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White House: Ukraine military aid held up partly over election probe

WQAD News -

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House acknowledged that President Donald Trump's decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine was linked to his demand that Kyiv investigate the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, a shifting new explanation about events at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

The Thursday admission from acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney undercut the president's position that there was no quid pro quo during Trump's phone call with the Ukraine president that sparked the House investigation.

The sudden turn of events had immediate fallout. Trump's lawyer distanced the Republican president from Mulvaney's account. The Justice Department said the explanation was news to them. And Democrats cast Mulvaney's remarks as further evidence of wrongdoing as Trump sought a "favor" from Ukraine.

Trump, traveling in Texas, appeared to stand by his top aide, calling Mulvaney a "good man."

"I have a lot of confidence" in him, Trump said.

But Mulvaney's initial remarks, made during a rare appearance by an administration official in the White House briefing room, spun open a new phase of the impeachment inquiry.Within hours, Mulvaney issued a separate statement claiming his remarks were misconstrued.

He indicated that a quid pro quo was at play for the military aid — but a different one than Democrats initially highlighted as they probed Trump's efforts to have Ukraine investigate a company linked to the son of his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Trump, as shown in a rough transcript of the July call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, sought help in investigating not only the firm tied to Biden but also a security company hired by the DNC that discovered that Russian agents had broken into the committee's network. The stolen emails were subsequently published by WikiLeaks ahead of the 2016 election.

"The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation," Mulvaney told reporters, delivering the White House's most granular explanation yet of the decision to withhold military assistance.

"Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption that related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that," Mulvaney continued. "That's why we held up the money."

Trump's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow issued a pointed statement distancing the president's legal team from Mulvaney's comments.

"The President's legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's press briefing," it said.

Within hours, Mulvaney issued a separate statement claiming his remarks were misconstrued.

"Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election," he said. "The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server."

But it may be difficult to erase what Mulvaney said as House Democrats dig into their investigation.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the Intelligence Committee leading the impeachment probe, said, "I think Mr. Mulvaney's acknowledgment means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse."

Mulvaney, who has already received a subpoena for documents in the impeachment probe, will now likely be asked by investigators to appear for a deposition.

"I believe that they're getting closer to basically admitting a crime," said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, who said Mulvaney should testify. "Where he talks about politics being attached to foreign policy. I mean, you're going up to the water's edge there."

Mulvaney during the press briefing defended Trump's request to Ukraine by casting it as part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation looking into the origins of the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

He said the investigation was one of several reasons Trump held up nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, including a desire for European nations to increase their own assistance to Kyiv. Funding was eventually released.

A senior official at the Justice Department said if the White House was withholding aid in regard to cooperation with any investigation at the department, it was news to them. The official was not unauthorized to discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump's request to Ukraine for an investigation into the 2016 election appears linked to unfounded conspiracy theories about a Ukraine link to the DNC hack that began circulating almost immediately after the breach was discovered.

Some were propagated in stories online and by Russian media and included mention of a supposed "hidden DNC server," which acolytes of the Republican political operative Roger Stone picked up and circulated.

The sudden development punctuated another fast-moving day in the impeachment inquiry.

Lawmakers met for hours behind closed doors with the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who testified that he disagreed with Trump's decision to have envoys work with the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine policy, rather than through traditional government channels.

The ambassador was the latest in a series of witnesses, many of them career State Department and foreign policy officials, providing new and detailed concerns about Trump and Giuliani and their attempts to influence Ukraine.

Sondland's attempt to stand apart from Trump is remarkable since, unlike other career civil servants, he is a hand-picked political appointee of the president who contributed $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee.

Mulvaney defended Trump's decision to tap Giuliani to help lead Ukraine policy, saying it was the president's prerogative.

"You may not like the fact that Giuliani was involved," he told reporters. "It's not illegal, it's not impeachable."

"The president gets to set foreign policy, and he gets to choose who to do so, as long as it doesn't violate any law," Mulvaney added.

