New York, Nov 29 (AP/UNB) — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, made a surprise appearance before a federal judge in New York on Thursday to plead guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on an aborted project to build a Trump Tower in Russia.
Flanked by his lawyers, Cohen admitted making false statements in 2017 to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the project.
Cohen told the judge he lied about the timing of the negotiations and other details to be consistent with Trump's "political message."
Cohen and prosecutors referred to Trump as "individual one" throughout Thursday's proceedings and said he lied "to be loyal to Individual One."
Among other lies, Cohen said he told Congress that all discussions of the Moscow Trump Tower project ended by January 2016, when they had actually continued until June of that year.
One of the prosecutors working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller was present in the courtroom.
Cohen's lawyer, Guy Petrillo, said he would give the court a letter outlining how his client has cooperated with Mueller's investigation.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to other federal charges involving his taxi businesses, bank fraud and his campaign work for Trump.
Reacting to the plea to the new charges, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Cohen "should be prosecuted to the extent of the law. That's why we put people under oath."
Cohen gave a statement to congressional committees last year saying the president's company pursued a project in Moscow during the Republican primary but that the plan was abandoned "for a variety of business reasons."
Cohen also said he sent an email to the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of the potential deal.
In his statement, he said that he worked on the real estate proposal with Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate who he said claimed to have deep connections in Moscow.
The discussions about the potential development began after Trump had declared his candidacy. Cohen had said the talks ended when he determined that the project was not feasible.
Cohen had also disclosed that Trump was personally aware of the deal, signing a letter of intent and discussing it with Cohen on two other occasions.
Kansas City, Nov 29 (AP/UNB) — A Kansas man who is fighting deportation to his native Bangladesh for overstaying his visa was given a reprieve until at least 2022 after an immigration judge agreed to consider whether he could legally stay in the U.S.
Syed Jamal, of Lawrence, had the first hearing of his recently reopened case Tuesday in Immigration Court in Kansas City, Missouri. Judge Glen Baker said he would review whether Jamal qualified for certain forms of deportation relief and set the next hearing for April 27, 2022, The Lawrence Journal-World reported .
Jamal and his supporters began fighting his deportation in January when immigration agents arrested him at his Lawrence home for twice overstaying his visa. He was on a plane back to Bangladesh when a court ordered that he be returned to the U.S. He was removed from the plane in Hawaii .
Jamal is applying for two ways to remain in the U.S., one via a cancellation of removal and the other through asylum. Immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for 10 years with no disqualifying convictions can qualify for cancellation of removal. Asylum applies to refugees who can demonstrate they have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted in their native land.
Baker said Tuesday he needed to review whether Jamal is eligible for the cancellation of removal. The 2022 hearing will proceed either way, because Jamal can apply for asylum.
Jamal's hearing was combined with that of his wife, Angela Zaynub Chowdhury, who is also from Bangladesh and was seeking the same forms of relief.
One of the Jamals' attorneys, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, said the long delay before the next hearing is caused by recent changes in immigration law that led to a backlog in cases such as Jamal's.
She said a September decision by then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions limiting judges' discretion has meant more cases going through the immigration court process and in some cases being reopened.
"It used to be that the immigration court could terminate cases or continue cases or administratively close cases," Sharma-Crawford said. "But at this point, because all of that discretion has been taken away and they have started to re-calendar a lot of the cases that were previously closed, it's just a logjam at this point."
One factor in Jamal's case is whether a voluntary departure order that an immigration judge previously issued him is valid. If it is found to be valid, Jamal would not be eligible for a cancellation of removal.
Another of Jamal's attorney, Michael Sharma-Crawford, argued the order was not valid because Jamal was not correctly notified by immigration regulations. Attorney Patricia Lacey, representing the Department of Homeland Security, argued Jamal had been properly advised regarding the order, making the notice valid.
Several of Jamal's friends and supporters attended the hearing, as did their three school-age children, all of whom are U.S. citizens.
"I am very optimistic that when it comes, it will be a positive decision," Jamal said. "That's what I'm hoping, and we'll do our best to convince the court."
Jamal, who has worked as an adjunct professor and researcher at Kansas City-area colleges, entered the U.S. legally in 1987 to attend the University of Kansas but twice overstayed his visa. He was ordered deported in 2011 but had been allowed to stay in the U.S. and check in regularly with immigration authorities.
After he was returned to the U.S., Jamal was jailed in Platte County, Missouri, until March, when he was freed to return to Lawrence.
Jamal said that until the 2022 court date, he will stay in Lawrence and continue teaching, doing research and caring for his children.
Kabul, Nov 29 (AP/UNB) — Taliban insurgents staged a coordinated attack targeting a security firm in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 19 others, as the U.S. said an airstrike hours earlier in Helmand province that reportedly killed civilians was conducted by American aircraft.
Wednesday's attack in eastern Kabul took place when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives and other insurgents started a gun battle with security forces in the area, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said.
The assault came hours after provincial officials said at least 30 civilians were killed along with 16 Taliban fighters during the overnight battle between Afghan government forces and insurgents in southern Helmand province.
A local official, Attahullah Afghan, said most of the civilian casualties — which included men, women and children — came when an airstrike struck a house in the central Helmand River valley, a Taliban heartland. U.S. officials said it happened in Helmand's Garmsir district.
