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Ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen testifies he stole from Trump Org. at hush-money trial

The prosecution rested its case on Monday in former President Donald Trump ‘hush money’ trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The case marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, resumed testimony under cross-examination at the trial, stating that he stole from the Trump Organization by pocketing money that should have gone to a tech company.

Cohen admitted to stealing about $30,000 from the Trump Organization during his testimony, adding that he hired a tech firm RedFinch in 2014 and 2015 for $50,000. The firm was hired to rig online polls in favor of the former president. Cohen paid them about $20,000 cash, saying he could not remember the exact amount exchanged in a brown paper bag. Despite invoicing the Trump Organization for $50,000, Cohen never paid back the remainder of the balance to RedFinch, and added that he never had to plead guilty to larceny related to the funds and never had to pay back the Trump Organization.

Closing arguments in the case were set for May 28, and it remains unclear whether Trump will take the witness stand in the Manhattan courtroom.

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President Biden calls ICC’s arrest warrants for Israeli PM Netanyahu, other leaders ‘outrageous’

President Joe Biden slammed the International Criminal Court’s announcement Monday that it is seeking to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders and charge them with war crimes and crimes against humanity, calling the move “outrageous”. The ICC announcement said that it intends to hold Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders responsible along with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and other Hamas leaders for the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and the subsequent invasion of Gaza by Israeli forces.

Biden said in a statement: “And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken also criticized the move, saying that it could jeopardize negotiations to achieve a hostage deal and a ceasefire and adding that it raises questions over the court’s jurisdiction as well as its process in making this application. Said Blinken: “It is shameful. Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization that carried out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and it still holding dozens of people hostage, including Americans.”

The reaction from the White House came several hours after ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan said in a statement that he was “filing applications for the warrants of arrests ” for Netanyahu, Sinwar and other senior Israeli and Hamas figures who have played key roles in the ongoing war in Gaza, with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also facing potential arrest.  Khan said that both Netanyahu and Gallant bear criminal responsibility for a list of “war crimes,” including the starvation of civilians, willfully “causing great suffering, or serious injury,’ willful killing, and intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population.  Khan wrote in the ICC statement: “We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy …These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day.”

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is killed in helicopter crash

Iranian state media reported that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed after a helicopter carrying him suffered a crash landing on Sunday as it traveled through rainy and foggy conditions in the rural mountainous area near ​​Kalibar and Warzghan in northern Iran, near the borders with Azerbaijan and Armenia. The officials were returning from the border with the country of Azerbaijan — in the northwest of Iran, some 375 miles from the capital of Tehran — where Raisi was inaugurating a dam on the Aras river with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.  Raisi’s administration began an emergency meeting on Monday following the news of his death.

Iranian media reported that the 63-year-old Raisi was traveling with Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, East Azerbaijan’s governor, Malik Rahmati, and Raisi’s security detail when their helicopter made a “hard landing.”  All seven onboard were killed in the crash.

On Sunday afternoon, Iran’s Vice President Mohsen Mansouri reported that two people from the helicopter flight had made contact with the rescue team, with the commander of the East Azerbaijan Army saying that a signal from the helicopter and a cellphone belonging to one of the crew members at the accident site was received.

Red Crescent Relief and Rescue Organization crews were sent to the scene to locate the helicopter; they confirmed earlier Monday it had located the missing helicopter carrying Raisi, with the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Hossein Kolivand, telling state media there was “no sign of life.”

Raisi was the elected president and led the government, however, he still answered to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the head of state. Khamenei had said that there would be no disruption to state affairs. Under Iranian law, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will assume power after getting the nod from Khamenei. A presidential election must then be called within 50 days.

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Child among 3 killed after Amtrak train hits pickup truck in upstate New York

A child was among three people killed after an Amtrak train struck a vehicle in Upstate New York near Buffalo. The North Tonawanda Police said on Facebook that the three deceased were in a Dodge pickup truck around 7:56 p.m. on Friday when it collided with the train, which was on its way from New York City to Niagara Falls when the accident happened.

Per ABC News, North Tonawanda Police Department Captain Daryl Truty said in a statement posted that the victims included a 6-year-old boy, a 66-year-old woman, and a 69-year-old man. The names of the victims had not been released as of Sunday morning.

Amtrak spokesperson Olivia Irvin said in a statement that none of the Amtrak crew or its 21 passengers were injured in the crash. The North Tonawanda firefighter’s union said in a statement that he pickup was severely damaged with heavy equipment was required to reach the victims, adding that all three victims died at the scene. Photos shared on Facebook by the North Tonawanda Fire Department appeared to show no visible damage to the Amtrak train. An investigation is ongoing and police did not detail how the crash happened.

