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TOP STORIES, United States

Trump to declare emergency over Mexico border wall”:


Senator McConnell supports the president; Speaker Pelosi warns it sets a dangerous precedent,

Democratic and Republican politicians have sharply criticised President Trump’s plan to use emergency powers to pay for a border wall with Mexico.

The rarely-used move would enable Mr Trump to bypass Congress, which has refused to approve the money needed.

Senior Democrats accused the president of a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”. Several Republicans also voiced concern at the plan.

Building a border wall was a key campaign pledge of Mr Trump’s campaign.

Declaring a national emergency would give Mr Trump access to billions of dollars for his project.

The president agreed on Thursday to sign a spending bill that does not include finance for the wall. Disagreement over the issue led to a 35-day government shutdown early this year – the longest in US history.

The spending bill must be signed on Friday to avert another shutdown. Citing unnamed White House officials, US media outlets reported that the president would sign the emergencies act at the same time.

Can Congress stop Trump’s emergency move?

The National Emergencies Act contains a clause that allows Congress to terminate the emergency status if both houses vote for it – and the president does not veto.

With a comfortable majority in the House, Democrats could pass such a resolution to the Senate. The Republicans control the Senate, but a number of Republican senators have been vocal in their unease about the president invoking a national emergency.

The dissenting Republicans include 2012 presidential contender and new senator for Utah Mitt Romney, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and the senator from Maine Susan Collins, who said the move was of “dubious constitutionality”.

The resolution would however still require Mr Trump’s signature to pass, allowing him to veto it. A supermajority in both houses of Congress is needed to overturn a presidential veto.

What did the White House say?

“The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.

She said Mr Trump would “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”.

The compromise legislation was approved in an 83-16 vote in the Senate on Thursday. The House of Representatives later also backed the measure, by 300 to 128.

The package includes $1.3bn (£1bn) in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards Mr Trump’s wall. Mr Trump had wanted $5.7bn for this.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated his support for the president’s national emergency move, saying the president was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”. Trump faces anger over wall emergency plan

How have Democrats responded?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer issued a strongly worded joint statement condemning the move.

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” read the statement.

BBC

“He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it.”

Ms Pelosi had already suggested that Democrats would mount a legal challenge.

Presentational grey line

Getting around Congress, not through it

A month ago, in the midst of the federal government shutdown crisis, a consensus had emerged that the easiest way out for the president was to back down from his demands for congressional border wall appropriations while declaring a “national emergency” to commandeer funds from other sources.

It took a while, but the path of least resistance is the one Donald Trump is following.

He has extricated himself from a predicament of his own making, while taking action that he can cite to supporters as evidence that he’s fulfilling his “build the wall” campaign promise.

Of course, the drawbacks to this course that were apparent in January are still there.

Republicans fear this will set a precedent for presidential power that Democrats can someday use to circumvent the will of Congress.

The emergency declaration is sure to get bogged down in court challenges, which means it may not have much tangible benefit anytime soon.

And, as much as the president may like to spin this as a victory by other means, he still backed down in the face of Democratic resistance in Congress.

The shutdown fight was always about more than just the wall – it was a battle over who would set the political agenda for the next two years of the Trump presidency.

And if this resolution is any indication, if the president wants to get his way he’s largely going to have to find ways around Congress, not through it.

Presentational grey line

What is a national emergency?

The National Emergencies Act is intended for times of national crisis. Mr Trump has claimed that there is a migration crisis at the nation’s southern border – a claim strongly refuted by migration experts.

The largest number of illegal migrants settling in the US each year is those who stay in the country after their visas expire.

Declaring a national emergency would give the president access to special powers that effectively allow him to bypass the usual political process, and he would be able to divert money from existing military or disaster relief budgets to pay for the wall.

BBC

Emergency declarations by previous presidents have been overwhelmingly used for addressing foreign policy crises – including blocking terrorism-linked entities from accessing funds or prohibiting investment in nations associated with human rights abuses.

“It’s extremely rare for a president to declare a national emergency in a bid to fund domestic construction projects, particularly one that Congress has explicitly refused to fund,” Andrew Boyle, an attorney in the national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Trump’s decision to apply the powers to overcome a partisan impasse over border security has struck politicians on both sides of the aisle as a deviation from the intended use of the act.

