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National Govt & Politics

    Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker has netted the first endorsement from a sitting lawmaker in the crucial early-voting state of South Carolina. State Rep. John King told The Associated Press that he's chosen to back the senator from New Jersey above other hopefuls in the sprawling field in part because he feels that Booker's experience combating corruption as mayor of Newark will help him do the same for the country as president. 'He has spent his entire career running toward big challenges, so I sat long and hard and thought about who I wanted to support and who I feel would take this country in the right direction,' King said. 'Cory Booker is that guy.' Booker returns to South Carolina on Saturday for events in Columbia and Rock Hill, a city in King's district and where he planned to join him. South Carolina holds the first presidential primary in the South, and its Democratic primary electorate is mostly black. In his sixth term in South Carolina's House, King is past chairman of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. In an interview with the AP, he said that Booker's commitment to issues affecting that community, like sickle cell anemia , is something that will resonate with voters in the state in next year's primary. 'He's Cory. He doesn't care about a title,' King said. 'He wants people to know he's reachable, touchable and that he understands our struggles.' While no other South Carolina state lawmakers have publicly proclaimed their support for Booker, King said that he believes there are some ready to do so — soon. Even though he's committing to backing Booker, King said he still planned to go out to meet contender Beto O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman who also is set to campaign in Rock Hill on Friday. 'I'm a fan of Democrats,' King said. 'And one of these people will be the next president of the United States.' ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
  • A U.S. judge in San Francisco will scrutinize the Trump administration's policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico during a court hearing Friday to help him decide whether to block the practice. Civil rights groups have asked Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco to put the asylum policy on hold while their lawsuit moves forward. Seeborg was not expected to rule immediately. The policy began in January at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, marking an unprecedented change to the U.S. asylum system . Families seeking asylum are typically released in the U.S. with notices to appear in immigration court. The administration later expanded the policy to the Calexico port of entry, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) east of the San Ysidro crossing. The lawsuit on behalf of 11 asylum seekers from Central America and legal advocacy groups says the administration is violating U.S. law by failing to adequately evaluate the dangers that migrants face in Mexico. It also accuses Homeland Security and immigration officials of depriving migrants of their right to apply for asylum by making it difficult or impossible to do so. 'Instead of being able to focus on preparing their cases, asylum seekers forced to return to Mexico will have to focus on trying to survive,' according to the lawsuit filed in February by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. The Trump administration hopes that making asylum seekers wait in Mexico will discourage weak claims and help reduce an immigration court backlog of more than 800,000 cases. The Justice Department said in court documents that the policy 'responds to a crisis of aliens, many of whom may have unmeritorious asylum claims, overwhelming the executive's immigration-detention capacity, being released into the U.S. to live for many years without establishing an entitlement to relief, and often never appearing for immigration proceedings.' Border Patrol arrests, the most widely used gauge of illegal crossings, have risen sharply over the last year but are relatively low in historical terms after hitting a 46-year low in 2017. A federal law allows the Homeland Security secretary to return immigrants to Mexico at her discretion, Justice Department officials said in a court filing this month urging Seeborg not to block the policy. The civil rights groups said that law does not apply to asylum seekers who cross the border illegally or arrive at an entry port without proper documents. The policy followed months of delicate talks between the U.S. and Mexico. Mexicans and children traveling alone are exempt from it.
