David Duckenfield faces 95 Hillsborough manslaughter charges – BBC News

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Former Ch Supt David Duckenfield faces 95 charges of manslaughter and five other senior figures will be prosecuted over the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Mr Duckenfield was match commander at the FA Cup semi-final when 96 Liverpool fans were fatally injured in a crush.

Ex-South Yorkshire Police (SYP) Ch Insp Norman Bettison, two officers, a solicitor and a Sheffield Wednesday club secretary also face charges.

The Prime Minister said it would be a day of “mixed emotions” for families.

Last year, new inquests into the 1989 disaster at the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest match in Sheffield concluded the fans had been unlawfully killed.

For legal reasons, Mr Duckenfield cannot be charged over the death of the 96th victim Tony Bland, as he died four years after the disaster, prosecutors said.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) must apply to the High Court to lift an order imposed after he was prosecuted privately in 1999, which must be removed before he can be charged.

The full list of individuals facing charges are:

  • Mr Duckenfield faces manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 men, women and children.
  • Sir Norman faces four charges of misconduct in a public office relating to alleged lies he told in the aftermath about the culpability of fans
  • Graham Mackrell, former Sheffield Wednesday Club Secretary, will be accused of breaching Health and Safety and Safety at Sports Ground legislation
  • Peter Metcalf, who was a solicitor acting for SYP, is charged with perverting the course of Justice, relating to changes to witness statements
  • Former Ch Supt Donald Denton is accused of perverting the course of justice
  • Former Det Ch Insp Alan Foster is charged with perverting the course of justice

No organisation will face corporate charges. No-one from the ambulance service will face charges, CPS chief Sue Hemming revealed earlier.

Who were the 96 victims?

BBC News profiles of all those who died

The defendants, other than David Duckenfield who now lives in Ferndown in Dorset, will appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 9 August.

Ms Hemming made the announcement to victims’ families at a private meeting in Warrington earlier.

She said: “Following our careful review of the evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, I have decided that there is sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with criminal offences.

“Criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendants have a right to a fair trial.”

The CPS brought charges following referrals from the Operation Resolve investigation into the causes of the disaster and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) probe.

The IPCC investigated the conduct of both SYP and West Midlands Police (WMP) in the days and weeks afterwards.

Any decision regarding WMP, which was brought in to carry out the original investigation into the conduct of SYP officers, will be made at a later date.

Barry Devonside, whose son Christopher, 18, was killed in the disaster, said: “Everybody applauded when it was announced that the most senior police officer on that particular day will have charges presented to him.”

Evelyn McDonnell Mills, whose brother Peter McDonnell, 21, died, said: “I’m really happy that we’ve finally got some charges after 28 years.

“I’m just sad that my brother Gerard, who campaigned for years, died in the first year of the new inquests and never got to see justice.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May said: “I know from working closely with the families when I was home secretary that this will be a day of mixed emotions for them.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I think we should pay tribute to all of those that spent a great deal of time trying to ensure there was justice for those that died at Hillsborough.”

SYP Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: “Decisions concerning the bringing of criminal charges are rightly for the CPS.

“Given that criminal proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further for fear of jeopardising this important process in any way.”

A spokesman for Sheffield Wednesday said the club had no comment to make.

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The Senate health care bill is proof: Trumpism isn’t populism – Washington Post

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Senate’s health-care bill might be too much for even Marie Antoinette.

After all, about the only way it could be more regressive is if it took the cake a certain French queen wanted the poor to eat for dinner and gave it to the rich for dessert. Or, say, cut Medicaid and middle-class health insurance subsidies so much that 22 million fewer people have health insurance — all so that the government could afford to cut the capital gains tax for households making $250,000 or more.

Oh, wait. That last one is actually what the Senate bill would do.

