R. Kelly: Judge Authorizes No-Bail Arrest Warrant

A no-bail arrest warrant for R. Kelly was authorized Friday after the disgraced R&B singer was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. In an indictment, R. Kelly was accused of sexually abusing four victims, three of them minors, between 1998 and 2010, according to a release from the Cook County State’s Attorney Office. The first victim, named H.W., was allegedly abused by R. Kelly between May 1998 and May 1999, when she was under 17, and the singer was over five years her senior. The second victim, R.L., was also under 17 when she was allegedly sexually abused between Sept. 1998 and Sept. 2005. The third victim, L.C., was allegedly involved in a Feb. 2003 incident in which the singer transmitted his semen on her body “for the purpose of sexual gratification.” The fourth victim, named J.P., was also under 17 when she was sexually abused between May 2009 and January 2010, the court papers allege.

R. Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, told the Associated Press Friday that his client was “shell-shocked” by the indictment and he maintains his innocence. The singer reportedly turned himself in to Chicago Police Friday evening.


Cohen Gives Info on Trump Organization, Inauguration Donor to Manhattan Prosecutors: Report

President Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, met last month with Manhattan federal prosecutors and gave them information about “possible irregularities” within the Trump Organization and about a venture capitalist who donated to the inaugural committee, according to The New York Times. Cohen reportedly spoke about “insurance claims the company” had filed in years past and an inaugural fund donor named Imaad Zuberi. Zuberi contributed $900,000 to the committee and attempted to hire Cohen as a “consultant” who would give him access to Trump administration.

Zuberi reportedly wrote a check for $100,000 to hire Cohen, but Cohen did not go through with the agreement. Steve Rabinowitz, a spokesman for Zuberi, confirmed to the Times that Zuberi wrote the check but said it was “never cashed.” Zuberi has previously denied having any dealings with Cohen. The Trump Organization reportedly did not respond to requests for comment. The Daily Beast previously reported that Zuberi was on a potential guest list for a Trump inauguration event that is under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Manhattan federal prosecutors. His spokesperson said he did not attend the breakfast event, but showed up as it was ending.


Trump ‘Surprised’ About Patriots Owner Robert Kraft’s Prostitution Charges

President Trump told reporters on Friday that he was “surprised” to see Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution, emphasizing that the Patriots owner denies the allegations. “It’s very sad. I was very surprised to see it,” Trump said. “He’s proclaimed his innocence totally. I’m very surprised to see it.” Trump and the billionaire businessman are close friends, with Kraft having visited Trump’s Florida estate Mar-a-Lago multiple times. Kraft has been charged with soliciting prostitution as part of a sprawling human-trafficking investigation. Authorities said a video obtained as evidence shows the Patriots owner engaging in an illegal sex act.

Kraft has been loyal to Trump despite being a lifelong Democrat who donated to former President Barack Obama’s campaigns. When Kraft’s wife died in 2011, Trump reportedly attended her funeral. “Then he called me once a week for the whole year, the most depressing year of my life when I was down and out,” Kraft told the New York Daily News. “... He was one of five or six people that were like that. I remember that.”

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Trump Names Kelly Craft as U.N. Ambassador

President Donald Trump announced Friday that Kelly Craft will become the United States’ new ambassador to the United Nations. “I am pleased to announce that Kelly Knight Craft, our current Ambassador to Canada, is being nominated to be United States Ambassador to the United Nations,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Kelly has done an outstanding job representing our Nation and I have no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level. Congratulations to Kelly and her entire family!” Craft was nominated to be ambassador to Canada in 2017, and is the first woman to have served in that role. She will be replacing acting U.N. Ambassador Johnathan Cohen—who stepped into the role when former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley decided to resign. According to McClatchy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) endorsed Craft—a Kentucky native—for the U.S. ambassadorship.


Trump Administration Threatens to Deport Venezuelan Military Families Loyal to Maduro

The Trump administration is threatening to deport family members of Venezuelan military officials who obey Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and block humanitarian aid from entering the country, The Miami Herald reports. A senior administration official told reporters the government had collected data on military leaders who have family currently in the U.S.—some of whom are living in the Miami area. The official said the family members were living in “luxury” while others in Venezuela were struggling. “We will no longer tolerate that double standard,” the official reportedly said. “They face a situation where they and their families will have to go back to Venezuela… They will have to go back and live in the misery that they’re imposing.” According to the newspaper, the official also said the U.S. was working with allies to boot Venezuelan military family members out of the Caribbean and other countries.

