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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


US delegation leads historic flight from Israel to UAE to discuss new ties

US delegation leads historic flight from Israel to UAE to discuss new ties

A U.S. delegation led by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien joined Israeli officials for the first commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Monday.

The historic flight aboard Israel’s El Al airline celebrated the U.S.-brokered agreement between the two countries to normalize relations, solidifying years of secret relations amid a shared threat from Iran, although some hurdles remain that could derail the deal.

With the UAE now the third Arab state to recognize Israel, the Trump administration has been pushing other countries in the region to follow suit ahead of the election. That effort seems stalled at the moment after outcry by Palestinian leadership, denouncing the Emirates’ recognition of Israel as a betrayal that leaves a marginalized people even further from achieving their own state.

But Kushner on Monday dismissed their opposition and urged others to “join us in celebrating peace and help us expand it throughout the region and the entire world.”

“The very few who have been critical of this peace agreement are the ones with a long track record of failure and trapping their own people in misery and poverty. They exploit division to maintain power, but their rhetoric has grown tired, and the region is breaking free from their grip,” he added shortly after arriving in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.

The high-level American delegation flew with Israeli officials from Israel’s national security council and ministries of foreign affairs, tourism, health, treasury, and cyber security. Delegations from all three countries will convene for talks to bring the deal, announced earlier in August, into effect.

Since that announcement, other symbolic steps have been taken, including connecting telephone calls and the UAE officially repealing a decree to boycott Israel. Unlike Jordan and Egypt, the two Arab countries that already have relations with Israel, the UAE has never fought Israel, and there’s hope for warmer relations, particularly strong business cooperation.

But there are still some issues that must be worked out, especially on Israeli settlements and the F-35 fighter jet.

You can read the rest of Conor Finnegan’s article at ABCnews.com

Rand Paul calls for FBI arrests, investigation into ‘mob’ he believes ‘would have killed us,’ if not for police

Rand Paul calls for FBI arrests, investigation into ‘mob’ he believes ‘would have killed us,’ if not for police

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told “Fox & Friends” he believes he would have been killed if not for the police when he and his wife were surrounded and attacked by a “mob” yelling threats and pushing police upon exiting the White House after President Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC) Thursday night.

“It was horrific,” the Republican senator — who had part of his lung removed due to a complication from the 2017 assault by his neighbor — told host Steve Doocy of the “unhinged” mob that continued to get bigger and bigger.

“They’re attempting to push the police over to get to me, so at one point they push a policeman backwards, he stumbles and he’s trying to catch his balance and I catch the back of his flak jacket to stabilize him to make sure he’s OK because he’s our defense,” Paul explained. “If he’s down, the mob’s loose on us.”

If not for the police, Paul said he could’ve been killed or recovering in the hospital, adding that people followed him into the hotel.

“I truly believe this with every fiber of my being, had they gotten at us they would have gotten us to the ground, we might not have been killed, might just have been injured by being kicked in the head, or kicked in the stomach until we were senseless,” he explained.

“You’ve seen the pictures of what they do to you. If the police are not there, if you defund the police, if we become Portland, if America becomes Portland, what’s going to happen is people are going to be pummeled and kicked in the head and left senseless on the curb,” he said. “That would have happened to us, I promise you, had we not had the D.C. Police to support us, we are thankful we have police, and we’ve got to wake up. We can’t have the whole country, we can’t have Joe Biden rule the country and have no police. I mean, we can’t walk down the street in D.C. safely now. That’s how bad it is.”

Paul was trying to get to his hotel across the street from the White House, but it was blocked by protesters, so he said the Secret Service instructed him, his wife, Kelley, and two female friends to get on a bus, which took 45 minutes to get through all the mobs, and then he planned to get an Uber to get dropped off at the hotel, but the streets were blocked and no one would let them through.

“They were shouting threats to us, to kill us, to hurt us, but also threats saying shout, shouting ‘say her name,’ Breonna Taylor, and it’s like you couldn’t reason with this mob, but I’m actually the author of the Breonna Taylor law to end no-knock raids, so the irony is lost on these idiots that they’re trying to kill the person who’s actually trying to get rid of no-knock raids,” he said.

Paul said he’s authored 22 criminal justice reforms with President Trump and former President Barack Obama, but the demonstrators were still yelling: “We’re not going to let you go alive unless you’ll say you’re for criminal justice reform.”