  • The Missouri River floodwater surging on to the air base housing the U.S. military's Strategic Command overwhelmed round-the-clock sandbagging by airmen and others. They had to scramble to save sensitive equipment, munitions and dozens of aircraft. Days into the flooding, muddy water was still lapping at almost 80 flooded buildings at Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base, some inundated by up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) of water. Piles of waterlogged corn cobs, husks and stalks lay heaped everywhere that the water had receded, swept onto the base from surrounding fields. 'In the end, obviously, the waters were just too much. It took over everything we put up,' Col. David Norton, who is in charge of facilities at the base, told an Associated Press reporter on a tour of the damage. 'The speed at which it came in was shocking.' Though the headquarters of Strategic Command, which plays a central role in detecting and striking at global threats, wasn't damaged, the flooding provided a dramatic example of how climate change poses a national security threat, even as the Trump administration plays down the issue. It is also a reminder that the kind of weather extremes escalating with climate change aren't limited to the coasts, said retired Rear Adm. David W. Titley. 'We're probably do need some walls — but they're probably levees. I would say those are the kinds of walls we need,' said Titley, founder of both the Navy's Task Force on Climate Change and the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University. He was referring to the administration's proposal to take money from the military's construction budget to build President Donald Trump's desired southern border walls. The late-winter floods that have swept over Plains states starting last week — breaching levees, halting Amtrak trains, and killing at least three people — are also the second major inundation in less than a decade to hit the air base outside Omaha. It would takes weeks or more for scientists to determine if the Plains flooding, or any weather disaster, was caused or worsened by climate change, which is occurring as emissions from coal, oil and gas alter the atmosphere. But federal agencies and scientists around the world agree that climate change already is making natural disasters more frequent, stronger and longer. The military has warned in a series of reports under past administrations that climate change is a security threat on many fronts. That includes 'through direct impacts on U.S. military infrastructure and by affecting factors, including food and water availability, that can exacerbate conflict outside U.S. borders,' the federal government's grim climate report said last year. But Trump has belittled his own government's warnings. During a January cold spell, he tweeted his wish for 'a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming!' In response to security warnings on climate change, the Trump administration has allowed a physicist who rejects scientific consensus on manmade climate change to start organizing a White House panel to make its own determination. Responding to an AP inquiry, the White House's National Security Council did not directly address whether the administration sees climate change as a national security threat, but said it takes the issue of climate change seriously. But the Trump White House's national security strategy mentions climate only in the context of 'countering an anti-growth energy agenda' for fossil fuels. Department of Defense spokeswoman Heather Babb said the department 'works to ensure installations and infrastructure are resilient to a wide range of challenges, including climate.' 'DOD will focus on ensuring it remains ready and able to adapt to a wide variety of threats - regardless of the source - to fulfill our mission to deter war and ensure our nation's security,' Babb said. Under the Trump administration, unlike in previous administrations, the Pentagon has offered little public comment on climate change as a security threat. The Pentagon's guiding star of defense planning, known as the National Defense Strategy, does not even mention climate change. That leaves it to former military leaders to raise the alarm about how climate change could affect national security. Retired Brig. Gen. Gerald Galloway said that worsening bouts of weather — floods cutting off troops' way in and out of bases, high waves complicating landings, heat waves depriving aircraft of the lift they need to fly — are all problems the military could be dealing with. Military bases are launch platforms and you 'can't fight a war unless you've got a place to leave from,' said Galloway, a member of the Center for Climate and Security's advisory board. Titley predicted Offutt Air Force Base would prove the latest military installation to have racked up $1 billion or more in damage. Hurricanes struck North Carolina's Camp Lejeune in September and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in October. The current political atmosphere discourages any big efforts building up base defenses against climate change, said Titley, who also served as chief operating officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Defense Department officials 'by and large know what they need to do, but it's very hard for them to do. White House dynamics are the White House does not want to hear about it,' he said. 'The Pentagon is really between a rock and a hard spot here,' Titley said. Earlier heavy flooding at Offutt has prompted the base to start raising its levee by 2 feet this year, said Maj. Meghan M. Liemburg-Archer, spokeswoman for Strategic Command. Sandbagging had held back 2011 floods at the base. The flooding that poured in starting March 15 was worse, Norton, the base's support group commander, said. 'It was all hands on deck,' Norton said. 'All through the night, we worked. It was thousands of people, in total, working to sandbag, move in huge Hesco barriers; a whole host of people clearing equipment out of facilities, moving munitions ... even crews doing things like disconnecting power. It was a massive effort.' More than 30 aircraft were towed to higher ground or flown to other locations. Crews hauled out loads of equipment, engines and tools. By Saturday, the flood had rolled over a third of the base, swamping more than 1.2 million square feet of buildings. Though Strategic Command headquarters escaped flooding, it had to cut staff to a minimum as high water blocked roads. The command holds down a range of responsibilities, including global strike capacity, missile defense, nuclear operations and strategic deterrence. Inundated buildings include the 55th Wing headquarters, the massive Bennie L. Davis Maintenance Facility and a building that houses the 55th Wing's flight simulators. About 3,000 feet of the base's 11,700-foot runway is submerged. 'The good news is that no one on the base was injured,' Norton said. 'We know how lucky we are.' Touring Offutt, the base's fire chief, Dave Eblin, kicked one of the soggy corn cobs strewn throughout the base. Asked whether there had been some type of fodder silo that ruptured nearby, Eblin just laughed. 'No, it came in from the fields. Miles of corn fields around the base,' he said, nudging at the cob underfoot. 'It clogs everything: engines, boat motors. It's everywhere.' ___ Knickmeyer and Burns reported from Washington. AP science reporter Seth Borenstein contributed, also from Washington.
