Trump Lawyer Cohen Says He Won’t Comply With House, Senate Requests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

MAY 30 2017, 1:00 PM ET

Trump Lawyer Cohen Says He Won’t Comply With House, Senate Requests

President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, confirmed to NBC News that he has received requests for information from the Senate and House intelligence committees as part of their probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election, but says he won’t comply.

“I declined the invitation to participate,” said Cohen, “as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”

A congressional aide said the request letters, first reported by ABC News, were the same ones sent to former Trump aides Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn and others. Those letters sought information about Russian contacts, and asked the recipients to turn over any communications with the Trump campaign about Russia.

Cohen is a long-time lawyer for both Trump and his business organization. He has served as executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump.

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Trump’s Personal Lawyer Asked for Info in Russia Probe 3:17

In the dossier on Trump prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, Cohen was alleged to have attended a secret meeting in Prague to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets, something Cohen has adamantly denied to NBC News and others in the past.

Related: FBI Made Deal With Ex-Spy For Trump Dossier

In February, Cohen told NBC News he was in Los Angeles when the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred, taking his son to a meeting with the baseball coach at the University of Southern California.

Trump’s critics, he said, “are looking to malign President Trump, diminish his historic win and to undermine his presidency by claiming he didn’t win — that it was given to him by the Russians.”

Kushner Met With Russian Banker Who Is Putin Crony, Spy School Grad

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

MAY 27 2017, 6:53 AM ET

Kushner Met With Russian Banker Who Is Putin Crony, Spy School Grad

The Russian banker Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met with in December is viewed by U.S. intelligence as a “Putin crony” and a graduate of a “finishing school” for spies who was often tasked with sensitive financial operations by Putin, according to multiple U.S. officials and documents viewed by NBC News.

Sergey Gorkov, 48, graduated from the FSB Academy, which was chartered in 1994 to educate Russian Intelligence personnel. He has long served Russian President Vladimir Putin in critical economic roles. Most recently, Putin chose him to head of the state-owned VneshEconomBank (VEB). As the Russian state national development bank, VEB has played a critical role in blunting the impact of U.S. sanctions against Russia by finding other sources of foreign capital.

Before that, Gorkov was the deputy chairman of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, also state-owned, and also under U.S. sanctions since 2014.

Related: Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Say Officials

NBC News reported Thursday that Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, according to multiple U.S. officials. Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to the Russia probe, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him.

It is not known what has drawn FBI scrutiny, but congressional aides have said they would like to question Kushner about a meeting Kushner had with Gorkov in December 2016. At the time, Kushner was an adviser to President-elect Trump and Gorkov was chairman of VEB.

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Sources: Kushner Under Scrutiny By FBI as Part of Russia Investigation 1:04

Both the White House and VEB confirm that Kushner and Gorkov met at a banking “road show” but haven’t disclosed either the location for the meeting or the specific date in December. Details of what they discussed have not been released, although Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said Kushner is prepared to cooperate with congressional investigators or the FBI if asked.

The White House subsequently characterized the meeting as part of Kushner’s role as a transition adviser and conduit for the State Department. But Gorkov in a written statement to Reuters, said it was a business meeting. According to Reuters, Gorkov met “with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the U.S., including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies.”

Related: Flynn, Manafort Are Key Figures in Russia Probe Mueller Will Lead

Gorkov is close to Putin, “a Putin crony,” as one official put it. Gorkov has also been awarded the “Certificate of Honor of the Government of the Russian Federation” and the “Medal of the Order of Merit for Services to the Fatherland,” both presented by Putin.

Putin has long called on former Soviet and Russian intelligence operatives to play critical roles in Russian political and economic life.

Image: Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, with her husband Jared Kushner, talk to Attorney General-designate Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., during the inaugural luncheon in honor of President Donald Trump, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP file

“It is the talent pool [Putin] draws from,” said one U.S. official. “Because Gorkov is former FSB doesn’t mean that he still is, but Putin uses the security state — the FSB and military intelligence — as an extension of his rule.”

Sberbank and VEB, Gorkov’s two banks, have been critical to the Russian economy, but have also engaged in high-profile bailouts of Russian companies, including those owned by favored oligarchs. They have also played a major role in attempts to mitigate the U.S. sanctions that were imposed on Russia following its annexation of Crimea.

VEB was sanctioned in July 2014, Sberbank two months later. The U.S. cited the banks’ record of securing medium- and long-term U.S. sources of financing. Sanctions severely limited their ability to raise funds in the U.S. The European Union later joined in the sanctions. The banks have responded by seeking funds from other sources, including China.

