March 4, 2015

More information is coming out about the homeless man shot and killed by police in Los Angeles on Sunday, including that he was a convicted bank robber who took over a French man's identity 15 years ago in order to gain entrance to the United States.

"He fooled a lot of people, including us, years ago," French consul general Axel Cruau told the Los Angeles Times. He said that the man, identified by the LAPD as Charley Saturmin Robinet, stole the identity of the real Robinet in the late-1990s. The man calling himself Robinet was convicted of a bank robbery in 2000, and Cruau said that French officials let the United States know that Robinet had assumed someone else's identity and was not a French citizen. The actual Charley Saturmin Robinet is still alive and living in France. Catherine Garcia

9:18 p.m. ET
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein praised Special Counsel Robert Mueller throughout his five-hour testimony Wednesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee, telling lawmakers that "based upon his reputation, his service, his patriotism, and his experience with the department and the FBI, I believe he was an ideal choice for this task."

Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and the Russians, and Rosenstein pushed back against Republicans complaining about an FBI agent working on the investigation who was found to be exchanging text messages with an FBI lawyer that called Trump "an idiot" and "loathsome human." That agent, Peter Strzok, was removed from the team, and Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said on Wednesday he thinks they "clearly allowed their political opinions to cloud their judgment." Mueller did the right thing in removing Strzok, Rosenstein responded, and he "understands the importance of ensuring there is no bias reflected in the conduct of the investigation."

Rosenstein oversees Mueller's investigation, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after it was revealed that he met with Russians before the election despite saying otherwise during his confirmation hearing. Rosenstein said he knows what Mueller is doing, and "if I thought he was doing something inappropriate, I would take action." Catherine Garcia

7:43 p.m. ET
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

PBS announced Wednesday it has "indefinitely suspended distribution" of the late-night talk show Tavis Smiley after the host was accused of sexual misconduct.

"PBS engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after leaning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley," the public broadcaster said in a statement. "This investigation included interviews with witnesses as well as with Mr. Smiley. The inquiry uncovered multiple credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS, and the totality of this information led to today's decision."

Variety reports PBS received several complaints of misconduct by Smiley, and its investigation found credible allegations that Smiley had sexual relationships with several subordinates, with many saying he also created a verbally abusive and threatening workplace environment. Catherine Garcia

6:58 p.m. ET
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With a win under their belt, Democratic leaders on Wednesday called on Republicans to slow down their attempt to push through their tax bill and wait to hold the vote until Doug Jones, the newly elected senator from Alabama, is seated.

Republicans say they have reached a deal on a $1.5 trillion tax plan, which lowers the corporate tax rate down to 21 percent and the top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 37 percent. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Republicans that if a bill that heavily favors the wealthiest Americans goes through, "there will be many more Alabamas in 2018. Many more. The suburbs are swinging back to us."

Republicans, who want the House and Senate to vote on a bill by the end of next week, said they are not slowing down. "We are moving ahead as we always have been on the same timeline we've been talking about for months," Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. It's not clear when Jones will arrive in Washington; Alabama's secretary of state said the soonest the election will be certified is Dec. 26 or 27, and if the Senate goes on break as scheduled on Dec. 22, they're not expected back until Jan. 3. Once Jones is officially seated, he will cut the GOP majority down from two to one. Catherine Garcia

5:44 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The chief technology officer of the Federal Communications Commission apparently has some serious doubts about his agency’s plan to repeal net neutrality, Politico reported Wednesday. The FCC is expected to vote to repeal the equal-opportunity laws Thursday.

Net neutrality rules, instituted by former President Barack Obama, banned internet service providers from blocking or degrading online content, as well as forbade these services from taking money to create "fast lanes" for lawful material. Fans of the guidelines say repealing them would allow ISPs to block certain content — even if it is legal — or create tiered pricing for online content, thus undermining the idea that "all internet traffic is created equal."

FCC CTO Eric Burger wrote in an email Wednesday to his fellow commissioners that removing these guidelines would let ISPs essentially dictate which online content get priority, while also allowing the agency to block lawful content. "Allowing such blocking is not in the public interest," Burger wrote.

Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has disputed claims that scrapping net neutrality would result in ISPs dictating web traffic, telling Marketplace on Wednesday that repeal "means better, faster, cheaper internet access." In response to Politico's story, an anonymous FCC official said that Burger's worries had been "fully addressed" in the hours since he sent his email.

The FCC's plan to repeal net neutrality is deeply unpopular. On Wednesday, 18 state attorneys general wrote a letter to Pai asking him to delay Thursday's vote to allow time to investigate complaints about the FCC's public comment process on net neutrality repeal; during the comment period, more than 2 million online comments were reportedly made using stolen or fake identities, most in favor of repeal. Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:56 p.m. ET

A forged 13-page document accusing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of sexual harassment apparently copied language from a legitimate complaint filed against recently ousted Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), The Daily Beast reports.

Axios wrote Tuesday that the fake document that was circulated to several major media companies looked like a lawsuit that had been filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It named a former Schumer staffer, who worked in his office from 2009 to 2012; when approached by Axios, the woman said that she had never seen the document before and that the claims are "completely false, my signature is forged, and even basic facts about me are wrong."

Right-wing personalities Charles Johnson and Mike Cernovich had "boasted" about the documents earlier this week, The Daily Beast writes, with Johnson posting on Facebook that "Michael Cernovich & I are going to end the career of a U.S. Senator." But upon closer inspection, there were several telltale signs that the documents had been forged:

The Conyers complaint references "House Rule 23" and a "mediation" process between Conyers and his accuser. The fake Schumer complaint also describes allegations as falling under "House Rule 23," which of course does not exist in the Senate. The "mediation" process in the Schumer document was never mentioned again. [The Daily Beast]

Cernovich now claims he was the victim of a "sophisticated forgery." Read the full scoop at The Daily Beast. Jeva Lange

2:49 p.m. ET
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

It's been two months since The New York Times dropped its Harvey Weinstein bombshell, spurring sexual harassment victims to speak out against the biggest names in politics and entertainment.

Now, the Weinstein story continues. In a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday, actress Salma Hayek details years of horrifying encounters with the man she calls her "monster."

Hayek's op-ed revolves around her time working with Weinstein on the Miramax movie Frida, in which she starred as artist Frida Kahlo. Weinstein's abuse began with lewd sexual demands and turned to violent threats, Hayek says. He additionally tried to infuse sex appeal into the movie, which Hayek says he told her was "the only thing I had going for me." Weinstein nearly refused to release the film in theaters altogether, Hayek writes.

Frida ended up winning two Oscars, but Hayek says she just wanted to distance herself from the whole experience. Even when reporters approached Hayek for the initial Weinstein story, she declined:

I had brainwashed myself into thinking that it was over and that I had survived; I hid from the responsibility to speak out with the excuse that enough people were already involved in shining a light on my monster. I didn't consider my voice important, nor did I think it would make a difference. [Salma Hayek, via The New York Times]

But after so many women spoke out, Hayek says, she was "inspired" to come forward. Read Hayek's entire account at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:44 p.m. ET
AUNG HTET/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson extended an olive branch — or at least, an olive twig — to North Korea, saying the U.S. was willing to have talks with Pyongyang without preconditions.

Predictably, Tillerson's optimism was undercut just a day later by the White House, in keeping with a year-long pattern of President Trump disregarding statements made by his secretary of state.

"Given North Korea's most recent missile test, clearly right now is not the time [for negotiations]," a White House spokesman said to Reuters on Wednesday. Last month, Trump told South Korea's parliament that he would not negotiate with Kim Jong Un unless North Korean leaders "cease their threats and dismantle their nuclear program."

While Tillerson did say that the U.S. needed "a period of quiet" before coming to the negotiating table, on Tuesday he invited North Korea to "talk anytime" — breaking with longstanding U.S. policy by opening the diplomacy door even if North Korea does not give up its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea's most recent missile test on Nov. 30 showed that it now possesses missiles that are likely capable of hitting the continental United States. Throughout Tillerson's bizarre tenure as secretary of state, Trump has frequently struck a more aggressive tone on North Korea than his top diplomat. Kelly O'Meara Morales

See More Speed Reads