It really is hard, as 538’s Nate Silver put it, to think of anything less populist than the Republican health-care plan. You might be able to say the bank bailouts were, but even that’s probably not true. As unfair as it was to give money to the people most responsible for the global financial crisis—and it was on a world-historical scale, especially when they were allowed to pay themselves that money in bonuses—it at least helped prevent what in all likelihood would have been an even bigger meltdown. The only thing worse than how much credit markets seized up before the $800 billion bailout is how much they would have if there hadn’t been one. More people would have lost their jobs, loans would have become impossible to come by instead of just mostly so, and they would have stayed that way more than they already have, since it can take awhile for new banks to replace the relationships and local knowledge that old ones had. That, at least, is what a professor named Ben Bernanke found was part of the reason the recovery from the Great Depression was as slow as it was.

The bailout, in other words, mostly helped Wall Street, but didn’t exclusively help it. That’s more than you can say for the GOP’s health-care plan.

Now, there are three ways to think about the Senate bill. The first is that it would take health-care from the poor and middle-class to pay for tax cuts for the rich at a time of already historic inequality. The second is that it would make insurance more expensive for everyone and less useful for anyone who is sick. And the third is that it would hurt President Trump’s working-class base the most. Other than that, how were the tax cuts, Mrs. Lincoln?

It’s really pretty simple. The Senate bill would, over the course of the next decade, cut Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies by $408 billion and Medicaid by $772 billion all to pay for $700 billion of tax cuts, nearly half of which the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says would go to the top 1 percent of households. Not only that, but the fact that it would only peg the value of its remaining subsidies to higher-deductible plans means that a lot of people would be pushed into them. They couldn’t afford anything else. On an apples-to-apples basis, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the Senate bill would increase the cost of a “silver” plan that covers 70 percent of expected medical costs by an average of 74 percent over the next three years—and more for the type of older, poorer people who overwhelmingly went for Trump.

Although it’s actually even worse than that. A 64 year-old making $26,500 would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, see their premiums for a silver plan go from $1,700 under Obamacare to $6,500 under the Senate bill—but it’d be for a silver plan that covered 17 percent fewer of their expected medical expenses. So they’d be paying more to get less. How much more? Well, the Kaiser Family Foundation calculates that, in the case of our hypothetical 64 year-old, their deductible would go from $809 to $6,105. And it’d be an even bigger jump for people a little bit lower on the income ladder. Someone making just $18,090 would see their deductibles increase from $255 to the same $6,105. The Senate bill, then, would leave a lot of people with a choice between plans they couldn’t afford to buy and couldn’t afford to use.

Or, as the Republicans would call it, freedom! And if you lived in a red state, you would probably get more of it. That’s because the Senate bill would let them opt out of so-called “essential health benefits” like mental health, maternity care, and prescription drugs—and in the process, the Brookings Institution’s Matthew Fiedler points out, bring back annual and lifetime limits on benefits. The result would be a system where healthy people would mostly buy cheaper plans that didn’t cover much, and mostly sick people would buy ones that did, you know, cover things—which would only make those more comprehensive plans so expensive that hardly anybody would be able to buy them at all. People would be forced to buy skimpy insurance that might not even insure you if you use too much of it.

This isn’t a health-care plan that helps you if you need health-care. Not when it would give you higher premiums, higher deductibles, and worse coverage. No, this is a health-care plan that only helps you if you’re wealthy and have a lot of investment income. It would cut the tax on capital gains, interest, and dividends from 23.8 to 20 percent for households making $250,000 or more. Other than that, you’re out of luck—and maybe out of being insured. Indeed, the CBO estimates that the Senate bill’s $1.1 trillion of cuts to health insurance spending would result in 22 million fewer people having insurance in 10 years’ time. All so that the top 2 percent of households, who are the only ones really getting ahead in today’s economy, can have 2 percent more money after taxes.

Let them pay a third of their income in deductibles is the new let them cake.

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Helicopter attack targets Venezuela’s Supreme Court – CNN

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A Costly Retraction for CNN and an Opening for Trump – New York Times

In CNN’s newsroom, it is called the Triad: a three-pronged internal system designed to ensure that sensitive reporting by the network’s journalists is unimpeachable before it runs.

Last week, the Triad fell short — and by Tuesday, the consequences were being felt across the news industry and in the hallways of the White House.