“It would be a pretty dramatic expansion of how this was used in the past,” said the Republican senator Ron Johnson.

Other presidents got money for a border barrier – why not Trump?

Recent Posts

Paul Manafort: Trump ex-aide lied to prosecutors, judge rules”:


Paul Manafort was found guilty of multiple fraud charges in 2018

Donald Trump’s former election campaign chief Paul Manafort breached his plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller by lying to prosecutors, a US judge says.

US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort “made multiple false statements” to the FBI, Mr Mueller’s office and a grand jury.

Mr Mueller leads a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

This related to his work as a political consultant in Ukraine.

Manafort, 69, then accepted a plea deal on other charges in return for co-operating with Mr Mueller’s investigation.

In her ruling on Wednesday, Judge Berman Jackson said there was evidence that showed Manafort had lied about – among other things – contacts he had with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political consultant. Prosecutors claim Mr Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence.

The judge also cleared Manafort of allegations that he lied on two other subjects.

The verdict means that Manafort – who has been held in a detention centre in Virginia since June – could now potentially face harsher sentences or have charges against him re-filed.

Last year, Mr Mueller said that Manafort lied “on a variety of subject matters” after signing the plea deal.

What was the plea deal?

Last August, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of fraud, bank fraud and failing to disclose bank accounts.

A month later he pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy against the US and one charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice in a plea bargain with Mr Mueller. The agreement avoided a second trial on money laundering and other charges.

The plea deal meant Manafort would face up to 10 years in prison and would forfeit four of his properties and the contents of several bank accounts – but deadlocked charges from the previous trial would be dismissed.

It was the first criminal trial arising from the Department of Justice’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.

However, the charges related only to Manafort’s political consulting with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, largely pre-dating his role with the Trump campaign.

How did we get here?

Manafort worked for the Trump presidential campaign for five months in 2016 and was in charge when Mr Trump clinched the Republican party nomination.

President Trump has branded the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” and insisted there was no collusion between his team and Russia.

Manafort was charged by Mr Mueller last October and during the trial he was accused of using 31 foreign bank accounts in three different countries to evade taxes on millions of dollars.

Prosecutors presented evidence of Manafort’s luxurious lifestyle, saying it was only possible because of his bank and tax fraud.

Six California officers shot man as he woke in his car”:


Willie McCoy (right) in an image shared by his cousin David Harrison (centre)

California police have said a 20-year-old black man who was shot and killed in his car by six officers last week had reached for a gun first.

But Willie McCoy’s family has pushed back, saying the aspiring rapper was not a threat to the officers as he was just waking up.

Vallejo police had been called for a wellness check when a driver was spotted slumped over in his vehicle.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene on 9 February.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy,” police chief Andrew Bidou said in an updated report of the incident on Tuesday.

The police report does not name Mr McCoy as the driver, citing the ongoing investigation, but local media identified him after speaking with family members.

Vallejo is a city near San Francisco that has been the site of several alleged cases of police brutality against black residents.

What do Vallejo police say?

According to the police department, officers received a call from employees at a Taco Bell fast food restaurant on Saturday night, requesting a check-up on a driver in the parking lot.

When they arrived on scene, they saw Mr McCoy unresponsive in his vehicle with a semi-automatic handgun on his lap. More officers were called while Mr McCoy slept.

Police had planned on opening the car door and retrieving the weapon before engaging Mr McCoy, but were unable to do so as the doors were locked.

Mr McCoy then woke up and looked at the officers, who commanded him to keep his hands visible. Police then say he did not comply and “quickly moved his hands downward for the firearm”.

“Fearing for their safety, six officers fired their duty weapons at the driver,” the news release stated. Multiple rounds were fired in a span of four seconds.

“Officers continued to yell commands at the driver and ultimately reached through the broken glass of the driver’s window to unlock the vehicle.”

Police attempted medical assistance but the driver died at the scene. An official post-mortem examination is still under way.

A preliminary investigation found that the gun had been reported stolen in Oregon.

The officers have not been named and have been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.

Photo of Willie McCoy and his cousin David Harrison
Willie McCoy (left) and his cousin David Harrison

What does the family say?

Mr McCoy’s family has disputed this police account.

During a vigil on Sunday, Mr McCoy’s older brother Mark said police had surprised Mr McCoy and fired too quickly.

“My little brother was just shot for no reason,” he said, according to CBS News.

