WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the indictments in the special counsel’s Russia probe (all times local):
The U.S. special counsel has accused 13 Russians of an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, charging them with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The federal indictment, brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, represents the most detailed allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling during the campaign that sent Trump to the White House.
The Russian organization was funded by a wealthy St. Petersburg businessman with ties to the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.
Trump is claiming vindication, but the indictment does not resolve the collusion question at the heart of the continuing Mueller probe.
A spokesman for Hillary Clinton says the indictments in the special counsel’s Russia probe confirm “what we’ve long known.”
Nick Merrill says on Twitter, “Time will tell us more, but Russia went to great lengths to undermine our democracy, & the President won’t protect us.”
The indictment by federal prosecutors alleges that Russians used bogus social media postings and ads falsely purchased in the name of Americans to sway political opinion during the campaign between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
Merrill tweets, “No matter your politics, it’s un-American. We have an adversary that is laughing at us, who will act again.”
Facebook says it is doubling its security staff to 20,000 and actively working with the FBI to stop election interference by Russians and others.
The company’s statement is in response to the indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian organizations by federal prosecutors. The charges shed light on the extent to which Russians manipulated social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Joel Kaplan is Facebook vice president of global policy. He says officials know they have more to do to prevent future attacks, and are committed to staying ahead of deceptive and malevolent activity.
A Twitter spokeswoman said the company has no comment, and YouTube has not yet responded.
President Donald Trump says “far-fetched theories” about collusion in the 2016 election “only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia.”
Trump is reacting to news that special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian organizations for plotting to influence the 2016 campaign.
Trump says, “It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks.”
The Russians are accused of using social media propaganda aimed at helping Trump and harming the prospects of Democrat Hillary Clinton. The indictment alleges that the Russians cooperated with “unwitting” Trump campaign staffers and outside backers who did not know their true identities.
Trump says, “We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.”
The attorney for the California man who pleaded guilty in the Russia probe says his client made a mistake.
The lawyer tells The Associated Press that Richard Pinedo’s connection to Russian meddling “is way beyond anything he could have possibly imagined” being involved in.”
The lawyer says Pinedo thought he was helping people fraudulently open online bank accounts, but that Pinedo had no idea “his customers were foreign nationals” trying to meddle in the election.
Jeremy Lessem says his client will not make any public statements.
Pinedo is from Santa Paula, California. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to using stolen identities to set up bank accounts that were then used by the Russians.
“No collusion.” That’s the reaction of President Donald Trump to the indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies for plotting to meddle in the 2016 election.
The president tweeted Friday that the indictment shows, “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”
The Russians were charged Friday with using social media propaganda aimed at helping Trump and harming the prospects of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump notes that the Russian influence campaign is alleged to have started in 2014, “long before” he declared his candidacy.
He says, “The results of the election were not impacted.”
In fact, while prosecutors have not alleged that meddling altered the election’s outcome, the indictment does not rule it out.
The online payment company PayPal has been unexpectedly drawn into the Russia probe. Federal prosecutors allege that Russian criminals used PayPal to help pay for propaganda aimed at influencing voters in the 2016 election.
Thirteen Russians and three Russian companies were charged Friday with plotting to interfere in the election.
In the indictment, prosecutors allege the defendants used PayPal as a primary conduit to transfer money for general expenses as well as to buy Facebook ads. Prosecutors say the accounts were opened using fake identities to help bypass PayPal’s security measures.
PayPal says it is cooperating with the Justice Department. A spokesman says, “PayPal is intensely focused on combatting and preventing the illicit use of” its services and works closely with law enforcement, including in this instance.
A California man has pleaded guilty to unwittingly selling bank accounts to Russians meddling in the US elections.
Richard Pinedo of Santa Paula pleaded guilty earlier this month to using stolen identities to set up bank accounts that were then used by the Russians. A Justice Department spokeswoman says Pinedo did not know at the time he was dealing with Russians.
The plea deal is the third in special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing Russia probe. It was revealed the same day prosecutors charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies with an extensive scheme to meddle in the U.S. elections.
