Trump: China “attempting to interfere” with 2018 US election
By ZEKE MILLER and JONATHAN LEMIRE
Wednesday, September 26
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused China of attempting to interfere with the upcoming United States congressional elections, and claimed its efforts are motivated by opposition to his tough trade policy.
Trump, speaking in front of world leaders while chairing the United Nations Security Council for the first time, did not present evidence for his claim, which came amid an ongoing special counsel investigation into Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and concerns that the November elections could also be vulnerable.
“Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election,” Trump said “They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.”
U.S. officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. With the elections less than two months away, U.S. intelligence officials have said they are not now seeing the intensity of Russian intervention registered in 2016 but are particularly concerned about activity by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
Trump also used his moment chairing the Security Council meeting about nuclear proliferation to issue a strong warning to nuclear-aspirant Iran, which he deemed the “world’s leading sponsor of terror” fueling “conflict around the region and far beyond.”
The president has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, accusing the country of destabilizing actions throughout the region and support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Tough sanctions are due to kick in against Tehran in November, and Trump warned that there would be “severe consequences” for any nation that defied them.
Despite his tough talk, Trump said he could envision relations with Iran moving along a similar “trajectory” as ones with North Korea. A year ago at the U.N., Trump belittled its leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man” and threatened to annihilate the country, but on Wednesday he touted the “the wonderful relationship” with Kim and teased that details of a second summit between the two men could be released soon.
He also condemned violence in the ongoing bloody civil war in Syria, saying that the “butchery is enabled by Russia and Iran.”
Trump also waded into thorny Middle East politics, endorsing the two-state solution to bring an end the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. A day after being greeted with laughter by world leaders still uncertain how to manage his “America First” ideology, Trump explicitly backed Israel, noted the moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and suggested that he saw progress on the horizon for Middle East peace.
“I like two-state solution,” Trump said in his most clear endorsement of the plan as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “That’s what I think works best.”
Trump indicated that moving the embassy was “a big chip” the U.S. delivered to the Israelis.
“I took probably the biggest chip off the table. And so obviously they have to start, you know, we have to make a fair deal. We have to do something. Deals have to be good for both parties.”
“Now that will also mean that Israel will have to do something that is good for the other side.”
The two-state “solution” is mostly aspirational. Ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinians over the division of territory, borders and governance has spawned violence going back years and long stymied Mideast peace efforts.
Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv triggered considerable protest from the Palestinians and expressions of condemnation from many American allies who worried about further violence that could destabilize the fragile region. Trump said that his administration’s peace plan, in part helmed by his son-in-law senior adviser Jared Kushner, would be released in the coming months.
Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu came, symbolically, just ahead of his chairing a meeting of the U.N. Security Council about nuclear proliferation. The president had suggested, in a recent tweet, that Iran could be his focus, and he unloaded harsh
The high-profile Security Council meeting came a day after Trump poured scorn on the “ideology of globalism” and heaped praise on his own administration’s achievements in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly that drew head shakes and even mocking laughter from his audience of fellow world leaders.
“The U.S. will not tell you how to live and work or worship,” Trump said as he unapologetically promoted his “America First” agenda. “We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”
Speaking in triumphal terms, Trump approached his address to the world body as something of an annual report to the world on his country’s progress since his inauguration. He showcased strong economic numbers, declared that the U.S. military is “more powerful than it has ever been before” and crowed that in “less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire and Miller at http://twitter.com/zekejmiller
NTSB faults Air Canada pilots for last year’s near disaster
By DAVID KOENIG
AP Airlines Writer
Wednesday, September 26
Federal safety officials blame two Air Canada pilots for coming within 10 to 20 feet of crashing their jetliner into a plane on the ground last year in San Francisco.
The Air Canada pilots were apparently confused because one of two parallel runways was closed and dark before the late-night incident. The crew was seconds from landing their Airbus A320 jet on a taxiway where other planes loaded with passengers were waiting to take off.
“We could not have gotten literally or figuratively any closer to having a major disaster,” said the safety board’s vice chairman, Bruce Landsberg, during a hearing Tuesday in Washington.
Underscoring the severity of the incident, the NTSB’s top aviation-safety staffer, John DeLisi, said it was the first time the board considered a major investigation for an event in which there were no injuries or damaged planes.