CNN was forced to apologize after retracting a story on its website that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of President Trump was under Senate investigation. Three high-ranking journalists at the network resigned.

But the mea culpa did not stop Mr. Trump and his supporters from seizing on the mistake, condemning CNN and claiming it as evidence that other major news organizations were conspiring against the administration. On Twitter, Mr. Trump wrote that “they caught Fake News CNN cold” and asked, “What about all the other phony stories they do?”

By the afternoon, Mr. Trump’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was on live television scolding the White House press corps over the retraction, even urging Americans to watch a video filmed by a controversial right-wing activist, James O’Keefe, that showed a low-level CNN producer criticizing his network.

“Whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know, but I would encourage everybody in this room and, frankly, everybody across the country to take a look at it,” Ms. Sanders said of the video.

News organizations regularly issue corrections and, in rarer instances, retract a story. Other journalists on Tuesday praised CNN for taking responsibility after a painful black eye.

But the ferocious response on Tuesday was a reminder of CNN’s unique role as a nemesis for Mr. Trump, who says the network has unfairly tried to tie him to Russian interference in last year’s election — and underlined the heightened tensions between the news media and an administration that has curtailed access and labeled the news media an “opposition party.”

“People are trying to attack us, trying to take us down,” CNN’s president, Jeffrey A. Zucker, said in a newsroom conference call on Tuesday morning, according to a network employee who listened to the call and was granted anonymity to describe private remarks.

“Our reputation is everything; that is our currency, and that’s why we have processes in place,” Mr. Zucker said, according to the employee. He added, “If you don’t follow those procedures, you don’t work here, period.”

Those procedures broke down last week, according to several people at CNN who, in speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, recounted a scramble inside the network after the story was published last Thursday.

The article, written by the veteran reporter Thomas Frank, linked Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge-fund manager and Trump confidant, to a Russian investment fund supposedly being investigated by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The reporting was attributed to an anonymous source.

The Triad system should have kicked into gear, with reviews by lawyers, a standards-and-practices division, and an editorial team known collectively as the Row, which checks facts and approves anonymous sources. (The system is so ingrained that CNN journalists often use the term as a verb: as in, has the story been “rowed”?)

But several network officials were caught off-guard when the story appeared online, the people said, signaling that it had not received the proper approvals.

CNN has not specified what, if anything, in the story was untrue, only saying that the piece did not meet its editorial standards. On Tuesday, the network declined to explain the exact nature of how its procedures went awry.

The mistake came at a sensitive time. Like other news channels, CNN’s ratings are up compared with last year, but on weeknights, the network has fallen behind its rivals Fox News and MSNBC in prime time. In the past month, CNN cut ties with the broadcast personalities Kathy Griffin and Reza Aslan after they publicly assailed Mr. Trump in vulgar ways.

Among newsroom executives, however, the big concern was a bungled story earlier in June, which incorrectly predicted the congressional testimony of James B. Comey, former F.B.I. director. Mr. Zucker was deeply upset about the error and the ensuing correction, and made clear to his staff that the network would not tolerate mistakes amid such intense public scrutiny.

The zero-tolerance atmosphere made last week’s mistake all the more glaring. Mr. Zucker began an investigation as right-wing outlets like Breitbart News began to note problems in CNN’s reporting. Mr. Scaramucci contacted CNN executives to dispute the story and said that he was considering legal action, according to a person familiar with his conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

By Monday morning, Mr. Frank and two editors who worked on the piece, Lex Haris and Eric Lichtblau, had submitted their resignations. The men were key players in CNN’s beefed-up investigative unit, part of a highly acclaimed push by Mr. Zucker to expand the network’s original reporting on politics and national security in the Trump era.

Mr. Lichtblau, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter hired by CNN in April from The New York Times, also worked on the Comey story earlier this month. Neither he nor Mr. Haris responded to requests for comment on Tuesday; Mr. Frank could not be reached.

“There have been so many attempts from so many quarters to decertify the press,” Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, said on Tuesday. “The best thing that a news organization could do is to constantly revisit its standards and practices and constantly review the level of performance.”

