Also trending on your TGIF: 'You can't consent to your murder': Jury discards rough sex defense in tourist's murder, former Trump adviser Fiona Hill undercuts GOP impeachment defenses, former FBI lawyer under investigation after allegedly altering document in 2016 Russia probe
Former FBI lawyer under investigation after allegedly altering document in 2016 Russia probe
(CNN) — A former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation after allegedly altering a document related to 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, several people briefed on the matter told CNN.
After CNN first reported on the investigation, the Washington Post reported that the inspector general concluded the alteration did not change the validity of the surveillance application.
The finding is expected to be part of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's review of the FBI's effort to obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. Horowitz will release the report next month.
Horowitz turned over evidence on the allegedly altered document to John Durham, the federal prosecutor appointed early this year by Attorney General William Barr to conduct a broad investigation of intelligence gathered for the Russia probe by the CIA and other agencies, including the FBI. The altered document is also at least one focus of Durham's criminal probe.
It's unknown how significant a role the altered document played in the FBI's investigation of Page. The alterations were significant enough to have shifted the document's meaning and came up during a part of Horowitz's FISA review where details were classified, according to the sources. According to the Washington Post, it did not change Horowitz's finding that the FISA application had a legal basis.
Horowitz's investigators conducted more than 100 witness interviews in their review. During one of interviews this year, they confronted the witness about the document. The witness admitted to the change, the sources said.
The lawyer, who was a line attorney, is no longer working at the bureau, said a person familiar with the matter. A line attorney is a lower level lawyer within the FBI.
No charges that could reflect the situation have been filed publicly in court.
The Justice Department and inspector general's office declined to comment.
Horowitz is expected to release his report on December 9 and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee two days later.
Former Trump adviser Fiona Hill undercuts GOP impeachment defenses
WASHINGTON (AP) — A former White House official said Thursday that President Donald Trump’s top European envoy was sent on a “domestic political errand" seeking investigations of Democrats, stunning testimony that dismantled a main line of the president’s defense in the impeachment inquiry.
In a riveting appearance on Capitol Hill, Fiona Hill also implored Republican lawmakers — and implicitly Trump himself — to stop peddling a “fictional narrative” at the center of the impeachment probe. She said baseless suggestions that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election bolster Russia as it seeks to sow political divisions in the United States.
Testimony from Hill and David Holmes, a State Department adviser in Kyiv, capped an intense week in the historic inquiry and reinforced the central complaint: that Trump used his leverage over Ukraine, a young Eastern European democracy facing Russian aggression, to pursue political investigations. His alleged actions set off alarms across the U.S. national security and foreign policy apparatus.
Hill had a front row seat to some of Trump’s pursuits with Ukraine during her tenure at the White House. She testified in detail about her interactions with Gordon Sondland, saying she initially suspected the U.S. ambassador to the European Union was overstating his authority to push Ukraine to launch investigations into Democrats. But she says she now understands he was acting on instructions Trump sent through his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
“He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy," she testified in a daylong encounter with lawmakers. “And those two things had just diverged.”
It was just one instance in which Hill, as well as Holmes, undercut the arguments being made by Republicans and the White House. Both told House investigators it was abundantly clear Giuliani was seeking political investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden in Ukraine, knocking down assertions from earlier witnesses who said they didn’t realize the purpose of the lawyer’s pursuits.
Giuliani “was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us and in fact,” Hill testified. “I think that's where we are today."
Hill also defended Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Army officer who testified earlier and whom Trump’s allies tried to discredit. A previous witness said Hill raised concerns about Vindman, but she said those worries centered only on whether he had the “political antenna” for the situation at the White House.
She recounted one vivid incident at the White House where former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, her former boss, told her he didn’t want to be involved in any “drug deal” that Sondland and Trump’s acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were cooking up over the Ukrainian investigations Trump wanted. Hill said she conveyed similar concerns directly to Sondland.
“And I did say to him, ‘Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up,’” she said. “And here we are.”
Hill and Holmes were particularly adamant that efforts by Trump and Giuliani to investigate the Burisma gas company were well-known by officials working on Ukraine to be the equivalent of probing the Bidens. That runs counter to earlier testimony from Sondland and Kurt Volker, the former Ukraine special envoy, who insisted they had no idea there was a connection.
Hill worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations and said she joined the Trump White House because she shared the president’s belief that relations with Russia needed to improve.
Still, she was adamant that Russia is gearing up to intervene again in the 2020 U.S. election, declaring: “We are running out of time to stop them.”
