AP source: Prosecutor to examine Russia probe origins
WASHINGTON – Attorney General William Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign was “lawful and appropriate,” a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Monday.
Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct the inquiry, the person said. The person could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Durham’s appointment comes about a month after Barr told members of Congress he believed “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign in 2016. He later said he didn’t mean anything pejorative and was gathering a team to look into the origins of the special counsel’s investigation.
Barr provided no details about what “spying” may have taken place but appeared to be alluding to a surveillance warrant the FBI obtained on a former Trump associate, Carter Page, and the FBI’s use of an informant while the bureau was investigating former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
Trump and his supporters have seized on both to accuse the Justice Department and the FBI of unlawfully spying on his campaign.
China retaliates on tariffs, stock markets go into a slide
BEIJING – Sending Wall Street into a slide, China announced higher tariffs Monday on $60 billion worth of American goods in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s latest penalties on Chinese products.
Duties of 5% to 25% will take effect on June 1 on about 5,200 American products, including batteries, spinach and coffee, China’s Finance Ministry said.
With investors worried about the potential economic damage on all sides from the escalating trade war, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 617 points, or 2.4%, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq plunged 270 points, or 3.4%, its biggest drop of the year. Earlier, stocks fell in Europe and Asia.
“We appear to be in a slow-motion train wreck, with both sides sticking to their positions,” said William Reinsch, a trade analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former U.S. trade official. “As is often the case, however, the losers will not be the negotiators or presidents, but the people.”
Beijing’s move came after the U.S. raised duties Friday on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25%, up from 10%. In doing so, American officials accused China of backtracking on commitments it made in earlier negotiations. The same day, trade talks between the two countries broke up without an agreement.
Felicity Huffman pleads guilty in college admissions scheme
BOSTON – “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty Monday in the college admissions bribery scheme, the biggest name to do so in a scandal that has underscored the lengths to which some wealthy parents will go to get their children into top universities.
The Emmy-winning actress, 56, could face prison time after she admitted to participating in the nationwide scam, in which authorities say parents bribed coaches, rigged entrance exams or both to game the admissions system.
Huffman pleaded guilty in federal court to paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter’s answers on the SAT. She also considered going through with the plan for her younger daughter before ultimately deciding not to, authorities say.
The consultant, Rick Singer, arranged for the cheating by having students obtain permission for extra time on the exams through diagnoses for things like learning disabilities, and then taking the exams at his testing center, prosecutors say.
In court, Huffman explained her daughter had been seeing a neuropsychologist for years and been getting extra time on tests since she was 11 – an apparent attempt to explain that her daughter’s doctor had no part in the scheme.
Victims of clergy abuse to sue Vatican, seek abusers’ names
MINNEAPOLIS – Five men who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests when they were minors are planning to sue the Vatican and are demanding the names of thousands of predator priests they claim have been kept secret by the Holy See.
In a Monday news release announcing the lawsuit, Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson said he wants to show that the Vatican tried to cover up actions by top church officials including former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt. The lawsuit being filed Tuesday seeks the release of 3,400 names of priests who were referred to the Vatican for “credible cases of abuse.” That number was released by the Vatican in 2014.
The lawsuit comes less than a week after Pope Francis issued a groundbreaking new church law requiring all Catholic priests and nuns worldwide to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities. The law is part of a new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable.
But the new law stops short of requiring the crimes to be reported to police, and abuse victims and their advocates say it’s not enough since it essentially tasks discredited bishops who have mishandled abuse for decades with policing their own.
The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit include three brothers who were abused by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer as recently as 2012 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Wehmeyer pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct and child pornography in connection with his contact with two of the boys, who were 12 and 14. The brothers are not named in the press release.
Jury: Monsanto to pay $2 billion in weed killer cancer case
SAN FRANCISCO – A jury on Monday ordered agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. to pay a combined $2.055 billion to a couple claiming that the company’s popular weed killer Roundup Ready caused their cancers.
The jury’s verdict is the third such courtroom loss for Monsanto in California since August, but a San Francisco law professor said it’s likely a trial judge or appellate court will significantly reduce the punitive damage award.
The state court jury in Oakland concluded that Monsanto’s weed killer caused the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Alva Pilliod and Alberta Pilliod each contracted. Jurors awarded them each $1 billion in punitive damages in addition to a combined $55 million in compensatory damages.
Alberta Pilliod, 76, said after the verdict that she and her husband, Alva, have each been battling cancer for the last nine years. She says they are unable to enjoy the same activities they participated in before their cancer diagnosis.
“It changed our lives forever,” she said. “We couldn’t do things we used to be able to do, and we really resent them for that.”
Former US President Jimmy Carter has surgery for broken hip
ATLANTA – Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter broke his hip Monday at his south Georgia home when he fell while leaving to go turkey hunting, a spokeswoman for the Carter Center said.