You can read the rest of Caleb Parke’s article at FoxNews.com

Biden: Trump ‘rooting for more violence, not less’

Biden: Trump ‘rooting for more violence, not less’

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday charged that President Trump is “rooting for more violence, not less” after two people were killed in Kenosha, Wis., amid turmoil following a law enforcement officer wounding 29-year-old Black man Jacob Blake.

“[Trump] views this as a political benefit to him,” Biden argued in an interview on MSNBC. “He’s rooting for more violence, not less. … If we want to end where we are now, we’ve got to end his tenure as president.”

Unrest has rocked Kenosha each night since Sunday night’s incident when police officers attempted to arrest Blake while responding to a domestic dispute. After a taser failed to stop Blake, authorities say he was shot seven times by a single police officer as he walked around his vehicle, opened the door and leaned forward.

Blake’s three children were in the vehicle at the time of the shooting, according to his attorney. The incident was caught on cellphone video, which quickly went viral, sparking the protests and unrest.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, during a speech later in the day, said Blake incident was “sickening to watch, it’s all too familiar, and it must end.”

Biden, in Thursday’s interview, emphasized that “people have a right to be angry, people have a right to protest.”

But he also stressed that “I condemn violence in any form, whether it’s looting or whatever it is.”

And he argued that Trump “just keeps pouring fuel on the fire.”

The former vice president also said he did not have “enough details to make a final judgment” in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old suspect arrested in connection to at least one of the two shooting deaths in Kenosha on Tuesday night.

Biden also pointed to a comment made hours earlier by one of Trump’s most trusted advisers, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway.

During a Thursday interview on “Fox & Friends,” Conway spotlighted a reported comment from a restauranteur in Wisconsin who was quoted as asking, “Are you protesters trying to get Donald Trump reelected?”

Conway then stated that “the more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best for public safety and law and order.”

Biden, highlighting Conway’s comments, asked, “When has the spokesperson for a president ever said anything like that, ever?”

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

Trump accepts GOP nomination on last night of RNC

Trump accepts GOP nomination on last night of RNC

President Trump formally accepted the Republican nomination for president on Thursday, closing out the final night of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House, where hundreds of people were seated closely together with few wearing face masks in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed more than 180,000 American lives.

Using the White House as a backdrop for a political event like no president has before, Mr. Trump said he was “brimming with confidence in the bright future we will build for America over the next four years,” while warning that Joe Biden would enact a liberal Democratic agenda if elected.

“This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it,” the president said.

Earlier speakers, as well as the president, focused heavily on unrest that has broken out in American cities in recent months, painting a dark picture of criminals running rampant in the streets while sidestepping the underlying racial injustices that sparked mass protests in the first place.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, said that voting for Biden and other Democrats “creates the risk that you will bring this lawlessness to your city, to your town, to your suburb.” Patrick Lynch, the head of the New York’s largest police union, said “Democratic politicians have surrendered our streets and institutions.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Democrats want to “dismantle our institutions, defund our police and destroy our economy.”

“There is violence and danger in the streets of many Democrat-run cities throughout America,” Mr. Trump himself said later. “This problem could easily be fixed if they wanted to.”

Mr. Trump’s acceptance address came as protests continued to roil Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot several times in the back by a police officer, and a White teenager allegedly shot two people dead at a protest days later.

Rows and rows of chairs spaced just inches apart were set up on the South Lawn of the White House, where attendees waited in the heat for the president’s remarks. Reporters counted roughly 1,900 seats arranged on the South Lawn, with just 50 to 100 seats left vacant during the night’s programming.

You can read the rest of Stefan Becket, Kathryn Watson, Caroline Linton and Melissa Quinn’s article at CBSnews.com

Pence hits Biden and makes case for Trump on third night of RNC

Pence hits Biden and makes case for Trump on third night of RNC

Republicans portrayed the U.S. as a “land of heroes” on the third night of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night while Vice President Mike Pence went on the attack against Joe Biden, calling the Democratic nominee a “Trojan horse for a radical left.”

“Our economic recovery is on the ballot, law and order is on the ballot. But so are things far more fundamental and foundational to our country,” Pence said. “It’s not so much whether America will be more conservative or more liberal, more Republican or more Democrat. The choice in this election is whether America remains America.”

