hispanic participants as those populations are hard-hit by COVID-19.

A new poll by CBS News suggests that if a vaccine became available this year, many Americans could approach it cautiously, and 20% say they would “never” get the vaccine. Only 30% say they would get one “as soon as possible.” Many more, half of the country, say they would consider it, but would first “wait to see” what happened to others.

You can read the rest of the article at CBSnews.com

100 Days Out: Trump looks for game change as Biden makes gains

100 Days Out: Trump looks for game change as Biden makes gains

It was a dramatically different approach for a president who’s been accused of downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” President Trump said this past week – as he returned to the White House press briefing room to give his first coronavirus news conference since April.

And putting aside his long-time reluctance to wear a mask or urge Americans to mask up to prevent the spread of the virus, the president stressed “whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact.” He later acknowledged, “I’m getting used to the mask.”

The president’s change of course comes as new COVID-19 cases soar and many states reverse or pause moves to lift coronavirus restrictions. And it comes with just three-and-a-half months to go until Election Day, with public opinion polling that indicates Trump’s increasingly falling behind Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Sunday marks exactly 100 days until the election. With the clock ticking for the incumbent to shake up his political fortunes, the past two weeks have witnessed the president making other dramatic U-turns. First was Trump’s ouster of Brad Parscale as his reelection campaign manager.

Then, the president abruptly scrapped the large celebratory aspects of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville as the coronavirus surged in Florida. The move was shocking, as Trump moved the convention to Jacksonville from Charlotte just a month ago after North Carolina’s Democratic governor wouldn’t guarantee a full-fledged convention with an arena packed full of party officials and activists.

But while the Trump campaign has long scoffed at polls that failed to predict his victory four years ago, the consistency of their message in recent weeks appears to have had an impact. An average of the latest national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics shows the president trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee by nearly 9 points.

More importantly – the latest surveys in the key battleground states also put Biden ahead. Real Clear Politics averages indicate the president down 7 points in Florida, 6.7 points in Pennsylvania, 8.2 points in Michigan and 6.4 points in Wisconsin. Trump narrowly won all four states in 2016, flipping them from blue to red as he won the White House. Polling also suggests Biden with the slight edge in Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona, three other important swing states this cycle. And surveys indicate that once reliably red states such as Texas and Georgia are all knotted up between Trump and the former vice president.

Regardless, the president’s new campaign manager publicly remains very optimistic. And Democrats, laden with the searing memory of 2016’s upset, are cautious about overconfidence no matter what the polls show.

You can read the rest of Paul Steinhauser’s article at FoxNews.com