The 94-year-old former president was treated in Americus, Georgia, near his home in Plains, and was recovering comfortably after successful surgery, spokeswoman, Deanna Congileo, said in a statement.
His wife of 73 years, Rosalynn, was with him, Congileo said.
In an indication Carter was in good spirits, Congileo said Carter’s main concern was that he had not reached his limit on turkeys with the shooting season ending this week.
“He hopes the State of Georgia will allow him to roll over the unused limit to next year,” the statement said.
US farmers who sell to China feel pain of Beijing’s tariffs
DES MOINES, Iowa – China’s announcement Monday of higher tariffs on $60 billion of American exports – retaliation for President Donald Trump’s latest penalties on Chinese goods – hit particularly hard in the farm belt. China’s vast consumer market has been a vital source of revenue for American farmers.
Since December, when U.S. and China negotiators called a truce to tariffs and began signaling that an agreement might be reached, soybean farmers had been holding out hope that sales to China would resume, said Todd Hultman, an Omaha-based grain market analyst with agriculture market data provider DTN. In the meantime, the farmers had been storing a record stockpile of nearly 1 billion bushels.
The latest news of a new round of tariffs, with no agreement in sight, spooked the financial markets and some farmers who had been tentatively optimistic.
“This is hitting the market at a very emotionally distressful time,” Hultman said. “The rug of hope was pulled out from under us and especially with the announcement this morning that China is going to retaliate with higher tariffs of their own.”
In a statement Monday, the American Soybean Association reacted with frustration edged with anxiety.
Beneath wholesome image, Doris Day was an actor of depth
LOS ANGELES – The very name “Doris Day,” cheerful as a sunrise on a studio lot, was an invention.
The beloved singer and actress, who died Monday at 97 , was a contemporary of Marilyn Monroe but seemed to exist in a lost and parallel world of sexless sex comedies and the carefree ways of “Que Sera, Sera” (“Whatever Will Be, Will Be”). She helped embody the manufactured innocence of the 1950s, a product even she didn’t believe in.
“I’m tired of being thought of as Miss Goody Twoshoes …. I’m not the All-American Virgin Queen, and I’d like to deal with the true, honest story of who I really am,” she said in 1976, when her tell-all memoir “Doris Day: Her Own Story” chronicled her money troubles and failed marriages.
There was more to her, and to her career, than not sleeping with the leading man. She gave acclaimed performances in “Love Me or Leave Me,” the story of songstress Ruth Etting, and in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Longing ballads such as “Blame My Absent Minded Heart” led critic Gary Giddins to call her “the coolest and sexiest female singer of slow-ballads in movie history.”
But millions loved her for her wholesome, blond beauty, and for her string of slick, stylish comedies, beginning with her Oscar-nominated role in “Pillow Talk” in 1959. She and Rock Hudson were two New Yorkers who shared a telephone party line. She followed with “The Thrill of It All,” playing a housewife who gains fame as a TV pitchwoman to the chagrin of husband James Garner.
Police investigating rappers’ ties to shootings around Miami
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A weekend of shootings involving rap musicians and their entourages who were in South Florida for a huge hip-hop festival left two people dead, four wounded and multiple vehicles riddled with bullets – but no arrests.
Police agencies across South Florida sought clues and appealed for help Monday in identifying those responsible for the violence surrounding the Rolling Loud Festival, which ran Friday through Sunday at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens where the Miami Dolphins play.
So far, investigators have found no connections between the shootings, but local agencies were working together and conducting forensics tests to see if any ties beyond the concert could be established.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Miami-Dade Police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said Monday in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, rapper Kodak Black appeared Monday in federal court after being arrested Saturday at the festival on a weapons charge, and headliner Lil’ Wayne was a no-show Saturday night, explaining on social media that he refused to be searched by security or police to enter the venue.
‘Empire’ to get 1 more season on Fox amid schedule shake-up
NEW YORK – “Empire” will return for its final season this fall on Fox – with Jussie Smollett a question mark – and should count itself lucky.
Fox, the lowest-rated network among the big four broadcasters, is hitting the reset button for the 2019-20 season by canceling eight shows and adding 10 new ones.
“Empire” companion drama “Star” is among the goners as the network makes room for an eclectic mix of wrestling, three new animated comedies and a “9-1-1” spinoff starring Rob Lowe.
“We are turning the final season of ‘Empire’ into a large television event,” Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier told a teleconference Monday. “One of the great benefits of announcing a final season is that you actually allow the fans to lean in and have the ending they deserve.”
Collier dodged questions about Smollett’s future with the show. The actor was accused of staging an attack last January in which he said two masked men beat him, hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him, doused him with a chemical substance and put a rope around his neck. Criminal charges were dropped but the uproar has yet to subside, making Smollett a continued publicity liability for Fox.