New Trump Lawyer in Russia Probe Yet to Be Hired
A Washington lawyer and Fox News guest who was expected to join U.S. President Donald Trump’s legal team this week in the special counsel’s Russia probe has yet to be retained, another of Trump’s lawyers said Friday.
Joseph diGenova’s hiring is pending completion of a review of potential conflicts of interest that may arise from representation of other clients at his law firm, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said.
On Monday, Sekulow said diGenova would sign on this week to help Trump respond to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s lead lawyer in the special counsel investigation, John Dowd, resigned Thursday.
DiGenova has not responded to requests for comment.
His law firm, DiGenova Toensing, has represented Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, and Sam Clovis, a former campaign aide. Sekulow said he had expected the review to be completed by now.
Corallo represented Trump’s outside lawyers until last summer, when he resigned during another legal team shake-up.
Since then, Corallo has spoken with Mueller about what he viewed as a false statement dictated by Trump from Air Force One about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York City that included several Russians, according to a person familiar with the matter. That meeting was attended by Trump’s son, Donald Jr.
Clovis, a former Pentagon official, was a campaign supervisor who wrote “great work” in an email after Trump’s foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos discussed efforts to broker a meeting between the campaign and Russian leaders.
Corallo told Reuters on Friday that he had signed a waiver of potential conflicts Monday.
Clovis could not be reached for comment, but a person familiar with the matter said appropriate waivers had been signed.
The addition of diGenova may signal a more aggressive strategy by Trump’s legal team to discredit Mueller, although Sekulow said this week that the team would continue to cooperate with the special counsel.
Trump’s lawyers have been negotiating the terms of a possible interview for him with Mueller, sources have said.
DiGenova has appeared on Fox News accusing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Justice Department of trying to frame Trump with false charges of colluding with Russia during the campaign.
Trump has had trouble finding outside lawyers to assist him in the Russia probe.
Major firms such as Williams and Connolly and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher have turned him down in the last year, citing conflicts, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
Trump representatives have reached out to some of those firms again, sources said.
Virginia Man Threatens US Congressman’s Life After Venting About Marijuana
A Virginia man was arrested Friday, after a discussion about marijuana policy in the district office of U.S. Representative Scott Taylor devolved into violent threats, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Wallace Grove Godwin, 69, allegedly told two staffers for Taylor on Thursday afternoon after a discussion about marijuana did not go his way that he was planning to attend a Saturday event with the congressman and get his shotgun and “do something about this,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
“I will just handle this myself,” a Capitol Police special agent quotes Godwin as saying, in an affidavit filed in the case. “You two are next,” Godwin added, referring to the congressional staffers.
The documents do not say what specifically upset Godwin, who was charged with threatening to murder and assault a United States official, and could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if convicted.
Marijuana policy has become a major source of debate in recent months, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed Obama-era guidance that had discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing marijuana-related criminal cases in states that had legalized the drug.
Sessions’ decision could lead to more federal marijuana prosecutions.
Prosecutors said that Thursday’s incident in Taylor’s office is not the first time Godwin, a resident Virginia Beach, Virginia, had exhibited aggressive behavior toward the congressman.
Last year, he allegedly went to the congressman’s home and blocked his car. When the congressman came outside and asked him to move, Godwin tried to speak to him about marijuana policy, according to court records.
He was also reported to Capitol Police in March 2017, after he paid another visit to the district office, where he yelled aggressively at the staff, the special agent wrote.
Information about who may be representing Godwin at his initial court appearance Friday was not immediately available.
AG Sessions Floats Proposal to Tighten Regulation on Bump Stocks
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced that the Department of Justice is publishing for comment a proposal to change federal regulations to classify devices with bump stocks as machine guns.
Bump stocks, devices that enable a semiautomatic weapon to function as a fully automatic one, have been the object of controversy since a mass shooting in Las Vegas last year where 58 people died and hundreds more were injured.
In a news release late Friday, Sessions said, “President [Donald] Trump has had no higher priority than the safety of each and every American.”
Sessions said that focus on safety was the reason behind Friday’s move, the publishing of a proposed rule change.
U.S. citizens will have 90 days to comment on the proposal, which “would define ‘machinegun’ to include bump stock-type devices under federal law — effectively banning them,” the statement said.
Public comments do not necessarily have an impact on whether the proposal is implemented; federal officials will still have the final say on how and whether the classification of bump stock devices is changed.
US Lawmaker Says No Easing of Pressure on North Korea Ahead of Talks
As officials lay the ground work for proposed talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, a U.S. lawmaker tells VOA’s Korean Service, there will be no easing of pressure on the North Korea government. This, as the United Nations Security Council votes to extend the work of investigators who recently accused Pyongyang of sending Syria supplies for chemical weapons. Jesusemen Oni has more.
