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California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been drawing his full monthly salary despite asking state workers in May to take a pay cut to alleviate the state’s burden in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Though elected state officials are exempt from such pay cuts, Newsom pledged that he would voluntarily slash his salary when he asked state workers to make that same sacrifice.

But a Thursday report from the Sacramento Bee revealed that Newsom has continued drawing his full monthly salary of $17,479.

A spokesman for Newsom’s office blamed the matter on an “administrative error.”

“The Governor publicly committed to taking the same pay cut as other state workers when he introduced his budget in May and has officially asked the Controller to adjust his pay, effective July 1,” he said. “The reductions for both July and August will be deduced for the next pay period.”

Sacramento’s KOVR also reported that PlumpJack, a Northern California-based winery and hospitality company, founded and partly owned by Newsom, was open through early July – well after Newsom ordered all essential business closed in March.

Data released by the U.S. Treasury Department also shows that the wine company also received a loan worth $150,000 to $350,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Data from the State Controller’s office shows that State Controller Betty Yee was the only one of California’s eight elected constitutional officers to take a pay cut last month, The Bee reported.

The allegation against Newsom is the latest episode in a series of missteps this summer that have cast his administration in a less than favorable light. Earlier this month, Newsom’s handling of a resurgence of cases in the state was blamed on a data error that caused a backlog of nearly 300,000 virus test results.

“The buck stops with me, I’m accountable,” he said at a tense news conference, his first appearance since state officials revealed the error. “No one’s trying to hide that, no one’s trying to mask that, we’re owning that, we’re moving forward to address those issues.”

His tone was noticeably different than it was in March, when California’s public battle with the virus began and the state initially avoided the worst outcomes. In commanding news conferences held almost daily, he announced the country’s first statewide stay-at-home order and won mostly adherence from the state’s 40 million residents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Bradford Betz

Source: Fox News: California Gov. Newsom failed to take promised pay cut, newspaper finds

Ukrainian officials on Saturday announced they intercepted a $6 million bribe attempt to stop a criminal investigation into the president of Burisma, the natural-gas company at the center of President Trump’s impeachment investigation.

At a news conference, the officials displayed large bags of seized U.S. currency.

Ukraine’s anti-corruption prosecutor Nazar Kholodnitsky said former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who once held a board seat, was not complicit in the bribe attempt.

Kholodnitsky and the head of the national anti-corruption bureau, Artem Sytnik, said the bribe was intended to encourage their offices to halt a probe of Mykola Zlochevsky, the head of Burisma and a former minister of ecology. Zlochevsky was accused of using his ministerial position for personal enrichment.

Three people, including a high-ranking tax service official, have been detained in connection with the attempted bribe, officials said Saturday.

In a statement, Burisma claimed the company had nothing to do with any bribe attempt.

“Neither Burisma Group President Mykola Zlochevsky nor other employees of the company have any relationship to the voiced events,” the company said. “Mykola Zlochevsky didn’t ask for anyone to commit wrong actions and never contributed to such actions.”

Burisma, one of Ukraine’s largest private gas producers, has been at the center of politically tinged allegations in the United States, with Joe Biden challenging Trump in this year’s election.

Hunter Biden joined the Burisma board in 2014, when his father was still vice president and the main figure in U.S. relations with Ukraine. He left the position in 2018.

Last year, critics said Trump pressured new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens, in a phone call that sparked demands for his impeachment. The Senate acquitted him this past February.

Former Ukrainian prosecutor-general Viktor Shokin has alleged he was pushed out by Joe Biden’s delaying of a $1 billion loan to the country, to prevent him from investigating Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma. But, Joe Biden said he pushed for Shokin’s dismissal to encourage Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts.

Author: Bradford Betz

Source: Fox News: Massive bribe to stop Ukraine probe of Burisma founder intercepted

Minnesota’s Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday said Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck, now faces an upgraded charge of second-degree murder and arrest warrants have been issued for the three other officers at the scene.

