A very strange set of false accusations against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), which emerged late in his 2012 re-election campaign, have now taken an even stranger turn.
The Washington Post reports that Mendendez's attorney asked the Justice Department this past April to investigate evidence, obtained by U.S. intelligence, that the Castro regime in Cuba was responsible for planting a story that the senator had consorted with young or even underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.
Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, is a staunch opponent of efforts to normalize trade or other relations with Cuba. At the time of the 2012 election, he was in line to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he has since done.
Several days before the election, the conservative news site The Daily Caller published an article containing allegations of prostitution by two women who appeared to be of legal age, which briefly caused a huge stir among right-leaning media outlets. Menendez easily won re-election, with 59 percent of the vote.
In the months to come, though, a total of three Dominican women then recanted their statements, saying that they had in fact been paid by someone else to make the claims.
The Daily Caller's editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson was surprised at the possibility that his reporters might have unwittingly been the funnel for a Cuban propaganda operation. "I really can't assess it without more information," Carlson told The Post. "It's bizarre on its face, but also fascinating." Eric Kleefeld
Pakistan has released designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed, outraging the U.S. Justice Department, which has a $10 million bounty on his head over his ties to a group that killed 168 people in a 2008 Mumbai attack, The Associated Press reports. "The Pakistani government should make sure that [Saeed] is arrested and charged for his crimes," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
Prior to his release, Saeed had spent 10 months under house arrest in Pakistan. He is accused of founding the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group; India accuses Lashkar-e-Taiba of being behind the devastating Mumbai attack. "[Saeed] was not only the mastermind, he was the prime organizer of the Mumbai terror attacks in which many innocent Indians and many people from other nationalities were killed," said India's External Affairs Ministry in protest of the accused terrorist being allowed to "walk free and continue with his evil agenda."
Saeed addressed thousands of his followers after his release, claiming he was detained for protesting India's oppression of the people of Kashmir, The New York Times reports. "My struggle is aimed at safeguarding the interests of Pakistan," he said. "I want Kashmir's freedom from India and this is my crime. I was arrested for it." Saeed's spokesman, Yahya Mujahid, called his client's release a "victory of truth." Jeva Lange
A South African court on Friday doubled Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius' prison sentence for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, to 13 years and five months, The Guardian reports.
Prosecutors challenged the double amputee's initial sentence of six years as being too lenient, and the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that it should be increased to 15 years, minus just over a year and a half for the time Pistorius has served. "This is an emotional thing for them," said Steenkamp family spokeswoman Tania Koen. "They just feel that their trust in the justice system has been confirmed this morning."
Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp in his home on Valentine's Day in 2013. He said he thought she was an intruder when he shot her through a bathroom door. He was originally convicted of manslaughter, but the appeals court upgraded the conviction to murder. Jeva Lange
On Thursday morning, the U.S. Navy announced that it had ended the search for three crew members lost in the crash of a Navy aircraft in the Philippine Sea near Okinawa, Japan, on Wednesday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families," said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton in a statement, as reported by NPR.
The twin-engine, propeller-driven C-2A Greyhound was carrying 11 crew and passengers to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it went down. "[E]ight U.S. Navy and [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force] ships, three helicopter squadrons, and maritime patrol aircraft covered nearly 1,000 square nautical miles in the search for the missing sailors," the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.
The Navy confirmed an investigation is ongoing. The crash came after the 7th Fleet, based in Japan, had several deadly collisions involving ships in the Pacific. Jeva Lange
President Trump is a man who knows how to have a holiday. While the White House has been quick to confirm that the president is doing executive work throughout his stay at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, Trump couldn't help but brag that he is also "quickly" playing 18 holes with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson at his course in Jupiter, Florida. "Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!" he tweeted.
Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
After Turkey call I will be heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf (quickly) with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
Golfing or not, when tragedy struck abroad on Friday, Trump was quickly back online. "The world cannot tolerate terrorism," he wrote, condemning an attack in Egypt on "defenseless" Sufi Muslim worshipers as "horrible and cowardly." Jeva Lange
An estimated 115 million Americans are expected to participate today in the annual bargains bonanza Black Friday, CBS News reports. "Unemployment has dropped, so people are really thinking that folks are going to head to the stores and head online this season," said USA Today business reporter Charisse Jones. "They're thinking sales will be up about 6 percent and $1.4 trillion will be spent by consumers."
Investment banking firm Jefferies found that only 13 percent of customers said they'd be spending more on Black Friday this year, compared to 17 percent last year, indicating that more people are shopping online throughout the month than on just one day. Adobe Analytics reports that this year's "Cyber Monday," for example, could see customers spending $6.6 billion on internet deals.
Lawyers for President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, have ended an agreement to share information with Trump's lawyers about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing four people involved in the case.
Trump's lawyers reportedly believe the move could mean Flynn is cooperating with Mueller's team. Lawyers sometimes pull out of such information-sharing agreements when their clients start negotiating deals with prosecutors.
Flynn had ties with Moscow before he joined Trump's campaign, and the White House has been preparing for his possible indictment since Mueller's team filed charges in October against Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign aide Rick Gates, and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Read more about what this means for the Mueller investigation at The New York Times. Jeva Lange
At least 200 people were killed Friday and more than 100 others injured when Islamist militants attacked a Sufi mosque in Egypt's Sinai province, state run news agency MENA reports. "I can't believe they attacked a mosque," one cleric from the town told The New York Times, speaking anonymously out of fear that he could also be attacked.
The attackers planted bombs inside the mosque, then fired on worshipers as they tried to flee, The Associated Press reports. Extremists in the region have targeted Christian churches in the past, but attacks on mosques remain relatively rare. The worshipers at the mosque attacked Friday were Sufi Muslims, who are considered heretical by Sunni extremists. Jeva Lange