A Russian businessman known as “Putin’s chef” who was indicted Friday by federal prosecutors says “Americans are very impressionable people.” He says he’s not upset to be named in the indictment.
Thirteen Russians and three Russian companies were charged Friday with a plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media propaganda.
The indictment says the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm, started interfering as early as 2014 in U.S. politics, extending to the 2016 presidential election.
The indictment says the agency was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman dubbed “Putin’s chef” because his restaurants and catering businesses once hosted the Kremlin leader’s dinners with foreign dignitaries.
Prigozhin was quoted by Russia’s state news agency as saying Americans “see what they want to see.”
One of those indicted in the Russia probe is a businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Yevgeny Prigozhin (pree-GOH’-zhin) is an entrepreneur from St. Petersburg who’s been dubbed “Putin’s chef” by Russian media.
His restaurants and catering businesses have hosted the Kremlin leader’s dinners with foreign dignitaries. In the more than 10 years since establishing a relationship with Putin, his business has expanded to services for the military.
Prigozhin’s assets also include an oil trading firm that reportedly has been sending private Russian fighters to Syria. Prigozhin is on the list of those sanctioned by the U.S.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says there’s no allegation that any Americans were “knowing participants” in what federal prosecutors call an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Thirteen Russians and three Russian companies were charged Friday with plotting to meddle in the election through social media propaganda aimed at helping Republican Donald Trump and harming the prospects of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Charges were brought by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller and represented the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling during the election.
Rosenstein said Friday that there is “no allegation in this indictment” that any American was a knowing participant.
The deputy attorney general says a new indictment does not allege that Russian meddling altered the outcome of presidential election.
Federal prosecutors have announced charges against 13 Russians and three Russian entities with an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The indictment was brought by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller. It alleges that Russians used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to sway political opinion during the race between Republican Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says the indictment does not include allegations that the plot swayed the outcome of the vote.
Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein says the goal of 13 Russians and three Russian entities charged Friday was “spreading distrust” of 2016 candidates and the political system.
The indictment details an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The indictment was brought by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller. It alleges that Russians used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to sway political opinion during the race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Thirteen Russians and three Russian entities were charged Friday with an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, federal prosecutors announced Friday.
The indictment, brought by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, alleges that Russians used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to sway political opinion during the race between Republican Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
The charges are the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.
The goal, the indictment says, was to “sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election.”
The charges arise from Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was improper coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
ELECTION FILING CLOSED: MAY 8TH SHERIFF’S PRIMARY A THREE-WAY RACE
Candidate filing in Onslow County closed at 12:00 p.m. today, with no new candidates for the Sheriff’s seat. Potential candidates Robin Knapp and Paul Buchanon did not make a showing at the Board of Elections, leaving the battle to incumbent Hans Miller, former Chief Deputy Boyd Brown, and latecomer Walter J. Scott, the former spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
John Yopp has also washed out. He filed campaign finance paperwork in January and announced his candidacy, but never followed through with the final paperwork. The Yopp campaign never got off the ground and seems to have fizzled just as quickly as it started.
The Libertarian and Democratic parties remain empty.
Incumbent Hans Miller has faced heavy criticism over his leadership, with one source assessing him, “weaker than a packet of Kool-aid in the New River”, and many others calling for his resignation.
He’s been publicly lambasted for sweeping the Will Clifton scandal under the rug and lack of transparency about the nature of Clifton’s departure from the OCSO: claiming it was unrelated to reports of the former School Resource Officer raping a high school student. These same allegations appear to have been under an internal investigation by Miller’s Office at the time of the resignation. Of the same, Miller publicly claimed this amounted to “personal reasons” for the former deputy to tender his resignation. Flip-flopping weeks later he stated that he told the deputy to resign or be fired, but not over the criminal allegations, just what he calls a “difference in values” that had come to his attention.