She warned that political chaos in Washington plays into Moscow’s hands.
“This is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for,” Hill said. “They would pit one side of our electorate against the others.”
Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Laurie Kellman, Zeke Miller, Matthew Daly, Andrew Taylor and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
Oregon cat missing for five years was found 1,200 miles away in New Mexico
(CNN) -- A black cat named Sasha disappeared from Portland for five years, winding up 1,200 miles away. Only he knows the whole story of his mysterious journey, but here's what we DO know:
Viktor Usov had wondered about his cat for five years. He thought the worst had happened -- then he got a call from New Mexico.
The person on the other end of the call was from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and told Usov they had found a 6-year-old, long-haired black cat they believed belonged to him. "No way," the Oregon resident said. "That can't be my cat. That must be a malfunctioning system."
Santa Fe Animal Services had found the cat wandering the streets without a collar. They brought him to the animal shelter, where he was scanned for a microchip, public relations officer Murad Kirdar told CNN on Monday.
A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, and it is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle. Microchips can store an identification number for the pet and contact information for the owner.
When the shelter scanned Sasha, it led them to Usov. He thought it had to be a mistake. He wondered how his cat could have traveled from Portland to Santa Fe. "I want to think he was on a great American adventure," Usov said.
The animal shelter told him that this cat loves belly rubs and all other animals, and Usov knew it really could be his cat. They exchanged pictures of Sasha when he was a kitten and what he looks like now. It was the same cat.
Usov is in medical school and didn't think it would be possible for him to go pick up Sasha. The animal shelter stepped in to help.
Sasha and Usov were finally reunited Tuesday after American Airlines flew Sasha and Kirdar to Portland.
"When we heard Sasha had been found so far from home, after so many years away from his family, we were honored to be in a position to get him back (there)," American Airlines spokesman Curtis Blessing told CNN on Monday. "We're glad to have provided a happy ending to Sasha's long journey."
Usov had adopted Sasha from the humane society around six years ago. He thought he was the rattiest looking cat in the bunch, but the two had a connection.
"He looked really disheveled, and he looked really sickly," Usov told CNN on Tuesday. "But something about him just really intrigued me, and we connected on a really bizarre level. I said, 'Yep, he's the one!'"
Usov took Sasha home, and the cat would follow him around everywhere. Anytime Usov took his dog on a walk, Sasha would follow behind. Sasha was the friendliest cat Usov had ever known.
"He would even greet us at the door with the dog," Usov said. "He was very adventurous and loved the outdoors. He would go outdoors whenever he wanted. One night he just didn't come back."
Usov thought his cat was gone for good.
Now that the two are reunited, Usov plans to enjoy having his cat back after five years. "I'm going to take him home and love on him," he said. "What else do you do with a fluffy cat? You love on him. I am so excited."
'You can't consent to your murder': Jury discards rough sex defense in tourist's murder
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand jury on Friday found a man guilty of murder in the death of 22-year-old British backpacker Grace Millane.
Millane died last December on her birthday after meeting the man through the dating app Tinder, going out for drinks with him, and then returning to his hotel apartment in central Auckland.
Prosecutors said the man strangled Millane to death. Defense lawyers claimed the death was accidental after the pair engaged in consensual erotic choking that went too far.
But, the Guardian reported that, during his closing arguments, prosecutor Brian Dickey said, “This case is about being strangled to death. You can’t consent to your own murder.”
Ultimately, the jury didn’t buy the defense. After the three-week trial, they deliberated for about five hours on Friday afternoon before returning the guilty verdict.
The name of the 27-year-old man is being kept secret for now by court order, a restriction that is sometimes imposed in the New Zealand judicial system. The man will likely face a mandatory life sentence, which comes with a minimum 10-year non-parole period. He is due to be sentenced Feb. 21.
After the trial, Millane’s parents Gillian and David tearfully told media the verdict was welcomed by friends and family alike.
“It will not reduce the pain and suffering we have had to endure over the past year,” David Millane said. “Grace was taken in the most brutal fashion a year ago and our lives have been ripped apart.”
He said that “Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever.”
Millane had been traveling through New Zealand as part of a planned yearlong trip abroad after graduating from university.
After the man killed Millane, he stuffed her body into a suitcase, drove to the Waitakere Ranges forest and buried her in a shallow grave, where police found her body a week later.
Among the key pieces of evidence for prosecutors was testimony from pathologists about the length of time, about five to 10 minutes, and amount of force it would take to kill somebody by strangling them.