  • By the time California's presidential primary election arrived in 2016, Bernie Sanders was a beaten man. This time around, everything has changed. The senator from Vermont was an insurgent outsider three years ago in a head-to-head race against Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state whose grip on the Democratic nomination was effectively unshakeable by the time California's primary was held in June that year. When Sanders heads to San Diego on Friday for the first of three California campaign rallies, the self-described democratic socialist will be asking for votes in a Democratic contest in which he's a top-shelf candidate . He'll be campaigning in a state that could be pivotal to choosing the Democratic nominee. And unlike the state's end-of-the-line primary in 2016, California is voting near the front of the pack this time in March 2020 with hundreds of delegates at stake. He previewed his approach to the state on Wednesday when he spoke to striking workers in Los Angeles. He touched on familiar themes, decrying 'a war being waged against the working people' and California's notoriously expensive housing costs and rents. 'The stage is set' for a Sanders win in 2020, predicted striking worker Ben Evans, 45, a Los Angeles Democrat who attended the rally. 'Everyone who paid attention last time is not going to forget.' In his second White House run, Sanders is jostling for position as the roster of Democratic candidates continues to grow — former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas entered the race last week, and former Vice President Joe Biden has been hinting at a possible run. Sanders remains popular with his liberal base, but he faces a new set of challenges in California in 2020 — among them, he's competing on the home turf of rival Democrat Kamala Harris, California's junior senator. She's the former state attorney general and has won statewide races in California three times. But home-state connections don't always equate with success in California. Bill Clinton, for instance, defeated former California Gov. Jerry Brown in the state's 1992 presidential primary, on his way to winning the White House. Michael Ceraso, who did a stint leading Sanders' 2016 campaign in the state, said the senator will need to do a better job connecting his big ideas for change with the concerns of local voters, especially minorities. 'He's going to need to break the narrative that he can't connect with communities of color,' Ceraso said. Unlike 2016, voters in the Golden State are familiar with Sanders — he grabbed 46 percent of the tally against the far-better-known Clinton. Since his first run for the White House, some of his signature proposals have been embraced by the party's mainstream, including 'Medicare for All' and decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, issues that are popular in strongly Democratic California. And he has an established donor base and a devoted volunteer corps. In 2016, Sanders 'came here and spent quite a bit of money and did better than anyone thought he was going to do,' said veteran Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, who is based in Los Angeles. 'He came out of it with a lot of assets that he's going to bring to this campaign,' Carrick added. Among his challenges, Sanders will need to perform strongly in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and other Democratic strongholds, where Clinton bested him in 2016 and where Harris has done well in her state campaigns. That's especially important in a Democratic presidential contest because the maze of rules that divvy up California delegates rewards candidates who do well in strongly Democratic areas. With a dozen candidates in the race and many sharing similar views, it's not been established if Sanders can generate the foot-stomping enthusiasm witnessed in his 2016 run, when he was a first-time presidential candidate running against an establishment favorite. Ben Tulchin, Sanders' San Francisco-based pollster, said the senator is well-positioned to compete in California, and possibly win it. Sanders is a strong draw with younger voters, and millennials now make up the largest age group among registered voters in California. However, younger voters also tend to be unreliable on Election Day. Sanders has another edge, Tulchin said. A string of recent polls has found that Sanders is favored at this point by Hispanics, who make up an increasingly influential slice of the California electorate. 'Sanders's strength with Latino voters has major implications' in states with large Hispanic populations, including California, Tulchin concluded in a recent memo. But he'll also need to do well with independents, who make up about 1 in 4 voters in the state and can participate in California's Democratic presidential primaries. At the rally, striking worker Stephanie Aguirre, 26, of Los Angeles, said she voted for Sanders in 2016 and was leaning his way again. The clinical social worker said the broader acceptance of his platform, once seen as rooted on the political fringe, boded well for his candidacy. For those who didn't vote for him last time, 'I just hope that people will have a change of heart,' she said. ___ Associated Press videographer Krysta Fauria contributed to this report.
