Corey Lewandowski testifies in House Russia investigation
WASHINGTON — Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, left Democrats disappointed on Thursday by refusing to answer some questions from the House Intelligence Committee, one of three congressional panels investigating Russian political interference.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said Lewandowski wouldn’t talk about several key episodes, including Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James B. Comey in May 2017 and his reported discussions about firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Lewandowski also declined to answer questions about the drafting of an inaccurate statement last year on Air Force One about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Lewandowski was replaced as campaign manager by Paul Manafort before the Republican National Convention in July 2016, but he has stayed in touch with the president since then.
He told reporters after the closed-door House hearing that he had answered all “relevant” questions.
Schiff rejected that assessment.
—Los Angeles Times
Paul Ryan says infrastructure overhaul will be split into 5 or 6 bills
WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Thursday affirmed House Republicans’ intentions to complete an infrastructure overhaul this year but said that the effort will be broken into pieces.
“We don’t want to do one big bill,” the Wisconsin Republican said at an event in Georgia with Home Depot employees.
Rather, Ryan said the infrastructure overhaul will be tackled in five to six bills.
“We think it’s easier to break it into pieces,” he said.
The effort will start “in about a week and a half” with a short-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, whose authorization is scheduled to expire March 31.
The FAA extension, likely to last sometime in the summer, is expected to be attached to the fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill.
The spending measure will include a “down payment” on infrastructure funding, Ryan said. He was referring to a budget deal reached earlier this year on raising the sequestration spending caps that sets aside $10 billion in fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 for infrastructure from the nondefense spending increase agreed to for those years.
Other specific bills Ryan said would be part of the piecemeal infrastructure overhaul, which he expects to be ongoing through the summer, include a longer-term FAA reauthorization, the biennial Water Resources Development Act authorizing water infrastructure projects like ports and inland waterways and legislation to streamline the permit approval process.
—CQ Roll Call
Nikolas Cruz in jail: Isolated, restless — and asking for Bible
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — School shooter Nikolas Cruz spends his days in isolation, interrupted only by occasional visits from family members, mental health experts and his lawyers.
He sleeps fitfully, eats inconsistently and spends most of his time in silence and “deep thought,” according to jail records released this week by the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
The records offer a glimpse into the daily life of Cruz, who was indicted Wednesday on 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
“Inmate is on lockdown by himself … unable to interact with others,” according to one “behavior observation report” dated Feb. 18, four days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. On that day, Cruz ate his dinner and appeared most alert during a meeting with defense lawyers and a doctor. The report described him as “very engaged, responsive … talkative.”
During another visit, on Feb. 23, he “was observed smiling and giggling.”
Those words rarely appear in the 36 pages of observations. More often, Cruz, 19, is described as silent or sleeping, lying awake and staring at the ceiling, cooperative with detention deputies but otherwise speaking only when spoken to.
Several sentences are blacked out of the reports released by the Sheriff’s Office. Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes has said Cruz is on suicide watch.
One observation report released indicated Cruz was having trouble sleeping. “Twists and turns in bunk. Does not sleep. Stares at wall in deep thought, eyes closed, appears to be resting not asleep,” the report states. Earlier that day, Cruz asked for something to read for the first time — a Bible.
An arraignment date had not been set for Cruz as of Wednesday.
—South Florida Sun Sentinel
Kentucky Republicans push ban on abortion procedure they call ‘cruel and gruesome’
FRANKFORT, Ky.—A proposal in the Kentucky legislature would ban a common form of abortion for women who have been pregnant for 11 or more weeks, a change opponents say would force many women to undergo a procedure that is more costly, takes longer and involves a hospital stay.
House Bill 454 would prohibit an abortion procedure called “dilation and evacuation” 11 weeks or later into a pregnancy except in medical emergencies. Doctors generally use the procedure in the second trimester.
State Rep. Addia Wuchner, who sponsored the bill, said the abortion procedure is “cruel and gruesome” and involves the dismemberment of a human fetus. At 10 week of pregnancy, an ultrasound can show the hands, arms, legs, fingers, toes, ears and feet of an unborn baby, she said.
The procedure involves the dilation of the cervix and surgical evacuation of the contents of the uterus, often used as a method of abortion and a therapeutic procedure after miscarriage to prevent infection by ensuring that the uterus is fully clear.
Kentucky Right to Life, which supports the measure, said it would “preserve the dignity of the DNA-designed fetus.”
The ACLU of Kentucky said the bill would bring government interference into the lives of women and points out that similar bans on abortions have been blocked by courts in five states — Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Alabama.
Democratic Rep. Tom Burch predicted it will cost Kentucky taxpayers about $1 million to defend the measure from a possible lawsuit.
The bill awaits consideration by the full House. The House Judiciary Committee approved it Wednesday on a 13-4 vote.
Caracas was the most dangerous capital city in the world last year, study says
BOGOTA, Colombia — Caracas, Venezuela, was the most dangerous capital city in the world in 2017, according to a new study that underscores how Latin America remains one of the bloodiest swaths of the planet.
According to Mexico’s Citizens Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, 43 of the world’s 50 most violent cities were in Latin America and the Caribbean, with Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela leading the list.
Los Cabos, Mexico, topped the annual ranking with a murder rate of 111.3 per 100,000 residents. But Caracas — just one of five capital cities on the list — was in a close second place with 111.2 murders per 100,000 residents.
The 10th-annual ranking was released this week and measures murder rates in cities with more than 300,000 people.
The report’s authors said Venezuela’s murder rate had become increasingly difficult to determine. The government does not release official data and local media hadn’t been providing full reports, the study found, making it a nation that has become “incapable of counting its dead.”
In addition, the mass exodus from Venezuela means that population estimates are no longer accurate, so murder rates are likely higher than reported, the study found.
The authors said they determined the Caracas figures by extrapolating from information gathered at the morgue. According to their calculations, the city had an estimated 3,387 murders in 2017.
Among the U.S. cities in the ranking were St. Louis, with 65 homicides per 100,000 residents, followed by Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit.
British police: 21 required medical care in former Russian spy poisoning case
LONDON — Twenty-one people have received medical treatment in connection with this week’s nerve agent attack on former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in southern England.
The Skripals and a police officer who arrived on the scene to respond to the incident are included in the count, Wiltshire Police said Thursday, according to the Press Association.
Skripal — a former colonel in Russian intelligence who was imprisoned in Russia in 2006 on allegations of spying for Britain — was found unconscious with his daughter on a bench near a shopping center in the city of Salisbury on Sunday.
The poisoning of father and daughter has drawn media speculation that Russian state actors could be behind the attack, prompting comparisons to other suspicious deaths of Russians on British soil — specifically Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and Alexander Perepilichny in 2012.
Litvinenko, another Russian former intelligence officer, died after drinking tea laced with a radioactive isotope. A British inquiry concluded that he was targeted for assassination by Russian agents.
Perepilichny, who collapsed and died outside his home while jogging in southern England in 2012, had reported death threats against him following his accusations of large-scale tax fraud by Russian officials.
Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 30, remained unconscious and in critical but stable condition on Thursday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the House of Commons.
The officer, identified by police as Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, was “talking and engaging” but remains in serious condition, Rudd said.