Mr. Trump appeared less sympathetic to that argument. In a series of Twitter posts on Tuesday, he insulted CNN’s ratings; denounced other news organizations, including The Times, as “Fake News”; and reposted a fan’s reworking of the CNN logo as “FNN: Fake News Network.”

On social media, Mr. Trump’s supporters gloated over CNN’s error, calling it proof of bias. At the White House, Ms. Sanders cited the video by Mr. O’Keefe, saying, “If it is accurate, I think it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism.” Mr. O’Keefe is known for an undercover video that damaged the reputation of the community organizing group Acorn, but he has been shown to selectively edit footage to disparage his subjects.

One reporter, Brian Karem of The Sentinel newspapers in Maryland, objected, telling Ms. Sanders, “What you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, ‘See, once again, the president’s right, and everybody else out here is fake media.’”

Ms. Sanders did not flinch. “If anything has been inflamed, it’s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media,” she said before moving on to the next question.

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The Latest: McConnell says good progress made on health bill – Washington Post

By Associated Press,

WASHINGTON — The Latest on the Republican legislation overhauling the Obama health care law (all times EDT):

5:55 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says “good progress” was made during a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Republican senators.

Trump invited them to meet after McConnell decided to delay a vote on a Senate health care bill because there aren’t enough votes to pass it.

McConnell said after the meeting there’s a “really good chance” of passing the bill, but it won’t happen before July Fourth as he originally planned.

McConnell says Republicans must come up with a solution because that’s why the American people elected them. He says negotiating with Senate Democrats won’t produce any of the changes sought by Republicans, including to the health markets and Medicaid.


4:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says that if the health care bill fails to pass in the Senate, he won’t like it — but “that’s OK.”

Trump spoke Tuesday at a gathering of Senate Republicans after their leaders shelved a vote on their prized health care bill until at least next month.

Trump says, “This will be great if we get it done and if we don’t get it done it’s going to be something that we’re not going to like and that’s OK and I can understand that.”

He adds, “I think we have a chance to do something very, very important for the public, very, very important for the people of our country.”


4:30 p.m.

Add three more names to the list of Republican senators saying they oppose the GOP health care bill.

But these three get an asterisk. They released statements of flat-out opposition after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was delaying the vote in hopes of rounding up enough support for passage.

Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have persistently criticized the bill’s cuts in Medicaid, and have sought billions more to combat opioid abuse. Both said for the first time Tuesday they opposed the measure.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said last week he would examine whether the proposal was good for his state. He said Tuesday the bill did not have his support, saying he wanted more affordable and better quality health care.


4:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he wants the replacement of the 2009 health insurance law to increase the number of insurance coverage choices and lower premiums, a senior White House official says.

The president was stressing these goals in a meeting Tuesday with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican who opposes the Senate’s planned replacement of the government’s health insurance expansion under former President Barack Obama. The official insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has delayed a vote on that replacement, which has been unable to attract sufficient support from Republican lawmakers. The replacement would reduce funding for Medicaid, cut taxes on investments and cause 22 million fewer people to no longer have health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

— Josh Boak


4:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are hosting Republican senators at the White House to discuss flailing efforts to pass a new health care bill.

Most of the GOP senators arrived at the White House Tuesday after Senate Republican leaders shelved a vote on their prized health care bill Tuesday until at least next month.

A GOP rebellion left them lacking enough votes to even begin debate.

Trump said Tuesday that “we’re getting very close but for the country we have to have health care.”

Trump invited the GOP senators for a meeting in the East Room to discuss efforts to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature health care bill.

He says “I think the Senate bill is going to be great.”


2:40 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he is delaying a vote on a Senate health care bill while GOP leadership works toward getting enough votes.

He says they are “still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place.”

Republican senators are headed to the White House Tuesday afternoon to talk to President Donald Trump about the future of the bill.

McConnell says the White House is “very anxious to help” and encouraged senators to go to the meeting.

McConnell said health care is “a big complicated subject,” and complicated bills are “hard to pull together and hard to pass.” He told reporters on Tuesday that he was very optimistic.