Tillerson Urges Integrity, Good Deeds in Farewell Speech
Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a farewell speech to State Department staff Thursday, before his official March 31 departure. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in a March 13 tweet that he is replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports Tillerson did not mention Trump in his farewell address, but observers say it was obvious that his criticism referred to the president and his administration.
Trump Lawyer Resigns as Democrats Issue New Warning on Russia Probe
President Donald Trump’s lead lawyer in the Russia probe, John Dowd, resigned Thursday, the latest twist in an investigation that continues to cast a shadow over the Trump White House. Trump has attacked the Russia probe on Twitter in recent days, sparking fears among Democrats and some Republicans that he may be setting the stage to order the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
Veterans With PTSD Find Relief in Native American Rituals
“I wasn’t the kind of guy you’d want to meet in a dark alley.”
That’s how U.S. Army veteran Michael Carroll, 39, from Spokane, Wash., described himself after coming home in 2004 after serving 18 months in Iraq.
He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and given an honorable discharge.
“The transition from military to civilian life was definitely unpleasant,” he said. “I was extremely temperamental and hostile, and I lashed out a lot. Anything could trigger me — sounds to smells to seeing trash on the side of the road,” a reminder of explosive devices used against coalition forces in the Iraq war.
Over the next few years, he underwent the standard treatment for PTSD — psychotherapy and medication — which he said did him more harm than good.
In 2009, while undergoing therapy at the Spokane Veterans Center, he heard about an outdoor recreational retreat for traumatized veterans, organized and funded by a group of Spokane Valley firefighters.
“And that’s where I encountered my first sweat lodge,” Carroll said. “It blew my mind. And it saved my life.”
Bringing veterans home
Since ancient times, Native American and Alaskan Natives have held warriors in high esteem and have developed a wide variety of prayers, ceremonies and rituals to honor returning soldiers and ease them back into community life.
One of the most common is the “sweat,” a ritual steam bath believed to have originated among Plains Indians that is practiced today by many tribes, with variations according to individual tribal cultures and traditions.
The U.S. Veterans Administration has recognized the value of sweats to Native service members, and since the 1990s, has allowed them to conduct sweats at several VA medical centers across the country. It was only a matter of time before non-Native veterans began to take notice.
“In college, I was a sociology major, and I learned about the importance of the sacred, the ritual and the ceremony,” said Darrin Coldiron, a Spokane firefighter and president of Veterans Community Response (VCR), an all-volunteer group that hosts several retreats a year. “I learned that in so many societies, when you send a warrior off, there’s a ceremony, and you bring them home with ceremony.”
Craig Falcon, a member of the Blackfeet tribe who conducts ceremonies at VCR retreats, explained how the sweat has been used in his culture to help warriors readjust to civilian life.
“You come back from war with things attached to you,” he said. “And some of those things may not be good. They could be memories. Or It could be somebody you killed, and that person attaches himself to you and comes home with you. Ceremonies help wash those things off, send them back to where they came from and get you back to who you are.”
Roger Vielle, also Blackfeet, has served on VCR’s board as spiritual adviser since 2009. At first, he wasn’t sure how non-Natives would handle the sweat.
“Some of the stories they share afterward and some of the things that have happened to them during the sweat are like — ”
He struggled to find words.
“They say something happens there,” he said. “They’ve gotten in touch with something. And I tell them, ‘I’m not the one doing it. I’m just facilitating it. You did the work. You did the prayers.’”
VCR retreats are funded entirely by donors and cost the participants nothing. That’s because no legitimate tribal healer would ever charge money for a ceremony.
Private and sacred
Carroll admitted to being skeptical — and a little fearful — of his first sweat.
“But then you go inside the sweat lodge, and of course the herbs are dropped on the rocks, and the drum is starting to play,” he said. “Then you pray and you begin to feel the toxins pour out of your body. And a lot of time, there’s a sense of another presence, something in that lodge besides you and the other people gathered there.”
Vielle and Falcon were reluctant to share too many details about the ceremonies, which are sacred to their culture.
“Non-Natives are really exploiting our way of life and our ceremonies, grabbing them and selling them,” said Falcon, recalling the 2009 deaths of three people at an Arizona sweat ceremony conducted by non-Native, New Age guru James Arthur Ray.
Medical staff are on hand at every VCR retreat.
Sometimes, he said, veterans come out of sweats wanting to build sweat lodges in their own backyards.
“I tell them, ‘I can’t stop you if you want to go and build one. But it won’t be done in the right way,’” Falcon said. “And once I tell them that, they are very respectful and say, ‘I’ll build a sauna instead.’”
Trump’s Unorthodox North Korea Diplomacy Begins at the Top
U.S. President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, without first working out the framework of a deal, could produce a historic agreement, but it would come at the beginning of a long negotiation process. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden reports that perhaps the best possible diplomatic outcome would be an agreed upon definition of what denuclearization means.