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Thursday
Jul192018

Thai boy rescued from cave speaks out: 'Thought about my parents'

ABC News(CHIANG MAI, Thailand) -- Chanin "Titan" Vibulrungruang said he was surprised the entire world was waiting to see him.

"Was it a good surprise?" ABC News asked the boy, following his recent extraction from a flooded cave in Thailand along with his soccer teammates and coach.

"A lot of people are supporting and encouraging," he said.

Titan and his father sat down with ABC News to discuss Titan's recent experience. He said his coach didn't carry him out of the cave but that he held onto his back while swimming out.

"At first," Titan's father said, "I was really happy and surprised because he is now finally safe." He said he was at the cave searching for his son "every day since the first day" Titan was missing.

Parents of other missing boys waited together and supported each other, he added.

"Everyone felt less worried after the first five days because all of the staff and volunteers were working really hard to find them," he said. "Also the staff said they found some evidence leading to the presence of the kids inside the cave, so we felt relieved, unlike the very first days that all the parents were worried."

Titan said he "thought about my parents" and felt that they "would be waiting in front of the cave."

Titan has returned home and said he's feeling healthier. He's enjoying some of his favorite foods again, including red curry with pork, and spending more time with his family. And he's going to get to watch some soccer soon.

"I'm excited," he said, "that they are going to take our team to see the actual teams."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul192018

French ambassador Gerard Araud slams Trevor Noah for saying 'Africa won the World Cup'

Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The French ambassador to the U.S. slammed comedian Trevor Noah on Wednesday for saying Africa deserved credit for France's 2018 World Cup victory due to the large number of black players on the team.

Gerard Araud wrote a strongly worded letter addressed to Noah on Wednesday, accusing the late-night comedian of "legitimizing" racist ideologies and denying the players' "Frenchness" with his comments about their race and backgrounds.

Noah claimed "Africa won the World Cup" in a segment on The Daily Show on Monday, a day after France beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow, a joke that some deemed racist.

"I get it, they have to say it's the French team,” Noah said Monday. "But look at those guys. You don't get that tan by hanging out in the south of France, my friends."

Araud said he was watching "with great attention" on Monday, and that he wasn't laughing.

"I heard your words about ‘an African victory,’ nothing could be less true. ... By calling them an African team, it seems you are denying their Frenchness," Araud said his letter on Wednesday. "This, even in jest, legitimizes the ideology which claims whiteness as the only definition of being French."

France took home soccer’s most coveted prize for the second time in the country’s history with a team starring black and Muslim players.

Araud acknowledged that some of the team members' "parents may have come from another country," but he said all but two of the 23 players were born in France.

"They were educated in France, they learned to play soccer in France, and they are French citizens," he said. "They are proud of their country, France."

Araud also took a jab at America, saying, "Unlike the United States of America, France does not refer to their citizens based on their race, religion or origin."

The French Embassy in the U.S. released the letter to the public via Twitter on Wednesday at around 5 p.m. eastern, and it wasn't long before Noah fired back.

"When I'm saying 'African,' I'm not saying it to exclude them from their French-ness -- I'm saying it to include them in my African-ness. I'm saying, 'I see you, my French brother of African descent," Noah in a video posted on Twitter.

The comedian read part of Araud's letter in a "Behind the Scenes" segment of his show in which he appeared to double down on his original message.

"I will continue to praise them for being African because I believe they are of Africa -- their parents are from Africa -- and they can be French, because I believe they can both at the same time," Noah said. "And if French people are saying they can't be, then I think they have a problem and not me."

"America's not a perfect place," he added, "but what I love about this country is that people can still celebrate their identity in their American-ness."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul182018

Chaos at Westminster: Conservative party facing pending Brexit deadline, internal conflicts

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- The controversial visit by President Donald Trump and his bombshell interview criticizing his host wasn’t the only headache for British Prime Minister Theresa May in recent days.