As for complaints about mixing politics with foreign policy, Mulvaney had a blunt rejoinder: "I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy."

Democrats plodding their way through hours of witness testimony during a week of closed-door hearings said Mulvaney's admissions were game-changing in the impeachment inquiry.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Mulvaney "co-signed the president's confession."

Sherrard woman charged with animal cruelty

WQAD News -

SHERRARD, Illinois -- Mercer County deputies arrested a Sherrard woman last week on accusations of animal cruelty in connection with several horses found in poor condition.

Karen Plambeck, 56, was charged with one count of cruelty to animals and four counts of violating animal owner duties. She was released after posting $1000 bond. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is investigating.

Krista Lisser, the department's public information officer, told News 8 the animals stay under the owner's care as the investigation is still open, barring additional information to warrant taking them away.

Neighbors say they have been worried about the welfare of the horses, and other animals on the Mercer County farm, for quite some time.

Duane Foster, who lives across from Plambeck, told News 8, the problems started years ago.

"First the dogs, that’s what started the whole thing, five, six years ago. The dogs started barking. It just seemed to get louder and louder," he said. Other neighbors echoed the concern, saying they hear large numbers of dogs barking throughout the night.

In the last one to two years, they started noticing the condition of the horses.

"You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that's something that's malnutrition. Skinny, you can count all the ribs. It’s a bad situation," Foster said.

Several horses were still seen Thursday, October 17, grazing on the short grass on the Plambeck property.

8.23 There’s more grass in my driveway than there is in that pasture," Foster said. "They’re skinny, you can tell they’re hungry, they eat the leaves off the trees. There’s nothing to eat for them."

News 8 reached Plambeck by phone, but she would not comment on the charges.

For his part, Foster said, "I hope maybe she’s learned her lesson maybe, maybe she’ll pay more attention to what needed to be done."

He said he hopes the animals get the care they need for everyone's peace of mind: "If they can’t manage them, afford them, take them somewhere else they can get fed properly and taken care of properly. That’s what they need."

Karen Plambeck's first court appearance is scheduled for November 4 in Mercer County Court.

New Virginia Women’s Monument unveiled – with a typo

WQAD News -

RICHMOND, Va. - After years of planning and work, a first of its kind monument celebrating women in Virginia was unveiled Monday – with a typo.

The Virginia Women’s Monument includes seven bronze statues honoring prominent women in the state's history, as well as a wall including 230 other names.

It also includes a sundial around those statues and that’s what many people in the community are buzzing about. There are dozens of localities inscribed in the sundial, including Loudoun, a county in northern Virginia and a common Virginia typo.

Unfortunately, Loudoun is misspelled on the sundial, omitting the second silent “u” in the word.

It's not clear how the typo happened, but the Virginia Women's Monument Commission says they were first made aware of it on Monday evening.

“We will confer with the Department of General Services to develop a plan to address the issue and make the correction needed,” said Mary Margaret Whipple, vice chair of the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission.

The Department of General Services told WTVR the design on the sundial was reviewed by many people, but the error was unfortunately missed.

They say the contractor is in the process of correcting the dial at no cost to taxpayers or the Virginia Women's Commission.

Man with own name tattooed on neck arrested for falsely ID’ing himself

WQAD News -

MATTOON, Ill. – The ink didn’t lie.

Mattoon police arrested a 36-year-old Illinois man for giving officers a fake name, despite having his real name tattooed on his neck.

Matthew C. Bushman, of Mansfield, had a warrant out for his arrest when officers booked him on Oct. 11 for obstructing justice. A police mugshot shows the “Matty B” tattoo across his throat.

Police said they were investigating a forgery when Bushman gave them a false name and date of birth in an attempt to dodge a warrant out of Peoria County.

Bushman was booked into Coles County Jail.

Vaccine exemption rates among US kindergartners continue to climb, CDC says

WQAD News -

(CNN) — There has been a small increase in vaccine exemption rates among kindergarteners in the United States, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The finding, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Thursday, shows that rates of young children not receiving vaccinations against certain diseases, including measles, continued to climb in recent years.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the national percentage of kindergartners with an exemption from one or more required vaccines was 2.5%, which was a slight increase from 2.3% during the previous school year and 2.1% in the 2016-2017 school year, the report found.