  • Joe Biden says he has 'the most progressive record' of any Democrat running, or mulling a run, in 2020. But many progressive activists disagree. As the former vice president inches closer to a third White House run, several moments in his long career loom as immediate political liabilities. From his vote for the Iraq war to his key role in passing a bill that made it harder for debt-ridden Americans to declare bankruptcy, Biden would have to reconcile his past with a party that's moved to the left. Biden leads many early polls, but his handling of those issues will determine whether that support fades in a primary fight. He is aware of his critics, using a speech last week before friendly Delaware Democrats to declare himself a progressive while also describing some of his detractors as 'the new left' and defending his record. But several progressive activists are urging him to do more to address doubts about his progressive credentials by owning up to past missteps and developing a forward-looking agenda that recognizes the Democratic base's center of gravity has shifted. 'For him to actually own the label of progressive, he needs to acknowledge and reconcile that prior harm — not just in words, but by putting forth a policy agenda that's really rooted in challenging white supremacy and economic exploitation,' said Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-executive director of the activist group Center for Popular Democracy. As for Biden deeming his record progressive, she warned that 'simply labeling yourself something doesn't make it true.' Leah Greenberg, co-founder of the activist group Indivisible, described Biden's progressive self-definition as 'a confusing comment' given the number of other prominent liberals in the Democratic primary. 'He's going to need to reconcile his record on policy with where he is now and what kind of policies he's proposing as a presidential contender,' Greenberg said, adding that 'if he's trying to understand what animates the new left . I'd recommend that he talk to grassroots leaders on the ground.' A Biden spokesman declined to comment. The 76-year-old Democrat has expressed some regrets for past actions. He was contrite in January about supporting a 1994 crime bill whose stiffer sentences fell disproportionately on minority offenders, telling an audience that the bill's harsher punishment was 'a big mistake' that has 'trapped an entire generation.' He has called his vote to support the Iraq War 'a mistake.' And Biden is known for pushing the rest of his party leftward on some key issues. He backed same-sex marriage in 2012 before Barack Obama did, effectively nudging the then-president into his corner on what was a politically volatile issue. He was also a lead architect of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and later used his perch as Obama's vice president to advocate for sexual assault victims, particularly on college campuses. Sen. Chris Coons, who holds the Delaware seat Biden occupied and is a close ally, said he read Biden's 'most progressive' comment as a way of championing the Obama administration's accomplishments on health care, climate change and other fronts. 'On the core issues progressives claim to care about most, Joe Biden actually has a record of leadership,' Coons said in an interview. 'Anybody can give a great speech on a college campus, but actually getting things done . that's something worth talking about and running on.' But progressives say he'll have more atoning to do, should he enter the 2020 race. Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser at MoveOn.org who worked with Biden during her time in Obama's administration, predicted 'there are things he's going to have to answer to.' 'Sometimes you're so popular, and then you jump into an election, and then you become less popular,' she said. 'He could avoid that by just going head-on and dealing with it from the get-go.' Even as Biden leads most early polls of the sprawling Democratic field, those surveys can't gauge how much of his advantage stems from voters' favorable views of his role as Obama's vice president — and whether that wellspring of goodwill would fade if Biden enters the presidential race to criticism from liberals. Activists looking to push the party toward a progressive agenda aren't prepared to give Biden a pass based on Obama-era successes. 'You can only go so long on the coattails of a former president, no matter how well-liked a former president is,' said Charles Chamberlain, chair of the progressive group Democracy for America. Biden's advisers have talked for weeks about the prospect of assuaging concerns regarding his age and ideology by tapping a younger running mate early in the primary, before the Democratic nomination is secured. Those discussions, which have not coalesced into any firm decision, at one point focused on former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas and have shifted to former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who met with Biden in Washington last week. Allying with Abrams could bear fruit in bolstering Biden's relationships with progressives, but she's also being heavily courted by Democratic elders to challenge Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia in 2020 and has yet to rule out a presidential bid herself. 'There is an important dynamic to having your name considered as part of the national conversation because someone like me is not often on that list,' Abrams, a 45-year-old African-American woman, said last week at a conference in Washington. Even if Biden adds younger, more left-leaning energy to his prospective ticket, some activists won't be deterred from scrutinizing elements of his past. In addition to his votes on bankruptcy, the crime bill and the Iraq War, Biden is likely to face further questions about his treatment of Anita Hill during the 1991 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his recently resurfaced 1970s remarks against the use of busing to diversify schools in his home state. 'I don't think his choice of running mate will matter that much,' said Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid, whose group worked to elect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other rising young liberal candidates in 2018. 'Biden can't trick progressives who are at the center of energy in the Democratic Party right now into rebranding himself into someone he's not.