This week saw chaotic scenes in the House of Commons as the ruling Conservative party threatened its own rebellious MPs with a general election in order to whip them into line and vote for a vital bill on exiting the European Union (E.U.).

Here’s a rundown of what’s going on and how these changes are raising questions of whether or not Prime Minister Theresa May will remain in power much longer.

The Brexit drama causing bigger dramas

One of the biggest problem issues facing the British government today is what to do about the impending Brexit deadline, when the country is slated to leave the E.U. in the wake of the country’s 2016 referendum.

The Conservative party is irrevocably split between ideological differences over Britain’s relationship with the E.U.

Many Conservative politicians and stalwarts were staunchly opposed to E.U. membership from the signing of the first treaty and have been working for Brexit ever since. Meanwhile other Tories, as the Conservatives are also known, strongly favor a Brexit deal that maintains close alignment with the E.U. in order to protect jobs and access to the E.U. market.

The clash between the two sides risks the government failing to pass bills proposing what forms the Brexit will take (pending E.U. agreement).

These internal conflicts have led to the resignation of several high-profile ministers, including David Davis, who was the Secretary of State for Exiting the E.U., and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned just days before Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom. Johnson is widely seen as a rival to the prime minister, though right after his resignation he publicly denied interest in vying for the role.

How is May handling the chaos?

May’s minority government means that she has a razor-thin majority in parliament – a split that is even more pronounced on Brexit, given the number of Conservative members of parliament who strongly favor a closer relationship with the E.U. than the prime minister is currently pursuing.

The presence of a separate group of members of parliament (MPs), who are strongly Euro-sceptic and favor a harsher cut of ties to the E.U., also regularly threaten to vote against their own party, blocking legislation that they see as too “soft” towards the E.U. split.

The fate of several important votes on Brexit legislation this week was unclear.

In order to push as many of her own party’s MPs into line, May sent her whips to threaten them with a vote of no confidence against her – which could trigger a general election and may end up ousting her as prime minister and putting opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in charge.

The tactic worked, and the government narrowly avoided a damaging defeat that could have sparked a leadership challenge from the Euro-sceptic side of the party.

But the threats of general election have exacerbated the split within the party, with several prominent MPs calling for a “government of national unity” in order to pursue an orderly Brexit.

How the opposition party is handling their own Brexit divide


The Labour party, the left-leaning major party and official opposition, is currently in the midst of its own civil war between its leadership and the ranks.

Corbyn, the Labour party leader, has been an outspoken Euro-sceptic for most of his political career, although he officially was part of a lukewarm campaign for Britain to remain in the E.U. during the vote in 2016.

In spite of his largely Euro-skeptic stance, the majority of the Labour party membership is on the pro-E.U. side of the debate. Labour’s leadership of Corbyn and his allies have dealt with this by adopting a position on Brexit that has not been clearly defined, sparking criticism from pro-E.U. members of parliament who say the opposition should be doing more to keep May in check from pursuing too harsh a split.

Anti-Semitism claims reach a new peak

Beyond their own Brexit drama, Labour is also currently facing a crisis over accusations of entrenched anti-Semitism within the party ever since Corbyn became leader in 2016 after the referendum.

Corbyn is backed by the left-wing side of the party, and in the last two years dozens of its members, councillors and even members of parliament have faced accusations of anti-Semitism. Corbyn has been accused of not taking a tough enough stance on these cases, alongside accusations and criticism against his own conduct.

In 2009 Corbyn described the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah and Palestinian terror group Hamas as "friends" and has reportedly met with activists accused of denying the Holocaust, including Dyab About Jahjah and Paul Eisen.

He has also been a member of several groups on Facebook that shared anti-Semitic posts.

The party’s refusal this month to accept definitions of anti-Semitism as laid out by the advocacy group the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which is adopted across the U.K. government, has attracted widespread criticism.