Most of the speeches were recorded earlier, and aside from Pence’s speech, there were few mentions of the coronavirus pandemic, the hurricane set to make landfall in the Gulf or the ongoing unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man left partially paralyzed after an officer shot him seven times in the back.

Once Pence had arrived at Fort McHenry, where he delivered his speech, he decided to add a passing mention of Kenosha. Noting that Biden “didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country” during last week’s Democratic convention, Pence declared, “Let me be clear: the violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha.”

Speakers sought to portray the GOP as the party of “heroes” and “greatness,” in contrast to Democrats.

“Joe Biden said we were living through a ‘season of American darkness,'” Pence said from the site of a battle during the War of 1812 that inspired the “Star Spangled Banner.” “But as President Trump said, where Joe Biden sees American darkness, we see American greatness.”

President Trump did not appear as frequently on Wednesday as on the first two nights of the convention, showing up only after Pence’s speech to listen to country singer Trace Adkins sing the national anthem. Speeches focused less on Mr. Trump and more on the personal stories of the speakers, including a personal turn by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

There was an emphasis on religion and the military, with speakers like Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a combat veteran who is a rising star in the party, and retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg. Both Pence and his wife, Karen, noted their family members serving in the military.

Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign manager who announced on Sunday that she would be leaving the White House to focus on family, spoke about women’s suffrage and credited Mr. Trump for championing women.

Mr. Trump will formally accept the nomination on Thursday at the White House on the final day of the convention.

You can read the rest of Stefan Becket, Kathryn Watson, Caroline Linton and Melissa Quinn’s article at CBSnews.com


RNC Night 2: Trump uses powers of office to make his case for reelection

RNC Night 2: Trump uses powers of office to make his case for reelection

The Republican National Convention continued on Tuesday, with appearances by President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as the party tried to push the theme of America as a “land of opportunity.”

First lady Melania Trump closed out the evening with a speech that was perhaps the most open acknowledgment of the human toll taken by the coronavirus pandemic during this convention so far. She offered sympathy for those grieving lost loved ones from COVID-19. She also recognized that there is more work to do to address racial unrest and division in the nation.

Her speech came in the same hour that the convention played the video of Mr. Trump hosting a naturalization ceremony at the White House for new U.S. citizens, despite the fact that his administration has taken a series of actions to severely limit legal immigration to the U.S.

The naturalization ceremony appeared to be in violation of the Hatch Act, a law that prevents doing official duties as part of a political event. In another violation of the same law, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared in the convention program via video from Jerusalem. Just last month, Pompeo warned State Department employees in a cable that they should not engage in “any partisan political activity” tied to a campaign, political party or political group and should refrain from partaking in “partisan political activity” while abroad.

Speakers made several misleading claims on a range of issues: Depicting the state of the economy at the end of the Obama-Biden terms as “stagnation, recession” though it was deep into one of the longest economic expansions on record; and implying that Joe Biden had a prosecutor in Ukraine fired to block the investigation into a company that was paying his son Hunter, though the firing was widely supported by other Western governments and no evidence has emerged to suggest any wrongdoing. Mr. Trump’s son Eric Trump also made misleading statements about Biden supporting “defunding the police.”

Mr. Trump’s daughter, Tiffany Trump, also addressed the convention, defending her father against the media.

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

Trump makes surprise appearance at RNC as GOP formally nominates him for reelection

Trump makes surprise appearance at RNC as GOP formally nominates him for reelection

President Trump made a surprise appearance at the Republican National Convention on Monday, as party members formally nominated him in a roll call on the opening day of the convention. Mr. Trump received 2,550 delegates votes, unanimously making him the party nominee.

Delegates convened in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a roll call vote, during which they officially cast votes to renominate Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Trump, who arrived in North Carolina shortly before the vote.

The president, without evidence, repeated his claim that Democrats are trying to rig the election with fraudulent mail-in ballots. The president said Democrats are also “using COVID to steal the election.”

“They are trying to steal the election, just like they did it last time with spying,” Mr. Trump said.

The president said he “felt an obligation to be here,” despite North Carolina’s Democratic governor imposing restrictions due to COVID-19.

Mr. Trump said this is the “most important election in the history of our country.”

As the president spoke, the crowd chanted, “four more years, four more years.”