This comes after Venezuela barricaded a key bridge, blocking U.S. humanitarian aid from entering the country. President Maduro, who is facing a presidential crisis and calls from around the world to step down, reportedly sees humanitarian aid as “a foreign intervention.”


Microsoft Workers Protest Army Contract: ‘We Did Not Sign Up to Develop Weapons’

Microsoft employees wrote a letter to the tech giant on Friday, calling for leadership to cancel its almost $480 million contract with the U.S. Army. The letter stated that the contract, signed late last year, “crossed the line into weapons development.” According to NPR, the open letter reportedly said the company's HoloLens augmented reality technology “is designed to help people kill” by allowing soldiers to increase their “lethality, mobility, and situational awareness.” “We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country's government 'increase lethality' using tools we built,” the letter read. “We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.” A tweet publicizing the letter featured a link where employees could sign, but the petition was not available for viewing for non-Microsoft employees. According to Bloomberg, the November contract between the tech company and the Army could lead the military branch to buy over “100,000 headsets” from Microsoft.


Grand Jury Hearing Evidence Against Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: Report

Prosecutors have begun presenting evidence to a grand jury in their investigation into whether former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied to federal officials regarding a casino deal, The Washington Post reports. Zinke reportedly decided not to allow the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to build a casino in Connecticut, and the tribes allege that Zinke received political pressure from Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and then-Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) in his decision-making process. Amodei and Heller reportedly have received contributions from MGM Resorts International, which had a casino about 12 miles away from the location of the proposed Indian tribes’ casino. According to the Post, the allegation of improper influence on Zinke prompted an inspector general investigation last year—which came to conclude that Zinke had lied to federal officials. The IG’s office then referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Grand jury witnesses told the newspaper that prosecutors have asked whether anyone influenced Zinke’s decision to not approve the tribes’ casino and whether Zinke received any “advice” during that time. The DOJ and Interior Department reportedly declined to comment. Zinke did not respond to requests for comment, and has not yet reportedly been called to appear before the grand jury.


Report: Sen. Amy Klobuchar Blocked Staff From New Job Offers

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who recently launched her Democratic campaign for president, reportedly sought to ruin the job prospects of staff who wanted to leave her office. HuffPost reports that in one instance, Klobuchar confronted one of her Democratic colleagues in Congress who offered a job to her staffer. Klobuchar reportedly made it “clear” that she wanted the job offer rescinded, but the member kept the offer open and the staffer exited her office. Klobuchar also reportedly blocked President Obama's Treasury Department from hiring one of her “longtime aides” by not giving the White House her blessing to hire them. According to HuffPost, the staffer was a “finalist” for the role and was “pissed” when the senator didn't sign off. Klobuchar’s office and campaign reportedly did not respond to HuffPost's request for comment. The senator has previously recognized that she had “high expectations” for her staff, admitting at a CNN town hall that she was a “tough boss sometimes” who has “pushed people too hard.”


Kushner Companies Seeking $1.15 Billion Federal Loan

Kushner Companies, the real-estate firm owned by the family of White House senior advisor (and presidential son-in-law) Jared Kushner, reportedly sought a $1.15 billion loan from federally-owned lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. According to Bloomberg, the company is seeking those funds to purchase “6,030 apartments across 16 properties in Maryland and Virginia.” Kushner Companies reportedly had more than $500 million in loans from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the time Jared Kushner divested from the family business and joined the White House. The new loan could potentially more than double the amount Kushner Companies has in federal loans.

President Trump appointed Joseph Otting to oversee the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Otting reportedly served as the CEO of OneWest Bank, which was founded by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin—who is an “ally” of Kushner's. A spokesman for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac told Bloomberg they had no information to share. Kushner Companies did not return multiple requests for comment. Peter Mirijanian, the spokesman for Jared Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell, said Kushner no longer had involvement with the family business. “[Kushner] is walled off from any business or investment decisions and has no idea or knowledge of these activities,” Mirijanian said.