Swedish Prosecutor Drops Assange Rape Investigation

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The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet®
1. OVER?
Swedish Prosecutor Drops Assange Rape Investigation
Swedish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into sexual-assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Officials will hold a press conference later Friday to expand on their decision to halt the seven-year legal standoff. The 45-year-old, who firmly denied the allegations he assaulted a woman in Sweden, took shelter in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in 2012 and has lived there since. Assange may now be able to leave the embassy, but his legal team said he will not exit the premises without certain assurances regarding extradition. The Metropolitan Police in London issued a statement Friday confirming that an arrest warrant for Assange still stands over his failure to surrender in 2012 and that they are “obliged to execute the warrant should he leave the embassy.”
READ IT AT The Guardian  
FBI Warned GOP Congressman Russian Spies Were Recruiting Him
The FBI reportedly warned Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him, The New York Times reports. Rohrabacher has long been known as a Moscow defender in Washington, as well as an opponent of U.S. and Western sanctions against the Kremlin. Officials have said the FBI informed Rohrabacher that Russian spies were working to recruit him as an “agent of influence” in order to manipulate Washington policy. “They were telling me he had something to do with some kind of Russian intelligence,” Rohrabacher said, of a foreign ministry official from Moscow. The FBI informed him that the Kremlin “looked at me as someone who could be influenced.” Rohrabacher, a staunch Trump ally on Capitol Hill, was mentioned in a recording that emerged this week that featured House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he suspected the congressman (and Trump) took payments from the Russian government. “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy reportedly said last year, according to a bombshell Washington Post report. The congressman has said, in the wake of the audio recording surfacing, that it was just a poorly told joke.
READ IT AT The New York Times  
Driver Charged With Murder in Times Square Crash
The driver who barrelled through sidewalks in New York’s Times Square on Thursday has been charged with murder and 20 counts of attempted murder. The 26-year-old, Richard Rojas, allegedly steered the car onto the sidewalk and rammed dozens of pedestrians for three blocks, killing one person and injuring 22 others. Surveillance video reportedly shows his red sedan jump the curb and then veer into a group of people. Alyssa Elsman, 18, was killed in the rampage. Four others remained in critical condition on Friday morning. Rojas tested positive for PCP, according to CNN, and he told allegedly police that God made him do it. Rojas was also charged with five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.
U.S. Eyeing Russian Grip on Citgo’s Assets
Financial authorities in the U.S. say they are reviewing the Russian government’s growing grip on Citgo Petroleum Corp. amid growing concerns that Moscow is looking to use energy supplies as a political weapon. State and Treasury Department officials are reported to be worried by the amassed debt the Kremlin has acquired via its state-owned oil giant Rosneft in the U.S. unit of Citgo, which is owned by Venezuela’s increasingly troubled state-run oil industry. Rosneft’s stake is near a controlling interest, and officials fear a debt default could put the Kremlin in a prime position to engineer a takeover. “This is an issue that I’m aware of,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a congressional hearing Thursday. “I can assure you that this, like any other national-security issue, will be reviewed.” Citgo has three oil refineries in the U.S., in addition to nine pipelines and almost 50 petroleum platforms.
READ IT AT The Wall Street Journal  
5. UMM
CNN: Nunes Still Reviewing Russia Intel, Despite Recusal
According to a report by CNN, the former head of the House Russia investigation, Rep. Devin Nunes, is continuing to review intelligence related to the investigation—despite his recusal. Nunes allegedly took a trip to the CIA this week to review Russia intelligence, House Intelligence Committee sources told CNN. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) allegedly shrugged when asked about the scenario. “He recused himself, so he can set those limits,” Quigley said. Two months ago, when Nunes went on a trip to the White House to review intelligence obtained by White House staff, he threatened to derail the House investigation and eventually was forced to recuse himself. “I don’t talk about intelligence,” Nunes said Thursday, when asked why he was still reviewing Russian intelligence.
