Grand Canyon, Ariz.
Three British tourists were killed and four other people badly injured in a fiery helicopter crash in a remote stretch of the Grand Canyon outside the boundaries of the national park. The victims—Stuart Hill, 30; his fiancée, Becky Dobson, 27; and his brother, Jason Hill, 32—were taking a helicopter sightseeing tour as part of a trip to celebrate Stuart Hill’s birthday. It’s not clear what caused the crash, but federal investigators said that because the helicopter was certified before 1994, it wasn’t required to have a crash-resistant fuel system that could have kept it from bursting into flames upon impact. The crash happened on the Hualapai Nation reservation, where air tours are not as tightly regulated as those within Grand Canyon National Park. Helicopter tourism is a major economic driver on the reservation, which sees upward of 450 flights a day during peak season.
Immigration agents this week backed down from their attempt to deport a father of five children, including a 5-year-old cancer patient, after the deportation order triggered widespread media attention. Thirty-year-old Jesus Berrones, who has lived in the U.S. since he was 18 months old and whose wife and children are U.S. citizens, was granted a one-year stay on humanitarian grounds. After being ordered to report to immigration authorities this month for immediate deportation to Mexico, he had taken refuge in a Phoenix church. Berrones, who had been deported twice before, following criminal misdemeanors, had been part of ICE’s Alternative to Detention Program, requiring him to make regular check-ins with immigration agents. ICE, which has wide discretion over who is deported, arrested 110,568 people between the start of the Trump administration and the end of the 2017 fiscal year, up 42 percent from the same period last year.
Russia is determined to interfere in this year’s midterms, the heads of five U.S. intelligence agencies warned this week. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the officials said that Moscow plans to step up its ongoing propaganda campaign to sow political discord in the U.S., as well as its efforts to penetrate the country’s electoral systems. “Frankly, the United States is under attack,” said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “Russia perceives its past efforts as successful.” Several intel chiefs, including Coats, also testified that President Trump has not directed them to take action against Kremlin interference. “I can’t say I’ve been specifically directed to blunt or actually stop” Russian meddling, NSA Director Mike Rogers said. Despite broad agreement among intelligence agencies, President Trump has repeatedly rejected the idea that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Corker in the race?
Two-term Sen. Bob Corker is reconsidering his decision to retire, with some Republicans, worried about losing one of Tennessee’s Senate seats to a Democrat, urging him to run for re-election, Politico.com reported this week. Corker announced his intention to retire four months ago, after it became clear he faced a likely primary challenge. But there are growing doubts that conservative firebrand Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, could prevail in November. Democrats are expected to nominate Phil Bredesen, a popular former two-term governor and Nashville mayor, who is polling slightly ahead of Blackburn. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly told Corker that he needs President Trump’s blessing to jump back into the race. Corker sharply criticized Trump last fall, calling the White House an “adult day-care center.”
Justice Department resignation
Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department and next in line to oversee Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, announced last week that she is resigning. Friends of Brand told NBC News that she feared she would be forced to oversee the Russia investigation if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein quit or was fired by President Trump. Brand, who is leaving to become an executive at Walmart, is also said to have been unhappy about the number of senior-level vacancies at the Justice Department left unfilled by the White House, including the head of the civil rights division. A Justice Department spokesperson denied reports that Brand feared becoming embroiled in the Mueller probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised Brand in a statement announcing her departure, calling her a “lawyer’s lawyer.”
High school shooting
At least 17 people were killed this week when a gunman opened fire at a high school in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. Police said they had taken the shooter, identified as former student Nicolas de Jesus Cruz, 19, into custody. A teacher said that Cruz had threatened students in the past and had been banned from campus. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School began shortly before students were dismissed from classes for the day. The school went into lockdown, with some students and teachers barricading themselves inside classrooms; TV footage showed students running from the school as law enforcement descended on the building. “I tried to stay calm,” said 16-year-old sophomore Dianna Milleret after escaping. “Students were running everywhere.” On Twitter, President Trump sent his “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting.’’