The court had also intervened with Clifton by issuing multiple protective orders as a result of Clifton’s violence and apparent threats and ordered him to stay away from several minor children, having refused to do so under direction from the Sheriff’s Office during Miller’s internal investigation. This was done at the request of another Onslow Deputy, David Pickett, who was acting as a Guardian Ad Litem for a minor child.
Later it was discovered that a second, much younger victim had come forward, and Clifton faced an additional investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.
More recently, Miller has been under fire for his apparent lack of aggressiveness in seeking charges against Kristy Kay Hunter, mom of slain tot, Mariah woods.Miller has also launched vicious attacks on competitor Boyd Brown, challenging his integrity and repeatedly calling him a thief.
Boyd Brown has increased his activity as of late, with his billboard campaign ads appearing across the county. Some streets in Onslow County are lined end-to-end with his green and yellow campaign signs, without a trace of support for Miller. Despite the attacks on his credibility, Brown has maintained a steady hand and tackled the issues head-on, offering detailed responses to Miller’s mudslinging on his Facebook page. The only one seeming to challenge Brown’s honesty is Miller, but Brown shows no sign of giving way to these dirty campaign tactics or lowering himself to Miller’s level.
A third candidate, Walter J. Scott, launched his campaign Facebook earlier this week, “Elect Walter Scott for Sheriff”, and his website, “electwalterjscott.com”.Scott has taken advantage of the platform to make a multitude of posts. He’s outlined on his page his visions, plans, and goals if elected to the Sheriff’s position, and provided additional details about his background and experience; including his service as a Patrol Commander at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office and service on the Drug Task Force and Dive Team.
Many people in Onslow County are looking for a change this election cycle, asking for a new Sheriff that stands up for victims instead of “covering the six” of his deputies and spending every waking moment promoting himself.
Time will tell how the candidates fair at the primary, but you’ll hear it right here first, at News In Onslow!
NRA accuses gun-control advocates of exploiting FL shooting
WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of the National Rifle Association on Thursday accused gun control advocates of exploiting the deadly Florida school shooting, striking a defiant tone amid a renewed debate over guns and school safety.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, in his first public comments since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, said NRA members mourn for the Florida victims but at the same time issued a searing indictment of gun control proponents for attempting to “exploit tragedy for political gain.”
“They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom,” LaPierre said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near the nation’s capital.
LaPierre addressed the conservative activists shortly before President Donald Trump held a listening session with state and local leaders on gun safety at the White House.
The president said he had spoken to NRA leaders and expressed optimism that the nation’s most prominent gun-owners organization would support his calls for raising the federal minimum age for buying or possessing certain weapons, enhancing background checks, addressing mental illness and banning the sale of bump stock devices.
NRA leaders did not address whether the federal government should raise the age requirement for young adults to buy weapons. A day earlier, the organization issued a statement saying it opposes raising the age limit.
“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” LaPierre said. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”
LaPierre said Democrats such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut were eagerly blaming the NRA. He also assailed the FBI for failing to follow up on warnings about the school shooter.
“Their solution is to make you, all of you, less free,” LaPierre said of gun control advocates. “They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.”
The longtime face of the NRA was preceded on stage by the group’s spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, a prominent conservative radio host. She accused media outlets of focusing heavily on school shootings involving white and affluent neighborhoods instead of those occurring in inner cities.
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings, you guys love it,” Loesch said. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
Trump says raise age for buying assault rifles, defying NRA
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation should keep assault rifles out of the hands of anyone under 21, President Donald Trump declared Thursday, defying his loyal supporters in the National Rifle Association amid America’s public reckoning over gun violence. He also pushed hard for arming security guards and many teachers in U.S. schools.
“There’s nothing more important than protecting our children,” Trump said, adding that he’d spoken with many members of Congress and NRA officials and insisting they would go along with his plans in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.
But there were no words of support from the NRA for his minimum-age proposal — and outright opposition from organizations of teachers and school security guards for the idea of arming schools to deal with intruders.
“The NRA will back it and so will Congress,” Trump contended as he called for raising the legal age of purchase for “all” guns from 18 to 21. A spokesman later said Trump was speaking specifically about semi-automatic weapons. The president’s proposal came just hours after the NRA affirmed its opposition, calling such a restriction an infringement on gun owners’ rights.