“If I wake you up… if I knock on your front door and, ‘Bang bang bang!’ you’re going to jump off the bed,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you be safe while you wake him up and then [say] ‘Driver, exit the car’?”

David Harrison, Mr McCoy’s cousin, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that Mr McCoy was raised by relatives after his parents passed away when he was a child.

He said his cousin had finished up a session in a recording studio before he drove to the Taco Bell.

In an emotional Facebook video, Mr Harrison pleaded with other young people to listen to their parents and keep away from cops.

“I want no other parents, no other kid’s parents, to go through this ever again,” Mr Harrison said. “They can’t just keep killing us in the street like this. My little cousin was asleep in the car.”

Mr McCoy’s family has hired civil rights attorney John Burris – who recently took on a case where a homeless man sleeping in Oakland was killed by police – to represent them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

FBI releases serial killer Samuel Little’s drawings of victims”:


The FBI released Samuel Little’s drawings in the hope that the victims could be identified.

The FBI has released the portraits a serial killer drew of his victims in the hope that they can be identified.

Samuel Little, 78, confessed to killing 90 people over three decades last year, while already serving three life sentences for murder.

The killings took place across the US between 1970 and 2005.

Investigators say he targeted “marginalised and vulnerable women”, and that some of their bodies went unidentified and deaths uninvestigated.

Having heard all of his confessions, they believe he could be one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.

Victim drawing
Los Angeles, California: ‘White female between 23-25 years old killed in 1996’

Victim drawing
White female killed in 1984. Met victim in Columbus, Ohio. Body disposed of somewhere in Northern Kentucky’

Little, a former competitive boxer, would knock his victims out with punches before strangling them – meaning that there were not always “obvious signs” that the person had been killed.

Now, they are hoping that Little’s drawings can help them to finally find out who the victims were so that their families can be notified.

“With no stab marks or bullet wounds, many of these deaths were not classified as homicides but attributed to drug overdoses, accidents, or natural causes,” the FBI said in its initial report in November last year.

Victim drawing
White female between 20-25 years old killed in 1972. Victim possibly from Massachusetts’

Victim drawing
‘Black female, age 26, killed between 1976 and 1979. Met victim in St. Louis, Missouri. Victim possibly called Jo’

‘One of the most prolific serial killers in US history’

Although Little has been convicted of three murders, the FBI believes that he is responsible for many more.

Little was first caught in 2012 when he was arrested on a drugs charge in a homeless shelter in Kentucky, and extradited to California.

Once he was in police custody in Los Angeles, officers carried out DNA testing on him.

The results linked him to three unsolved murders from 1987 and 1989, which were all in Los Angeles County.

He pleaded not guilty at trial, but was eventually convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, with no chance of parole.

Victim drawing
‘Black female between 28-29 years old killed in 1984. Victim picked up in Memphis, Tennessee’

Victim drawing
Houston, Texas: ‘Black female between 25-28 years old killed between 1976 and 1979 or in 1993’

His three known victims were beaten and strangled, before their bodies were dumped in alleyways or bins.

Before being convicted of murder Little had already built up an extensive criminal record, with offences from armed robbery to rape in a number of different states across the US.

Little’s case was passed on to the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Programme (ViCAP), which analyses people who serially commit violent and and sexual crimes. They then share their findings with local law enforcement in different areas, in order to check them against any unsolved crimes.

ViCAP, tasked with doing a full background check on Little, noticed that the three LA killings were very similar to a number of unsolved deaths dating back to the 1970s.

Victim drawing
‘Black female between 35-45 years old killed in 1977. Met the victim in Gulfport, Mississippi. Victim possibly from Pascagoula. Victim possibly worked at Ingalls Shipyard.’

Victim drawing
‘Black female killed in 1976 or 1977. Body disposed of somewhere outside Wichita Falls (city unspecified).’

Crime analyst Christina Palazzolo writes on the FBI website that they “found a case out of Odessa, Texas, that sounded very much like him, and we could place him passing through the area around the same time”.

In spring last year, investigators set up an interview with Little, hoping to find out more information. Knowing that he wanted to move prisons, they struck a deal – he could move prisons if he talked.

Then, during the interview, Ms Palazzolo says “he went through city and state and gave [us] the number of people he killed in each place”. Once he was done, he had confessed to 90 killings. The FBI says it has so far been able to verify 34 of these.