1:50 p.m.

Sources tell the Associated Press that Senate Republican leaders have abruptly delayed the vote on their health care bill until after the July 4th recess.

That’s the word Tuesday as the GOP faced five defections from its ranks just hours after the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would force 22 million off insurance rolls.

It was a major blow for the seven-year-old effort to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Separately, President Donald Trump has invited all GOP senators to the White House Tuesday afternoon.


1:10 p.m.

New analysis shows that millionaires would get tax cuts averaging $52,000 a year from the Senate Republicans’ health bill.

Middle-income families would get about $260.

The analysis was done by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. It found that half of the tax cuts would go to families making more than $500,000 a year.

At the other end, families making $20,000 a year would, on average, get a $190 tax cut.

The Republican health bill would repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health law. The law imposed a series of tax increases mainly targeted high-income families. The Senate Republican bill would repeal the taxes, though not all at once.


12:20 p.m.

Major veterans’ organizations are voicing concerns about a Senate Republican bill to repeal the nation’s health care law. They fear the impact of rising insurance costs and are worried the underfunded Department of Veterans Affairs won’t be able to fill the coverage gap.

Paralyzed Veterans of America is one of the six biggest nonpartisan veterans’ groups. In a letter to senators Tuesday, it criticized an “opaque and closed” legislative process and proposed cuts to Medicaid that could lead to hundreds of thousands of lower-income veterans losing their insurance.

The organization joins a Democratic-leaning group, VoteVets, in opposing the bill. VoteVets launched a six-figure ad campaign in two states to pressure senators.

Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS also are expressing concern about the Senate legislation backed by President Donald Trump.


11:45 a.m.

One of a handful of Republican senators opposing the Senate health care bill is headed to the White House to talk with President Donald Trump about the measure.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tweeted about his visit, saying he was: “Headed to meet with @realDonaldTrump this afternoon.” He added that the current bill is “not real repeal and needs major improvement.”

Paul has said it is worse to “pass a bad bill than to pass no bill.”

Senate leaders are scrambled to rescue their health care bill in the face of defections after Congress’ nonpartisan budget office said the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been aiming to win Senate passage for the bill his week.


11:34 a.m.

The New York attorney general is threatening to file a lawsuit to block the implementation of a Republican health care overhaul.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday that the evolving Senate bill violates women’s constitutional rights by de-funding Planned Parenthood. It also violates New York’s state’s rights, he said, by targeting a New York-specific Medicaid provision.

Schneiderman said, “If the version of the health care bill proposed last week ever becomes law, I am committed to going to court to challenge it to protect New Yorkers from these wrong-headed and unconstitutional” policies.

The Democrat made the comments in a speech to state business leaders. He later said his office is “doing the research” to prepare for possible litigation.

Senate Republican leaders planned to pass the bill this week, but so far lack the votes to take up the measure.


11:20 a.m.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee has become the fifth Republican senator to oppose starting debate on the GOP health care bill. That deals another blow to party leaders hoping to push the top-priority measure through the Senate this week.

Lee was among four conservative senators who announced last week they oppose the bill’s current version. Lee spokesman Conn Carroll said Tuesday that the lawmaker will not vote for a crucial procedural motion allowing the Senate to begin debate on the legislation, unless it’s changed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose the votes of only two of the 52 Republican senators to begin debate and ultimately pass the bill. All Democrats oppose it.

Lee has favored a fuller repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law than the current GOP bill.


10:25 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has faith in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ability to round up the votes for the Republican health care bill despite growing opposition in the Senate.

Ryan told reporters on Tuesday: “I would not bet against Mitch McConnell.”

The Wisconsin Republican said he has every expectation that the Senate will move ahead on the bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would kick 22 million off the insurance rolls. The bill would cut taxes, reduce the deficit and phase out the Medicaid expansion implemented by Barack Obama’s health law.

Ryan said every Republican senator campaigned on repealing and replacing Obama’s law.