  • The political and economic crisis in Venezuela tops the agenda of President Donald Trump's meeting Friday with leaders from the Caribbean, a region that has been far from united in joining the U.S. call for the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro. Trump is hosting the leaders of Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti, Dominican Republic and St. Lucia at his affluent Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, to show his support for Caribbean countries that back democratic transition in Venezuela. The five have either denounced Maduro or have joined more than 50 countries in recognizing Juan Guaido as the rightful interim leader of the nation. The Trump administration considers Maduro's government a dictatorship and says he was re-elected in an illegitimate election. The U.S. has sanctioned scores of top Venezuelan officials and has blocked U.S. banks from doing business with Venezuela, putting a financial strangle-hold on the cash-strapped country. The country is in an economic meltdown and millions of Venezuelans have fled. 'As President Trump clearly stated, the toughest sanctions are yet to come,' national security adviser John Bolton said in a tweet Thursday. 'Unless Maduro's usurpation ends, he and his cronies will be strangled financially. The window is closing.' White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump will use the meeting to thank the leaders for their support for peace and democracy in Venezuela and discuss potential opportunities for energy investment. Nations in the Caribbean, however, have been split on whether to interfere in Venezuela. For years, Venezuela has provided a reliable supply of oil to many Caribbean nations. They purchased the oil under the PetroCaribe arrangement, which gave them low-interest credit terms, but have left them indebted to Caracas. Sanders said Trump will also use the meeting to strengthen cooperation and counter 'China's predatory economic practices.' Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Trump administration officials have told countries that they should beware of Chinese investment opportunities. It's unclear how well Trump's message will be received. The U.S. has a long history of interventions — military and otherwise — in Latin America. And Trump has not always been kind to impoverished nations like some in the region. Last year, while meeting with senators on immigration, Trump questioned why the United States would accept more immigrants from Haiti and 's---hole countries' in Africa, according to one participant and people briefed on the conversation.
  • Acting U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ordered federal land managers on Thursday to give greater priority to access for hunting, fishing and other kinds of recreation when the government considers selling or trading public land. The secretarial order comes amid longstanding complaints that millions of acres of state and federal land in the American West can be reached only by traveling across private property or small slivers of public land. Bernhardt's order requires the Bureau of Land Management to come up with alternatives to access routes that could be lost during land sales or exchanges. It also helps prevent land from being selected in the first place for potential sale. The move could help boost Bernhardt's conservation credentials ahead of a Senate confirmation hearing March 28, in which Democrats are likely to highlight his past work as an energy industry lobbyist. Bernhardt has been nominated to replace former Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in January. Several hunting and conservation groups voiced support for the action, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Association of State Fish and Wildlife Agencies. But others said it appeared politically calculated to curry favor among lawmakers ahead of the hearing. The critics pointed to drastic cuts in President Donald Trump's proposed budget to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects nationwide. Bernhardt said in a statement that the administration 'has and will continue to prioritize access so that people can hunt, fish, camp and recreate on our public lands.' Hunting and fishing advocates had pressed the administration to close what they considered a loophole in federal land policies that allows some sites to be sold. The Bureau of Land Management oversees almost 400,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) of federal land. A 1976 law requires agency officials to identify lands for potential sale or exchange, but not to look at potential effects on recreational access. As a result, the bureau has identified for potential sale sites such as 11 parcels of land totaling 4.3 square miles (11.3 square kilometers) adjacent to the Bighorn National Forest west of Buffalo, Wyoming, said Joel Webster with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The area sits beneath the towering peaks of the Bighorn Mountains. One of the parcels identified for potential sale has a hiking trail passing directly through it, Webster said. Another area identified for potential sale — an 8-square mile (20-square kilometer) tract of mostly grasslands near Miles City, Montana — is popular for deer, antelope and bird hunting and can be accessed from a nearby highway. 'It is one of the best mule deer hunting areas in the nation,' Webster said. 'The BLM just has not been thinking about recreational access when they've been looking to sell lands. We think this order means much fewer acres with access are going to be available for sale.' National Parks Conservation Association Vice President Kristen Brengel said the order's timing — exactly one week before Bernhardt appears in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — casts doubt over the administration's purpose. 'They're paying lip service to an issue a lot of people care about,' Brengel said. 'When the president's budget doesn't fund the most prominent program that would guarantee this access, this is completely empty.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand pitched her ideas Thursday to improve the asylum process while touring a law clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas that helps immigrants with legal matters. The senator from New York kicked off her first presidential campaign trip to Nevada by meeting with immigration law students. The 2020 White House hopeful took notes while the students described the cases they've worked on and the problems they've encountered in the U.S. legal system as they try to help immigrants, including unaccompanied minors. Gillibrand, who has stressed her role as a mother on the campaign trail, spoke to the students while she picked up and examined several small pieces of canvass with painted handprints of those unaccompanied children whose cases were handled by the clinic. The Democrat said she's working on legislation that would guarantee asylum seekers a lawyer, create a system for Americans to foster immigrant children and break out immigration judges from under the U.S. Department of Justice so they can be independent. 'We want unbiased judges that are appointed for life so they can do the right thing, not the political thing,' she told reporters. Immigration reform is a prime issue in Nevada, which has a sizeable population of immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission and 13,000 young immigrants seeking protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 'I think this is a huge issue for all of America,' Gillibrand said. 'I think we have a crisis at the border that has been literally manufactured by President Trump, entirely creating a humanitarian crisis of separating families.' She met Thursday afternoon with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and spoke to voters at a downtown Las Vegas bar Thursday night.