The percentage of kindergartners with an exemption from one or more required vaccines ranged from 0.1% in Mississippi to 7.7% in Idaho and Oregon, the report found.

Nationally, among those vaccine-exempt kindergartners, only 0.3% had a medical exemption while 2.2% had a nonmedical exemption, according to the report.

“Measles outbreaks affecting school-age children across multiple states during the 2018-19 school year underscore the importance of both school vaccination requirements for preventing disease spread and school coverage assessments to identify pockets of undervaccination,” the researchers wrote in the report.

Those recent measles outbreaks occurred even though the measles virus was declared eliminated from the United States in the year 2000, meaning there was no continuous transmission of the disease for greater than a year. Measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR, according to the CDC.

“Although the overall percentage of children with an exemption increased slightly for the second consecutive school year, children with exemptions still represent a small proportion of kindergartners nationally and in most states,” the researchers wrote. “More importantly, in 25 states, the number of nonexempt undervaccinated kindergartners exceeded the number of those with exemptions.”

The report noted that nonexempt students include those provisionally enrolled, in a grace period or otherwise without documentation of vaccination. A grace period refers to a set number of days during which a student can be enrolled and attend school without proof of complete vaccination or exemption, but provisional enrollment allows a student without complete vaccination or exemption to attend school while completing a catch-up vaccination schedule. In many states, nonexempt undervaccinated students are attending school in a grace period or are provisionally enrolled, according to the report.

States with lowest and highest vaccine coverage

The new report summarized vaccination coverage data on about 3.6 million kindergarteners during the 2018-2019 school year. The data was collected by state and local immunization programs in 49 states: all states except Alaska, for which data was not reported to the CDC.

The report also included vaccine exemption data on some 3.6 million kindergarteners in all 50 states.

Federally funded immunization programs collaborate with departments of education, school nurses and other school personnel to assess vaccination coverage and exemption status of children enrolled in public and private kindergartens and then to report that data to CDC.

The new report found that nationally, during the 2018-2019 school year, vaccination coverage among kindergartners for the two-dose MMR ranged from 87.4% in Colorado to at least 99.2% in Mississippi.

The recommended coverage for MMR is at least 95%, according to the report.

For the diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine or DTaP, coverage ranged from 88.8% in Idaho to at least 99.2% in Mississippi, according to the report.

For the varicella or chickenpox vaccine, the report found that coverage ranged from 86.5% in Colorado to at least 99.2% in Mississippi.

Nationally for the 2018-2019 school year, coverage among kindergarteners for those vaccines was: 94.7% for two doses of the MMR; 94.9% for the required doses of DTaP; and 94.8% for the varicella vaccine, according to the report.

The report had some limitations, including that the data are based on documentation from schools so some children might not be included in the data, such as those who are homeschooled.

More research is needed to directly compare regions or states — since in the new report, comparability is limited due to variation in states’ requirements, data collection methods and definitions of grace periods or provisional enrollment when it comes to vaccine requirements.

“Today’s data reinforces that childhood vaccine coverage remains high,” Ranee Seither in CDC’s Immunization Services Division and first author of the report said in an email on Thursday.

“Most parents continue to protect their children from 14 vaccine preventable diseases. But while nationwide vaccination coverage is high, and even high in many states, we still see pockets of under-vaccinated communities,” Seither said.

‘Clusters of refusal overlap clusters of outbreaks’

While the CDC regularly reports on statewide exemptions of vaccinations, the agency could better predict possible measles outbreaks — or outbreaks of other infections — that result from declining vaccine coverage by also examining vaccine exemptions on a more local level, such as by county or school, said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, who was not involved in the new report.

Hotez and his colleagues conducted their own county-level examination of non-medical vaccine exemptions across the United States, published last year in the journal Plos Medicine.