The U.S. did not cite any particular transactions when it sanctioned the bank, but said instead that Russia’s failure to meet “basic standards of international conduct” warranted onerous sanctions.

Gorkov was not sanctioned personally.

Image: Evgeny Buryakov, a former New York banker who was convicted in federal court of conspiring to act in the United States as an agent of the Russian Federation, escorted by deportation officers and turned over to Russian authorities, April 5, 2017.
Evgeny Buryakov, a former New York banker who was convicted in federal court of conspiring to act in the United States as an agent of the Russian Federation, is shown in this handout photo sitting on a commercial flight, escorted by deportation officers and turned over to Russian authorities, April 5, 2017. Reuters

Putin authorized a $22 billion of state financing for VEB to cover bad debts built up since the imposition of sanctions.

VEB was also implicated in an espionage case that began before Gorkov took over 2016 but continued after he took over.

One of its New York-based employees, Evgeny Buryakov, was arrested on espionage charges in January 2015. According to court records reviewed by NBC News, Buryakov used his position to spy on unnamed U.S. companies, and sought information on high-frequency trading. Prosecutors said his internet searches included “NYC Homeland Security” and “New York City critical infrastructure.”

Buryakov claimed he had diplomatic immunity in his defense, which was paid by VEB, but after a court ruled he didn’t qualify, he pleaded guilty in March 2016. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a $100,000 fine. He returned to Russia last month after being released.

Late-night legend David Letterman’s ugly personality no laughing matter, former colleagues say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS’)

Late-night legend David Letterman’s ugly personality no laughing matter, former colleagues say

Late-night funnyman David Letterman was hardly a barrel of laughs off the air.A new biography of the now-retired talk show host portrays Letterman as more self-loathing than self-critical — and an often miserable man who inflicted his pain on his staff.

“He was never truly comfortable unless he was seething with unhappiness at something,” one longtime writer told author Jason Zinoman in “Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night.”

In fact, few of the acerbic Letterman’s close colleagues sang his praises to Zinoman.

Deli sandwich named for Stephen Colbert ahead of ‘Late Show’

Letterman’s demeanor soured after July 1995, when his CBS front-running program dipped to second place behind “The Tonight Show” with former friend-turned-enemy Jay Leno.

Letterman infamously sucked on a strand of Jennifer Aniston's hair.

Letterman infamously sucked on a strand of Jennifer Aniston’s hair.

(CBS)

Viewers flipped to NBC when Leno landed an interview with actor Hugh Grant, fresh off his arrest for soliciting a hooker improbably named Divine Brown.

Many never returned, curdling Letterman’s on-air persona.

He became more openly caustic as his comedy took a sadistic turn. One night, after his “Late Show” was whipped in the ratings by both “The Tonight Show” and “Nightline,” his rage visibly surfaced.

What Stephen Colbert can do better on ‘Late Show’

A comedy bit called for a life-size Letterman doll to sit in the guest’s chair. Seemingly on the spur of the moment, Letterman punched the doll — to much audience laughter.

The laughs continued as he landed a few more blows. And then the 580-seat theater went silent when Letterman fell into a frenzy of punching and slapping his plastic alter ego.

Obviously, something was wrong with Dave.

“People don’t understand why you’re behaving the way you’re behaving,” said Rob Burnett, a trusted colleague and the head of Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company, in a candid chat with his boss.

Stephen Colbert has to deal with ghosts on ‘Late Show’

Letterman’s anger wasn’t all directed inward, and he became upset with pretty much everyone on the show.

A retired Letterman sporting a fierce beard.

A retired Letterman sporting a fierce beard.

(SPLASH NEWS/SPLASH NEWS)

Burnett returned as executive producer, but things became strained. His unique ability to manage his boss’ dark moods ended with a “falling-out,” according to Burnett.

Their relationship eroded to the point where they were barely speaking. According to a veteran producer, “everything changed after that.”

A veteran staffer who served under Letterman through both his late-night shows observed that getting close to the boss was perilous: “There comes a moment when he turns on you.”

David Letterman donating ‘Late Show’ props to Ball State

The tale of Tim Long, one of several head writers hired during the show’s run, was typical. Unable to deal with the host’s constant rejections and dark moods, Long took to chewing Coke cans — and swallowing pieces of tin.

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Competitor Jay Leno leapt to fame after viewers flipped to watch his interview with actor Hugh Grant, fresh off a prostitution sting. Letterman lost a chunk of viewers to Leno and his more affable personality.

(GETTY IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)

Even the famously mellow Paul Shaffer lashed out at Letterman one night when Todd Rundgren sat in with the band.

Letterman kept pushing and needling, trying to get Rundgren to do more than the one number done in rehearsal.