The speaker said House members are waiting to see what happens in the Senate. The House could try to vote after the Senate to push the bill and get it to President Donald Trump before the weeklong July 4th recess.


7:45 a.m.

Senate Republican leaders are scrambling to rescue their health care bill. It’s in trouble as opposition from rebellious Republicans grows.

The defections came as Congress’ nonpartisan budget referee said the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than President Barack Obama’s law, which Republicans are trying to replace.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was hoping to staunch his party’s rebellion, a day after the Congressional Budget Office released its report. He’s been aiming at winning Senate passage this week, before a weeklong July 4 recess that leaders worry opponents will use to weaken support for the legislation.


4:02 a.m.

Congress’ nonpartisan budget referee says the Senate Republican health care bill would leave 22 million additional people uninsured in 2026 compared to President Barack Obama’s law.

And now, disgruntled centrist and conservative GOP senators are forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to scramble to rescue the measure before debate even begins.

The Kentucky Republican was hoping to staunch his party’s rebellion on Tuesday, a day after the Congressional Budget Office released its report. He plans to suggest revisions to the legislation in hopes of rounding up votes.

McConnell wants to win Senate passage this week. But three GOP senators are threatening to vote against a procedural motion to begin debate, a vote expected Wednesday. To be approved, no more than two of the 52 GOP senators can vote against it.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Venezuela: Helicopter strafes court in ‘terrorist attack’ – Washington Post

By Joshua Goodman | AP,

CARACAS, Venezuela — A police helicopter fired on Venezuela’s Supreme Court and Interior Ministry in what President Nicolas Maduro said was a thwarted “terrorist attack” aimed at ousting him from power.

The confusing exchange, which is bound to ratchet up tensions in a country already paralyzed by months of deadly anti-government protests, took place as Maduro was speaking live on state television Tuesday. He later said the helicopter had fired on the pro-government court with grenades, one of which didn’t go off, helping avoid any loss of life.

Adding to the intrigue, pictures of a blue police helicopter carrying an anti-government banner appeared on social media around the same time as a video in which an alleged police pilot, identified as Oscar Perez, called for a rebellion against Maduro’s “tyranny” as part of a coalition of members of the country’s security forces. Authorities said they were still searching for the man.

“We have two choices: be judged tomorrow by our conscience and the people or begin today to free ourselves from this corrupt government,” the man said while reading from a statement with four people dressed in military fatigues, ski masks and carrying what looked like assault rifles standing behind him.

Many of Maduro’s opponents took to social media to accuse the president of orchestrating an elaborate ruse to justify a crackdown against Venezuelans seeking to block his plans to rewrite the constitution. Venezuela has been roiled by anti-government protests the past three months that have left at least 75 people dead and hundreds injured.

After the incident, Maduro sounded alternately calm and angry as he told the audience about what had happened in the airspace just beyond the presidential palace.

“It could’ve caused a tragedy with several dozen dead and injured,” he said, calling it a “terrorist attack.”

Later, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas read a statement from the government accusing the helicopter of firing 15 shots against the Interior Ministry as a reception was taking place for 80 people celebrating national journalist’s day. It then flew a short distance to the court, which was in session, and launched what he said were four Israeli-made grenades of “Colombian origin,” two of them against national guardsmen protecting the building.

The pro-government president of the high court said there were no injuries from the attack and that the area was still being surveyed for damages.

Villegas said security forces were being deployed to apprehend Perez as well as recover the heisted German-built Bolkow helicopter. Photos of the pilot standing in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter were displayed on state television to further bolster the government’s case that he was taking instructions from the CIA and the U.S. Embassy.

Maduro said one of the pilots involved in the alleged attack used to fly for his former interior minister, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who he accused of working for the CIA. Rodriguez Torres, who has been leading a campaign against Maduro made up of leftist supporters of the late Hugo Chavez, immediately dismissed the accusation as baseless.

As the drama was unfolding outside the court, inside magistrates were busy issuing a number of rulings further hemming in the opposition. One dismissed a challenge against Maduro’s plans for a constitutional assembly by chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz, a longtime loyalist who broke with the government over the issue.

