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President Donald Trump continued to sow confusion Tuesday over whether he believes Russia is meddling in U.S. elections, a day after he said he misspoke in a Helsinki news conference following his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Monday, Trump tried to walk back his remark that he didn’t see any reason why Russia would have meddled in the 2016 election, after intelligence officials and lawmakers of both parties decried his comments as treasonous. On Tuesday, Trump appeared to go a step further in his reversal, telling CBS News he held Putin personally responsible for interfering in U.S. elections.
Jeff Glor: “Do you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016?”
President Donald Trump: “Yeah, and I’ve said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before. And I would say that that is true, yeah.”
Jeff Glor: “But you haven’t condemned Putin specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?”
President Donald Trump: “Well, I would, because he’s in charge of the country, just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So, certainly, as the leader of a country, you would have to hold him responsible, yes.”
Trump’s assertion came as his hand-picked FBI director, Christopher Wray, told NBC News that Russia’s efforts to subvert U.S. elections remain “very active.” When asked by a reporter Tuesday if Russia was continuing to target the U.S., Trump replied, “No.”
Cecilia Vega: “Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?”
President Donald Trump: “Thank you very much. No.”
Unidentified: “Press, let’s go. Make your way out.”
Cecilia Vega: “No? You don’t believe that to be the case?”
Unidentified: “Let’s go.”
At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s “no” remark was aimed at ending reporters’ questions—and was not actually a response to a question about Russian interference.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I had a chance to speak with the president after his comments, and the president was—said, 'Thank you very much,' and was saying 'no' to answering questions.”
This comes as the White House said it won’t rule out a request by Vladimir Putin to have the Russian government question former U.S. diplomatic personnel on U.S. soil—including former ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul. Critics have blasted the Trump administration’s proposal as an assault on the principle of diplomatic immunity. It came as part of a proposal by Putin that would allow U.S. investigators to interview 12 Russians named in an indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation earlier this month, claiming they were part of a plot to interfere in the 2016 election. In exchange, Russian investigators would be granted interviews in the U.S. with Ambassador McFaul and 10 other Americans, including Bill Browder, an outspoken opponent of Putin. In 2009, Browder’s lawyer and accountant, the Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, died in a Russian jail under suspicious circumstances. His death became the basis of a U.S. sanctions law against Russia, the Magnitsky Act.
President Trump has questioned a key provision of the NATO military alliance—the mutual defense of NATO member countries. Trump made the remark during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Tucker Carlson: “Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that”—
President Donald Trump: “I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question. You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people.”
Tucker Carlson: “Yeah, I’m not against Montenegro.”
President Donald Trump: “Right.”
Tucker Carlson: “Or Albania.”
President Donald Trump: “No, by the way, they’re very strong people. They have very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and, congratulations, you’re in World War III.”
In Illinois, state officials are investigating the Chicago nonprofit Heartland Alliance over allegations that it housed children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, with many of the children reportedly suffering abuse and neglect. The Washington Post reported one boy at Heartland Alliance’s facility Casa Guadalupe was repeatedly injected with a drug that made him drowsy, while another boy was denied medication for weeks after injuring his arm. The Post also reports children were surveilled with hidden cameras and prevented from hugging their siblings. This comes ahead of a July 26 court-imposed deadline for the Trump administration to reunite all separated children with their parents, and after the Trump administration said Monday it can’t find the parents of 71 such children.
Former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, the new acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, approved a new rule Tuesday that guts restrictions on the handling of coal ash—the toxic waste generated at hundreds of coal-fired power plants around the U.S. The new rules were put in place in 2015 after a string of high-profile toxic spills in North Carolina and Tennessee. Wheeler became acting head of the EPA earlier this month, after former chief Scott Pruitt stepped down amid a string of corruption scandals.
In Yemen, Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a Saudi state oil company refinery in Riyadh. But the oil company, Saudi Aramco, said a fire at the refinery was due to “an operational incident.” This comes as Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi indicated that rebels are prepared to hand over the crucial port of Hodeidah to the United Nations if the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition stops military operations there, which have forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee. The U.N. has warned the offensive may severely exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which is already experiencing the world’s worst cholera epidemic, with more than a million people afflicted, and with millions more on the brink of famine.
In Israel, lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people, prompting Palestinians to warn Israel is sliding further into a system of apartheid. The new law declares Hebrew the country’s only official language, diminishing the status of Arabic. It also encourages the building of Jewish-only settlements on occupied territory as a “national value.” The bill passed on a vote of 62 to 55, over the objections of Arab-Israeli lawmakers, who threw papers into the air in protest after its passage. This is parliamentarian Ahmed Tibi.
Ahmed Tibi: “The nationality bill is a hate crime. They are totally discriminating against the Arab citizens, against the Arab minority, with racist articles, especially those of Jewish settlements and those articles downgrading the status of the Arabic language.”