That study found that the number of nonmedical “philosophical-belief” vaccine exemptions had risen between 2009 and 2017 in more than half of the 18 states that allowed such policy at the time: Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Utah.

Overall that previous study showed “at least 100 counties, including 14 urban counties, that are highly vulnerable to measles,” Hotez said.

“Sure enough, measles erupted in seven of those 14 counties, so we wound up making the first good measles prediction map,” he said. “I would recommend instead that the CDC publish at least county or even school based exemption rates in addition to state-level exemptions, and they should do this on an annual basis.”

Other research, published in the medical journal JAMA in 2016, has shown that states with philosophical exemptions had both higher rates of refusal and higher rates of disease

“Clusters of refusal overlap clusters of outbreaks,” Saad B. Omer, a professor of global health and epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University who led that separate research, told CNN last year.

However, “if it’s difficult to obtain an exemption, then you have lower rates of refusal and lower rates of disease,” he said.

Man shot in Davenport after “escalated argument”, police say

WQAD News -

DAVENPORT, Iowa- A man was shot after what police describe as an escalated argument.

Davenport police say on October 17 around 3:42 p.m. shots were fired at the 1700 block of Iowa Street in Davenport.

Police say a 31 year old man was shot after an argument between several people. The unidentified man was rushed to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Multiple units from the Scott County Sheriff and Davenport Police were in the area during the investigation.

Police also searched a home that was damaged by gunfire.

There was no other reported damage or injuries.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to call the Davenport Police Department at 563-326-6125 or submit an anonymous tip via the mobile app entitled “CityConnect Davenport, IA” or “CrimeReports by Motorola”.

Here’s what we know about the Fort Worth police shooting

WQAD News -

(CNN) — A concerned neighbor called police at 2:23 a.m. to check on the woman across the street because her front door was open. At 2:30 a.m., she would be dead.

Aaron Dean, a white police officer, shot and killed Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman, through her window early Saturday morning in Fort Worth, Texas. Police say Dean did not identify himself as an officer before shooting.

He was arrested on a murder charge Monday night, police said.

Activists and family members are calling for an independent investigation.

Here’s what we know about the shooting:

It began with a request to check on a neighbor

James Smith, Jefferson’s neighbor, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he called a non-emergency police number when he saw that her doors had been open for an extended period of time in the early morning hours. He said he knew Jefferson was home with her nephew, and was worried about them.

“I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault,” he told the newspaper. “If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive.”

Smith placed the call at 2:23 a.m., and officers responded to Jefferson’s home at 2:28 a.m., according to a police incident report.

Police went around the outside of the home

Officers arrived and parked near but not in front of the residence, police spokesman Lt. Brandon O’Neil said Sunday at a news conference.

Jefferson was at home playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when police arrived, said Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer representing Jefferson’s family.

A heavily edited body camera video released by police shows the lights of the house were on when officers first arrivedA front door and a side door were open, with the accompanying glass storm doors closed. No one can be seen inside.

The officers can be seen walking around the home in the dark, holding a flashlight. At some point, one of them quickly approaches a window with his weapon drawn.

An officer shot through the window after ‘perceiving a threat’

Within seconds, the officer yells, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” and fires through the window.

Police said that the officer drew his weapon and fired one shot after “perceiving a threat.”

Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew was in the room with Jefferson when the shooting happened, O’Neil said.

The officers entered and rendered medical aid to Jefferson, but she died at the scene, police said in a statement.

The medical examiner said Jefferson died at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning, in the bedroom of her home.

The child would later tell an investigator that Jefferson, after hearing noises outside, had taken out a handgun from her purse and pointed the gun toward the window, police said.

The officers found a firearm when they entered the room, police said. Video released by police shows two mostly blurred clips that appeared to be from inside the home, showing a firearm.

“It makes sense that she would have a gun if she felt that she was being threatened, or if there was someone in the backyard,” Fort Worth interim Police Chief Ed Kraus told reporters on Tuesday.

The officer who shot Jefferson was charged with murder

Dean posted bail Monday night, three hours after being arrested. He had been held in the Tarrant County Jail with bond set at $200,000.