The helicopter incident capped a volatile 24 hours that began with widespread looting in the coastal city of Maracay on Monday night and continued Tuesday when opposition lawmakers got into a heated scuffle with security forces assigned to protect the National Assembly.

At least 68 supermarkets, pharmacies and liquor stores were looted and several government offices burned following anti-government protests in Maracay, which is about a 90 minute drive from Caracas.

Maduro condemned the violence but with a stern warning to his opponents that’s likely to only further inflame an already tense situation.

“We will never surrender. And what we couldn’t accomplish through votes we will with weapons,” he said.

On Tuesday, opposition lawmakers got into fisticuffs with national guardsmen as they tried to enter the National Assembly. In a video circulating on social media, the commander of a national guard unit protecting the legislature aggressively shoved National Assembly President Julio Borges as he’s walking away from a heated discussion.

At nightfall, a few dozen people were still gathered inside the neoclassical building as pro-government supporters stood outside threatening violence.

Follow Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APjoshgoodman

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Who’s afraid of Trump? Not enough Republicans — at least for now – Washington Post

By , and Ashley Parker,

Scrambling to line up support for the Republican health-care bill, President Trump got on the phone Monday with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and urged him to support the measure.

The president’s personal plea was not enough. On Tuesday, Lee said he would vote against the bill. Senate GOP leaders later postponed the planned health-care vote because too many other Republican senators also opposed — for now, at least — legislation that would deliver on Trump’s campaign promise to scale back the law known as Obamacare.

Trump had hoped for a swift and easy win on health care this week. Instead he got a delay and a return to the negotiating table — the latest reminder of the limits of his power to shape outcomes at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

History suggests that presidents who have governed successfully have been both revered and feared. But Republican fixtures in Washington are beginning to conclude that Trump may be neither, despite his mix of bravado, threats and efforts to schmooze with GOP lawmakers.

The president is the leader of his party, yet Trump has struggled to get Republican lawmakers moving in lockstep on heath care and other major issues, leaving no signature legislation in his first five months in office. The confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch is the most-cited achievement to date.

“This president is the first president in our history who has neither political nor military experience, and thus it has been a challenge to him to learn how to interact with Congress and learn how to push his agenda better,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who opposes the current Republican health-care bill.

The Senate could pass a revised version of the bill once lawmakers return from their July 4 recess and pick up their deliberations. Still, some Republicans are willing to defy their own president’s wishes — a dynamic that can be attributed in part to Trump’s singular status as a disrupter within his party.

“The president remains an entity in and of itself, not a part of the traditional Republican Party,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a moderate who represents a district Trump lost by 16 percentage points. “I handle the Trump administration the same way I handled the Obama administration. When I agree, I work with them. When I oppose, I don’t.”

[‘Repeal and replace’ was once a unifier for the GOP. Now it’s an albatross.]

In private conversations on Capitol Hill, Trump is often not taken seriously. Some Republican lawmakers consider some of his promises — such as making Mexico pay for a new border wall — fantastical. They are exhausted and at times exasperated by his hopscotching from one subject to the next, chronicled with his pithy and provocative tweets. They are quick to point out how little command he demonstrates of policy. And they have come to regard some of his threats as empty, concluding that crossing the president poses little danger.

“The House health-care vote shows he does have juice, particularly with people on the right,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said. “The Senate health-care vote shows that people feel that health care is a defining issue and that it’d be pretty hard for any politician to push a senator into a taking a vote that’s going to have consequences for the rest of their life.”

Asked if he personally fears Trump, Graham chuckled before saying, “No.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has distanced himself from Trump on various issues, said few members of Congress fear permanent retaliation from Trump.

“He comes from the private sector where your business partner today isn’t always your business partner tomorrow,” Issa said. “Just because you’re one way today doesn’t mean you’re written off. That’s the ‘Art of the Deal’ side.”

One senior Republican close to both the White House and many senators called Trump and his political operation “a paper tiger,” noting how many GOP lawmakers feel free “to go their own way.”