“The cat flies in to do us a favor and you just want what you want,” Shaffer yelled at his boss.

Richard Simmons’ wildest ‘David Letterman Show’ moments

It embarrassed Shaffer so much the moment was cut from the show before airing, even though Letterman said he was fine with it.

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Letterman chatted with racing icon Mario Andretti before the start of the 2007 Indy 500.

(MICHAEL HICKEY/WIREIMAGE)

The irony: Letterman was miserable even when his ratings put the show at No. 1 in late-night viewers. In 1993, he walked away from NBC after the network chose Leno to succeed Johnny Carson, taking the 11:30 p.m. slot on rival CBS for his “Late Show With David Letterman.”

CBS offered Letterman a then-record deal with a $16 million annual salary. The payoff was immediate as Letterman seized the ratings lead against the once-invincible “Tonight.”

Yet Letterman remained miserable. “He always complained from the very beginning,” recalled one producer.

Top 10 Things David Letterman Looks Like

Things went downhill from there.

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Letterman appeared alongside girlfriend Merrill Markoe during a 1982 photo shoot.

(GEORGE ROSE/GETTY IMAGES)

“It got worse when he went to CBS,” recalled Shaffer. “Any flaw, minor flaw, he exaggerated. He was most uncomfortable at No. 1.”

Comic Rich Hall, a writer for Letterman’s NBC show, was floored by the host’s new, abrasive nature when he appeared as a guest. Hall followed actress Andie MacDowell, who had just flopped in her segment. Before the cameras came on, Letterman leaned over and snarled, “How’d you like to be married to that c—?”

What the author calls Letterman’s “ferocious fear of failure” was there from the first.

‘The David Letterman Show’ debuts on NBC in 1980

The feeling of foreboding was exacerbated by the 1980 cancellation of his NBC morning show, “The David Letterman Show,” within months of its debut.

Barbara Walters appeared on Letterman's "Late Show."

Barbara Walters appeared on Letterman’s “Late Show.”

(CBS)

His girlfriend at the time and for years to come, Merrill Markoe, was a brilliantly inventive comedy writer and instrumental in shaping the show.

Markoe, who rarely comments on Letterman publicly, told the author about the resulting fallout.

“If it weren’t for you and your crazy ideas,” Letterman shouted at her on the street, “I’d still have a talk show like John Davidson!”

David Letterman is hypochondriac, new book claims

It’s a comment funny only in retrospect.

Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer.

Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer.

(SUSAN RAGAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Markoe became head writer on NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman” from the first show in 1982 — and suffered for that, too.

Every night after the show, an agonized Letterman would lock himself in his office with Markoe.

“The last 10 months have included a nightly discussion about what a failure we are,” she once noted.

David Letterman debuts bearded retirement look in St. Barts

In those days, the acid-tongued Letterman would hang out, trading barbs with the writers. His targets learned not to return in kind, as the hurt would show on Letterman’s face.

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Letterman shakes hands with late-night predecessor Johnny Carson.

(STEVE FRIEDMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“He was very sensitive,” says Barbara Gaines, a producer who remained with Letterman until his 2015 retirement.

By the end of the ’80s, Letterman was the king of hip and cool. He now smoked cigars and assumed “a statelier air.” Notably, he no longer made a show of despising celebrities, as he had for a decade.

When Barbara Walters booked him as a guest interview on one of her specials, he walked around the office openly expressing his admiration for her.

David Letterman takes on President Trump, late night show hosts

“What happened, Dave?” asked head writer Steven O’Donnell.

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Letterman at a 1982 NBC reception honoring the announcement of his show.

(AP)

“They are like my peers now,” the host told him.

It was during that era that Letterman started abruptly turning on longtime, trusted colleagues. Barry Sand, a producer and ally since the morning show, suddenly could do nothing right.

After a guest canceled at the last minute, Sand scrambled and was able to book Mel Gibson — then at the height of his fame. Letterman turned on the producer and snarled, “Who the hell wants Mel Gibson? I don’t want Mel Gibson.”

Letterman: ‘I was wrong,’ Trump is racist

He opted instead for Kamarr the Discount Magician. Sand was soon gone.

Letterman in a 1984 promotional photo.

Letterman in a 1984 promotional photo.

(SUSAN WOOD/GETTY IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)

In the rush of his success, the formerly prudish Letterman switched up his persona, booking “leggy supermodels” as frequent and welcome guests.

The phrase “leggy supermodels” was funny, but Letterman’s leers came off as sincere and appreciative.

Boorish advances became his signature. Sitting next to Jerry Hall, whose breasts exploded from her dress, he openly enjoyed the view.

