Day: June 12, 2017

Armed protesters rally against removal of Sam Houston statue

HOUSTON (AP) — Hundreds of individuals, some armed, gathered at a Houston park to protest what they believe are efforts to remove a statue of Texas hero Sam Houston because he owned slaves.

There hasn’t been any organized effort to remove Houston’s statue, which has stood near a city park since 1925.

Protesters, some who carried Confederate flags, said Saturday they’re concerned local activists have been calling for the statue’s removal.

But it’s not clear any such removal efforts have been formally proposed in the wake of other cities around the country taking down Confederate monuments.

While Houston — who was the Republic of Texas’ first president — owned slaves, he also refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.


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MURDERED BY FRIEND? Teen arrested after 10-year-old girl found dead

Police in suburban Denver have arrested a 15-year-old boy on suspicion of murder in the death of 10-year-old Kiaya Campbell.

Thornton Police said the teen was arrested late Saturday and taken to a juvenile detention facility. The statement added that the 15-year-old’s identity would not be released because he is a juvenile.

Campbell was reported missing Wednesday night. Her body was found the next day about 1.5 miles from her father’s house. Investigators said her body had signs of severe trauma, though the coroner was unable to establish an exact cause of death.

Campbell’s father told police that she and his girlfriend’s 15-year-old son left home to walk to a nearby shopping center. The 15-year-old told investigators that the pair were separated when a thunderstorm rolled in. 

It was not immediately clear whether the teen was the same one arrested Saturday night. 

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POL’S SWEARING IN NY senator drops F-bombs during conference speech

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand dropped several F-bombs Friday during a speech at an event held at New York University.

Gillibrand, a Democrat, lashed out at President Trump, saying that he has not followed through with promises to improve health care and the tax system for working families.

“Has he kept any of his promises?” she asked. “No. F— no.”

Gillibrand, 50, who is the mother of two young children, expressed her growing frustration with Washington politics at the Personal Democracy Forum conference.

“If we are not helping people, we should go the f— home,” she said in the speech, spoken to activists at NYU’s Skirball Center in Manhattan.

“And that should be our North Star,” she added. “That should be our framing principle of what we are doing in public service.”

It’s rare for members of Congress to swear in public, but it’s not the first time Gillibrand has shown she’s no Girl Scout. 

In an April 3, 2017, New York magazine article, Gillibrand recalled having “constant anxiety dreams.” She described how she was distressed over a friend’s daughter who tried to sell her Girl Scout cookies. “Oh my God, I’ve got to f—— order those cookies!” she said, referring to the dream.

Gillibrand faces re-election for her Senate seat next year. She’s also among several Democrats who could run for president in 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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TERROR MARCHES ON Convicted militant leads NYC's Puerto Rico parade

A Puerto Rican nationalist who served 35 years in prison for his ties to the FALN terror group stepped off at the head of New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade Sunday, with a top city official by his side.

Oscar Lopez Rivera drew cheers and boos as he stood on the first float of the parade, which moved up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Organizers had offered to honor Lopez Rivera with the parade’s “National Freedom Award,” but he declined after a backlash that saw sponsors, including AT&T and Jet Blue, and politicians like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pull out.

“I feel good about being here,” Lopez Rivera told the New York Post as he pounded his chest and chanting “Que viva Puerto Rico!” “This parade is for the Puerto Rican public.”

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joined Lopez Rivera’s float approximately halfway along the parade route. 

“I’m here to celebrate,” she said. “This is a day of unity and celebration.”

As for those who chose to stay away because of Lopez Rivera, she said “that’s their decision.”

Lopez Rivera’s supporters followed, carrying signs that read, “Oscar Lopez Rivera is our Mandela.”

Nanchelle Rivera — no relation — was not among them. From the sidelines, the 28-year-old spectator said she refuses to back the man who was convicted for his involvement with the FALN, responsible for bombings that killed and maimed dozens in the 1970s and 1980s.

“He did not represent me,” said the young woman visiting from Orlando told the Associated Press.

She said she would not have come to watch the celebration if she’d known Lopez Rivera would be there.

A supporter in the parade heard her booing, and shouted back, “This is your history!”

“This really pisses me off,” spectator Mark Rivera told the Post. “This is a day for honoring the republic of Puerto Rico, not honoring a terrorist. This man has no place in our parade. He makes me ashamed to be a Puerto Rican.”

Most of the tens of thousands of revelers turned out simply to celebrate Puerto Rico, happily salsa dancing and waving Puerto Rican flags. Some wrapped their bodies in it, others adorned their heads with the red, white and blue colors.

“We don’t care that he is here,” said Rosa Rosario, a 68-year-old New Yorker.

“I don’t support a political movement,” she said, explaining that she was at the parade to support “my hometown, Hormigueros” — a municipality in the western region of the island.