“Members are political entrepreneurs and they react to what they see in the political marketplace,” said the Republican, who requested anonymity to avoid alienating the White House.

John Weaver, a GOP consultant and frequent Trump critic, was more blunt in explaining why Trump has been unable to rule with a hammer. “When you have a 35 percent approval rating and you’re under FBI investigation, you don’t have a hammer,” he said, referring to the probe into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Trump’s approval rating in Gallup’s daily tracking poll stood Tuesday at 39 percent, with 57 percent of Americans disapproving of his performance. But a significant portion of those supporters still strongly back Trump, particularly in red states and districts.

White House officials contest the suggestion that Trump does not instill fear among fellow Republicans in Congress. The president’s political shop, meanwhile, is laboring to force more Republicans to bend to Trump’s wishes.

[Senate leaders postpone vote to overhaul Obamacare as bill faces GOP rebellion]

America First Policies, a Trump-allied super PAC staffed by former aides, launched a negative advertising effort against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), after he spoke out against the bill last Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) complained about the ads to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and the super PAC said Tuesday it would pull the ads after Heller said he was open to further negotiations, according to two people familiar with the decision.

America First Policies has been mulling similar ad campaigns against other Republicans who have broken ranks, hoping to make lawmakers believe they would pay a price for betraying Trump and imperiling his agenda. The super PAC also is considering grassroots campaigns across the country to mobilize Trump supporters in key states during the July 4 recess, as a way to ratchet up pressure on wavering lawmakers.

Trump allies have encouraged major party donors to reach out to senators opposing the bill. Las Vegas casino moguls Sheldon Adelson and Steven Wynn have both spoken by phone with Heller to prod him along, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Trump has been hungry for a legislative policy victory on Capitol Hill, and he and his advisers see health care as the best chance for one this summer. The president is playing a less public role advocating for the bill than he did leading up to this spring’s vote on a House bill, when he used his relationship with conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus to eventually bring them to the table.

In the Senate talks, Trump has been working largely behind the scenes to lobby senators, with personal phone calls and other entreaties. Unlike the House, where rank-and-file Republicans may be likely to follow Trump’s lead, the Senate naturally is a more independent institution.

Many senators fashion their own political brands and have outsized egos, and some Republicans ran away from Trump in their reelection races last year.

Chris Wipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a newly-published history of White House chiefs of staff, said the tumult inside Trump’s White House — as well as the president’s lack of a coherent message or vision for his policy agenda — inhibits the president’s ability to enforce party discipline in Congress.

“Nothing instills fear on Capitol Hill like success, and all this White House has been able to do is one failure after another,” Wipple said. “There are just zero points on the board so far. Who’s going to be afraid of that?”

[Both hungry for a win, Trump and McConnell are being tested by the health-care bill]

In the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency, Democrats on Capitol Hill largely stayed in line — in part because they saw Obama as a powerful political force and believed there were risks in breaking with him. During negotiations over the Affordable Care Act, Rahm Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff, served as the enforcer, reminding Blue Dog Democrats that they owed him their loyalty because he helped recruit and elect them as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Early in President George W. Bush’s tenure, fellow Republicans in Congress saw his White House as a finely-tuned machine that could not be crossed.

“You never wanted to get on the wrong side of the Bush White House because the staff was disciplined, dedicated and extremely loyal to the president,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican operative. “If you crossed or undermined the president or his administration, the Bush diehards would remember it forever.”

Trump’s lieutenants, by contrast, have struggled to force Republicans into line. In March, when House Republicans were slow to rally behind the health-care bill, White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon told the House Freedom Caucus that they must vote for the legislation and to stop their waffling.

Bannon was immediately rebuffed by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who has been in the House for more than three decades. Barton icily told Bannon that the only person who ordered him around was “my daddy” — and that his father was unsuccessful in doing so, according to several Republicans with knowledge of the meeting.

In an interview Tuesday, Barton smiled wryly when asked about the incident.

“I will admit on the record that I took exception to a comment that he made,” Barton said. “There is a separation of powers, and the president has a role and the Congress has a role. That’s all I’ll say.”

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