David Letterman returning to TV on climate change series

“I get the awful feeling I may have overinflated my tires,” quipped Letterman.

Letterman announced his new CBS contract in a 1993 press conference.

Letterman announced his new CBS contract in a 1993 press conference.

(ALEX BRANDON/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

On one cringeworthy show, he sucked on a strand of Jennifer Aniston’s hair.

Zinoman writes that after a time, the satire faded away to show the bits for what they were — a rich and famous man indulging his fantasies.

“As he got older, Letterman increasingly played the horny creep,” he writes.

David Letterman ‘would have gone right after Donald Trump’

By the time he was an eminence grise on CBS, he became “crudely sexual” in his interviews. The camera would slowly pan over the legs of Aniston or Gwen Stefani as he delivered lascivious comments.

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night

“He seemed like a pervy old man at times,” says one of his head writers, Eric Stangel.

Even before the 2009 scandal when an affair with an assistant exposed Letterman to an extortion try, the host interacted infrequently with most of the show staff.

The only trusted colleagues were those who had worked with Letterman for decades — at least, those left standing.

David Letterman thinks a woman should’ve been ‘Late Show’ host

Letterman just couldn’t bring himself to talk to people.

It seems, though, that after a year and a half in retirement, Letterman is now eager to chat.

In an interview with New York magazine, Letterman claims his son, Harry, 13, doesn’t like being in public with him.

Not because of his snow-white mountain man beard, but because he talks too much to everyone.

Letterman says he’ll fake his death if Rahal doesn’t win Indy 500

Letterman might have been kidding. Or not.

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(IS JEFF SESSIONS THE BIGGEST IDIOT IN AMERICA OR IS IT ALL THE MONEY HE HAS EXCEPTED FROM THE BIG PHARMACEUTICALS AND THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY THAT CLOUDS HIS MIND?)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

(IS JEFF SESSIONS THE BIGGEST IDIOT IN AMERICA OR IS IT ALL THE MONEY HE HAS EXCEPTED FROM THE BIG PHARMACEUTICALS AND THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY THAT CLOUDS HIS MIND?)

Pot Advocates Worry Marijuana Protections Are Burning Down Under Trump

Marijuana advocates worried that President Donald Trump’s administration will crack down on state weed laws used the unofficial holiday celebrating the drug to call for a “joint session” of Congress — pun intended.

The pro-cannabis rights group DCMJ used April 20th — or 4/20 — to organize a free joint giveaway just steps from the Capitol in an effort to encourage Congress to reauthorize an expiring provision preventing the federal government from meddling in medicinal marijuana programs.

Even as approval ratings for legalized marijuana reach new highs, the new administration is pushing for pro-pot policies to go up in smoke.

Play
Marijuana Legalization Has Record-High Support in New Poll

A CBS News poll released Thursday found 61 percent of Americans support legal marijuana use, up five points from one year ago. More than 70 percent of Americans said they do not think the federal government should block marijuana sales in states that have legalized the drug.

Eighty-eight percent of Americans favor medical marijuana, the poll found.

Weed legalization has been a tricky subject for members of both parties as states continue to approve recreational use of the drug. Justice Department guidance under President Barack Obama called for prosecutors to enforce federal statutes outlawing the drug in a limited set of cases.

But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime foe of marijuana, is reviewing the nation’s weed laws.

“I don’t think America will be a better place when more people, especially young people, smoke pot,” he said in February.

“It remains a violation of federal law,” he added.

Play
Sessions: ‘We Don’t Need To Be Legalizing Marijuana’

Homeland Secretary John Kelly as recently as Sunday on “Meet The Press” said, “Marijuana is not a factor in the drug war.” But he changed his tune in a speech just days later, vowing to uphold federal laws barring weed.

“Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the United States Congress, we in DHS, along with the rest of the federal government, are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books,” he said.

Many states, however, have legalized some form of marijuana use. And its acceptance has increasingly become a bipartisan issue.

Pot giveaway @DCMJ2014 of 2joints to credentialed feds &cong staffers. Ron of DC is retired USArmy

Four members of the House of Representatives, two Democrats and two Republicans, announced the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in February to help integrate federal and state laws governing weed.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a co-founder of the caucus, said in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on Thursday said he has issued clear warnings to the White House not to impede on what Oregon and other states have done to legalize the drug.

“We’ve pointed out repeatedly in the press and with advocate groups that marijuana got more votes than Donald Trump last November and that the American people are on our side,” Blumenauer wrote.

Support has come from even the opposite side of the political spectrum, like longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. “Don’t let Jeff Sessions’ draconian views on 420 run roughshod over states,” he tweeted to Trump Thursday.