Chauvin previously had been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, charges that remained in effect. The other three officers involved – Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng, and Tou Thao – were being charged with two counts of aiding and abetting and second-degree murder.

If convicted on both counts, the officers face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison affirmed that with the upgraded charges, all four officers faced the same potential maximum sentence.

Chauvin was arrested Friday on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges. A day after Floyd, who is black, died in police custody on Memorial Day, all four officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. The three other officers were in custody by Wednesday night.

Peaceful protests, nighttime rioting and violent clashes with the police ensued for over a week straight in major metropolitan cities across the country in response to Floyd’s death.

In a press conference earlier Wednesday, Floyd’s family demanded that the other three former police officers involved in his death be arrested and charged before the memorial in his honor Thursday.

The lead attorney for the Floyd family, Ben Crump, joined by Floyd’s son Quincy Mason, held a press conference Wednesday in Minneapolis in the same spot captured on video Memorial Day. Floyd is seen in the footage in custody with a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee to his neck and is heard saying, “I cannot breathe.”

Floyd, who is black, died soon afterward.

“We expect all of the police officers to be arrested before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis tomorrow. Because we cannot have two justice systems in America – one for black America, one for white America. We must have equal justice for the United States of America,” Crump said.

Crump reiterated that the family’s independent autopsy confirmed Floyd died by “mechanical asphyxiation caused by the knee to neck and two knees to his back.”

“Change is going to come in the criminal justice system. I proclaim, with his son as my witness, that change starts today,” Crump said. “We are confident Attorney General Keith Ellison is working feverishly to do the right thing to make sure George Floyd’s family achieves justice, holding the officers accountable to the full extent of the law — each and every one of them.”

“Witness Donna Williams who yesterday was the person in the video saying ‘You all are gonna kill him’ likened it to suffocation like a fish out of water, gasping for air,” Crump said. “The independent autopsy performed by the family concluded that George Floyd was starving for air. He needed a breath and the ambulance that came here to pick him up from this very spot was the hearse for George Floyd.

The family’s attorney also thanked Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz for “bringing human rights charges against the Minneapolis police department because we absolutely believe he was tortured in the last 8 minutes and 46 seconds of his life.”

Floyd’s son, Quincy Mason, who recently came from out of town to attend his father’s memorial service, spoke briefly at the press conference to ask for justice and thank everyone who has shown him support and love, saying “no man or woman should be without their father.”

Fox News’ Garrett Tenney and Mike Tobin in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Author: Danielle Wallace, Bradford Betz

Source: Fox News: Minneapolis officer faces upgraded murder charge in George Floyd death, 3 others charged

A group of 10 federal immigration detainees on Friday caused around $25,000 in damage to a detention center after refusing to be tested for the novel coronavirus, the sheriff’s office said.

The detainees, who had reported multiple symptoms of COVID-19, were being held at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Dartmouth, Mass. When they were told they had to be tested, they violently rushed Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson and corrections officers, according to a news from the Bristol County sheriff.

The detainees then barricaded themselves inside the facility, ripped washing machines and pipes off the wall, broke windows, and “‘trashed the entire unit.” A special response team restrained the detainees, the department said.

No staff injuries were reported. One detainee was hospitalized with “symptoms of a panic attack,” another was hospitalized due to a preexisting condition and a third “for a medical incident after being removed from the ICE wing.” All three are expected “to be fine,” the sheriff’s department said.

In a Saturday statement, Todd Lyons, the acting field office director of Enforcement and Removal Operations for ICE, commended the sheriff’s office staff “who responded rapidly and professionally to de-escalate a volatile situation, limiting injuries and further damage to the facility and restoring order.”

Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights in Boston, which has filed suit on behalf of the detainees, alleged that correctional officers were attempting to move detainees from one part of the facility to the medical wing.

