News Briefs 8/11/22

TRUMP TAKES THE FIFTH IN NEW YORK DEPOSITION: Former President Donald Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination as he testified in a deposition yesterday (August 10th) in a civil investigation into his business dealings by New York Attorney General Letitia James, he said in a statement. Trump stated, “I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question. When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors and the Fake News Media, you have no choice.” James has said in court filings that her office has found “significant” evidence that Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about the value of asssets including his golf courses, high-rise buildings, and even his penthouse at Trump Tower in New York. Trump has denied the allegations. James could potentially bring a lawsuit seeking financial penalties against Trump or his company, or a ban on them being involved in certain types of businesses.

INFLATION COOLS, BUT STILL AT HIGH LEVELS: Inflation cooled more than expected in July, with prices up 8.5 percent compared to a year earlier, down from 9.1 percent year-over-year in June, although still at a high level, according to a government report out yesterday (August 10th). Prices were also unchanged from June to July, the first time that’s happened after 25 months of monthly increases. Driving much of the decline in inflation were falling prices for gas, which has dropped from $5.00 a gallon on average in mid-June to $4.20 by the end of last month and to $4.01 yesterday, accoding to AAA, as well as dropping prices for travel-related costs like airfare, hotel rooms, and rental cars. The news led Wall Street to rally to three-month highs, with investors speculating the Federal Reserve may not have to remain as aggressive in raising interest rates to try to combat inflation, which raises the risk of causing a recession.

BIDEN SIGNS BURN PITS LEGISLATION: President Biden on Wednesday (August 10th) signed legislation that expands federal heatlh care services for veterans suffering from chronic illnesses that they blame on exposure to toxic smoke from burn pits at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. The burn pits were used to dispose of all kinds of waste, including chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste. The legislation was passed after years of struggle, and Biden said during the emotional White House ceremony attended by affected military families, “I was going to get this done, come hell or high water.” Biden, whose son Beau Biden died of brain cancer years after being deployed to Iraq, has suggested a link to burn pits, and made the most direct connection he has publicly yesterday. While addressing Brielle Robinson, the young daughter of Sergeant 1st Class Heath Robinson, who died of cancer and after whom the legislation is named, Biden pointed out that she was sitting next to his grandson, Beau’s son, and said, “His daddy lost to the same burn pits. He knows what you’re going through.”

JUSTICE DEPT. CHARGES IRANIAN OPERATIVE IN MURDER PLOT AGAINST EX-NSA BOLTON: The Justice Department said yesterday (August 10th) that it had charged an Iranian operative in a plot to murder John Bolton, who was U.S. national security adviser during former President Donald Trump‘s administraiton, in presumed retaliation for a January 2020 U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful general, saying $300,000 was offered to kill Bolton. Shahram Poursafi was identified as a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and is now wanted by the FBI. Prosecutors say the plot developed in the fall of 2021, more than a year after Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, was killed in a targeted airstrike. Bolton, who was no longer NSA at that point,tweeted after the strike, “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.” Poursafi’s current location is unknown.

SUSPECT IN NEW MEXICO MUSLM KILLINGS DENIES INVOLVEMENT: A 51-year-old Afghan immigrant who was arrested Monday for the killings of two Muslim men in Albuquerque and is suspected in the murders of two others in the New Mexico city yesterday (August 10th) denied involvement. Muhammad Syed, who is himself Muslim and has been in the U.S. for five years, instead told police he was so concerned by the killings that he was driving to Houston when he was stopped by police to find a new home for his family, according to court documents. But the criminal complaint says bullet casings found in Syed’s vehicle matched the caliber of the weapons believed to have been used in two of the killings and that casings found at the crime scenes were linked to guns found at Syed’s home and in his vehicle. Authorities said Syed knew the victims and, quote, “an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shootings.” 

THREE KILLED IN INDIANA HOUSE EXPLOSION: Three people were killed Wednesday (August 10th) when a house exploded in Evansville, Indiana, around 1 p.m.  At least one other injury was reported. Evansville Fire Department Chief Mike Connelly said 39 houses were damaged by the explosion, but they hadn’t confirmed how many of the houses were occupied at the time because some were “too unstable” to enter. The cause of the explosion hadn’t been determined, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was investigating.