Many of Little’s victims were sex workers, people with substance abuse issues and trans women, whose deaths may not have been investigated or would have been ruled to be accidental at the time.

His memory of the killings was mostly precise, as he could give details about where they happened and what car he was driving. But he was unable to remember specific dates – which, investigators say, has caused further issues with identifying the victims.

Agents are continuing to question Little and collect drawings of his victims.

Other images are described as:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada: ‘Black female, age 40, killed in 1993’
  • Monroe, Louisiana: ‘Black female, age 24, killed between 1987 and the early 1990s’
  • ‘Phoenix, Arizona: ‘White female killed in 1997. Victim possibly called Ann’
  • White female, age 26, killed in 1983 or 1984. Victim possibly from Griffith, Georgia’
  • Atlanta, Georgia: ‘Black female between 23-25 years old killed in 1984. Victim possibly a college student’
  • ‘Hispanic female in her 40s. Killed in 1988 or 1996. Victim possibly from Phoenix’
  • Atlanta, Georgia: ‘Black female between 35-40 years old killed in 1981’
  • Miami, Florida: ‘Black [trans female], age 18, killed in 1971 or 1972. Victim possibly called Mary Ann or Marianne’

Ex-US Air Force officer Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran”:


Monica Witt (pictured) allegedly underwent an “ideological” shift before defecting to Iran.

US prosecutors have accused a former US Air Force officer of spying for Iran in an elaborate operation that targeted her fellow intelligence officers.

Monica Witt, who allegedly defected to Iran in 2013, had previously worked as a US counterintelligence officer.

Four Iranian citizens have also been charged with attempting to install spy software on computers belonging to Ms Witt’s colleagues.

According to the FBI, Ms Witt was last seen in southwest Asia in July 2013.

Prosecutors say Ms Witt had been granted the highest level of US security clearance and worked in the US Air Force from 1997 to 2008.

The US Department of Treasury has also sanctioned two Iranian companies – New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company – for their role in the plot.

“It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country, said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the head of the justice department’s national security division.

What are the charges?

Ms Witt is accused of sharing US government secrets, including the name of agents and specifics of operations, with Iran as early as January 2012.

In a charging document, investigators say the 39-year-old was deployed by the US to locations in the Middle East to conduct classified counterintelligence operations.

Prosecutors allege that shortly after defecting to Iran, she handed over information on her colleagues in order to cause “serious damage” to the United States.

According to officials, she sent a message to her Iranian contact in 2012 saying: “I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”

Investigators allege Ms Witt was recruited after attending two conferences hosted by New Horizon Organization, which was working on behalf of the Iranian National Guard’s Quds Force to collect intelligence on attendees.

Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Several conferences sponsored by the New Horizon Organization have taken place in Iran and Iraq in recent years, according to US officials.

The conferences often included an “anti-Western” sentiment and “propagate anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories including Holocaust denial”.

At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organised by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by US officials in January as a material witness in a federal criminal case, according to the Tehran Times.

The Department of Treasury accuses Net Peygard Samavat Company of being “involved in a malicious cyber campaign to gain access to and implant malware on the computer systems of current and former counterintelligence agents”.

Monica Witt in Air Force uniform
Monica Witt was last heard from while travelling in southwest Asia.

Who is Monica Witt?

Monica Elfriede Witt, a former Texas resident, left the US military in 2008 after more than a decade of service.

A previously issued FBI missing persons poster said she was working as an English teacher in either Afghanistan or Tajikistan, and had lived overseas for more than a year before vanishing.

While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a US veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US.

In the weeks after defecting, she also conducted several Facebook searches of her former colleagues, and is alleged to have exposed one agent’s true identity, “thereby risking the life of this individual”.

A warrant has been issued for Ms Witt, who remains at large.

What’s the state of US-Iran relations?

Last November, US President Donald Trump re-imposed all sanctions on Iran that had been suspended due to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement.

Mr Trump has withdrawn the US from the agreement, leading to a foreign policy rift between the US and the European nations who are party to the deal.

Diplomats are expected to discuss Iran during a US-led two day summit on “peace and security” that began on Wednesday in Warsaw.

On the conference’s opening day, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave a speech in which he called for regime change in Iran.

The US and Iran do not maintain diplomatic relations, and communications between the two nations are exchanged through Swiss diplomats.