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Dow Jones Industrial Average passes 40,000 for the first time ever

The Dow Jones Industrial index exceeded 40,000 for the first time Thursday, extending a strong year of stock market gains. The Dow hit 40,000.54 before dropping back, but it was the first time it had crossed that threshold; The Dow is now up about 6% so far this year. Markets were bolstered by gains from staple retailers like Walmart (WMT) which beat earnings expectations on Thursday morning and rose nearly 6%. Airlines, utilities and Big Tech stocks were largely higher.

Per CNN, markets rallied to new record highs after the latest Consumer Price Index showed a cooldown for the first time in months, increasing hopes that the Federal Reserve could start cutting interest rates as soon as September. The Labor Department reported the consumer price index inflation rate was a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in April maintaining the annual inflation rate at 3.4%.

In response to the news, President Joe Biden shared on X: “This is great news for Americans’ retirement accounts and another sign of confidence in America’s economy. I’m building an economy from the middle out and bottom up — and our investments are making a difference.”

The S&P 500 crossed 5,000 for the first time in February, largely driven by the performance of seven big companies called the “Magnificent Seven” — Nvidia, Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Tesla. The Dow, Nasdaq and S&P have all posted strong year-to-year increases with the Dow up 6% in 2024. The S&P and Nasdaq have increased 11% this year.

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Sen. Bob Menendez reveals wife Nadine has breast cancer and will undergo mastectomy

Embattled New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez revealed on Thursday that his wife Nadine Menendez has breast cancer. Senator and Mrs. Menendez are charged separately in a case alleging the senator abused his position to act as a foreign agent for Egypt and Qatar and accepted bribes from several New Jersey businessmen. Senator Menendez, 70, went on trial this week; the couple have both pleaded not guilty.

Nadine Menendez’s trial had been delayed until July due to previously undisclosed health reasons. Sen. Menendez shared that Nadine, 57, is battling Grade 3 breast cancer and will also have to undergo a mastectomy. The senator said in a statement: “As a result of constant press inquiries and reporters following my wife, she has asked me to disclose her medical condition. We are of course, concerned about the seriousness and advanced stage of the disease .. We hope and pray for the best results. We ask the press and the public to give her the time, space and privacy to deal with this challenging health condition as she undergoes surgery and recovery.” Menendez added that his wife will require “follow-up surgery and possibly radiation treatment,” but did not include additional details.

A federal grand jury in New York indicted Menendez in September 2023, accusing him and his wife of having a corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen. The New Jersey Democratic senator is accused of accepting cash, gold bars, luxury wristwatches and other perks from New Jersey businessmen in exchange for official favors to benefit the businessmen and the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

Senator Menendez’s attorney, Avi Weitzman, tried to distance Menendez from his wife earlier this week by arguing the two lived mostly “separate lives” and had “separate finances.” Nadine Menendez is awaiting a July 8 federal trial, and her attorneys stated that she “denies any wrongdoing and will vigorously defend against these allegations in court.”

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Barge strike causes partial collapse of bridge between Galveston and Pelican Island, Texas

Officials confirmed on Wednesday that a barge slammed into a bridge pillar in Galveston, Texas on Wednesday, spilling oil into surrounding waters and closing the only road to a small island.

Ronnie Varela with the Galveston’s Office of Emergency Management said that the bridge leading to Pelican Island, located just north of Galveston, was hit by a barge around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday when a tugboat backing out of Texas International Terminals (a fuel storage operator next to the bridge) lost control of two barges it was pushing. One of the barges also hit two telephone poles.  David Flores, a bridge superintendent with the Galveston County Navigation District, said “the current was very bad, and the tide was high. He lost it.”

There was no immediate information on damage to the bridge or if there were any injuries, but officials did say one person on the barge was knocked into the water and quickly rescued. The accident resulted in oil spilling from the barge into the bay and crews were working to clean it up, with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office adding that a large piece of the bridge fell.  Galveston County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Ray Nolen said that the barge is owned by Martin Petroleum, has a 30,000-gallon capacity, but it’s not clear how much leaked into the bay. About 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers) of the waterway was shut down as a result of the spill.

Pelican Island, which is connected to Galveston by the bridge, is home to a large shipyard, Texas A&M University of Galveston, and Seawolf Park, a former immigration station that now attracts tourists to its iconic fishing pier and decommissioned U.S. Navy vessels. The bridge has one main steel span that measures 164 feet (50 meters), and federal data shows it was last inspected in December 2021. However, it’s unclear from the data if a state inspection took place after the Federal Highway Administration compiled the data. The bridge had an average daily traffic figure of about 9,100, according to a 2011 estimate.