The board said the Air Canada crew mistook the taxiway for a runway because they didn’t adequately review a warning to all pilots about one of the runways being closed for construction. The board cited other mistakes and crew fatigue as contributing factors.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline would review the safety board’s recommendations and has already taken steps to improve training and procedures.
The two pilots “are being held out of service,” he said.
The safety board recommended the development of technology to warn pilots and air traffic controllers when a landing plane appears to be aimed at a taxiway instead of a runway. It also said the Federal Aviation Administration should consider better lighting and markings to warn pilots about closed runways.
The cockpit voice recorder might have helped investigators better understand how the near-accident unfolded. However, the recording was taped over because the NTSB wasn’t notified of the incident for nearly two days.
“When we learned of a passenger airliner almost touching down on a taxiway occupied by four other airliners, we elected to launch a full investigation,” DeLisi said.
The July 2017 incident occurred just before midnight — it felt like 3 a.m. to the pilots, who had taken off from Toronto. The safety board recommended that Canada strengthen rules to prevent pilot fatigue.
The safety board’s chairman, Robert Sumwalt, urged the FAA and Canadian officials to adopt the recommendations “so that we do not have to relearn the lessons of this incident at a far greater cost.”
The Air Canada crew was cleared to land on 28R, to the right of the closed runway, 28L . According to a preliminary NTSB report , the pilots thought the lighted runway was 28L — not theirs. Despite visual cues such as different lighting on taxiways, they aimed their jet to land to the right of 28R, on a parallel taxiway where the other planes were waiting to take off.
According to the NTSB, the pilots told investigators that they didn’t see planes on the taxiway, but that something did not look right.
A United Airlines pilot in one of the planes warned air traffic controllers about the onrushing Air Canada jet, and pilots on a Philippine Airlines jet switched on their landing lights in an apparent warning maneuver.
The Air Canada pilots abandoned the landing and pulled their plane up just in time to avoid catastrophe. An NTSB staff member said Tuesday that they calculated the plane flew 10 feet to 20 feet above the first of the four waiting jetliners, then circled and returned for a safe landing.
Both pilots of the Airbus A320, which was arriving from Toronto, were experienced. The captain, who was flying the plane, had more than 20,000 hours of flying time, and the co-pilot had about 10,000 hours.
In May, federal officials blamed pilot error for three other close calls in the previous 16 months at the San Francisco airport. Pilots say that the airport, with parallel runways close to each other, requires special attention during landings.
The Air Canada incident led the FAA to issue new rules for the airport covering nighttime landings when one of the runways is closed and better late-night control-tower staffing.
David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter
GOP picks female prosecutor to question Kavanaugh, accuser
Wednesday, September 26
PHOENIX (AP) — Senate Republicans are bringing in Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to handle questioning about allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, describing her as tough, experienced and, above all, objective.
Mitchell, a Republican, was expected to question both Kavanaugh and his accuser at Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her when they were teenagers has predictably raised a political storm in the #MeToo era and the GOP’s all-male presence on the panel made some want a woman to question Ford.
Mitchell works in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix as the chief of the Special Victims Division. She supervises attorneys who handle cases involving child molestation, sexual assault and computer crimes against children in Arizona’s most populous county.
Mitchell, who has decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes, “has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity,” committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said in a statement Tuesday.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Mitchell’s boss, praised her experience in an interview with the Arizona Republic , calling her an “objective prosecutor” who has a “caring heart” for victims. He said he was contacted by staff members of the Judiciary Committee over the weekend about Mitchell’s qualifications.
In July 2014, Mitchell prosecuted a former church volunteer in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale who molested children in his care as a church baby sitter and camp counselor over a seven-year period. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison with lifetime probation.
“People want to go to a church on a Sunday and feel safe,” Mitchell said at the time, adding that the settings of his actions “should be taken into account.”
In 2015, Mitchell prosecuted a 13-year veteran of the Mesa Police Department who groped two women, one of whom had passed out.
She has been named Arizona’s Outstanding Sexual Assault Prosecutor as well as Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Prosecutor of the Year.
Last year, the county attorney’s office introduced a sex crimes protocol — the first in its history. The new policy manual will ensure that prosecutors have a guide “so that we can do the best we can for victims,” Mitchell told a local NPR station.
“It’s always hard to know which victims were not victims or which people were not victims because your system worked,” Mitchell said in a January interview with Phoenix radio station KJZZ.