Venezuela crisis: Maduro condemns ‘extremist’ Trump.


Maduro: US ‘warmongering’ in order to take over Venezuela

Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro has called Donald Trump’s government a “gang of extremists” and blamed the US for his country’s crisis.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Maduro said he would not allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela as it was a way for the US to justify an intervention.

“They are warmongering in order to take over Venezuela,” he said.

The US and most Western governments have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.

Mr Maduro is under growing internal and international pressure to call early presidential elections amid a worsening economic crisis and accusations of widespread corruption and human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Mr Guaidó has called for new anti-government protests later on Tuesday.

Maduro on Trump: ‘Extremist group’

Relations between the US and Venezuela were already fraught before President Trump’s administration became one of the first to back Mr Guaidó as interim leader.

Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations in response while Mr Trump said the use of military force remained “an option”.

In a rare interview, Mr Maduro said he hoped “this extremist group in the White House is defeated by powerful world-wide public opinion”.

Speaking in the capital, Caracas, he told the BBC’s Orla Guerin: “It’s a political war, of the United States empire, of the interests of the extreme right that today is governing, of the Ku Klux Klan, that rules the White House, to take over Venezuela.”

The US, which accuses Mr Maduro’s government of human rights violations and corruption, has led the international pressure on the Venezuelan president to step down.

It has imposed a raft of economic measures on the country, including against the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, aiming to hit Venezuela’s main source of revenue.

In recent years the US has frozen Mr Maduro’s US assets, restricted Venezuela’s access to US markets and blocked dealings with those involved in the country’s gold trade.

It has also criticised Mr Maduro’s increased use of the courts and security forces to suppress political opposition.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the government a “disastrous dictatorship” while National Security Advisor John Bolton said Mr Maduro was holding an “illegitimate claim to power”.

When asked, in response to his Ku Klux Klan comment, if he believed Mr Trump was a “white supremacist”, Mr Maduro said: “He is, publicly and openly… They hate us, they belittle us, because they only believe in their own interests, and in the interests of the United States.”

Maduro on humanitarian aid: ‘A charade’

The president has rejected allowing foreign humanitarian aid into the country, a move that is being organised by the opposition. He said Venezuela had “the capacity to satisfy all the needs of its people” and did not have to “beg from anyone”.

Venezuela’s President Maduro to BBC: US aid trucks are a charade

But for years Venezuelans have faced severe shortages of basic items such as medicine and food. Last year, the inflation rate saw prices doubling every 19 days on average.

Three million people, or 10% of the population, have left the country since the economy started to worsen in 2014, according to the UN. And Mr Guaidó says more than 300,000 Venezuelans are at “risk of dying”.

Mr Maduro, who has blamed US sanctions for Venezuela’s economic woes, said the US intended to “create a humanitarian crisis in order to justify a military intervention”.

“This is part of that charade. That’s why, with all dignity, we tell them we don’t want their crumbs, their toxic food, their left-overs.”

Maduro on calling elections: ‘What’s the point?’

Mr Maduro, in power since 2013, was re-elected to a second term last year but the elections were controversial with many opposition candidates barred from running or jailed, and claims of vote-rigging.

Head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Mr Guaidó declared himself president on 23 January, saying the constitution allowed him to assume power temporarily when the president was deemed illegitimate.

Desperate Venezuelan women are selling their hair at the border

Mr Maduro – who still has the support of Turkey, Russia and China and, crucially, of the Venezuelan army – said he did not see the need for early presidential elections.

“What’s the logic, reasoning, to repeat an election?” he asked.

He also said only “about 10” governments supported Mr Guaidó – in fact, more than 30 have announced their support for the opposition leader

and that they were trying to “impose a government that nobody has elected”.

“The extremists of the White House have taken it upon themselves to carry out a coup in Venezuela.”

El Chapo trial: Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán found guilty


El Chapo trial: Five facts about Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been found guilty on all 10 counts at his drug-trafficking trial at a federal court in New York.

Guzmán, 61, was convicted on numerous counts including the distribution of cocaine and heroin, illegal firearms possession and money laundering.

He has yet to be sentenced, but the verdict could mean life in jail.

Guzmán was arrested in January 2016 after escaping from a Mexican prison through a tunnel five months earlier.

He was extradited to the US in 2017.