It sparked an extraordinary show of unity from Britain’s Jewish community as 68 rabbis, many of whom disagree on many topics and some do not even recognize each other as rabbis, formed a coalition to condemn anti-Semitism, attacking Labour’s position.

On Tuesday July 17, Dame Margaret Hodge, Jewish member of parliament, accused Corbyn of being “an anti-Semite and a racist” in the House of Commons chamber. Hodge, whose relatives died in Auschwitz, is to be disciplined by Labour for her comments.

The latest showdown


The various political tensions were apparent today as May faced members of parliament for her weekly grilling session in the House of Commons. It was the last weekly Prime Minister’s Questions before the House breaks for summer holidays, and she faced pressure from both sides.

Corbyn, who is allowed to ask six questions to the Prime Minister, used all of them to focus on Brexit, accusing the government of sinking into a “mire of chaos and division” and that its proposed plans on the exit were not going to work.

She also was asked by a fellow Conservative Andrea Jenkyns, who is against closer ties with the E.U., at what point it was decided that “Brexit means remain?” -- implying that May was not respecting the outcome of the vote to leave.

May endured further public criticism of her Brexit strategy from her own benches today as Boris Johnson delivered a resignation statement in the House of Commons, setting out why he could no longer work in her Cabinet.

Boris accused the Prime Minister of “dithering” in E.U. talks and allowing “a fog of self-doubt” to descend.

“We need to take one decision now before all others – and that is to believe in this country and what it can do,” he said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul182018

Feds spend nearly $70k at Trump hotel in Scotland

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(TURNBERRY, Scotland) -- The U.S. federal government billed taxpayers nearly $70,000 in expenses at the Trump hotel in Turnberry, Scotland, during President Donald Trump's visit last weekend, federal spending records show.

The expenditures, totaling $69,767, were made by the State Department on behalf of the U.S. Secret Service, tasked to protect the president and his family members during their trips abroad.

“The State Department frequently assists other U.S. agencies, including the Secret Service, with transportation arrangements and in making hotel bookings overseas," a State Department spokesperson told ABC News. The spokesperson added that the cost for those hotels rooms and additional transportation expenses are reimbursed by the Secret Service.

The revelation of the expenditures at the Turnberry hotel comes on the heels of criticisms against Trump's touting of the hotel during a recent interview with British tabloid The Sun during his visit, calling the hotel a "magical" place.

"These are taxpayer funds – money from you and I – that Trump is spending to enrich his own business enterprise," said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist with watchdog group Public Citizen. "This constitutes self-dealing by Trump plain and simple, and we are paying for it."

It is unclear whether the Secret Service booked the Turnberry hotel rooms at a regular rate or received a discount.

ABC News reached out to the Trump Organization for response.

The recent Scotland expenditures, labeled "hotel rooms" for "VIP visit," are the latest U.S. Secret Service charges billed during Trump family members' visits to Trump properties abroad.

The State Department spent more than $13,000 at just the Turnberry hotel between November 2016 through May 2017, according to additional spending records obtained by government watchdog group Property of the People and shared with ABC News.

The documents also show that the State Department has spent at least $38,500 at the Trump hotel in Vancouver. This includes the roughly $15,000 spent to book rooms at the new Trump hotel for Secret Service agents protecting the Trump family members during its ribbon-cutting ceremony in late February 2017.

The president and his son Eric Trump's visits to the Trump International Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland, throughout 2017 cost the State Department nearly $28,000 at the hotel for Secret Service expenses.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul182018

A 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue pops up in London

John Phillips/Getty Images(LONDON) -- People walking by Potter's Field Park near the Tower Bridge in London will encounter a larger-than-life figure from the "Jurassic Park" movies.

No, it's not one of the film's cloned dinosaurs. It's a 25-foot statue of a Jeff Goldblum, with an open shirt, reclining in the shadow of the bridge.

"There was nothing sexy going on there and there still may not be," the actor told IGN. "I don’t know how this shirtlessness came about."