Trump has spent the past two days listening to ideas about how to stem gun violence at schools after last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. On Wednesday, he heard from students and family members of those killed in recent shootings and on Thursday from local and state officials.
In Florida, meanwhile, funerals continued. And a sheriff’s deputy who had been on duty at the school but never went inside to confront the shooter resigned after being suspended without pay.
Trump has been proposing a growing list of ideas, including more stringent background checks for gun buyers, reopening some mental institutions to hold potential killers and banning “bump stock” devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic machine guns.
He said Thursday that many teachers have military experience and suggested they be paid bonuses for the added responsibility of carrying weapons. He also appeared open to other proposals to “harden” schools, such as fortifying walls and limiting entry points.
One idea he didn’t like: the “active shooter” drills that some schools hold. He called that “a very negative thing” and said he wouldn’t want his own son participating.
Spokesman Raj Shah later said Trump was concerned about the name and would prefer calling them safety drills.
In Florida, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he now is open to raising age requirements for long-gun purchases. That was the day after he was confronted at a CNN town hall by Parkland students and parents over his pro-gun votes and support from the NRA.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, another Republican, told reporters during a visit to the Kansas Statehouse that he supported raising age requirements, saying: “Certainly, nobody under 21 should have an AR-15.”
NRA leaders emerged in unannounced appearances at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, blaming the FBI and local reporting failures for the Florida shooting.
“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” said Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”
NRA officials also accused Democrats and media outlets of exploiting the Florida shooting.
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” spokeswoman Dana Loesch said at CPAC. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
She and LaPierre did not mention the age requirement issue in their fiery remarks at CPAC. But Loesch said Wednesday night the NRA opposes the higher minimum age for rifles because, “if we are asking young men and women to go and serve their country (in the military) they should be able to also have a firearm.”
She added, “I’m also thinking of young women” who may need a rifle for self-protection.
The NRA was an early supporter of Trump’s campaign, and it remains unclear how far the president will go to cross them.
Shortly before LaPierre took the stage, Trump offered a rallying cry on Twitter, calling NRA leaders “Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing.”
“I don’t think I’ll be going up against them,” he said of the politically influential group. “I really think the NRA wants to do what’s right.”
In Congress, a bill being drafted by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., would apply more broadly than just to assault rifles such as the AR-15 used in the Florida shootings. It would raise the age requirements for all rifles.
In the end, Trump did not stray too far from conservative Republican orthodoxy. His focus when it comes to background checks is on mental health concerns and not loopholes that permit loose private gun sales on the internet and at gun shows. And he remains opposed to a full ban on assault rifles, Shah said.
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he was skeptical the president would follow though.
“The last time he showed support for sensible gun reform — no fly, no buy — he quickly dropped his support once the NRA opposed it. I hope this time will be different,” Schumer said in a statement, referring to a measure backed by Democrats to prevent people on a terrorism-related “no fly” list from buying guns.
Indeed, it is not clear that the GOP-controlled Congress, which is in recess, will take up or act on a variety of legislative proposals that have been made to address gun violence. Those include measures to expand federal background checks, allow authorities to issue emergency orders to take guns from people identified as a threat to themselves or others, and raise the minimum age for rifle purchases to 21.
The current federal minimum for buying handguns from registered dealers is 21, but the requirement in most places is 18 for rifles, including assault-type weapons such as the AR-15. In some states — mostly rural states with a strong tradition of hunting — young people can buy a rifle at age 14 or 16.
Polls show growing support for gun control measures, including 97-percent backing for universal background checks in a Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday.
But recent mass shootings, including the 2012 mass murder of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, and the killing of 58 people in Las Vegas last fall, have not resulted in significant legislation. In fact, a bill passed by the House in December would make it easier for gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
Still, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla, said the president has a “unique ability right now to maybe really do something about these school shootings” because, at least in some districts, “nobody is more popular,” including the NRA.
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