The Mexican was accused of being behind the all-powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, which prosecutors say was the biggest supplier of drugs to the US.

What happened in court?

Tuesday’s unanimous verdict by a jury in Brooklyn, which was read out in a packed courtroom, followed an 11-week trial.

Guzmán, wearing a dark suit jacket and tie, showed no visible sign of emotion as the verdict was announced, CBS News reported.

US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard Donoghue, called it “a day of reckoning”

As he was escorted from the courtroom, he exchanged glances with his wife, Emma Coronel, a 29-year-old former beauty queen, before shaking hands with his lawyers.

Judge Brian Cogan, who presided over the trial, thanked the jurors for their dedication at what he described as a complex trial, saying it was “remarkable and it made me very proud to be an American”.

Who is El Chapo?

“El Chapo” (or “Shorty”) ran the Sinaloa cartel in northern Mexico.

Mexico’s drug war: Has it turned the tide?

Over time, it became one of the biggest traffickers of drugs to the US and, in 2009, Guzmán entered Forbes’ list of the world’s richest men at number 701, with an estimated worth of $1bn (£775m).

He was accused of having helped export hundreds of tonnes of cocaine into the US and of conspiring to manufacture and distribute heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana.

He was also said to have used hitmen to carry out “hundreds” of murders, assaults, kidnappings and acts of torture on rivals.

Key associates, including one former lieutenant, testified against Guzmán.

Emma Coronel, the wife of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, leaves court in New York, 12 February 2019
El Chapo’s wife, Emma Coronel, was in court in New York for Tuesday’s verdict

What was heard during the trial?

It provided shocking revelations about the Mexican drug lord’s life.

Court papers accused him of having girls as young as 13 drugged before raping them.

Guzmán “called the youngest of the girls his ‘vitamins’ because he believed that sexual activity with young girls gave him ‘life'”, former associate Colombian drug trafficker Alex Cifuentes was quoted as saying.

During the trial Cifuentes also alleged that Guzmán gave a $100m (£77m) bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is said to have contacted him after taking office in 2012 and asked for $250m in return for ending a manhunt for him. Mr Pena Nieto has not publicly commented.

Sketch of Alex Cifuentes (L) and Guzmán
Former associate Cifuentes (L) alleged that Guzmán (R) bribed Mexico’s then president

Another witness described seeing Guzmán murder at least three men.

Former bodyguard Isaias Valdez Rios said Guzmán beat two people who had joined a rival cartel until they were “completely like rag dolls”. He then shot them in the head and ordered their bodies be thrown on a fire.

In another incident, he had a member of the rival Arellano Felix cartel burned and imprisoned before taking him to a graveyard, shooting him and having him buried alive.

Guzmán is also alleged to have had his own cousin killed for lying about being out of town, and ordered a hit on the brother of another cartel leader because he did not shake his hand.

When asked by a former cartel lieutenant why he killed people, he is alleged to have said: “Either your mom’s going to cry or their mom’s going to cry.”

Guzmán's wife Emma Coronel attended the trial in New York
Guzmán’s wife Emma Coronel attended the trial

The court heard details of his 2015 escape from Mexico’s maximum-security Altiplano prison. His sons bought a property near the prison and a GPS watch smuggled into the prison gave diggers his exact location.

At one point Guzmán complained that he could hear the digging from his cell. He escaped by riding a specially adapted small motorcycle through the tunnel.

He also used software on his phone to spy on his wife and mistresses, which allowed the FBI to present his text messages in court.

In one set of texts, he recounted to his wife how he had fled a villa during a raid by US and Mexican officials, before asking her to bring him new clothes, shoes and black moustache dye.

Why was this trial significant?

Guzmán is the highest profile Mexican drug cartel boss so far to stand trial in the US.

The drug war in Mexico – pitting the Mexican and US authorities against cartels smuggling drugs into the US and the cartels against each other – has killed about 100,000 people over more than a decade.

A former DEA agent describes capturing Guzmán in 2014 – he later escaped

Guzmán achieved notoriety for twice escaping custody in Mexico as well as avoiding arrest on numerous other occasions.

Among some in his home state, he had the status of a folk hero a popular subject of “narcocorridos” – musical tributes to drugs barons.