The statue, placed by the subscription TV service NowTV that is playing "Jurassic Park," recreates Goldblum's famous pose from the movie in honor of the film's 25th anniversary. The original "Jurassic Park" premiered a quarter century ago on June 11, 1993.

The statue is expected to remain in the park until Thursday evening.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul182018

Rescued boys explain how they survived in Thailand cave for 2 weeks

Linh Pham/Getty Images(CHIANG RAI, Thailand) -- The 12 young soccer players and their coach rescued from a Thai cave never gave up hope of being found alive and passed the time digging into a rocky wall believing they might be able to tunnel out, they said Wednesday.

In their first public appearance since the improbable rescues ended eight days ago, the members of the Wild Boar soccer team detailed their harrowing 18-day misadventure after they entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Thailand June 23.

The group set out on the excursion planning to explore the subterranean maze only for an hour, they said, explaining that some of them had activities to attend that afternoon and one was expected at his 16th birthday party at home.

While they had preplanned the trip, communicating on Facebook, they brought no food and or drinking water.


"It was on the way back ... when we got trapped," Ekapol Chanthawong, an assistant coach who led the boys on the ill-fated trek, said in Thai Wednesday at a news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

They quickly learned their path out was blocked by floodwaters, Chanthawong, 25, said. They realized they'd have to wade or swim through the water to escape.

As the water in the cave rose, they were forced to retreat and regroup. The boys began to fear they were lost.

"I told everyone to fight and not be defeated," Chanthawong said.

As the hours passed and the cave grew pitch black, they said, the group used a flashlight to guide them deeper into the dank underground. They conceded that they would have to spend the night in the cave and searched for a place to shelter.

Many in the group began to feel thirsty and hungry, they said, with the group stumbling across freshwater trickling down the side of a cave wall about 650 feet up a rock. They decided it was the best place for them to bed down on the hard ground for the night.

The group prayed before going to sleep, they said.

"I didn't worry at the time because I thought the water would lower down overnight and we would get out," Chanthawong said.

But when morning came, conditions had worsened in the cave, they said.

Despite the hunger, Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11, said he tried not to think of food, filling his stomach with the water trickling down the cave wall.

As days slipped by, they spent the time digging into the wall, believing they might be able to tunnel out.

"I would dig on the cave walls,” Chanin, also speaking in Thai, said. “I would dig three to four meters with rocks to find a way out.”

Another boy said they began digging in shifts.

"We could not go out but what we could do is dig at the cave wall because at least we could do something," the boy said. "We took turns along the way."

By the fifth day, coach Chathawong realized the boys were getting weak and told them to limit their movements to conserve energy, he said.

They discussed moving further into the cave, thinking there might be an exit at the end of the 6-mile-long grotto. That’s when they heard the water rising toward them.

"So we had to walk," Chathawong said. "The water rose three meters," or nearly 10 feet.

They eventually found high ground on a beach inside a chamber that became known as "Chamber 9." They lost track of how many days they had been lost.

They were sitting inside the chamber one evening, "playing with a rock," when their prayers were answered, Adul Sam-on, 14, said.

"Suddenly, we heard somebody talking," the teen said.

The group grew silent and listened. At first, they thought they were hallucinating.

"We weren't sure if it was true or not, so we stopped talking and listened,” Adul said. “Is it true? I was frightened, I was nervous. I told Mig to go down.”

Panumas "Mig" Sangdee, 13, had a flashlight in his hand but he was too scared to go and investigate the source of the voices, Adul said.

"I took the flashlight from him and went down right away," Adul said. "I said, 'Hello' or something like that. They didn't show their faces at first. They stuck their faces up and were talking."

Two divers from the British Cave Rescue Council, John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, were stringing a safety rope through a flooded area of the cave when they popped up in a cavern and, to their surprise, saw all 12 boys and their coach huddled on a small beach in the darkness.

"It was like a miracle," Adul said of the encounter 10 days after they went missing. "He [Volanthen] asked me a question. It took a long time to respond to it."