Though recreational marijuana use is legal in the nation’s capital, it is not legal to consume it in public or to possess more than two ounces. And under federal law it is illegal to possess pot. Capitol Police said they arrested seven volunteers with DCMJ on Thursday, four for possession and two for possession with intent to distribute.

More arrests are expected on Monday when another demonstration is planned on the Capitol.

“Possession of cannabis on the Capitol grounds is not legal. Consuming cannabis anywhere in DC outside of a home is not legal either,” organizers warned in a statement announcing the protest. “But sitting quietly while the Trump administration rolls back our freedoms is not something we plan to do. We need to be loud and proud!”

Michigan Doctor Charged With Performing Female Genital Mutilations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC)

APR 13 2017, 8:22 PM ET

Michigan Doctor Charged With Performing Female Genital Mutilations

A Michigan doctor has become the first to be charged under federal law for allegedly performing female genital mutilation on several girls, ranging from 6 to 8 years old, officials said Thursday.

A federal complaint lodged against emergency room physician Jumana Nagarwala alleges the doctor was performing the procedure, where part or all of the female genitalia is removed, on numerous girls out of a medical office in Livonia, Michigan.

Nagarwala is charged with female genital mutilation, a five-year felony, and transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, a 10-year felony, according to the complaint.

Related: Hospital Shut Down After Egyptian Girl Dies During Circumcision

This is believed to be the first case brought under a law passed in 1996 and amended in 2012, which criminalizes female genital mutilation, according to the Department of Justice.

“Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls. It is also a serious federal felony in the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch in a statement. “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.

According to the complaint, federal officials launched an investigation after being tipped off that Nagarwala performed the procedure on two 7-year-old girls who were brought by their families from Minnesota for the procedure.

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in Washington. Andrew Harnik / AP file

Phone records and surveillance tapes linked the families of the girls to Nagarwala, and when questioned the girls’ parents admitted to law enforcement that they traveled to see the doctor for “extra cleansing of skin.”

A medical examination on the girls showed abnormal genitalia, and one of the girls said “her parents told her that the procedure is a secret and she is not supposed to talk about it,” the complaint alleges.

Further investigation found other children in Michigan were also seen by Nagarwala from 2005 to 2007, according to the complaint. Some of the parents of those children have admitted to having the procedure done by the Michigan doctor.

Nagarwala, who couldn’t be reached for comment, allegedly told investigators she was “aware the procedure was illegal” but denied ever performing them.

“The allegations against the defendant in this investigation are made even more deplorable, given the defendant’s position as a trusted medical professional in the community,” said Special Agent in Charge Francis in a statement.

Nagarwala is listed on staff at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit Michigan, but the hospital said the physician was on “administrative leave” in a statement on Thursday.

“The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility. We would never support or condone anything related to this practice,” said David Olejarz, a hospital spokesman.

Image: Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit
Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit Benjamin Beytekin / dpa via AP

Female genital mutation is performed to make a girl more acceptable in certain communities and is thought to increase her eligibility for marriage by ensuring her virginity in many cultures, according to human rights organization Equality Now.

An estimated 200 million women and girls have been subjected to the procedure, according to the World Health Organization. The practice is more prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but has picked up momentum in the United States.

“Approximately 513,000 women and girls in the United States were at risk for [genital mutilation of circumcision] or its consequences in 2012 which was more than three times higher than the earlier estimate, based on 1990 data,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Related: Horrific Taboo: Female Circumcision on the Rise in U.S.

“This is a form of child abuse,” said Shelby Quast, director of Equality Now’s Americas Office. “We are encouraged seeing a doctor charged with FGM, because this will have a big impact on others who are performing this illegal act,” she said.

“This sends a message to other doctors that if you violate the law, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted.”

VA Hospital in Washington D.C. Is Dirty, Disorganized, Inspector Finds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC)

APR 13 2017, 2:03 PM ET

VA Hospital in Washington D.C. Is Dirty, Disorganized, Inspector Finds

The Veterans Affairs hospital in Washington, D.C., is so disorganized and understaffed that operations were delayed and patients put at serious risk, inspectors reported.

Staff have had to borrow equipment from private hospitals, plunder supplies and use their own purchase cards to buy essential equipment, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found.

Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, D.C. Charles Dharapak / AP

Supposedly sterile equipment was stored in hot, dusty closets and tens of thousands of dollars of supplies were stockpiled without any inventory, the OIG report says.

“OIG has preliminarily identified a number of serious and troubling deficiencies at the Medical Center that place patients at unnecessary risk,” the report reads.

The VA fired the medical center director. “The department considers this an urgent patient-safety issue,” it said in a statement.