In 2016, he gave an interview to Hollywood actor Sean Penn in a Mexican jungle following his escape the previous year and boasted that he was the world’s leading supplier of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

He was later recaptured in the north-western town of Los Mochis. During the raid he fled through a drain but was later caught by troops in a shootout.

The Brooklyn Bridge was closed each time Guzmán was driven across it
New York’s Brooklyn Bridge was closed each time the motorcade containing Guzmán drove across it

The US indictment against him was a consolidation of charges from six federal jurisdictions across the country, including New York, Chicago and Miami.

Prosecutors pooled together evidence acquired over more than a decade, including from international partners such as Mexico and Colombia, to build their sweeping case.

The trial jurors were anonymous and were escorted to and from the courthouse in Brooklyn by armed marshals after prosecutors argued that Guzmán had a history of intimidating witnesses and even ordering their murders.

Democrat Amy Klobuchar announces presidential bid”:


Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has announced she is running for president in the 2020 election.

Ms Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, said she was running for “everyone who wanted their work recognised”.

She won praise for grilling Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and attorney general nominee William Barr during recent confirmation hearings.

The 58-year-old enters an increasingly crowded field of Democrats competing to challenge President Donald Trump.

Ms Klobuchar called on people to join her “homegrown” campaign, saying, “I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit.”

A record total of five women have so far entered the race for the presidency – these also include Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

On her first full day of presidential campaigning, Ms Warren – a senator from Massachusetts – told supporters: “By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person.”

Who is Amy Klobuchar?

After working as a lawyer in a private firm, she became chief prosecutor for Hennepin, Minnesota’s most populous county, in 1998.

Eight years later, she was elected to the Senate to represent Minnesota – the first woman to get the job.

Democratic Senator of Minnesota Amy Klobuchar (L) shakes hands with supporters with her husband John Bessler (R) after she announced that she is running for President
Ms Klobuchar is the fifth woman to run for the Democratic nomination

Ms Klobuchar has long prided herself in her bipartisanship; on being able to, as she wrote in her 2015 memoir, “disagree without being disagreeable”.

“Courage is about whether or not you’re willing to stand next to someone you don’t always agree with for the betterment of this country,” she wrote.

It is this approach that has given her a reputation for being “Minnesota nice” – but it also, in her early years, reportedly earned her the unflattering nickname “Cotton Candy Amy” in some circles.

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The dark horse candidate

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher

Her kick-off rally looked like a scene out of the Disney film Frozen, with a snow-covered crowd gathered near the banks of an icy river. Amy Klobuchar’s newly announced presidential campaign, however, could generate some heat in 2020.

She may not have the same level of name recognition as recent and future entrants into the race, but the three-term Minnesota senator has shown the ability to win votes in the kind of Midwestern battleground state that Donald Trump appealed to in 2016.

She offers a steady, sensible political outlook that could attract the majority of Democratic voters who are more interested in electability than ideological purity.

Her buzz has been dampened a bit by recent allegations that she has been abusive toward her staff, but she may try to turn the criticism into a strength.

“I have high expectations for the people that work for me,” she told NBC News after her speech, “but I have high expectations for this country.”

Ms Klobuchar has become a fashionable pick as a “dark horse” candidate. It wouldn’t be a shock if she has a good showing in the neighbouring-state Iowa caucuses and rides that momentum deep into the primary season.

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After years under the radar, the former prosecutor went viral last September for her tense exchange with Justice Brett Kavanaughover his history of drinking.

In January this year, she proved that this frank interrogation style was not a one-off when she grilled President Trump’s attorney general nominee Mr Barr about obstruction of justice allegations.

Meanwhile, former employees of Ms Klobuchar have disputed her “Minnesota nice” image too, telling the Huffington Post that at least three potential campaign managers have withdrawnover her treatment of staff.

Klobuchar asks Barr about obstruction

What are her views?

In an age when political views are condensed into 280 characters and measured in retweets, Ms Klobuchar’s reputation for working away in the background could help her stand out.

She was able to turn 43 Trump-voting Minnesota counties over to her side in last year’s mid-term elections.

But her bipartisan approach may not stand her in such good stead in a party now dominated by the progressive left.

For example, while she has publicly spoken out against President Trump’s immigration and border policies, she has not voiced her support for the movement to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Two of her opponents, Kirsten Gillibrand and Ms Warren, have openly called for the agency to be dismantled, while Ms Harris has said it needs to be “critically re-examined”.