The Jefferson family “is relieved” that Dean was arrested, Merritt wrote on Twitter.

“We need to see this through to a vigorous prosecution & appropriate sentencing. The City of Fort Worth has much work to do to reform a brutal culture of policing,” Merritt said.

The officer resigned from the department Monday morning, Kraus said. Dean was hired in August 2017 and commissioned as a licensed officer in April 2018.

Dean was served with a written administrative complaint Sunday, placed on detached duty and stripped of his badge and gun, Kraus said.

“My intent was to meet with him today to terminate his employment with the Fort Worth Police Department. However, the officer tendered his resignation this morning before we met,” Kraus said.

If Dean had not resigned, he would have been fired for several policy violations, including the department’s use of force and de-escalation policies, and unprofessional conduct, Kraus said.

As of Monday, Dean had refused to speak with detectives about what happened, an affidavit accompanying his arrest warrant said.

Dean’s attorney, Jim Lane, told CNN Tuesday that the former officer is remorseful.

“My client is sorry and his family is in shock, Lane said.

Police are investigating

The Fort Worth Police Officer’s Association said in a statement it is “deeply saddened” by the shooting.

“Any loss of life is tragic, but the reported circumstances surrounding this incident are heartbreaking,” the statement said. “We are urging the Fort Worth Police Department to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, and through that investigation we hope to gain clarity and understanding of what transpired.”

Saturday’s shooting is the ninth in 2019 by Fort Worth police, seven of which were fatal, police said.

Fort Worth police presented a preliminary case to the FBI to review Dean’s actions for possible civil rights violations, according to Kraus.

But police had yet to formally present the case to the Tarrant County criminal district attorney’s office, officials said Tuesday.

There are calls for an independent investigation

Neighbors and activists told KTVT they’re calling for an independent federal investigation and that they want Kraus to step down.

“We don’t think that Fort Worth police should be investigating it on their own,” Merritt told CNN Sunday. He said police reached out to his clients, but they’d rather talk with independent investigators about the shooting.

Merritt also represented the family of Botham Jean, a black man who was fatally shot in his home by a Dallas police officer when she walked into the wrong apartment. Merritt said Jefferson’s family was following that trial, like much of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and they reached out to him Saturday afternoon.

“It’s another one of those situations where the people that are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” Jefferson’s sister, Amber Carr, told KTVT. “You know, you want to see justice, but justice don’t bring my sister back.”

“The death of Black citizens by white officers has reached critical mass,” the National Black Police Association said in a statement. It called for “all law enforcement agencies to be responsible in hiring and training” so that a situation like this doesn’t happen again.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonprofit organization, called for the US Justice Department to investigate the Fort Worth police.

“In the weeks and months ahead, many African Americans across our country may harbor fear about the unintended and fatal consequences that can result from simply calling 911 for help,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Jefferson was a pre-med graduate

Jefferson, known by family as “Tay,” was a pre-med graduate of the historically black Xavier University of Louisiana who was very close to her family, according to a verified GoFundMe page raising money for her family.

The Xavier community was “deeply dismayed” by the news of Jefferson’s death, University President Reynold Verret said in a statement Sunday.

Merritt said she graduated with a biology degree in 2014 and went on to work in pharmaceutical equipment sales. Jefferson moved into her sick mother’s home to take care of her at the beginning of the summer, Merritt said.

Jefferson has a brother and two sisters, the lawyer said. Merritt described her as the type of person who would play video games with her 8-year-old nephew until 2 a.m., which is what she was doing at the time of the shooting.

The 8-year-old was the first to tell his mother, Jefferson’s sister, about the shooting, family members said during a news conference Monday.

“We’ve noticed things about him that changed, but he’s a strong one,” said Adarius Carr, Jefferson’s brother. “We’ll get him the treatment he needs to make sure he’s good.”

Carr added the case has been “a whirlwind.”

“Slowly but surely, we are allowing ourselves to feel,” he said. “It’s been a lot.”


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