  • A man who was charged with sending explosive devices to a series of critics of President Donald Trump pleaded guilty on Thursday to the crimes, as federal prosecutors say Cesar Sayoc could spend the rest of his life in prison for mailing 16 improvised explosive devices to former President Obama, former Vice President Biden, as well as sitting Democratic lawmakers in Congress. 'For five days in October 2018, Cesar Sayoc rained terror across the country,' said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. 'Thankfully no one was hurt by these dangerous devices, but his actions left an air of fear and divisiveness in their wake.  'Sayoc has taken responsibility for his crimes, and will soon be sentenced to significant time in prison,' Berman added in a statement, as prosecutors labeled Sayoc's effort 'domestic terrorism.' 'Sayoc’s crimes were intended to incite fear among his targets and uncertainty among the general public,' said FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney. Sayoc is scheduled for sentencing on September 12. In a statement issued by prosecutors, the feds said Sayoc pleaded guilty to 65 separate felony counts brought against him for his mail bomb flurry, which involved 16 identical looking padded envelopes sent from south Florida. 'Sayoc packed each IED with explosive material and glass shards that would function as shrapnel if the IED exploded,' the feds stated. 'Sayoc also attached to the outside of each IED a picture of the intended victim marked with a red 'X.'' Sayoc’s mail bombs were sent to former Vice President Joseph Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CNN, actor Robert De Niro, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), former Attorney General Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama, George Soros, Thomas Steyer, and Rep. Maxine Walters (D-CA).   When Sayoc was arrested, authorities found his van, which was plastered in pro-Trump and anti-Democratic Party stickers and placards.
  • The Trump administration on Thursday sanctioned two Chinese shipping companies suspected of helping North Korea evade sanctions — the first targeted actions taken against Pyongyang since its nuclear negotiations with the U.S. in Hanoi last month ended without agreement. 'The maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea's illicit shipping practices,' Trump's national security adviser John Bolton tweeted. 'Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea's sanctions evasion.' The White House says the sanctions are evidence that the U.S. is maintaining pressure on North Korea in an effort to coax its leader, Kim Jong Un, to give up his nuclear weapons program. The Treasury Department sanctioned Dalian Haibo International Freight Co. Ltd. and Liaoning Danxing International Forwarding Co. Ltd. for using deceptive methods to circumvent international and U.S. sanctions and the U.S. commitment to implementing existing U.N. Security Council resolutions. Calls to the two companies rang without response Friday or were answered by people who immediately hung up the phone. Treasury, in coordination with the State Department and the U.S. Coast Guard, also updated a North Korea shipping advisory, adding dozens of vessels thought to be doing ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean tankers or exported North Korean coal in violation of sanctions. Two senior administration officials, who briefed reporters only on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. policy on North Korea, said illegal ship-to-ship transfers that violate U.S. and international sanctions have increased and not all countries, including China, are implementing the restrictions. They said the deceptive practices include disabling or manipulating ship identification systems, repainting the names on vessels and falsifying cargo documents. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that fully implementing the U.N. resolutions is key to getting Kim to give up his nuclear weapons program. 'Treasury will continue to enforce our sanctions, and we are making it explicitly clear that shipping companies employing deceptive tactics to mask illicit trade with North Korea expose themselves to great risk,' Mnuchin said.