In the Mediterranean, at least 19 people are dead, and 25 others still missing, after a boat carrying more than 100 migrants capsized at sea off the coast of Cyprus Tuesday. The deaths came as Italy and other European countries have launched a crackdown on ocean vessels carrying migrants hoping to claim asylum in Europe.
In Mexico, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he’ll take a 60 percent pay cut after he’s inaugurated in December as a gesture toward cracking down on wasteful spending and government corruption. The pledge came as López Obrador—known as AMLO—said he’s open to a debate on the legalization of drugs in Mexico, in a bid to end a drug war that’s seen tens of thousands of Mexicans killed. This comes days after top Trump administration officials traveled to Mexico City last week to meet with AMLO. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was joined by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
The European Union has ordered a multibillion-euro fine against Google for violating antitrust rules, saying the high-tech giant unfairly used its dominant Android operating system to squelch competition. This is the European competition commissioner announcing the fine on Wednesday.
Margrethe Vestager: “Today, the commission has decided to fine Google 4.34 billion euros for breaching EU antitrust rules. Google has engaged in illegal practices to cement its dominant market position in internet search.”
In Thailand, 12 boys rescued from a flooded cave last week were released from a hospital in Chiang Rai Tuesday, appearing fit and happy after an 18-day ordeal that grabbed international headlines. After their release, the boys appeared with their soccer coach at a group press conference, telling reporters they were overjoyed when a pair of British divers first discovered them nine days after they became trapped.
In California, hot weather and bone-dry conditions have fueled a number of wildfires, including a 26-square-mile fire raging near Yosemite National Park. One firefighter has died and two others have been injured battling the blaze. The fires are being fueled by thousands of trees that died during an unprecedented drought that’s gripped California for most of the last several years.
In Japan, at least 12 people have died, and nearly 10,000 others have been hospitalized, after an intense heat wave settled in over much of the country. In Gifu Prefecture, temperatures topped 105 degrees Fahrenheit Wednesday—the hottest temperature recorded in Japan in five years. The heat wave has prompted concerns about the 2020 Summer Olympics, set to open in Tokyo two years from now. It comes on the heels of the most deadly flooding Japan has seen in decades, after heavy rains killed at least 95 people and forced 2 million more to flee their homes earlier this month. Scientists have linked record heat, heavy rainfall and increased flooding to climate change.
Muslim groups are condemning the U.S. and Canadian governments over a secretive terrorism watch list the two countries operate, saying innocent travelers have been stopped and interrogated, and have had visas revoked, after being falsely accused of ties to terror groups. Last month, The Guardian reported that the program—”Tip-Off U.S./Canada,” or “TUSCAN”—began in 1997 but was expanded in 2016 under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The group Muslim Advocates has filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding U.S. documents on TUSCAN, warning it could be part of a broader effort by President Trump to fulfill a campaign promise to create a registry of Muslims living in the U.S. In a statement, Muslim Advocates staff attorney Matthew Callahan said, “The inaccuracy of the United States’ terrorist lists is well-documented, and their potential for misuse is compounded by President Trump’s racially charged agenda. To then share this misinformation with another country is irresponsible and dangerous.”
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter told the pizza chain’s board of directors he made a mistake when he stepped down as chairman amid news reports he used a racial slur—the N-word—during a conference call in May. In a letter to Papa John’s board, Schnatter complained he was pressured to resign without any investigation, based on “rumor and innuendo.” Schnatter had already stepped down as CEO of the pizza chain earlier this year, after he claimed that NFL player protests during the national anthem—which have been led by African-American players—were hurting his pizza sales.
In breaking news, Spain’s Supreme Court has withdrawn its international arrest warrants against former Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont and five other exiled Catalan politicians facing charges of rebellion. Last October, the Spanish government seized control of Catalonia after its leaders proceeded with a banned independence referendum.
A new class-action lawsuit on behalf of former wrestlers at Ohio State University accuses Republican Ohio Congressmember Jim Jordan of failing to prevent sexual abuse perpetrated by a university doctor. The men allege former team doctor Richard Strauss groped players on multiple occasions and that Jordan, who was then serving as an assistant coach on the wrestling team, must have known about the molestation. Jordan has been floated as a possible replacement for outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and has denied any knowledge of sexual abuses.
And a group of 141 survivors who went public about their sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar appeared on stage together Wednesday night to accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the annual ESPYs ceremony. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman stood in front of the group to receive the award.
Aly Raisman: “All those years, we were told, 'You are wrong. You misunderstood. He's a doctor. It’s OK. Don’t worry. We’ve got it covered. Be careful. There are risks involved.’ The intention? To silence us, in favor of money, medals and reputation. But we persisted, and finally someone listened and believed us.”
Also honored at the ESPY Awards were the three coaches killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Valentine’s Day massacre. They were honored as coaches of the year.