A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said the airstrike was carried out by American aircraft called in to back Afghan "special security forces" after they came under heavy Taliban fire.
Maj. Bariki Mallya, the spokesman, said in an email exchange that the airstrike was conducted in self-defense after Taliban fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns retreated into a compound and continued firing on Afghan government forces and their American advisers.
"In self-defense, the ground force called an airstrike," Mallya said. "After the strike, there were secondary explosions, we assess from explosives inside the compound. At the time of the strike, the ground force was unaware of any civilians in or around the compound; they only knew that the Taliban were using the building as a fighting position."
Mallya declined to say what the U.S. knew about civilian casualties or whether the incident was under U.S. investigation. In a prepared statement, he said the U.S. investigates every "credible allegation of error and reviews every mission to learn, adapt and improve."
A statement from the governor's office in Helmand confirmed that 16 Taliban insurgents were killed and said that an investigation was underway to determine the number of civilian casualties.
It said the militants had stockpiled ammunition in the area of the operation, which could have caused civilian casualties. There was also a car packed with explosives that ignited during the strike, the statement added.
Abdul Wadod Popul, a lawmaker from Helmand, also confirmed the civilian casualties. "The area is under Taliban's control and is very difficult to get a precise number of casualties," he said in Kabul.
The resurgent Taliban, who in recent years have taken over nearly half of Afghanistan, claimed the attack Wednesday in Kabul.
Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid said the target of the attack was a security company called G4S. He had no details on the company, but the website of a multinational security company named G4S has London contact information.
The attacks were the latest in a series of brutal and near-daily Taliban assaults on military and police forces and government and other installations throughout the country.
The Taliban view the U.S.-backed government in Kabul as a dysfunctional Western puppet and have refused repeated offers to negotiate with it. They carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces.
U.S. and NATO troops formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, but still provide close support to Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations. Some 15,000 American forces are currently serving in Afghanistan.
The fighting came as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was in Geneva, attending a two-day U.N.-backed conference that ends Wednesday and that is focused on development, security and peace efforts in the war-battered country.
Houston, Nov 28 (AP/UNB) — The mother of a toddler who died weeks after being released from the nation's largest family detention center filed a legal claim seeking $60 million from the U.S. government for the child's death.
Attorneys for Yazmin Juarez submitted the claim against multiple agencies Tuesday. Juarez's 1-year-old daughter, Mariee, died in May.
Juarez's lawyers said Mariee developed a respiratory illness while she and her mother were detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. They accused U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of releasing the pair while Mariee was still sick.
The girl died six weeks later in Philadelphia.
Washington-based law firm Arnold & Porter said it will file a lawsuit if the government doesn't settle its claim. R. Stanton Jones, a lawyer at the firm, said the government has six months to respond before his firm can file suit.
"Having made the decision to jail small children, the U.S. government is responsible to provide living conditions that are safe, sanitary and appropriate," Jones said.
ICE and other agencies listed in the claim said they wouldn't comment on pending litigation.
Jones has also submitted a $40 million claim against the city of Eloy, Arizona, which officially operated the Dilley detention facility under a "pass-through" agreement with ICE and the private prison company CoreCivic. ICE and CoreCivic replaced its agreement with Eloy in September with an arrangement made with the city of Dilley.
Advocates have long complained that medical care in Dilley is substandard and that detaining families damages their mental health. ICE has defended the care it provides at Dilley, saying detainees have access to medical professionals.
"ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care," spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said in a statement.
Dilley is now being used to detain mothers and children, some of whom were reunited in detention after being separated earlier this year under Trump administration policy.
Washington, Nov 28 (AP/UNB) —Russia has for years been developing, testing and deploying a missile that violates a landmark nuclear weapons treaty, a senior White House official said Tuesday, making a case for the administration's planned withdrawal from the accord ahead of a scheduled meeting between the leaders of the two nations.
The nuclear-capable missile, the official said, can reach over 300 miles (500 kilometers), in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed amid Cold War hostilities in 1987 and which the Trump administration is now seeking to exit.
Russia developed the weapon between 2000 to 2010 and completed testing by 2015, the official said. But when questioned about it in recent years, Moscow officials have denied violating the treaty and demanded to know how the U.S. detected the apparent violation, the official said.
The official said the Trump administration believes it was Russia's intention to keep the U.S. constrained by the treaty while they developed and deployed the illegal missiles that threaten Europe. The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive foreign policy issue.
The future of the treaty is likely to come up this week when President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 Summit in Argentina. Administration officials have said it is time to withdraw from an accord that is outdated, has prevented the U.S. from developing new weapons and has already been violated with this Russian missile, the 9M729.
It comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries. Trump suggested Tuesday in an interview with The Washington Post that he may cancel the sit-down with Putin over Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships last weekend.
Russia has denied that it has violated the treaty, saying the 9M729 has not been tested for the range that would make it prohibited. Moscow has also alleged the United States has also breached the accord.
Putin has warned that a U.S. decision to withdraw from the treaty would destabilize Europe and prompt Russia to "respond in kind." On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reiterated that position.
"We won't be able to turn a blind eye to the potential deployment of new U.S. missiles on the territories where they may threaten Russia," Ryabkov said.
The senior U.S. official said the administration, which is seeking support for withdrawal from NATO allies, can still reverse its plan to pull out if Russia acknowledges its violations and takes corrective steps.