WVPA Sharing

10 things to know: Thursday, July 25

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The regional bureau of The Associated Press, shares 10 things you need to know Thursday, July 25, 2019. Look for full stories on these late-breaking news items and much more in West Virginia newspapers.

1. Mueller defends investigation, warns of more Russian election meddling

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on Wednesday, warning that Russian election interference remains a serious threat and reiterating that his report did not exonerate President Trump regarding possible obstruction of justice. Mueller defended his inquiry, and rejected Trump’s criticism that the two-year investigation was a “witch hunt.” Mueller frequently answered questions by referring to his report, frustrating Democrats’ efforts to tease out direct indications that Trump could be charged with a crime. He did say that Trump’s praise of WikiLeaks, which published Democratic emails hacked by Russians, was “problematic,” and “gave a boost” to illegal activity. Trump said Mueller’s testimony vindicated him. [The New York Times, CNN]

2. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigns after protests

Puerto Rico’s embattled governor, Ricardo Rosselló, announced his resignation late Wednesday after weeks of massive protests and the start of impeachment proceedings in the U.S. Caribbean territory’s Legislature. Rosselló, who will step down on Aug. 2, defended his record in a video posted on Facebook to break the news. “My only priority has been the transformation of our island and the well-being of our people,” he said. Protesters celebrated outside the governor’s mansion in the island’s capital, San Juan. Demonstrators had been demanding Rosselló’s resignation for nearly two weeks over alleged corruption and a report detailing misogynistic and homophobic private chat messages between Rosselló and members of his inner circle. Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez will take over for Rosselló, who will be the first governor to resign in Puerto Rico’s modern history. [NBC News, The Associated Press]

3. Judge blocks Trump policy limiting asylum requests

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the Trump administration’s new rule blocking asylum claims for most Central American migrants, shortly after another judge let the rule stand in a separate challenge. U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction against the rule, which banned asylum claims for migrants seeking asylum who had not first applied for the status in a country they passed through before reaching the U.S. border, which means that most migrants in the recent wave from Central America would have to be denied asylum in Mexico before applying in the U.S. Tigar wrote in his ruling that the “new rule is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws here,” adding the government’s decision to enact it was “arbitrary and capricious.” [The New York Times]

4. Trump vetoes resolutions that sought to block Saudi arms deals

President Trump on Wednesday vetoed three resolutions Congress passed to block his plans to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Bipartisan but not veto-proof majorities of the Senate and the House earlier this month voted to block the arms sales, which Trump pushed through without lawmakers’ approval. Trump announced in May that he planned to use executive authority to seal the deals to sell missiles, surveillance aircraft, and other military material, in part to help restock a Saudi arsenal partly depleted by the campaign the oil-rich kingdom is leading against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Lawmakers objected because of the possibility the weapons could be used against civilians, and the appearance that Washington was treating Saudi leaders favorably despite their alleged involvement in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [The Washington Post]

5. DOJ declines to prosecute Barr, Ross for defying congressional subpoenas

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday it would not prosecute Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after the House voted earlier this month to hold them in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas. The noncompliance “did not constitute a crime,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in a letter, citing an Obama-era precedent regarding former Attorney General Eric Holder’s noncompliance with a 2012 subpoena. Barr and Ross were subpoenaed as part of an investigation into the Trump administration’s effort to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. The House voted 230-198 to hold the two in contempt. Rosen said he would not take any further action on the matter. [HuffPost]

6. South Korean military: North Korea fired 2 missiles into sea

North Korea fired two short-range missiles from the coastal town of Wonsan on Thursday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. They flew at least 270 miles, landing in the sea. In June, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to restart nuclear negotiations, following their failed February summit in Vietnam. Last week, North Korea said it might end its suspension of nuclear and missile testing to protest expected joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. “North Korea appears to be thinking its diplomacy with the U.S. isn’t proceeding in a way that they want,” said analyst Kim Dae-young at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy. “So they’ve fired missiles to get the table to turn in their favor.” [The Associated Press]

7. Epstein reportedly on suicide watch after being found injured in jail

Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was placed on suicide watch after he was found in his New York City jail cell in a fetal position with marks on his neck, NBC News reported Wednesday night, citing sources close to the investigation. Two sources said Epstein, 66, might have tried to hang himself, or staged an attack or suicide attempt hoping to be transferred to a different jail as he awaits his trial. Another source told NBC News that authorities were looking into whether another inmate, a former police officer, assaulted the disgraced financier. Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 and served a 13-month sentence in Florida for sex crimes against teenage girls, and he is awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges. [NBC News]

8. California dad pleads guilty in college admissions scandal

California business executive Jeffrey Bizzack pleaded guilty Wednesday to paying $250,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California as a phony volleyball recruit. Bizzack was the 23rd defendant to admit his role in a nationwide college admissions scandal. Another 28 people are heading to trial. Prosecutors said Bizzack paid $50,000 to USC and $200,000 to Rick Singer, the college admissions consultant at the center of the test-cheating and bribery scheme. Bizzack, 59, is the co-founder of clothing store and fashion company Outerknown. He faces up to 20 years in prison, but he has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators, and prosecutors have recommended a lighter sentence including nine months behind bars and a $75,000 penalty. Bizzack will be sentenced Oct. 30. [USA Today]

9. ESPN: Zion Williamson’s shoe deal richest ever for an NBA rookie

The endorsement deal secured by Zion Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans’ No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, is the richest shoe deal ever for an NBA rookie, ESPN reported Wednesday. Williamson announced Tuesday that he had struck a five-year agreement with Jordan Brand, but he didn’t immediately provide details. Jordan Brand battled numerous other shoe companies to sign Williamson, who played one-year at Duke and was named the nation’s top men’s college basketball player and its top freshman. Williamson reportedly had several offers of more than $10 million per year. Before Williamson signed with Jordan Brands, LeBron James had the richest rookie shoe contract in NBA history. [ESPN]

10. Actor Rutger Hauer dies at 75

Actor Rutger Hauer, perhaps best known for his performance as Roy Batty in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, has died at 75. Hauer’s agent confirmed that he died on July 19 in his Netherlands home following an undisclosed illness and that his funeral took place on Wednesday. After his role the 1981 Sylvester Stallone thriller Nighthawks, Hauer played the villain in the 1982 science-fiction film Blade Runner, in which he delivered memorable monologues. Hauer went on to win a Golden Globe Award for his supporting role in the television film Escape from Sobibor and starred in movies like The Hitcher, Sin City, Batman Begins, and Hobo with a Shotgun, as well as HBO’s True Blood. Hauer is survived by his wife and daughter. [Variety]

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