Associated Press journalists Walter Berry and Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this report.
AP Interview: Hill says Kavanaugh isn’t a #MeToo referendum
By JOCELYN NOVECK
AP National Writer
Wednesday, September 26
Her 1991 testimony against Clarence Thomas riveted the nation, but failed to derail his nomination to the Supreme Court. Now, 27 years later, Anita Hill says the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing — with no FBI investigation and no witness testimony — is destined to be unfair, just as she and many others felt the Thomas hearing was.
Still, she says, whatever happens, don’t look at the Kavanaugh case as a referendum on the #MeToo movement, or a barometer of its success. #MeToo is much bigger than that — and the ship has sailed.
“A lot is different now,” Hill, 62, says of the year since the movement was launched, following scandalous revelations about producer Harvey Weinstein. “A number of powerful men have been held accountable. I don’t think any one episode is going to define a whole movement.”
Besides, she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday night, “Remember, #MeToo is about raising awareness. Just because the Senate’s awareness hasn’t been raised, doesn’t mean that the rest of us haven’t evolved and learned.’”
In the years since she sat in that bright turquoise suit, in front of an estimated 20 million TV viewers, and calmly and deliberately recounted her allegations of workplace harassment against Thomas, Hill has been somewhat of a reluctant heroine to many women, living a quiet academic life at Brandeis University for two decades now. The Kavanaugh hearing, in which Christine Blasey Ford will detail her allegation of a sexual assault from when she and the judge were teenagers — a charge he denies — has trained the spotlight on Hill again, as people recall her 1991 ordeal and discuss similarities.
Hill herself will be nowhere near Washington when Thursday’s hearing takes place. She’ll be in Salt Lake City, where she was giving a lecture Wednesday evening at the University of Utah.
Asked what advice she might give Ford, Hill is typically measured in response.
“Our circumstances are very different,” she says. “And I try not to give blanket advice because these situations are just so personal. I don’t know her, I don’t know her state of mind, the entirety of her story. It’s unprofessional as a lawyer but insensitive as a human being, to mete out personal advice to someone you don’t know.”
One thing Hill does know, she says, is that the session will be stacked against Ford.
“It’s hard for me to imagine it can be fair,” she says, criticizing the lack of an FBI investigation and allow witnesses to testify (only Kavanaugh and Ford will testify).
“Sexual assault does not happen in a vacuum,” Hill says. “There is a context.” Ford contends a drunken Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when he was 17 and she was 15. Ford says Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.
A full investigation would provide context, says Hill, such as the culture of high school drinking that Kavanaugh may have been part of. “The reason I think it’s not going to be fair is that it doesn’t give you all the information,” she says. “And I believe it is designed to pit his word against hers, and we know that (he) has all of the power of the presidency behind him. And she doesn’t.”
It’s not lost on Hill, and many others, that the current Judiciary Committee shares some optics with the committee that questioned her. In 1991 it was composed of 14 white men; there were only two women in the entire Senate. Now the committee’s 11 Republicans are all men. Of 10 Democrats, four are women.
The composition of the committee “doesn’t surprise me because the Senate is dominated by men,” Hill says. “There are women on the committee, and that’s new, but the overwhelming vision of the Senate Judiciary committee is still largely white and male. We know that even a few women can change the conversation, so we have to keep pushing to make sure that representation IS truly representative.”
Part of Hill’s work today is as head of a commission in Hollywood aimed at targeting sexual abuse and harassment in media and entertainment.
“It’s not a short term project,” she says. “It will take time because we are looking at an entire industry and it’s an industry made up of different components.” But, she says, “I’ll tell you that a new level of awareness has come in the last year or so.”
Hill has plans that go beyond her #MeToo-related work and her teaching. She is finally starting in earnest this year, she says, a longtime project to sort through thousands of letters of support from 1991 and 1992. Many writers gave descriptions of their harassment or abuse.
“It’s going to be interesting to see whether or not peoples’ experiences have changed in the past 20-something years,” she says.
Here’s something that hasn’t changed: that famous suit. Hill never put it on again, and resolved to one day let it go and give it to the Smithsonian.
“No update,” Hill says with a sigh. “It’s still in a garment bag. But yes, it will leave my possession at some point. I haven’t quite figured out when.”