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Biden and Trump agree to two presidential debates in late June and September

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agreed to participate in two general election debates, on June 27 and Sept. 10.

Biden and Trump accepted an invitation from CNN to debate on June 27, with Biden sharing in a post on X: “I’ve received and accepted an invitation from @CNN for a debate on June 27th. Over to you, Donald. As you said: anywhere, any time, any place.”  Mr. Trump told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, “The answer is yes, I will accept.”

According to a press release from CNN, the first debate will take place at 9 p.m. at its studios in Atlanta, adding: “to ensure candidates may maximize the time allotted in the debate, no audience will be present. Moderators for the debate and additional details will be announced at a later date.”

Biden and Trump also both announced on Wednesday that they had also accepted an invitation from ABC News to hold a second debate on September 10.  Biden shared on X:  “I’ve also received and accepted an invitation to a debate hosted by ABC on Tuesday, September 10th. Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation. I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”

Trump later confirmed his participation in the debates, posting on his Truth Social platform: “It is my great honor to accept the CNN Debate against Crooked Joe Biden, the WORST PRESIDENT in the History of the United States and a true Threat to Democracy, on June 27th. Likewise, I accept the ABC News Debate against Crooked Joe on September 10th. Thank you, DJT!”

In a subsequent Truth Social post Wednesday afternoon, Trump pushed for an additional debate on Fox News, which he said would take place on Oct. 2 and be hosted by anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

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Deadly bus crash in Florida kills 8 farmworkers, injures dozens more

At least eight people were killed and up to 40 more were hospitalized – some critically — after a bus carrying farm workers crashed and overturned early Tuesday morning on a Florida highway Tuesday morning.

The Florida Highway Patrol said that the crash involved a 2010 International retired school bus transporting farm workers and a 2001 Ford Ranger truck, taking place on State Road 40, 500 feet west of SW 148 Court at 6:35 a.m. The crash site is about 45 miles south of Gainesville, northwest of Orlando. Highway Patrol Lt. Pat Riordan said during a news conference that 38 people were hurt, eight of whom are in critical condition and 30 who have non-life-threatening injuries; they were taken to area hospitals after the crash on the outskirts of Dunnellon, Florida. The Marion County Fire Rescue said there were 53 patients total involved in the crash.

The retired school bus was traveling west on the highway and the pickup truck was going east when the truck moved, “for unknown reasons”, toward the center line. According to Riordan, the bus and truck collided in “a sideswipe-type manner,” sending the bus off the road and it went through a fence and hit a tree before it overturned. The bus was taking the workers to a farm in the area, Riordan said, adding that the farmworkers are migrants with documentation. The driver of the Ford pickup was also transported to the hospital with serious injuries, with Riordan stating that ‘at this point, we are conducting a massive traffic homicide investigation,’ adding that investigators will need at least six months to conduct the investigation.

The farm workers were headed to Cannon Farms in Dunnellon, according to NBC affiliate WESH of Orlando. Cannon Farms announced on social media early Tuesday that it’d be closed “out of respect to the losses and injuries endured early this morning in the accident that took place to the Olvera Trucking Harvesting Corp .. Please pray with us for the families and the loved ones involved in this tragic accident. We appreciate your understanding at this difficult time.”

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NY court upholds gag order in hush money trial after Trump appeal is rejected

On Tuesday, a New York court denied former President Donald Trump’s bid to lift the gag order limiting what he can say about those involved in his ongoing criminal trial, saying the order does not violate Trump’s First Amendment rights. Justice Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing Trump’s trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records, issued the original order in March, barring Trump from discussing likely witnesses, jurors, attorneys and court staff involved in the case. Merchan later expanded it to apply to his daughter.

In a five-page ruling on Tuesday, the appellate division, first department of the New York Supreme Court, found that Merchan “properly determined that [Trump’s] public statements posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses in this case.”  The ruling added (per CNN): “we find that Justice Merchan properly weighed petitioner’s First Amendment Rights against the court’s historical commitment to ensuring the fair administration of justice in criminal cases, and the right of persons related or tangentially related to the criminal proceedings from being free from threats, intimidation, harassment, and harm.”

Trump has repeatedly stated that the gag order implemented by Merchan is unfair to him and should be lifted, especially since it means he is unable to respond to testimony from Stormy Daniels or Michael Cohen in public spheres.  However, Merchan has stated that the gag order is needed to prevent witnesses from being intimidated, especially given the high-profile nature of the trial and defendant. Trump was not prevented from criticizing Merchan or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Merchan has held Trump in contempt of court for violating the order 10 times; and just last wee, he warned Trump that he could be sent to jail for future violations.

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