A video of the moment was released by the Thai Navy SEALS. In the footage, Volanthen asked Adul how he was and how many were in his group.

"I said, 'We have thirteen,'" Adul said. "Then he said, 'Brilliant.’"



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul182018

Salisbury public gardens searched as investigation continues into couple's Novichok poisoning

Jack Taylor/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Wiltshire police in England are searching Salisbury’s Queen Elizabeth Gardens as part of the ongoing investigation into the Novichok contamination that killed a British woman and seriously injured her partner.

The gardens have been closed off to the public for two weeks since Dawn Sturgess and her partner, Charlie Rowley, fell ill following exposure to a Novichok nerve agent in late June, four months after the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal.

“The commencement of the searching of the gardens is a significant step in the operation,” Wiltshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said.

He added, “We are intentionally undertaking a detailed and meticulous search so that the public can return to using the gardens with confidence when they are reopened.”

A murder inquiry was launched after Sturgess died at a local hospital on July 8. She was at Rowley's house in Amesbury, just several miles away from Salisbury, when she first fell ill.

Investigators are studying whether the British couple's poisoning is linked to the Skripals.

Around 100 detectives are supporting the regional police force working on the case.

Rowley remains in the hospital and told his brother he was “devastated” when he learned of Sturgess’ death.



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul182018

Boys say they dug holes in cave to try to save themselves

Linh Pham/Getty Images(CHIANG RAI, Thailand) -- The 12 soccer players and their coach who were rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand made their first public appearance Wednesday, smiling and waving and sharing details of their frightening ordeal.

Ekapol Chanthawong, the 25-year-old coach who led the boys into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, immediately wanted to set the record straight.

"Yes, we all can swim," he said.

The boys were each given a soccer ball when they entered the hall in Chiang Rai for Wednesday's press conference. Before speaking they kicked the balls around in front of a stage to show they were all healthy.

One of the boys called it a "miracle moment" when two British divers discovered them.

"Then he asked, 'How are you' and I responded, 'We're fine,'" Pipat "Nick" Bodhi, 15, said.

'Do not be defeated'

The boys said they had no food with them when they went into the cave on June 23 and had initially decided to spend just an hour underground.

But when they went to leave, they found their exit path flooded.

Chanthawong said they made the decision together to go deeper into the cave, believing there was another way out.

He said they were immediately confronted by sections of deep water they had to swim through.

"The water went up to my shoulder. So everyone followed me," Chanthawong said.

As the floodwater rose, one of the boys asked if they were lost. But Chanthawong said he assured the group that they weren't lost.

"There's only one direction in the cave," he said.

As the hours passed, Chanthawong said he tried to keep the boys calm, telling them "to fight and not be defeated."

The group found an area about 650 feet up a rock and decided to stay there for the night. Before they went to sleep, they prayed, the boys said.

"I didn’t worry at that time because I thought the water would lower down overnight and we could get out," Chanthawong said.

Digging into cave wall

They had no food or water, so the next day they went hunting for fresh water to drink, finding some trickling down a wall in the cave.

"I felt weak and very hungry," said the youngest boy, 11-year-old Chanin Wiboonrungrueng. "I drank water to make me full."

As hours stretched into days, the boys said they would take turns digging into the cave walls, believing they could tunnel their way out.

"I would dig on the cave walls," Chanin said. "I could dig three to four meters with rocks to find a way out."

Coach Chanthawong said he eventually told the boys to stop digging and to move as little as possible to conserve their energy.

Then on the tenth day, trapped in the labyrinth maze, they heard someone speaking in English.

Chanthawong instructed one of the boys who had a torch to go investigate. He found the British divers who had been stringing a safety line through the cave as part of the massive search-and-rescue mission.

Honoring SEAL who died

The Wild Boars, as the team is called, also expressed condolences to the family of Lt. Col. Saman Gunan, the retired Thai Navy SEAL who died during the rescue mission.