“Effective immediately, the medical center director has been relieved from his position and temporarily assigned to administrative duties,” it added. “Col. Lawrence Connell, U. S. Army (Ret), has been named the Acting Medical Center Director for the D.C. VA Medical Center.”

The OIG said it inspected the VA medical center after an anonymous tip off.

It found a long list of problems.

“The Medical Center placed patients at unnecessary risk by failing to ensure that appropriate medical supplies and equipment were available to providers when needed; that recalled supplies or equipment were not used on patients; and that sterile supplies were stored appropriately,” the report reads.

“Four prostate biopsy surgical procedures were canceled on April 25, 2016 because prostate biopsy guns were out of stock,” it added. A nurse concerned enough about inventory recommended to the medical center director that operating rooms “stand down” until inventory problems were fixed.

“As recently as March 15, 2017, the Medical Center ran out of bloodlines for dialysis patients on the second shift—they were able to provide dialysis services to those patients only because staff borrowed bloodlines from a private hospital,” it adds.

“On March 29, a nurse emailed the patient safety manager, reporting that during an acute episode, she needed to provide oxygen to a patient. The floor was out of oxygen nasal cannulas (tubing that fits into a patient’s nose and provides oxygen). The nurse was able to use one found on the crash cart, but reported the shortage as a risk to patient safety.”

In 2007, the military’s flagship Walter Reed hospital in Washington was found to be a mess. It was closed in 2011 and its staff and equipment transferred to the former Naval Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, which was renamed the National Military Medical Center.

Related: Lawmakers Promise to Fix Problems at Walter Reed

The OIG is an independent agency at the VA, set up to provide objective oversight. The report found 194 patient safety reports at the VA medical center since the beginning of 2014.

The inspection found 18 of 25 storage areas for supplies were dirty and that $150 million in equipment or supplies had not been inventoried in the past year.

And there are not enough staff to handle these problems. “There are numerous and critical open senior staff positions that will make prompt remediation of these issues very challenging,” the report reads.

President Donald Trump appointed Dr. David Shulkin, former undersecretary of health at the VA, to head the giant department. The VA takes care of 9 million veterans at 1,700 different hospitals and clinics.

U.S. Rhetoric is ‘Primitive and Loutish’: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

APR 12 2017

U.S. Rhetoric is ‘Primitive and Loutish’: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister

MOSCOW — A senior Russian official lashed out at the U.S. minutes before a meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, calling recent American rhetoric “primitive and loutish.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the U.S’s position on Syria “remains a mystery” to Moscow, although he added that Russia expected to discuss the issue of no-fly zones in Syria at the talks.

Separately, Tillerson said talks with Lavrov represented “an important moment in the United States’ relationship with Russia.”

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‘Our hand is pretty weak’ regarding Russia and Syria, analyst says 2:55

The Secretary of State said he hoped “to further clarify areas of sharp difference so we can better understand why these differences exist and what the prospects for narrowing these differences might be.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not adopt Tillerson’s conciliatory tone, instead telling local media that the level of trust between the U.S. and Moscow had deteriorated further since Trump took office, according to Reuters.

On his way into the meeting with Tillerson, Lavrov said he believed the visit was timely as Russia saw what it called “troubling actions” last week in Syria, a reference to the U.S. bombing an air field in that country. American officials said the base had launched an alleged chemical weapons attack in north-western Syria which killed more than 80 civilians.

Image: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday. AP

“We believe it fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again in the future,” Lavrov added.

The high-stakes talks between Tillerson and Lavrov come less than a week after the U.S. launched the airstrikes, triggering a deterioration in ties between the two governments. The White House has accused Russia of trying to “cover up” Assad’s role in the attack.

Separately, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian newswires a meeting between Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin was not on the agenda as things stand but he did not rule it out.

“There is a certain possibility,” Peskov told state-run TASS agency. “You know the talks between the Russian foreign minister and the U.S. Secretary of State are currently underway, and if they later decide to report on the results of these talks to the head of state, we will let you know.”

Manhunt Intensifies For Man Who Stole 16 High Powered Weapons: Mailed Manifesto To Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

Manhunt Intensifies for Joseph Jakubowski, Man Who Allegedly Stole Guns and Mailed Manifesto to Trump

Police in Wisconsin ramped up security at local churches on Sunday as the manhunt continued for a 32-year-old fugitive who is accused of stealing more than a dozen weapons from a gun store and mailing an anti-government manifesto to President Donald Trump.

Over 150 officers from local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies were searching for Joseph Jakubowski, who they say allegedly broke into the Armageddon Gun Shop in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Tuesday and stole 16 high-caliber rifles and handguns.

