On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted six Volkswagen executives over the company's emissions scandal. Five of the indicted employees are in Germany; the sixth was arrested and charged earlier this week in Miami.
The indictments came alongside Volkswagen's announcement that it will plead guilty to three criminal charges for building engines with a "defeat device," which created a discrepancy in performance in government tests versus in real life. The charges include "conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and importing vehicles by using false statements," The Associated Press reported.
Volkswagen has agreed to pay a $4.3 billion penalty in a settlement with the Department of Justice, which The Associated Press noted is the "largest ever levied by the government against an automaker." Volkswagen previously reached a $15 billion settlement in the U.S., bringing its total fines over the emissions cheating scandal up to nearly $20 billion.
The investigation is still underway, meaning more Volkswagen executives could face charges. Becca Stanek
Montana GOP candidate Greg Gianforte loses 3 big newspaper endorsements after altercation with reporter
Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana's at-large House seat, was charged with misdemeanor assault on Wednesday night after he body-slammed a reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, for asking him questions about the GOP health-care bill, according to accounts by Jacobs and three witness from Fox News. Late Wednesday and early Thursday, three Montana newspapers — the Missoulian, the Helena Independent Record, and the Billings Gazette — rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte, in no uncertain terms. The election is Thursday.
Gianforte "not only lost the endorsement of this newspaper Wednesday night," the Missoulian editorial board wrote, "he should lose the confidence of all Montanans."
We will leave it to the legal system to determine his guilt or innocence. But there is no doubt that Gianforte committed an act of terrible judgment that, if it doesn't land him in jail, also shouldn't land him in the U.S. House of Representatives. ... He does not represent Montana values and he should not represent us in Congress. [Missoulian]
The Independent Review noted that "democracy cannot exist without a free press," saying "both concepts are under attack" by Gianforte, with Wednesday night just being the most serious and latest example. "We cannot in good faith continue to support this candidate." the editorial board said.
The Billings Gazette said called Gianforte's reported actions "shocking, disturbing, and without precedent," and worthy of "rescinding our editorial endorsement." They called him untrustworthy and lacking sound judgment. "We believe that you cannot love America, love the Constitution, talk about the importance of a free press, and then pummel a reporter," the editorial board said, but to make this about press freedoms "would be to miss the point":
If what was heard on tape and described by eye-witnesses is accurate, the incident in Bozeman is nothing short of assault. We wouldn't condone it if it happened on the street. We wouldn't condone it if it happened in a home or even a late-night bar fight. And we couldn't accept it from a man who is running to become Montana's lone congressional representative. We will not stand by that kind of violence, period. [Billings Gazette]
None of the newspapers explicitly endorsed Gianforte's rival, Democrat Rob Quist, but they made it pretty clear who they did not want to see in Congress. You can read the full editorials at the Missoulian, Billings Gazette, and Independent Record, or hear the details in this Associated Press report. Peter Weber
This week, a Philippine transcript of an April phone call President Trump placed to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte leaked to the press. The Trump administration had already shared that Trump invited Duterte to the White House (he was noncommittal). Regardless, "that's a very exclusive invitation," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Usually you want to save that kind of honor for a true statesman like Ted Nugget." But thanks to the leaked transcript, we also know he started off his call by congratulating Duterte on his "war on drugs" — which, not unlike a real war, has killed 7,000 people over the past year.
"Trump congratulated Duterte on his vigilante kill squads," Colbert marveled. "That's like saying: 'Darth, I'm in construction, and I know that's a fantastic Death Star, top notch. I'd love to have you over sometime to Force-choke Sean Spicer." Still, "the call had an even bigger bombshell," he said. "In a conversation about North Korea, Trump gave Duterte military secrets" about two U.S. nuclear submarines off North Korea. "Come on! That's a state secret," Colbert protested. "Trump has got to be the world's worst Battleship player. 'Okay, you'll never guess where my beautiful submarine is — unless you guess B2, because that's where I put it, 2 through 5.'"
Then Colbert saw an opportunity in Trump's secrets-spilling: "Since the only way we seem to get any information out of Donald Trump these days is via leaked conversations with dictators, I have a favor to ask of Robert Mugabe: Can you call up our president and ask him for his tax returns?" Peter Weber
President Trump is still overseas, Stephen Colbert noted on Wednesday's Late Show. "And he might want to stay over there for a little while, until the firemen can put out his budget proposal. Not only does nobody like it, but it turns out it has a huge mistake in it — not the part about cutting funding for cancer research, that's just one of his passion projects." No, he was talking about the $2 trillion accounting error. "There's a simple explanation for how this happened: Donald Trump is an idiot," Colbert said. "Or he's lying." The fault actually lies with White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who says the $2 trillion error isn't a mistake, but what fun is that? "Let me see if I can help — here is a basic math lesson for Donald Trump," Colbert said: "If a train leaves Washington, D.C., traveling at 40 mph, please get on it."