“‘These individuals were justifiably concerned that doing so would dangerously expose them to risk of infection given the cross-contamination with many different individuals from all over the facility who come and go from the medical unit and with many shared surfaces,” he said in a statement.

Hodgson said the detainees have been moved to single cells pending disciplinary action, COVID-19 testing and criminal charges.

On Monday, he called allegations that he threw a detainee to the ground and pepper-sprayed him “ridiculous” and “absurd.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Bradford Betz

Source: Fox News: ICE detainees in Massachusetts refuse coronavirus test, damage detention center, officials say

Iran officials announced Sunday they will abandon the rogue nation’s commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the United States killed one of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad Friday.

Sunday’s announcement, which represented the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord, came after another Iranian official said it would consider taking even-harsher steps over the killing of Soleimani.

It also threatened to inflame regional tensions further, as Iran’s longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to be able to produce an atomic bomb.

Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets in Iran Sunday to walk alongside a casket carrying the remains of Soleimani, the former leader of its expeditionary Quds Force that has organized Tehran’s proxy forces in the wider Mideast.

Iran’s state TV cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country will not observe limitations on its enrichment, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium as well as research and development in its nuclear activities.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament voted in favor of a resolution aimed at expelling the 5,000 U.S. troops stationed there over the war against the Islamic State terror network.

Soleimani’s killing has escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of trading attacks and threats that have put the Middle East on edge. The conflict was rooted in Trump pulling out of Iran’s atomic accord in May 2018 and imposing sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

After thousands in Baghdad on Saturday mourned Soleimani and others killed in the strike, officials flew the general’s body to the Iranian city of Ahvaz, a city that was a focus of fighting during the 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran in which the general slowly grew to prominence. After that war, Soleimani joined the Guard’s newly formed Quds Force.

Crews then transported Soleimani’s body to the city of Mashhad later Sunday. State TV estimated that a million mourners came out to the Imam Reza shrine to pay their respects.

Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional policy of mobilizing militias across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He also was blamed for attacks on U.S. troops and American allies going back decades.

Although it’s unclear how or when Iran may respond to Soleimani’s death, any retaliation was likely to come after three days of mourning declared in both Iran and Iraq.

Mohsen Rezaei, a former leader of the Guard, told a crowd in Tehran that the Israeli cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv could be targeted. Rezaei earlier alleged that Israel leaked information to the U.S. about Soleimani’s whereabouts, which allowed them to carry out the drone strike.

“Rest assured we will level to the ground Haifa and Israeli centers so that Israel will be wiped out,” he said. “The issue is very serious for the Iranian nation. You hit us and you should get hit. You attacked us and it is the Iranian nation’s right.”

Iranian officials planned to meet Sunday night to discuss further steps away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, one that could be even greater than planned. Iran has previously broken limits of its enrichment, its stockpiles and its centrifuges, as well as restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

The Iranian parliament on Sunday opened with lawmakers chanting: “Death to America!” Parliament speaker Ali Larijani described American officials as following “the law of the jungle.”

Soleimani is to lie in state at Tehran’s famed Musalla mosque Monday as the revolutionary leader did before him. His remains are then set to go to Qom for public mourning processions, followed by his hometown of Kerman for burial Tuesday.

Author: Bradford Betz

Source: Fox News: Iran abandons limits of 2015 nuclear deal after top general killed in US airstrike

In a rare showing of bipartisan support, Senate lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill making animal cruelty a federal felony.

The bill, which now goes to President Trump for a final signature, was sponsored by Florida Reps. Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan. It comes two weeks after the House passed it on a voice vote.

Deutch, a Democrat, said the bill “sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals.”

Buchanan, a Republican, said “the torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who shepherded the bill through Congress with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called it a major victory in efforts to halt animal cruelty and make communities safer.

“Until tonight, Congress has never passed a comprehensive animal torture law,” Toomey tweeted. “After years of work, the PACT Act, which I intro’d with @SenBlumenthal, is now on its way to the president’s desk. It establishes strong penalties for monsters who hurt animals.”