Mr. Trump is set to deliver his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination from the White House on Thursday. Pence appeared before the convention in Charlotte following his unanimous renomination as vice president to address attendees. The vice president will deliver his acceptance speech at Fort McHenry in Maryland on Wednesday night.

“I’m here for one reason, and one reason only,” Pence said. “And that is not just the Republican Party, but America needs four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House.”

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

Trump announces plasma treatment authorized for COVID-19

Trump announces plasma treatment authorized for COVID-19

President Donald Trump on Sunday announced emergency authorization to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma — a move he called “a breakthrough,” one of his top health officials called “promising” and other health experts said needs more study before it’s celebrated.

The announcement came after White House officials complained there were politically motivated delays by the Food and Drug Administration in approving a vaccine and therapeutics for the disease that has upended Trump’s reelection chances.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, Trump put himself at the center of the FDA’s announcement of the authorization at a news conference Sunday evening. The authorization makes it easier for some patients to obtain the treatment but is not the same as full FDA approval.

The blood plasma, taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and rich in antibodies, may provide benefits to those battling the disease. But the evidence so far has not been conclusive about whether it works, when to administer it and what dose is needed.

In a letter describing the emergency authorization, the chief scientist for the FDA, Denise Hinton, said: “COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Additional data will be forthcoming from other analyses and ongoing, well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months.”

But Trump had made clear to aides that he was eager to showcase good news in the battle against the virus, and the timing allowed him to head into his convention with momentum. He and aides billed it as a “major” development and used the White House briefing room to make the announcement.

Trump also displayed some rare discipline in the evening news conference, sticking to his talking points, deferring to the head of the FDA, Stephen Hahn, and only taking three questions from reporters.

The White House had grown agitated with the pace of the plasma approval. The accusations of an FDA slowdown, which were presented without evidence, were just the latest assault from Trump’s team on what he refers to as the “deep state” bureaucracy. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows did not deal in specifics, but said that “we’ve looked at a number of people that are not being as diligent as they should be in terms of getting to the bottom of it.”

“This president is about cutting red tape,” Meadows said in an interview Sunday on “This Week” on ABC. “He had to make sure that they felt the heat. If they don’t see the light, they need to feel the heat because the American people are suffering.”

During Sunday’s 18-minute press conference, Trump said he thought there had been a “logjam” at the FDA over granting the emergency authorization. He alleged there are people at the FDA “that can see things being held up … and that’s for political reasons.”

You can read the rest of Jonathan Lemire and Mike Stobbe’s article at ABCnews.com

Trump dismisses secret audio of sister calling him ‘cruel’: ‘Who cares?’

Trump dismisses secret audio of sister calling him ‘cruel’: ‘Who cares?’

President Trump dismissed secret audio recordings released Saturday evening of his older sister Maryanne Trump Barry saying he had “no principles” and was “cruel.”

“Every day it’s something else, who cares?” President Trump said in a statement, according to the Washington Post. “I miss my brother, and I’ll continue to work hard for the American people. Not everyone agrees, but the results are obvious. Our country will soon be stronger than ever before!”

The Post’s story about the recordings appeared one day after the White House hosted a private memorial service for Robert Trump, the president’s younger brother, who died Aug. 15 at age 71.

The recordings of Barry, 83, were made by Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, who published a scathing tell-all book on the president and their family last month.

“Donald is cruel,” Barry told her niece in the secretly recorded conversation in 2018.

“All he wants to do is appeal to his base. He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this,” she allegedly said in the recording published by the Post, referring to the Trump administrations’s so-called zero-tolerance policy at the U.S.-Mexico border that led to children being separated from their parents amid immigration court hearings. The policy was later rescinded.

“His go—mned tweet and lying, oh my G–. I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy s—,” she continued.

Barry also said her brother rarely reads and she claimed someone else took his SAT exam for him to get into the University of Pennsylvania, according to the Post.

The family of the man Barry claimed took the test for her brother denies he took a test for anybody. The man is now deceased.

Mary Trump told the Post the alleged test taker was a different person with the same name.

Mary Trump has included some of these allegations in her book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” but didn’t attribute them to her aunt.

“It’s the phoniness of it all,” Barry added. “It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel.”

You can read the rest of Brie Stimson’s article at FoxNews.com