They showed a framed drawing of Gunan that they all signed and plan to send it to his family.

"I would like to express our condolences and hope you rest in peace," the youngest boy, 11-year-old Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, said, reading the message he wrote on the drawing to Gunan. "Thank you very much for your sacrifice and I felt sorry for Lt. Col. Gunan's family."

Coach Chanthawong said that when they heard of Gunan's death, "Everyone was shocked. Everyone was saddened by the news and we felt guilty that we were the cause of his death."

Officials released the team from Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital at about 5 p.m. Wednesday local time.

Most of the boys said they'd like to become both professional soccer players and Navy SEALs when they grow up.

Lessons learned

The boys said the biggest lesson they learned from the ordeal is to be more careful.

"This experience taught me not to live life carelessly," said Pipat Bodhi.

Their rescue took place over a period of three days last week. The first four boys were taken out of the cave on July 8 in a tandem rescue effort, with one SEAL swimming ahead of the boys and another behind, all the while attached to a tether.

Four more boys were rescued the following day, July 9, and the final four boys and their coach were brought out of the cave on July 10.

The final group had stayed in the cave for 18 days by the time they were saved.

Former provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn told ABC News that as soon as the final boys and coach were taken out of the cave, the main water pump failed and water rushed back into the tunnel. The Navy SEALs still inside were forced to abandon oxygen tanks and quickly make an escape.

For having spent over two weeks underground, the boys were in remarkable health from the moment they were rushed to the hospital.

A few of the boys tested positive for minor lung infections, but on the whole, officials said from the beginning the boys were happy and healthy.

As a precaution, they were not allowed to eat solid foods, or spicy foods, for their first days in the hospital. Their parents were also forced to view them from afar, and through glass, for two days in order to prevent the spread of infection.

One of the rescuers involved in the search, Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL, died from a lack of oxygen on July 6.

The group has been recovering in the hospital since early last week, when they were rescued from the cave in northern Thailand after surviving without food for 10 days.

The team entered the cave on June 23 as part of a team bonding experience with their coach. Unexpected heavy rain flooded the cave, forcing the group farther inside and cutting off any escape routes.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul172018

American-born investor named in Putin’s 'incredible offer'

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When Russian President Vladimir Putin called out a U.S.-born investor during Monday’s stunning news conference in Helsinki, Finland, Bill Browder was on vacation with his family – not watching Putin’s landmark summit with President Donald Trump.

“My phone started burning up with messages and notifications,” Browder told ABC News on Tuesday. “I was curious more than anything.”

Putin mentioned Browder, an American-born hedge fund manager, as part of what President Donald Trump called an “incredible offer” – a suggestion from Putin that the U.S. and Russia collaborate in handling international prosecutions.

But even if President Trump wanted to allow Russian officials access to Browder, he couldn’t. Browder, who resides in the UK and holds British citizenship, renounced his American citizenship two decades ago.

Asked whether Russia would extradite 12 Russian intelligence officers accused by special counsel Robert Mueller of hacking into the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee, Putin offered to allow Mueller’s prosecutors into Russia to question the indicted Russian officers – but with a catch.

“This kind of effort should be mutual one,” Putin added. “We would expect that the Americans would reciprocate.”

“For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this case.”

As the CEO and founder of investment firm Hermitage Capital Management, Browder scored billions on Russia's fledgling investment and bond market in the 1990s -- his firm becoming the top foreign investor in post-Soviet Russia for a time.

But Browder’s fortunes plummeted in the early 2000s after he butted heads with Russia’s headstrong young president, Vladimir Putin.

“I started investing in the companies Gazprom and Sberbank,” Browder told ABC News, referring to state-owned oil and banking companies, “and I discovered massive corruption and theft in those companies. We then took that information and shared in with the international media…in a name-and-shame campaign.”

In 2005, the Kremlin declared Browder a threat to national security and expelled him from Russia.

