Mueller disputes report that Trump directed lawyer to lie
WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Friday issued a rare public statement disputing the accuracy of BuzzFeed News’ report that said President Donald Trump’s attorney told Mueller that the president directed him to lie to Congress.
BuzzFeed, citing two unidentified law enforcement officials, reported that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate project and that Cohen told Mueller that Trump personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the project. The report said Mueller’s investigators learned about Trump’s directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
The report said Cohen then acknowledged Trump’s instructions when he was interviewed by the Mueller team.
The statement by Mueller’s office on Friday night doesn’t cite any specific errors, but the special counsel’s spokesman, Peter Carr, said, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.”
Immediately after the statement was issued, Trump retweeted a post that said: “Sadly so many will never get the memo that it was fake!”
Total lunar eclipse meets supermoon Sunday night
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Here comes a total lunar eclipse and supermoon, all wrapped into one.
The moon, Earth and sun will line up this weekend for the only total lunar eclipse this year and next. At the same time, the moon will be ever so closer to Earth and appear slightly bigger and brighter than usual — a supermoon.
“This one is particularly good,” said Rice University astrophysicist Patrick Hartigan. “It not only is a supermoon and it’s a total eclipse, but the total eclipse also lasts pretty long. It’s about an hour.”
The whole eclipse starts Sunday night or early Monday, depending on location , and will take about three hours.
It begins with the partial phase around 10:34 p.m. EST Sunday. That’s when Earth’s shadow will begin to nip at the moon. Totality — when Earth’s shadow completely blankets the moon — will last 62 minutes, beginning at 11:41 p.m. EST Sunday.
Colombia asks Cuba to arrest ELN negotiators for car bombing
BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian President Ivan Duque on Friday pressed Cuba to arrest 10 peace negotiators from the National Liberation Army after his government blamed the leftist group for a car bombing against a police academy that left 21 dead and dozens more wounded.
In a televised address, Duque said he had revoked a decree suspending arrest orders against leaders of Colombia’s last remaining rebel group, known as the ELN for its Spanish initials, who have been living on the communist-run island amid fading hopes that peace talks would resume.
“It’s clear to all of Colombia that the ELN has no true desire for peace,” Duque said, citing a long list of kidnappings and attacks attributed to the guerrillas since peace talks began in 2017.
“We would like to thank the Cuban government for the solidarity it expressed yesterday and today, and we ask that it capture the terrorists who are inside its territory and hand them over to Colombian police,” he said, adding that no ideology could justify the cruelty of Thursday’s attack.
Duque’s comments came after authorities claimed that a one-armed ELN explosives expert was the person who carried out the attack, the deadliest in the South American nation in 15 years.
Officer who shot black teen sentenced to nearly 7 years
CHICAGO — The white Chicago officer who gunned down a black teenager in 2014 was sentenced Friday to nearly seven years in prison, ending an explosive case that arose from a graphic dashcam video and added fuel to debates about race and policing and law enforcement’s “code of silence.”
Jason Van Dyke was convicted last year of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet fired at Laquan McDonald. Attorneys on both sides agreed that if he behaves in prison, the 40-year-old could be released in less than three and a half years.
McDonald’s family lamented that the penalty was too light. His great uncle said the sentence reduced Laquan McDonald’s life to that of “a second-class citizen” and “suggests to us that there are no laws on the books for a black man that a white man is bound to honor.”
Moments earlier, Van Dyke acknowledged the teen’s death, telling the judge that “as a God-fearing man and father, I will have to live with this the rest of my life.”
From wire sources
The sentence was less than half of the penalty that had been sought by prosecutors, who asked for 18 to 20 years. But it went far beyond the request of defense attorneys, who argued that Van Dyke could be released on probation. The prison term was also a fraction of what Van Dyke could have faced had he been convicted of first-degree murder, which carried a mandatory minimum of 45 years in prison.
Trump plans big announcement on Saturday on shutdown, border
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he’ll be making a “major announcement” on the government shutdown and the southern border on Saturday afternoon as the standstill over his border wall continues into its fifth week.
The White House declined to provide details late Friday about what the president would be announcing. But Trump was not expected to sign the national emergency declaration he’s been threatening as an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.
Instead, Trump was expected to propose the outlines of a new deal that the administration believes could potentially pave the way to an end to the shutdown, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to discuss the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move — on Day 28 of a shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks — represents the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he delivered an Oval Office address making the public case for his border wall. The president and his aides have said he will not budge on his demand for $5.7 billion in funding. Democrats have panned the number and said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said only that Trump was “going to continue fighting for border security” and “going to continue looking for the solution” to end what the administration had repeatedly referred to as a “humanitarian and national security crisis at the border.”
Feds confirm jailed Iranian TV anchor not charged with crime
WASHINGTON — Federal officials confirmed Friday that a prominent American-born anchorwoman on Iranian state television was jailed in the U.S. as a material witness and has not been charged with any crime, according to court papers.
Marzieh Hashemi has appeared twice before a U.S. district judge in Washington and has been appointed an attorney. U.S. government officials expect her to be released immediately after her testimony before a grand jury.
The order to unseal some parts of her case came days after she was first detained. It did not include details on the criminal case in which she was named a witness. Her son Hossein Hashemi did not comment on details of the case outside court on Friday.
It was not clear how long her testimony would take.
“We’re hoping that it would be complete and she would be out this week. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” he said. “So we’re just waiting to hear more.”
Supreme Court inaction suggests DACA safe for another year
WASHINGTON — The Obama-era program that shields young immigrants from deportation and that President Donald Trump has sought to end seems likely to survive for at least another year.
That’s because the Supreme Court took no action Friday on the Trump administration’s request to decide by early summer whether Trump’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was legal. The program has been protected by several federal courts.
Based on the high court’s usual practices, the earliest the justices would hear arguments in the case would be this fall, if they decide to hear the case at all. If arguments take place in October, a decision would not be likely before 2020, when it could affect the presidential campaign.
The administration “never asked for a stay of the rulings below which to us indicated it has known all along that there’s no real rush to resolve these important issues,” said Theodore Boutrous Jr., a lawyer in Los Angeles who represents some young immigrants who challenged the administration’s plans.
Trump and Congress could take the issue out of the court’s hands altogether if they strike a deal on the program known as DACA, perhaps even in negotiations to end the partial government shutdown.
Mothers of slain Nicaraguan students unite to seek justice
MEXICO CITY — The two mothers walked shoulder-to-shoulder ahead of a casket in the northern Nicaraguan city of Esteli, wailing in shared grief at the killings of their sons during a wave of anti-government protests.
Francisca Machado was accompanying the casket holding her 24-year-old son Franco Valdivia Machado’s body to the cemetery on that April day. Socorro Corrales had just buried her own son, 23-year-old Orlando Perez Corrales, the day before.
From that image of solidarity was born a movement that became the Mothers of April, formed by relatives of many of the 325 people killed in the government suppression of the student-led protests. Its members are demanding justice from President Daniel Ortega, who has tightened his grip on power and targeted voices of dissent, arresting hundreds and closing media outlets and human rights groups in the aftermath of the protests.
The group is preparing for a long struggle for accountability for the killers of their children from a government that has labeled the protesters criminals and coup-plotters. Three of its nine leaders have fled Nicaragua, fearing for their own safety.
“We don’t want to think about many years passing, but part of our responsibility is to prepare for that scenario,” said Francys Valdivia Machado, whose younger brother was buried on April 22.