Police said Jakubowski is considered “armed and dangerous” and was in possession of a bullet-proof vest and helmet.

Play
Manhunt Intensifies in Wisconsin to Find Wanted Gunman

Authorities said they were increasing security presence at local churches because of “anti-religion sentiment” contained within a 160-page manifesto they believe was written by Jakubowski and sent to Trump at the White House.

Police said at a press conference on Friday that Jakubowski had been “highly agitated” by national politics recently and an associate of his claimed the wanted man had spoken of a plan to steal guns and carry out an unspecified attack.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, canceled its services on Sunday after a suspicious man who looked like Jakubowski stopped by the church on Thursday asking questions, according to a statement from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

John McNary, the lead pastor at nearby Heartland Church, in Sun Prairie, told NBC News he saw local police doing extra patrols in the area and that his church had extra security in place on Sunday.

“We were taking extra precautions, just in case,” he said.

The Sun Prairie Police Department told NBC affiliate WMTV on Sunday afternoon that the man who visited the Bethlehem Church late last week was not Jakubowski and was not related to the police’s investigation.

McNary also said he had spoken with an officer who said they did not believe the man was Jakubowski.

Investigators have already followed up on around 400 tips and leads, according to the sheriff’s department statement. The FBI offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Jakubowski’s capture.

Image:
This undated photo provided by the Rock County Sheriff’s Office in Janesville, Wis., shows Joseph Jakubowski. Rock County Sheriff’s Office via AP

Police released a video last week that the suspect allegedly posted on Facebook appearing to show a man mailing an envelope with his manifesto addressed to Trump.

“Basically he’s angry at all government officials,” Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden said at the press conference on Friday. “Whether it’s the president or whether it’s local officials or whether it’s law enforcement, he has a dislike for anyone that has authority or governmental power.”

Authorities identified the person who filmed the video as an associate of Jakubowski and a person of interest in the investigation, Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden told reporters Sunday.

“We’re going to constantly revisit that individual and see if they can think of something else that may have been forgotten and what was the motive and some of those type of things,” Spoden said.

On Tuesday night, police responded to a report of a car fire near the burglarized gun shop and discovered the burned vehicle belonged to Jakubowski.

He has one felony conviction for attempting to steal a gun from a police officer in 2008, and a history of misdemeanors.

Jakubowski is described as 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds with green eyes and brown hair.

Jabukowsi-Vehicle-Fire
Police discovered a burned vehicle registered to Joseph Jabukowski just a short distance away from the Armageddon Gun Shop in Janesville, WI., where Jabukowski allegedly stole 16 assault weapons and handguns. Rock County Sheriff / Rock County Sheriff

For the video, the person who took the video, what do we know about that person?

15;52;07;20 RS: That person has been interviewed and continues to be a person of interest uh with us and the Janesville police department and uh with the FBI and so um they’re going to be somebody that we’re going to continue to talk to to see if we can ascertain whatever information they had they have been cooperating with us, which is obviously something that we’re very happy about, um but we’re going to constantly revisit that individual and see if they can think of something else that may have been forgotten and what was the motive and some of those type of things.

15;52;36;17 BM: Is it a friend? Do you know the relationship?

15;52;38;12 RS: um we know it was an associate

15;52;41;24 BM: And not under arrest at this point. [RS: no]

Gorsuch Asserts His Independence: ‘No Such Thing as a Republican Judge’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

MAR 21 2017, 9:34 AM ET

Gorsuch Asserts His Independence: ‘No Such Thing as a Republican Judge’

Play
Watch Live: Confirmation Hearing for SCOTUS Nominee Neil Gorsuch

Neil Gorsuch insisted that he would not shy from ruling against President Donald Trump and assured lawmakers during the second day of his confirmation hearings Tuesday that he made no commitments to the president when he was nominated to the Supreme Court.

“I have no problem ruling against a person or any party,” Gorsuch told Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, calling the question of his independence a “softball.”

  • Gorsuch said he would have “no problem” ruling against President Trump or anyone else.
  • The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge said he would have “walked out” if Trump asked him to vote against Roe v. Wade.
  • He called it “grossly improper” to speculate about how he would rule in case about travel ban.

“There is no such thing as a Republican judge, or Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country,” he added.

Gorsuch has used the start to his high-profile confirmation battle to present himself as a consensus building, independent jurist with views well within the mainstream. He repeatedly told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee he made no promises to the Trump administration about future rulings, even saying he would have “walked out the door” if Trump asked him to commit to voting against Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion.

Play
Gorsuch Pressed About Legality of Trump’s Travel Ban 3:03

But Democrats prodding him about his opinions on both established Supreme Court precedent and the legality of Trump’s most controversial acts thus far as president, including Trump’s travel bans, received few clues.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge called it “irresponsible” to tip his hand on potential future rulings.