She has also avoided supporting Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill, known commonly as Medicare for All, preferring to back a “sensible transition” instead.

Many on the left also feel that her education reforms, which push for universities in the US to be more affordable, do not go far enough.

Ms Harris, and likely opponent Mr Sanders, both support making college tuition almost entirely free.

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

US Australia and make record crystal meth bust


Australian police have arrested six people in Victoria and New South Wales after the biggest seizure of crystal methamphetamine in US history.

Authorities say the 1,728kg (3,800lb) stash – the largest ever intercepted drug shipment to Australia – was found in January at a port in California.

The haul is said to be equivalent to 17 million doses and worth an estimated A$1.29bn ($910m; £705m).

Three of those arrested appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.

Among the suspects are two Americans: a 52-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman. Australian Federal Police (AFP) say they were found with “hundreds of thousands of dollars of proceeds of crime” during a raid in Melbourne.

They are believed to be involved with a US-based crime syndicate that tried to smuggle the drugs in containers marked as carrying audio equipment.

“By stopping this, we have ensured criminals will not profit from the immense pain these drugs would have caused our community,” AFP Assistant Commissioner Bruce Hill told reporters.

A collection of containers used to conceal the stash of crystal meth, heroine and cocaine
The crystal meth had been hidden in boxes marked as audio equipment

The arrests are part of an ongoing joint investigation by local and national agencies in the US and Australia.

In 2015, Australia’s government established a national taskforce  to tackle the growing use of crystal methamphetamine (dubbed “ice”), which has become the most common illicit drug in the country.

The move followed a report by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) that found crystal meth posed the highest risk to communities of any illegal substance.

Crystal meth is a powerful form of amphetamine and can be smoked, snorted or injected by users.

Victoria state – Australia’s second-most populous – consumes more than two tonnes of crystal meth every year, according to government figures.

The ACC says the price of crystal meth in Australia is among the highest in the world, driving the country’s organised crime gangs to trade increasingly in the drug.

Commissioner Hill said police believe Mexican cartels are targeting the country, but the identities of the cartels have not been disclosed.

The previous record for an Australia-bound crystal meth seizure was 1,300 kg in 2017.

Cindy McCain apologises after police dispute human trafficking claim”:


Cindy McCain, the widow of former US Senator John McCain, has apologised after police disputed her claim that she stopped a human trafficking case.

Mrs McCain told KTAR radio she thwarted a crime by alerting Phoenix airport police to a woman of a different ethnicity than the child she was with.

But Phoenix police told the station on Wednesday that they found no criminal wrongdoing after performing the check.

Critics on social media have accused her of racial profiling and harassment.

What exactly happened?

“I came in from a trip I’d been on and I spotted – it looked odd – it was a woman of a different ethnicity than the child, this little toddler she had, and something didn’t click with me,” said Mrs McCain, 64, who also co-chair’s the Arizona governor’s anti-trafficking taskforce.

“I went over to the police and told them what I saw, and they went over and questioned her, and, by God, she was trafficking that kid,” she told the radio station on Monday.

“It was a toddler. She was waiting for the guy who bought the child to get off an airplane,” she added.

Phoenix police told local media that on the date in question – 30 January – police performed a welfare check based on Mrs McCain’s tip, but found “no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment”.

Mrs McCain, who has an adopted daughter from Bangladesh, later took to Twitter, saying: “I reported an incident that I thought was trafficking… I apologise if anything else I have said on this matter distracts from ‘if you see something, say something'”.

What has the reaction been?

Critics have attacked Mrs McCain, claiming that she had police “harass” an innocent family due to her own racial profiling.

Many more found her claim puzzling, considering that she herself has a daughter that is a different ethnicity from her.

End of Twitter post by @Ugarles

Mrs McCain and her daughter Bridget at the 2008 Republican political convention
Mrs McCain and her adopted daughter Bridget at the 2008 Republican political convention

Many also took issue with her apology, which they note did not include a direct apology for falsely claiming to have prevented a genuine trafficking case.

Others defended her for alerting police to her hunch.

Last year, Southwest Airlines issued an apology after asking a California woman to prove that she was the mother of her bi-racial son.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, according to the United Nations.

Trafficking in the US often spikes around the time of the Super Bowl in early February, as experts recently told BBC News’ Cut Through the Noise Facebook show (best viewed on mobile).