A White House spokesman on Saturday said Democrats and mainstream media outlets have “created chaos more than the Russians,” despite a federal indictment outlining a Russian conspiracy to sway U.S. elections. In an interview on Fox & Friends, Hogan Gidley, the deputy White House press secretary, seemed to echo President Trump, suggesting that Friday’s indictment against 13 Russians is proof there was “no collusion” between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. The Democrats and mainstream media, he said, “continued to push this lie on the American people for more than a year, and frankly Americans should be outraged by that.” While the indictment handed down by special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday made no mention of members of Trump’s campaign working with Russians involved in the conspiracy, the Russia investigation has not been completed yet. Trump on Friday seized the indictment as proof of “no collusion,” however, stressing that the Russians “started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for president.”
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, already indicted on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent in the ongoing Russia probe, has been accused of bank fraud in new court documents. The “additional criminal conduct” came to light in a new bail package Manafort submitted in a bid to change his bail conditions, prosecutors said in a filing released Friday. Manafort allegedly submitted false information including “doctored profit and lost statements” to Federal Savings Bank to secure a $9 million mortgage on a property in Fairfax, Virginia he is now trying to pledge as security for his release. Prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team have rejected the newest bail offer, saying it is “deficient” in light of the “criminal conduct” involved. “That criminal conduct includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies, including criminal conduct relating to the mortgage on the Fairfax property, which Manafort seeks to pledge,” the document reads. It was not immediately clear if Mueller’s office intends to file new criminal charges against Manafort over the alleged bank fraud.
A military helicopter sent out to assess the damage from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Mexico crashed into several people apparently taking shelter in a field, killing 13 of them and wounding another 15. Five women, four men, and three children were killed as the helicopter went down Friday, and another person later died in a hospital, the Oaxaca state prosecutor's office said Saturday. The helicopter’s passengers—state officials including Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat—did not suffer serious injuries in the crash. The victims were reportedly struck after spending the night in an open field, apparently to stay safe during aftershocks from the quake. Many residents fled their homes following the tremors, but no deaths were reported.
Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old man accused of gunning down 17 people at a Florida high school this week, reportedly drew the attention of child protective services by cutting his arms on Snapchat long before the massacre. In August 2016, an abuse hotline for the Florida Department of Children & Families received a tip that Cruz “was on Snapchat cutting both of his arms,” according to the Miami Herald. “Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun,” the agency was reportedly warned. A “Nazi symbol” drawn on his book bag also reportedly sparks concerns among authorities. A subsequent DCF investigation into Cruz and his adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, concluded that he was not being mistreated and was receiving adequate mental health treatment. He was deemed “stable enough not to be hospitalized,” according to the report. The incident, another red flag in the months leading up to the deadly shooting, was made public as part of a petition filed by DCF seeking to release information on Cruz’s history to combat inaccurate reports in the “public domain.”
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White House senior adviser Jared Trump has made more requests for classified intelligence information than almost any other member of White House staff, despite not having a final security clearance, The Washington Post reports. Kushner’s requests for information are surpassed only by staffers on the National Security Council, a source familiar with the matter was quoted as saying. Kushner—whose background investigation has hit several snags and is still ongoing more than a year after he joined the Trump administration—is one of dozens of staffers operating with an interim security clearance. He is allowed access to the president’s daily briefings along with a slew of other top-secret documents. White House officials have reportedly expressed concerns about Kushner’s security clearance in private, including Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who on Friday announced major changes to the clearance process. Starting next week, new interim clearances will be limited to 270 days, and some staffers whose clearances have been pending since before last June will be cut off. Kelly has reportedly said he is aware these changes may affect Kushner, who one official described as having a “bull’s eye” on him under the new policies.
In one of the biggest upsets of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, a Czech snowboarder captured an Olympic gold in Alpine skiing Saturday, beating U.S. ski racer Lindsay Vonn and other ski champions to claim the super-G title. The stunning run by 22-year-old Ester Ledecka—completed in 1 minute, 21.11 seconds—left even her a bit confused. “How did that happen?” she asked after seeing her time. Ledecka is primarily a snowboarder who dabbles in skiing on her off days. Throughout all of 19 World Cup skiing races in her entire career, Ledecka only once managed to finish as high as seventh. No one ever suspected she could claim gold in skiing, said Justin Reiter, her coach in snowboarding. “She just wanted to come here and be the first person ever to ski and snowboard race,” he said. Ledecka went up against superstar Vonn, who tied for sixth and called Ledecka’s win “definitely shocking.” Austria’s Anna Veith claimed silver in the race, and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein took the bronze.
President Trump’s national security adviser says the indictment of 13 Russians announced Friday makes evidence of Russian election meddling “incontrovertible.” At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, H.R. McMaster also dismissed any chance of the U.S. working with Russia on cybersecurity, saying a “cyber dialogue” is only possible “when Russia is sincere about curtailing its sophisticated form of espionage.” The comments came shortly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the recent indictments against Russians “just blabber.” The federal indictment announced Friday accuses Russia’s Internet Research Agency—commonly referred to as the “troll farm”—and several Russian citizens of engaging in fraud and identity theft in an intricate conspiracy to influence U.S. elections in favor of Trump. The indictment is widely seen as raising the stakes in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and dealing a major blow to those, including the president, who dismissed concerns about Russian meddling as “fake news.”
Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old man who confessed to killing 17 people at a Florida high school this week, left a trail of racist comments and threats of violence in a private Instagram chat group, CNN reports. After joining the group in August 2017, Cruz reportedly talked about killing Mexicans, keeping blacks chained up, and suggested gays should be shot “in the back of the head.” He also reportedly railed against Jewish people and white women in interracial relationships in the group, named “Murica (American flag emoji) (eagle emoji) great.” Cruz left hints about his plans to commit a shooting, posting a video of himself shooting a rifle out a window and discussing his plans to buy body armor. When asked by another member of the group about his interest in body armor, Cruz said he was curious because “school shooters.” At one point, he blatantly said, “I think I am going to kill people” before dismissing the comment as a joke, according to CNN. Cruz also bragged about sending a letter to President Donald Trump and receiving a response, though that claim has not been confirmed.
A man who effectively ended former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s career with sexual abuse allegations last year was found dead in a motel on Friday. Delvonn R. Heckard, 47, died in the Seattle suburb of Auburn, though the official cause of death has not yet been determined, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday. Auburn Assistant Police Chief Bill Pierson said officers responded to reports of an apparent drug overdose at the hotel, adding that they found “some type of medication in the room, as well as some illicit drug paraphernalia.” Heckard was open about his struggles with drug addiction last spring when he accused Murray of repeatedly paying him for sex as a teenager. Those allegations, which Murray has denied, prompted other accusers to allege sexual abuse against the then-mayor, leading to his resignation in September. Heckard had recently received a $100,000 payout as part of a settlement with the city in his lawsuit against Murray.