Saturday | November 18, 2017
About Us | Contact | Subscribe

In Brief: Nation & World: 6-19-17

Updated: 
June 19, 2017 - 12:05am

Trump attorney says president not under investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) — A member of the president’s outside legal team said Sunday that Donald Trump is not under federal investigation, days after Trump appeared to confirm he was with a tweet about being the target of a “witch hunt.”

Appearing on a series of morning news programs, attorney Jay Sekulow repeatedly stressed that “the president has not been and is not under investigation.” He said a Friday tweet from Trump was specifically directed at a story in The Washington Post about the expanding probe into Russia’s election meddling.

As evidence, Sekulow said that Trump has not been notified of any investigation. He also cited the testimony from former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate intelligence committee, in which Comey said he had told Trump he was not under investigation in the months leading up to his May 9 firing.

Asked about the possibility that an investigation has since developed and the president just does not know, Sekulow said: “I can’t read people’s minds, but I can tell you this, we have not been notified that there’s an investigation to the president of the United States. So that — nothing has changed in that regard since James Comey’s testimony.”

The Post reported last week that Robert Mueller — the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election — was looking into whether Trump obstructed justice. Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has expansive powers to probe any matters that develop from his initial investigation.

———

Pentagon: US shoots down Syrian aircraft for first time

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military on Sunday shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against Islamic State militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict.

The U.S. had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday’s confrontation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. While the U.S. has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight IS that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise.

The U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a written statement that a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the U.S. partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The shootdown was near Tabqa, a Syrian town in an area that has been a weekslong focus of fighting against IS militants by the SDF as they surround the city of Raqqa and attempt to retake it from IS.

The U.S. military statement said it acted in “collective self defense” of its partner forces and that the U.S. did not seek a fight with the Syrian government or its Russian supporters.

___

Forest fire kills 62 in Portugal; search on for more bodies

PEDROGAO GRANDE, Portugal (AP) — A raging forest fire in central Portugal killed at least 62 people as they desperately tried to flee, charring cars and trucks as it swept over roads. The disaster — the worst tragedy Portugal has experienced in decades — shook the nation, with the president declaring that the country’s pain “knows no end.”

Almost 24 hours after the deaths Saturday night, fires were still churning across the forested hillsides of central Portugal. Police and firefighters were searching charred areas of the forest and isolated homes, looking for more bodies.

“It is a time of pain but also … a time to carry on the fight” against the flames, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told the nation in a televised address Sunday evening after the government declared three days of national mourning.

A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the tops of trees in the forested Pedrogao Grande area, 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon where a lightning strike was believed to have sparked the blaze Saturday. Investigators found a tree that was hit during a “dry thunderstorm,” the head of the national judicial police said.

Dry thunderstorms are frequent when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures. Portugal is prone to forest fires in the dry summer months and temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) hit the area in recent days.

———

Vehicle hits people near London mosque, causing casualties

LONDON (AP) — A vehicle struck pedestrians near a mosque in north London early Monday morning, causing several casualties, police said.

One person has been arrested. The London Ambulance Service says the injured are being taken to hospitals. Eyewitnesses reported seeing police give emergency medical treatment to at least one of the injured.

The Muslim Council tweeted that worshippers were struck by a van as they were leaving prayers near the Finsbury Park mosque. It said its prayers are with the victims.

The neighborhood has two mosques, and several hundred worshippers would have been in the area after attending prayers as part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The Finsbury Park mosque was associated with extremist ideology for several years after the 9/11 attacks in the United States but was shut down and reorganized. It has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade.

———

Gunmen attack resort in Mali’s capital, killing 2

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Jihadis attacked a hotel resort Sunday in Mali’s capital, taking hostages at a spot popular with foreigners on the weekends. More than 30 people managed to escape though at least two people were killed, authorities said.

Moussa Ag Infahi, director of the national police, told The Associated Press that three of the assailants had been killed while a fourth escaped.

Gunfire first rang out at the Campement Kangaba on the outskirts of Bamako in the late afternoon, according to a security guard who was working at the time.

Mahamadou Doumbia said a militant on a motorcycle entered the area around 3:40 p.m. and cried “Allah Akbar” before jumping off and running toward the pool area.

“Then a car with three jihadis entered the resort and they started to fire their weapons,” he said. “A French soldier who had come for the weekend but had his gun shot and wounded” a jihadi.

———

Mother: Son tried to save Navy shipmates after collision

YOKOSUKA, Japan (AP) — The mother of a U.S. Navy sailor said her son kept diving to try to save his shipmates after a collision at sea until their flooded sleeping berth began running out of air pockets, while other survivors — believing their ship was under attack — hurried to man the guns.

Mia Sykes of Raleigh, North Carolina, told The Associated Press on Sunday that her 19-year-old son, Brayden Harden, was knocked out of his bunk by the impact, and water immediately began filling the berth, after their destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship four times its size off the Japanese coast.

The ships collided about 2:20 a.m. Saturday, when the Navy said most of the 300 sailors on board would have been sleeping, and authorities have declined to speculate on a cause while the crash remains under investigation.

Sykes says her son told her that four men in his berth, including those sleeping on bunks above and below him died, while three died in the berth above his.

“They did what they were trained to do,” said Sykes, who said she hopes her son, from Herrin, Illinois, can come home to be with family as he works through what happened. “You have to realize most of them are 18, 19 and 20-year-olds living with guilt. But I told him, ‘There’s a reason you’re still here and make that count.’”

———

Kelly presses ‘Infowars’ host Jones on Sandy Hook denial

NEW YORK (AP) — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones hemmed and hawed when pressed repeatedly by Megyn Kelly to admit he was wrong to call the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, a hoax.

Jones never gave a direct answer in a segment on NBC’s “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.” Kelly has been criticized intensely for giving a platform to Jones, who has also called the Sept. 11 attacks an inside job and promoted the false story that a pizza place in Washington, D.C. was the site of a child sex ring.

She has defended her decision by noting that his influence has grown with the rise of President Donald Trump, who has praised Jones and appeared on his radio program.

“Here’s the thing, Alex Jones isn’t going away,” she said Sunday night.

The “Infowars” host said at one point that he was playing “devil’s advocate” in denying the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. But he added that he remained skeptical after he “watched the footage” of children leaving the building.

———

UK: London tower may have used banned siding in renovation

LONDON (AP) — The new exterior cladding used in a renovation on London’s Grenfell Tower may have been banned under U.K. building regulations, two British ministers said Sunday as police continued their criminal investigation into the inferno that killed at least 58 people.

Trade Minister Greg Hands said the government is carrying out an “urgent inspection” of the roughly 2,500 similar tower blocks across Britain to assess their safety, while an opposition lawmaker urged the government to quickly secure documents in the Grenfell renovation for the criminal probe.

Late Sunday, the Metropolitan Police released three photos from inside Grenfell Tower, which showed in close detail how the fire charred the 24-story building that once housed up to 600 people in 120 apartments.

Experts believe the building’s new exterior cladding, which contained insulation, helped spread the flames quickly up the outside of the public housing tower early Wednesday. Some said they had never seen a building fire advance so quickly.

Hands and Treasury chief Philip Hammond said in separate TV appearances that the cladding used on Grenfell seems to be prohibited by British regulations. Hands cautioned that officials don’t yet have exact details about the renovation that ended just last year.

Rules for posting comments