The parade has often been a venue to showcase the complicated history of the U.S. territory, now mired in a recession. This year, it comes on the same day Puerto Ricans vote among three choices: independence, statehood or their current territorial status.

Decades ago, FALN claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including a lunchtime blast in 1975 that killed four people at New York’s historic Fraunces Tavern.

Lopez Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy though he was never charged with any specific bombings and has denied participating in attacks that injured anyone. He was released last month following the commutation of his sentence by then-President Barack Obama.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for weeks defended his own decision to march, said last week that he was uncomfortable with the idea of honoring Lopez Rivera all along. He showed up for the march, making no comments but shaking hands with people across police barricades.

New York held its first Puerto Rican parade in 1958, when it was barely legal to display the Puerto Rican flag on the island and Puerto Ricans on the mainland faced harsh discrimination.

Congress will ultimately have to approve the outcome of Sunday’s referendum. Some Puerto Ricans blame the current recession on the U.S. government, partly because of the elimination of tax credits that many say led to the collapse of the island’s manufacturing sector.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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POST-COMEY PUSH: Dems make new moves in Russia probe with calls to grill Sessions, Trump under oath

Senate Democrats are looking to intensify the Russia-related investigations on Capitol Hill despite a call from Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to abandon the “collusion” track for lack of evidence – with plans to grill Attorney General Jeff Sessions and even a bid to get President Trump under oath.

While Trump has not responded to the invitation, Sessions already has agreed to answer questions Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race. Presuming that hearing goes forward, the big question is whether Sessions will testify in public – and in doing so, drive the same kind of media frenzy that surrounded fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony this past Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday he wants Sessions speaking in public and under oath.

“There are some questions about Sessions that have to be asked,” Schumer said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” 

Schumer, in the same interview, invited Trump to testify before the Senate, responding to the president’s Friday claim that he’d be “100 percent” willing to speak under oath. Regardless of whether Trump agrees, the pursuit of Sessions and several Trump campaign figures for questioning on Capitol Hill virtually ensures the Russia investigation will continue to play out in public and cast a continued “cloud” over the administration’s agenda – even as special counsel Robert Mueller pursues his investigation behind closed doors. 


In the near-term, Schumer and fellow Democratic senators made clear they have several tough questions they want the attorney general to be asked Tuesday – preferably, before the glare of TV cameras.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said he has questions about Sessions’ participation in Comey’s firing – considering the firing came after Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe. 

“He had already recused himself and then, suddenly, he’s the one apparently recommending to the president that Comey be fired and the president has … declared it was all about the Russian investigation,” Reed said.

The Trump administration has given numerous reasons for Comey’s firing, including his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe. But Comey testified last week that he thinks the Russia probe was the driving force.

Reed, further, said he has questions about Sessions’ past meetings with Russian officials beyond those he’s already declared.

“That will come up,” he vowed.

Schumer said Sessions should be asked whether he interfered in the Russia investigation before his recusal; what safeguards are in place now; and whether he discussed the Russia issue in the search for a new FBI director. 

During his testimony last week, Comey suggested there might be more to Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe, telling lawmakers he believed it was “inevitable” that Sessions would recuse himself and there were “facts” he could not discuss in an open hearing.

The Department of Justice, however, issued a statement standing by the original explanation that Sessions recused himself due to his participation in Trump’s campaign.

“[I]t was for that reason, and that reason alone,” spokesman Ian Prior said.

Sessions had been set to testify before a budget-related subcommittee on Tuesday but, in letters to key lawmakers, said the intelligence committee that heard from Comey would be the more appropriate venue considering the Russia-related questions. 

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a member of that committee, said on “Face the Nation” that they have not yet finalized whether the attorney general’s testimony will be public or private.

“I assume that this will be public, but we are still in that final conversation time with Jeff Sessions,” Lankford said.

He said it’s important to hear Sessions’ “side of the story” regarding some of Comey’s claims last week “as well as these accusations that are flying out there about conversations that he might or might not have had with Russians prior to the election.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” McDaniel appealed to lawmakers to drop their line of investigation regarding the question of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“This is a fishing expedition,” she said. “I’m calling for an end to the investigations about … President Trump’s campaign colluding with the Russians. There’s been no evidence of it; I don’t think that should continue.” 

Democrats made clear they have no such plans.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “it should be all hands on deck” for lawmakers examining the case. 

Feinstein, who also sits on the intelligence panel, could not say whether the Sessions hearing would be public or whether it would even go forward. She also raised the possibility of yet another hearing, saying the judiciary committee would be the “fitting” venue for the attorney general’s testimony.

As for what lawmakers should be exploring, Feinstein did not mince words, saying they should examine “the technical legal aspects of obstruction of justice.”

Trump’s allies have downplayed the obstruction angle, noting Comey stopped short of alleging obstruction of justice in his testimony and said Trump did not try to push him to end the Russia probe as a whole.

“To me, that’s no obstruction,” McDaniel told “Fox News Sunday.”

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report. 

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