Report: Kushner Personally Intervened in Saudi Arms Deal
President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner reportedly personally intervened to get Saudi Arabia a deal on a recent arms purchase ahead of Trump’s visit to the kingdom this week. In negotiations on a $100 billion-plus weapons deal the White House hoped to reach with Saudi Arabia this month, Kushner jumped to the Saudis’ assistance when it became clear that the cost of a sophisticated radar system might be an issue, The New York Times reported Thursday. Kushner phoned Lockheed Martin’s CEO in the middle of talks and asked her to provide a discount for the radar system, administration officials were cited as saying. While Kushner’s phone call is not believed to have violated any laws, it appears to be the latest evidence of the Trump administration breaking with traditional diplomacy in favor of strengthening ties with foreign partners. The administration is expected to tout the deal as proof of the U.S. commitment to fighting terrorism in the Persian Gulf, with Trump to announce it during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia this weekend.
READ IT AT The New York Times  
Chinese Jets Intercept U.S. Plane
Two Chinese SU-30 aircraft have intercepted U.S. radiation-sniffing planes in international airspace over the East China Sea, the U.S. military said Thursday. A spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force called the interception “unprofessional” and said “the issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels,” Reuters reported. Spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said a military investigation has been opened into the incident, which occurred when the WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft was conducting a routine mission. The Chinese jets’ actions prompted concern, she said, “due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft.”
READ IT AT Reuters  
Basquiat Painting Sold for $110.5 Million at Auction
A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s on Thursday, becoming the sixth-most-expensive work ever sold at auction. The dramatic 1982 work depicts a skull. Only 10 other works have sold for more than $100 million. The winning buyer was Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, who purchased another Basquiat last year for $57.3 million. “He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso,” said the dealer Jeffrey Deitch, an expert on Basquiat.
READ IT AT The New York Times  
New Orleans’ Robert E. Lee Statue to Come Down Friday
Authorities in New Orleans plan to dismantle the fourth of the city’s Confederate-era statues Friday, with the mayor to give a speech to mark the removal of a monument to Gen. Robert E. Lee. In a news release, city authorities said the monument was one of several “erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the ‘Cult of the Lost Cause,’ a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy.” While the city has already taken down three other Confederate-era statues in late-night removals, Lee’s statue will be taken down during the day on Friday so that Mayor Mitch Landrieu can give a speech to mark the event. The city said it will have additional security, with the surrounding area to be blocked off. “We understand there are strong emotions surrounding this subject, and we ask that the public remain peaceful and respectful while demonstrating,” authorities said. Landrieu had first proposed the removal of the monuments in 2015, but opponents who say the move is an affront to the South’s heritage put up a legal battle.
READ IT AT Associated Press  
Brazil’s Temer ‘Won’t Resign’ Over Corruption Claims
Brazilian President Michel Temer has pushed back against calls for him to step down over recent corruption allegations, saying Thursday he will fight accusations that he was involved in a coverup scandal. As the country’s highest court opened an investigation Thursday into allegations Temer paid bribes to a jailed lawmaker, the Brazilian leader gave a national address denying the charges. “At no time did I authorize the paying of anyone,” Temer said. “I did not buy anybody’s silence. I will not resign,” he said. On Wednesday, the country’s O Globo newspaper released an audio recording that had allegedly captured Temer endorsing a payment to a former lawmaker who was jailed on corruption charges. A man identified as Temer by O Globo can be heard in the recording saying the jailed lawmaker could embarrass him. Another man says he “settled everything” with the lawmaker and he “came and collected.” The second man, purported to be Temer, then responds that he has to “keep that up.” Temer has been embroiled in controversy ever since he took office last year, with eight of his cabinet members under investigation for corruption by April. In the wake of the allegations published Wednesday, opposition politicians have demanded Temer’s ouster, and some cabinet ministers were reportedly considering stepping down.
READ IT AT Associated Press  
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