“The people who were benefiting didn't like that, and Putin was one of the people benefiting,” Browder asserted, “so I got expelled.”

These days, Browder is best known for his human rights campaign against Kremlin corruption and violence in Russia, encapsulated in the initiative he authored, passed by Congress in 2012, and known as the Magnitsky Act.

"In December of 2007, my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, exposed the fraud," Browder told ABC News. "In July of 2008, [Magnitsky] testified against the officials involved and in October ... and then in November of 2008, he was arrested by some of the same officials he testified against. He was put in pre-trial detention he was tortured for 358 days he was killed on November 16, 2009, after being tortured, denied medical care and beaten," Browder added.

The Magnitsky Act imposes sanctions on certain Russian officials accused of human rights abuses and was enacted in response to the Magnitsky's death.

A Russian government spokesperson said at the time that Magnitsky died of heart failure, but a Russian human rights council found that his detention was unlawful and that he was beaten by guards with rubber batons on the last day of his life and then denied medical care, according to a U.S. indictment.

It has become a major issue for the Russian government, which is critical of the law.

The Kremlin retaliated for the Magnitsky Act, in part, by banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children in 2012. The ban is currently still in place.

When news of the now infamous Trump Tower meeting between members of the Trump campaign and a group of Russians on June 9, 2016, emerged, Donald Trump Jr. released a statement saying the Russians "wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act," although a separate email to Trump Jr. later revealed that the real reason for the meeting was to receive “information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton].”

There are indications that some people involved in the alleged fraud that Magnitsky uncovered are being given cover by the Kremlin.

Since his removal from Russia, the Kremlin has issued multiple Interpol red notices for Browder, which Interpol later rejected as politically motivated.

During Monday’s news conference, Putin accused Browder of evading taxes in Russia and donating $400 million to Hillary Clinton’s campaign – claims Browder denies.

"This whole Hillary Clinton $400 million donation thing was a complete fabrication," Browder told ABC News Tuesday. "I have not made a single political donation to any candidate in the U.S. at any point ever."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul172018

US Embassy in Jerusalem to cost more than $21 million - nearly 100 times Trump’s estimate 

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- President Donald Trump may have written the book on deal-making, but when it comes to the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, it appears he won’t be getting the bargain he wanted.

Documents filed with the official database of federal spending show that the State Department awarded the Maryland-based company Desbuild Limak D&K a contract for $21.2 million to design and build an “addition and compound security upgrades” at the embassy. These updates will be made to the former consular building in Jerusalem -- the embassy’s temporary location.

“We’re going to have it built very quickly and very inexpensively,” President Trump said of the embassy back in March, while sitting beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. “They put an order in front of my desk last week for a billion dollars. I said, ‘A billion? What’s that for?’”

“We’re actually doing it for about $250,000,” the president said.

Trump’s comments created confusion at the time, as many wondered if he was conflating the costs for modifying the consulate and the price for constructing a new embassy. But President Trump doubled down on most of his claims at an April press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, raising his estimate for the renovation to between $300,000 and $400,000.

“That’s the way government works,” Trump said. “They were going to spend a billion dollars and we are going to spend much less than a half a million.”

While the total bill may not be near the billion dollar mark yet, the expenses are adding up. In addition to the $21.2 million allotted for the next phase of upgrades, the government has already spent over $300,000 on initial modifications to the former consular building prior to opening the embassy in May.

The embassy’s 33 mile move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has racked up both costs and controversy, prompting weeks of protests from Palestinians and violent clashes with Israeli troops. Some world leaders, like Netanyahu, have praised Trump’s decision. Others have said it would contribute to instability in the region and further stoke conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, as both claim the city as their capital.

Previously, the United States and most other countries with diplomatic ties to Israel have avoided pre-empting any decision on the city’s official status by basing their operations in Tel Aviv. Formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was one of Trump’s 2016 campaign promises.

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