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Nation & World briefs: 10-24-17

Updated: 
October 24, 2017 - 12:05am

As panel questions Trump associates, GOP launches probes

WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Tuesday revived familiar themes from the 2016 election, launching new probes looking back at the Obama administration and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails as close associates of President Donald Trump faced tough questions on Capitol Hill.

The announcements of the investigations by three GOP committees were criticized by Democrats as a “massive diversion” from congressional probes into potential coordination between the Kremlin and associates of the Trump campaign — and from two witnesses close to President Donald Trump that appeared privately before the House intelligence panel for questioning.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign data director, Brad Parscale, were both interviewed by the House panel behind closed doors Tuesday. Cohen’s interview lasted around six hours, while Parscale’s interview was ongoing through the afternoon.

Two lawmakers familiar with Cohen’s interview said it had been “contentious,” but declined to elaborate on what was said. The lawmakers asked not to be identified because the meeting was private.

Cohen, a former executive with the Trump Organization who had been subpoenaed by the House panel earlier this year, was in talks to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, but ended those negotiations as Trump’s White House bid caught fire. In a statement to the Senate intelligence committee in August, Cohen said the proposal was “solely a real estate deal and nothing more.”

US declaration of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Myanmar on way

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration moved toward a condemnation of “ethnic cleansing” against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, as officials were preparing a recommendation for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to unequivocally use the term for the first time. Angry lawmakers on Tuesday demanded an immediate denunciation as they explored a new, tougher U.S. policy.

“My bosses have said it appears to be ethnic cleansing. I’m of that view as well,” said Patrick Murphy, a senior U.S. diplomat for Southeast Asia, while adding that the final call wasn’t his to make.

Tillerson could receive the recommendation to adopt such terminology as a matter of policy as early as this week, officials familiar with the process told The Associated Press. He would then decide whether to follow the advice of his agency’s policy experts and lawyers, which would raise pressure on the U.S. government to consider new sanctions on a country that had been lauded for its democratic transition.

At a Senate hearing Tuesday, lawmakers pressed Murphy and other administration officials to hastily clarify their view of the brutal crackdown on Muslims in Rakhine State that has caused more than 600,000 refugees to flee to Bangladesh. But U.S. officials have been weighing several factors for their policy toward the country also known as Burma, including concerns about undermining the civilian government led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for the last 18 months.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine was among those calling for a clear determination “with dispatch.” Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized it “may be time for a policy readjustment.” Other lawmakers in both houses of Congress have proposed new U.S. penalties on the military, which retains significant power in Myanmar and is blamed for the violence.

Former production assistant alleges Weinstein sexual assault

NEW YORK — A former Weinstein Co. production assistant has come forward alleging that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her after her repeated refusals.

In a press conference Tuesday in New York held by attorney Gloria Allred, Mimi Haleyi claimed Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006. Haleyi was in her 20s at the time, Allred said.

In graphic detail, Haleyi described Weinstein holding her down at his New York apartment in what she said appeared to be a child’s bedroom.

“He was extremely persistent and physically overpowering,” said Haleyi. “He then orally forced himself on me, while I was on my period. He even pulled my tampon out. I was mortified.”

Among the dozens — including Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd — who have claimed Weinstein sexually harassed them, several women have said Weinstein raped them. Police in Los Angeles, New York and London are investigating rape allegations.

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Robert Guillaume, Emmy-winning for ‘Soap’ actor, dies at 89

NEW YORK — Robert Guillaume, who rose from squalid beginnings in St. Louis slums to become a star in stage musicals and win Emmy Awards for his portrayal of the sharp-tongued butler in the TV sitcoms “Soap” and “Benson,” has died at age 89.

Guillaume died at home Tuesday in Los Angeles, according to his widow, Donna Brown Guillaume. He had been battling prostate cancer, she told The Associated Press.

Among Guillaume’s achievements was playing Nathan Detroit in the first all-black version of “Guys and Dolls,” earning him a Tony nomination in 1977. He became the first African-American to sing the title role of “Phantom of the Opera,” in a Los Angeles-based production, and was the voice of the shaman-slash-mandrill Rafiki in the film version of “The Lion King.”

Guillaume won a Grammy in 1995 when a read-aloud version of “The Lion King,” which he narrated, was cited for best spoken word album for children. He also served as narrator for the animated HBO series “Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child,” which aired form 1995-2000.

“Giant of stage + screen,” tweeted filmmaker Ava DuVernay. “Also let’s remember that Robert Guillaume was among the first celebs to appear at AIDS fundraisers. Thank you, sir.” Actor Josh Charles tweeted “Robert Guillaume radiated such warmth, light, dignity, and above all, class. That smile and laugh touched us all.”

By wire sources

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