The Latest: Impeachment hearings wrap up for the week
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have made their closing arguments as they end the final impeachment hearing of the week — and perhaps the final hearing before they hand the probe over to the House Judiciary Committee.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff laid out what the committee has learned over the course of seven hearings on President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Schiff said the president believes “he is above the law” and “beyond accountability” as he pushed Ukraine to investigate Democrats and withheld military aid.
He said Democrats will have to examine “what is our duty” as they decide on next steps.
The top Republican on the panel, California Rep. Devin Nunes, called the hearings “a show trial” and said they had a pre-determined verdict.
In Thursday’s hearing, the committee heard testimony from former White House national security adviser Fiona Hill and David Holmes, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.
The Latest: Israeli PM Netanyahu rejects indictment
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected his indictment on an array of corruption charges, saying the country is witnessing an “attempted coup” against him.
In a defiant statement Thursday, Netanyahu said the indictment stemmed from “false accusations” and a systematically “tainted investigation.”
He spoke after the attorney general announced his indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three long-running corruption cases.
Netanyahu was unable to form a government following unprecedented back-to-back elections this year, in part because of his legal woes, and a third vote could be held within months.
THE RECKONING-BOARD FAILURES
AP: Catholic Church boards reviewing sex abuse fail victims
Facing thousands of clergy sex-abuse cases, U.S. Catholic leaders addressed their greatest modern crisis with a promised reform: Mandatory review boards.
These independent panels with lay people in each diocese would review allegations fairly and kindly, and help bishops ensure that abusive priests weren’t in ministry.
But almost two decades later, an Associated Press investigation of review boards across the country shows they have broadly failed to uphold these commitments. Instead, boards appointed by bishops and operating in secrecy have routinely undermined victims’ claims, shielded accused priests and helped the church avoid payouts.
Several bishops contacted by the AP did not respond to requests for comment. Others said review boards are mostly living up to the promises of the reforms mandated in 2002.
“They are critical to regaining the trust and confidence of our people,” Baltimore Archbishop William Lori said.
CATHOLIC ABUSE-FRANCISCAN LAWSUIT
Lawsuit: Church pressured victims into unfair settlements
NEW YORK (AP) — Two impoverished Mississippi men who say they were sexually assaulted by Franciscan missionaries filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming that Catholic officials pressured them into signing settlements that paid them little money and required them to remain silent about the alleged abuse.
The lawsuit was filed in New York by two cousins, La Jarvis Love, of Senatobia, Mississippi, and Joshua Love, of Greenwood, Mississippi, black men from the Mississippi Delta. The men say they were abused by two Franciscan brothers when they were in a Catholic grade school in Greenwood, Mississippi. The suit says one of the friars also abused them during a trip to New York.
Accusations made by the Love cousins and Joshua’s younger brother, Raphael, were first reported by The Associated Press in August.
CALIFORNIA HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING
Teen used ‘ghost gun’ in California high school shooting
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities say the teenager who shot five classmates, killing two, at a Southern California high school used an unregistered “ghost gun.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told media outlets Thursday that Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow’s .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol was assembled from gun parts and did not have a serial number.
Authorities are trying to determine how Berhow got the gun.
Berhow died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the Nov. 14 shooting at Saugus High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita.
Authorities say Berhow had shown no signs of violence and didn’t appear to be linked to any ideology or terrorist group . Villanueva says Thursday his motive remains a mystery.
Officials identified the dead as 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell.
FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY-THE LATEST
The Latest: US may take federal execution case to high court
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr tells The Associated Press he will take the Trump administration’s bid to restart federal executions after a 16-year hiatus to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Barr’s comments came hours after a district court judge temporarily blocked the administration’s plans to start executions next month. The administration is appealing the decision, and Barr says he will take the case to the high court if Thursday’s ruling stands.
He says the five inmates set to be executed are a small number of the 62 death row inmates.
The first federal execution was set for Dec. 9, with four others to quickly follow.
The inmates argue that the government is circumventing proper methods in order to wrongly execute inmates quickly.
1st Honduran returned to Guatemala under US asylum accord
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry says a Honduran asylum seeker has been returned by the United States to pursue asylum in Guatemala for the first time under an agreement signed in July.
The Honduran man, who was not identified, had reached the U.S. border but was sent to Guatemala Thursday.
Under the U.S.-Guatemala agreement, asylum seekers have to file claims in Guatemala rather than in the United States if they crossed through Guatemala on their way to the U.S. border.
Salvadorans would also be covered under the agreement because land routes to the U.S. border from that country lead through Guatemala.
However, there are doubts whether Guatemala can guarantee conditions for asylum seekers. So far this year, 49,000 of Guatemala’s own citizens have been deported from the United States.
Garrett’s suspension for helmet attack upheld after appeal
CLEVELAND (AP) — The NFL’s indefinite suspension of Cleveland Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett has been upheld by an appeals officer.
Garrett is banned for the final six regular-season games and playoffs for smashing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with a helmet last week.
Former player James Thrash felt the discipline for Garrett was warranted.
A 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick, Garrett made the case for his suspension being reduced on Tuesday in New York to Thrash, jointly appointed by the league and NFLPA to hear player appeals.
The loss of Garrett is a significant setback to the Browns, who are trying to end a postseason drought dating to 2002.
Thrash also reduced the suspension for Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey from three games to two for punching and kicking Garrett following the shocking assault on Rudolph.
The Browns visit the Steelers on Dec. 1.
INDICTED EX-MAYOR-BALTIMORE-THE LATEST
The Latest: Former Baltimore mayor enters guilty pleas
BALTIMORE (AP) — The disgraced former mayor of Baltimore has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges but pleaded not guilty to wire fraud in a case involving sales of her self-published children's books.
Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the government and tax evasion. The pleas came a day after an 11-count indictment was unsealed.
The case involves sales of her “Healthy Holly” books to non-profits and foundations to promote her political career and fund her run for mayor. Pugh, a Democrat who was elected in 2016, resigned under pressure in May.
A federal grand jury indictment returned Nov. 14 also charged two Pugh associates, Gary Brown, Jr., and Roslyn Wedington, who have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax fraud.
CALIFORNIA PRIMARY-TAX RETURN
California justices reject law requiring Trump tax returns
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court has rejected a state law that would have required President Donald Trump to disclose his tax returns to appear on the state’s primary ballot.
Justices said Thursday the law requiring candidates for president and governor to disclose financial information was unconstitutional.
A federal judge had temporarily blocked the state law in response to a different lawsuit and the high court ruled quickly because the deadline for submitting tax returns to get on the primary ballot is next week.
The state Republican Party and Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson challenged the bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom because it was aimed at Trump.
The state defended the law, saying tax returns are a simple way for voters to weigh candidates’ financial status.