Colbert then turned to Trump's visit to the Vatican. "That's exciting — it's one of the few places on Earth with more old white men than his Cabinet," he said. Trump and Pope Francis butted heads over immigration during the presidential campaign, so some people were expecting a tense meeting — and judging from the pope's demeanor, it may have been, he added. But Trump seemed pleased, kind of, saying afterward that the pope "is something." "The pope is, indeed, something," Colbert said. "As Jesus himself said, 'Blessed are the vague, for they shall inherit, you know, stuff.'"
As is traditional, Francis and Trump exchanged gifts, "but the best part of the visit happened at the end," Colbert said, "when the pope threw a little shade at Trump's physique," asking first lady Melania Trump, "What do you give him to eat, potizza?" — a high-calorie pastry from her native Slovenia. "The pope just called the president chubby," Colbert said. "I cannot believe that the infallible vicar of Christ just played the dozens on our president." He turned to Cartoon Pope Francis for some answers, and, well, Cartoon Pope Francis just isn't sorry. Peter Weber
Vermont's Middlebury College has disciplined 67 of 100 or so students who disrupted a March lecture by Charles Murray, a conservative author and American Enterprise Institute scholar, but none of the students were suspended or expelled. The punishments range "from probation to official college discipline," Middlebury said in a statement on Tuesday, with the last action — meted out to 10 or fewer students — leaving a mark on the students' permanent academic records. The Middlebury Police also said it won't bring any charges in the incident, which left faculty member Allison Stanger injured.
"The sanctions are a farce," Murray said Wednesday. "They will not deter anyone. They're a statement to students that if you shut down a lecture, nothing will happen to you." Middlebury spokesman Bill Burger disagreed, saying 20 of the students are appealing the punishments. "What I can tell you is that the students who received them don't think they're meaningless," he said.
In the March incident, a group of 100 to 150 protesters shouted that Murray was racist and sexist, referring to his 1994 book The Bell Curve. When he left the stage and moved to another room for a live-streamed Q&A session, students pulled the fire alarm. A group of protesters, some wearing masks and maybe not all students, accosted Murray and Stanger when they left the building for a car, and Stanger was treated for a concussion after someone pulled her hair. Police said they did not have enough evidence to press charges, in part because they couldn't identify the assailants. Peter Weber
Jimmy Kimmel jokes his way through Trump's visit with Pope Francis, and Fox News' 'slobbering' coverage
Wednesday was "an historic day, a holy day — maybe even an a-holy day — as his holiness met his bigliness at the Vatican," Jimmy Kimmel said on Wednesday's Kimmel Live. There were actually "no major incidents" when President Trump met with Pope Francis, he assured everyone. "The pope made it clear that he would like our president to join him in promoting peace, giving aid to the poor, and protecting our environment, and the pope is very persuasive. Unfortunately, Trump is only in year 70 of his 100-year deal with the devil right now, and he's got a no-trade clause, so it's very unlikely he would switch teams."
When Pope Francis meets with world leaders, "he doesn't have much of a ... poper face, I guess," Kimmel said. He showed photos of Francis meeting various world leaders, and noted his expression, then showed the pope and Trump, with some realistically fake footage of a papal hand-swatting and fake photos of Trump's gift for Pope Francis. But the Fox News coverage he showed was real. "If you were visiting from another planet and turned on Fox News, you really might not know which of these guys was the holy one," Kimmel said, playing some of the "slobbering" commentary. Watch below. Peter Weber
Leonard the pit bull is proof that with a little training, a misunderstood dog is capable of doing amazing things.
When Leonard, 1, was rescued in Ohio last October, he was almost euthanized because the shelter didn't think anyone would adopt him. He liked to take things that weren't his and had a one-track mind, and the Union County Humane Society realized that while it would be hard for him to sit around someone's house, those traits would make him a successful police dog. They contacted the Clay Township Police Department, and after some tests and training, Leonard joined the force on May 19, becoming Ohio's first official police pit bull.
Leonard's job is to find narcotics, and when he's off duty, he lives with Chief of Police Terry Mitchell. "He would just as soon climb on your lap and give you kisses and go to sleep as he would do anything else, but he's really taken to the vest," Mitchell told WTOL. "When you put that vest on him, he's all business. It's like he knows it's time to go to work." Catherine Garcia
Montana GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte cited for assault after altercation with reporter
Greg Gianforte, the Republican running against Democrat Rob Quist in Thursday's special election for the open House seat in Montana, has been issued a citation for misdemeanor assault related to his reported manhandling of reporter Ben Jacobs at a campaign event Wednesday evening in Bozeman, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said Wednesday night. "The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault," Gootkin said in a statement, adding that Gianforte "is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7." The punishment for misdemeanor assault is no more than $500 or up to 6 months in county jail.
Gootkin also said that he had been asked about a political contribution he'd made to Gianforte's campaign. "I did contribute $250.00 on March 23, 2017," the sheriff said. "This contribution has nothing to do with our investigation which is now complete." Gianforte has long been expected to win the heavily Republican state, though the race is much closer than Republicans would like. Quist has been hammering Gianforte for telling donors he supports the House GOP health-care bill and telling the public he opposes it; Jacobs was asking Gianforte about the new Congressional Budget Office score of the bill when, according to Fox News reporters in the room, Gianforte "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground." Peter Weber