Prosecutor Brian Dickey said that at some point, Millane would have lost consciousness, meaning the man would have needed to keep strangling her after she went lifeless under his grip, news organization RNZ reported.
One woman, who had previously dated the man, testified she feared for her life during a sexual encounter with him after the man sat on her face, restricting her breathing without her consent.
Prosecutors said the man took explicit photos of Millane after she died, RNZ reported, and used Google to search for “Waitakere Ranges” and “hottest fire” as he tried to figure out how to dispose of her body.
Defense lawyers argued Millane’s death came down to two young, drunk and inexperienced people taking rough sex too far. The man told police that Millane had asked him to choke her and then encouraged him to use more force.
The defense argued the Google searches were random and it wasn’t until the next morning when the man woke up that he realized Millane was dead and panicked, deciding to bury her rather than calling emergency services.
"It is natural for you to have sympathy for the Millane family and for Grace, who was here on what should have been a happy and exciting adventure," Auckland High Court Judge Simon Moore told jurors in his summing up, news organization Stuff reported.
Tesla's cybertruck launch takes hit as 'shatterproof' windows crack
TOKYO — Tesla Inc's highly anticipated unveiling of its futuristic pickup truck suffered a setback after its "armored glass" windows shattered during a demonstration.
During the tightly choreographed unveiling of the Cybertruck to cheering fans on Thursday, Tesla boss Elon Musk had taken a stab at the design, power and durability of mainstream trucks, only to be shaken when his boast about his new truck's windows backfired.
With a starting price of $39,900, the Cybertruck's futuristic, angular body in gunmetal gray resembles an armored vehicle and takes aim at the heart of Detroit automakers' profits.
Musk singled out the Ford F-150, the top-selling vehicle in the United States, to highlight the capabilities of the Cybertruck, showing an edited video of the two trucks in a back-to-back "tug-of-war" in which the Cybertruck takes off, dragging the F-150 behind it shortly after both trucks accelerate from starting position.
To show off the robust design of the new pickup, Musk enlisted his head of design, Franz von Holzhausen, to take a sledgehammer to the side of the vehicle, whose exterior will be made from the same stainless steel used in the Starship rocket developed by Musk's SpaceX aerospace company.
The crowd cheered when it bounced off the surface without leaving a mark.
But the truck's windows were not as fortunate, cracking like spiderwebs when von Holzhausen threw metal balls at them.
The blunder overshadowed the launch, which was live-streamed from Los Angeles and made #cybertruck a trending word on Twitter.
"Oh my ..., well, maybe that was a little too hard," Musk said, looking with surprise at the cracked driver's side window.
Still, he allowed von Holzhausen another throw to the rear passenger window, only to see that crack as well.
"It didn't go through, so that's a plus side" he said, adding: "Room for improvement."
Reactions on Twitter varied including some advice on product launch and planning.
"Never demonstrate something in a live audience, that you haven’t tried repeatedly backstage," wrote @DrBenH, while @JustinParayno wrote "I see it as a positive because @elonmusk's decision to test it live hopefully will cause @Tesla to be more cautious and make sure the sold Trucks will not crack."
Others were more optimistic.
"I personally don’t care that the glass shattered any other vehicle’s glass would have broken down completely," wrote @Kev112301, while @erikwray posted "There will be hiccups and they'll get worked out. The #Tesla cars are amazing and only get better over time."
Tesla plans to start manufacturing the truck around late 2021.
Victoria's Secret holiday fashion show canceled
(REUTERS) — The annual Victoria's Secret fashion show, known for its jewel-encrusted bras and supermodels sporting angel wings, will not be held this holiday season, parent L Brands Inc said on Thursday.
The decision comes after the apparel retailer said in May the TV special was not going to be part of network television as the company evaluates its marketing strategy for the show.
The brand was once the destination for all things lingerie and has been losing customers as more women shift to cheaper bralettes and sports bras from companies like American Eagle Outfitters' Aerie and pop singer Rihanna's lingerie line, Savage X Fenty.
Television audiences for the show have slumped in the last few years. The December 2018 show, aired on Walt Disney Co's ABC network, was watched by 3.3 million Americans, compared with 12 million in 2001 when it was first broadcast.
When asked if the fashion show would be held this holiday season, Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer said: "No, we'll be communicating to customers, but nothing that I would say is similar in magnitude to the fashion show."
"We think it's important to evolve the marketing of Victoria's Secret," he said on the earnings call on Thursday.
The company, which forecast an upbeat holiday season on Wednesday, said it was not commenting further at this time.