Related: Follow the Confirmation Hearing Live Blog

“It would be grossly improper of a judge to do that and a violation of the separation of powers and judicial independence if someone sitting at this table, in order to get confirmed, had to make promises or commitments about how they’d rule in a case that’s currently pending and likely to make its way to the Supreme Court,” Gorsuch said after Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., examined him about Trump’s controversial travel restrictions.

Trump’s revised executive order banning travel from six Muslim-majority nations, issued after his first travel order was described as a “Muslim ban” by critics and met with significant legal challenges, was blocked from going into effect by a federal judge last week.

Gorsuch called Roe v. Wade “precedent” that has been “reaffirmed many times” and declined to say whether he agreed with a host of other precedent-setting rulings on issues like gun rights and the power of the executive branch.

“If I indicate my agreement or disagreement with the past precedent of the United States Supreme Court, I’m doing two things that worry me sitting here: The first thing I’m doing is signaling to future litigants that I can’t be a fair judge in their case. Because those issues keep coming up,” Gorsuch told Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the highest ranking Democrat on the committee.

Democrats and liberal groups have attacked Gorsuch for his ties to big business, centering on his skepticism of the so-called Chevron Doctrine that allows federal agencies to make rules to clarify areas where the law is ambiguous. His opposition to Chevron could curtail federal agencies ability to tackle issues like climate change and workers’ rights.

Play
Gorsuch: I Would Have ‘No Difficulty’ Ruling Against the President 2:26

Feinstein asked the nominee for assurances “that you will be for the little man” and stand up to corporate interests.

“If you want cases where I ruled for the little guy as well as the big guy, there are plenty of those, Senator,” he told Feinstein, who asked for examples to be sent to her office.

Democrats also used the hearing to voice their frustrations over Republican efforts to block Merrick Garland, President Obama’s pick to fill the court vacancy left after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016.

“Do you think [Garland] was treated fairly by this committee, yes or no?” Leahy asked Gorsuch.

“I can’t get involved in politics, and there is judicial canons that prevent me from doing that,” Gorsuch said.

Scalia’s death — and Republicans’ subsequent refusal to allow President Barack Obama to fill the seat, made the Supreme Court one of the top issues in the 2016 race. Trump won 56 percent of voters who said the nominee was important, according to national exit polls.

Outside groups are pushing Democrats to unite in opposition to Trump’s pick, though most have said they will wait for the hearings to conclude before deciding how they’ll vote. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has painted Gorsuch as an ideological extremist and said he will make his views “very strongly known to them” once the public hearings conclude.

Outside groups have also been working to promote Gorsuch’s confirmation with millions of dollars in undisclosed donations. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked if it was “any cause of concern” for him that a reported $10 million ad campaign was launched to support his nomination.

“There is a lot about the confirmation process today that I regret,” Gorsuch said, including the strain it has put on his family.

“The fact of the matter is, that it is what it is, and it’s this body that makes the laws. And if you wish to have more disclosure, pass a law and a judge will enforce it,” he added.

Even a united front would unlikely be enough for Democrats to stop Gorsuch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not ruled out invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” a parliamentary maneuver that would eliminate the 60-vote threshold required to advance a nominee, and intends to approve the nominee before the Senate breaks for Easter recess.

Admiral Charged In Fat Leonard Navy Bribery Case

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

Admiral Charged in Fat Leonard Navy Bribery Case

The Justice Department has charged an admiral and eight other current and former Navy officials with corruption for allegedly taking bribes from a Singapore-based defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” in exchange for classified and internal Navy information.

Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, several Navy captains, a retired Marine colonel and an enlisted sailor are accused of accepting Cuban cigars, prostitutes and free hotel rooms from Leonard Glenn Francis, who also allegedly threw sex parties for U.S. sailors. The behavior described in the charges allegedly occurred between 2006 and 2014.

Francis, the former CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of millions of dollars. The information he received from Navy officials allowed him to overcharge the government by $20 million.

“This is a fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions, and it was allegedly carried out by the Navy’s highest-ranking officers,” said Alana Robinson, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California. “The alleged conduct amounts to a staggering degree of corruption by the most prominent leaders of the Seventh Fleet – the largest fleet in the U.S. Navy — actively worked together as a team to trade secrets for sex, serving the interests of a greedy foreign defense contractor, and not those of their own country.”

Eleven other Navy officials, including another admiral, have already been charged in the fraud and bribery investigation.

 

Image: Bruce Loveless
Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless poses in this undated photo. U.S. Navy

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