The PACT Act would prohibit extreme acts of cruelty when they occur in interstate commerce or on federal property, and it also cracks down on sexual abuse of animals

The bill expands a 2010 law that made the creation or distribution of so-called “animal crushing” videos illegal.

While current federal law bans the sale or distribution of videos showing animals being crushed, burned or tortured, it does not explicitly prohibit the acts themselves. The new bill would make the underlying acts of cruelty a federal crime.

Law enforcement agencies including the National Sheriffs’ Association and Fraternal Order of Police endorsed the bill, citing a well-documented connection between animal cruelty and violence against people.

Author: Bradford Betz

Source: Fox News: Senate unanimously passes bill making animal cruelty a federal felonySenate unanimously passes bill making animal cruelty a federal felony

Triple-amputee Air Force veteran on mission to raise $1B for US-Mexico border wall

Brian Kolfage’s GoFundMe campaign ‘We The People Will Fund The Wall,’ has racked up more than $3 million from more than 34,000 people, with a goal of raising $1 billion.

A triple amputee U.S. military veteran says he was inspired to raise money for President Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall after reading a New York Post article that questioned why no one had taken up the mantle.

In just three days, Brian Kolfage’s GoFundMe campaign “We The People Will Fund The Wall,” has racked up more than $2 million from more than 34,000 people, with a goal of raising $1 billion.

“If the 63 million people who voted for Trump each pledge $80, we can build the wall,” the page reads. “That equates to roughly 5Billion Dollars, even if we get half, that’s half the wall. We can do this.”

“If the 63 million people who voted for Trump each pledge $80, we can build the wall. That equates to roughly 5Billion Dollars, even if we get half, that’s half the wall. We can do this.”

— Brian Kolfage, triple amputee U.S. military veteran

Kolfage wrote that the campaign has been in touch with the Trump administration “to secure a point of contact where all funds will go upon completion.”

“As a veteran who has given so much, 3 limbs, I feel deeply invested to this nation to ensure future generations have everything we have today,” Kolfage’s page reads. “Too many Americans have been murdered by illegal aliens and too many illegals are taking advantage of the United States taxpayers with no means of ever contributing to our society.”

He added: “Democrats are going to stall this project by every means possible and play political games to ensure President Trump doesn’t get his victory. They’d rather see President Trump fail than see America succeed. However, if we can fund a large portion of this wall, it will jumpstart things and will be less money Trump has to secure from our politicians.”

Kolfage is a retired U.S. Air Force member who served in Iraq. During his second deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, Kolfage was injured in a rocket attack at Balad Air Base. According to Kolfage’s website, a 107mm rocket shell exploded about three feet away from him. Kolfage lost both legs and his right hand and required 11 months of therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Kolfage continued to serve in the Air Force for several more years and was assigned to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona as the base security manager. Kolfage is “the most severely wounded Airman to survive any war,” his website states. He is now a motivational speaker and has appeared multiple times on FOX News.

Kolfage graduated from the University of Arizona’s School of Architecture in 2014 and is now married with children.

The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. This week, the White House retracted its $5 billion figure to fund the border wall amid a looming government shutdown.

“We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion that we’ll work with Congress,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday indicated the Senate will consider a stopgap measure to continue funding the government to avert a government shutdown – but it won’t include Trump’s desired allocation for border wall funding because of the “reality of our political moment.”

BORDER WALL EFFORT GETTING BOOST FROM US SHERIFFS’ CROWDFUNDING SITE

Kolfage’s campaign is not the first crowdfunding effort to raise money for the border wall. In September the National Sheriff’s Association launched a website for donations. As of mid-December, the website has garnered nearly $160,000.

Fox News’ Alex Pappas contributed to this report.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

Author: Bradford Betz

Source: Fox News: Triple-amputee Air Force veteran on mission to raise $1B for US-Mexico border wall

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