More than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans trying to return to the U.S. from Canada last week said they were held for hours of additional questioning about their political views, relatives, and allegiances. Fears of military escalation with Iran led to heightened security at border checkpoints, and some individuals and families with green cards or U.S. passports were detained for up to 11 hours. Negah Hekmati, a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent, said she and her husband, a software engineer at Microsoft, were questioned for five hours by agents demanding to know the identities of Ms. Hekmati’s parents, siblings, uncles, and cousins. “My kids shouldn’t experience such things,” Ms. Hekmati said. “They are U.S. citizens. This is not OK.” Customs and Border Protection insisted that it did not single out Iranians based on their national origin, blaming delays on reduced holiday staffing.
A major fundraiser for President Trump, Imaad Zuberi, said he’d plead guilty this week to obstructing a federal probe into whether foreign nationals used Trump’s inauguration festivities to illegally funnel money. Zuberi, a venture capitalist who has donated to both parties, gave $900,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee in the months after the 2016 election. At least $50,000 of that reportedly came from a Turkish-American businessman with ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Zuberi allegedly backdated a check and deleted emails revealing his work as a middleman for the contribution. He pleaded guilty late last year to campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and failure to register as a foreign agent—admitting he told clients from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Venezuela, and Sri Lanka that he could influence foreign policy and boost their businesses. Prosecutors say he offered six witnesses more than $6 million to keep quiet.
Kentucky’s new Republican attorney general formally requested an FBI probe last week into pardons issued by former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin after his failed re-election bid. Bevin’s decision to pardon or commute the sentences of more than 650 people, including a man convicted of repeatedly raping and assaulting a 9-year-old girl, drew criticism from both parties, including from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Though Bevin’s orders benefited more than 300 nonviolent offenders, he was accused of also granting favors to supporters. One pardon went to Patrick Baker, who’d served two years of a 19-year sentence for homicide and robbery. Baker’s brother had hosted a fundraiser for Bevin, and a GOP megadonor appealed to Bevin to pardon Baker, who has insisted he was framed by the police. Attorney General Daniel Cameron said he’d assist federal and local investigators.
The United Methodist Church announced plans last week to split into two branches, in a schism over same-sex marriage. The country’s second-largest Protestant denomination, with roughly 9 million members, expects to let a “traditionalist” wing break off and take $25 million. The remaining United Methodist Church would allow gay marriages and LGBTQ clergy for the first time, but any local church could vote to defect with the traditionalists (and take its building with it). The announcement heads off contentious sanctions that were set to take effect against pastors who officiated at gay weddings: a one-year suspension without pay for a first offense and removal from the clergy for a second. The Nashville-based church’s large following in Africa has fiercely opposed liberal reform. Church leaders will vote on finalizing the split at their worldwide conference in May.
New York City
Forty out of 120 potential jurors said they couldn’t be impartial this week in Harvey Weinstein’s trial, which could see testimony from actresses Salma Hayek, Rosie Perez, Charlize Theron, and Annabella Sciorra. The disgraced movie producer, 67, hobbled into court for jury selection using a walker, which some thought was a theatrical plea for sympathy. He’s charged with forcing oral sex on a production assistant, Mimi Haleyi, at his Manhattan apartment in 2006 and raping a woman at a hotel in 2013. Numerous other women could be called to testify about Weinstein’s alleged predations; his brother and producing partner, Robert, could also testify. In the courtroom, Judge James Burke threatened to jail Weinstein, who still wields two cellphones, for texting in court. Just hours after the hearing—with timing that Weinstein’s lawyers argued was calculated to taint the jury pool—Los Angeles prosecutors charged Weinstein with rape and sexual assault in separate 2013 incidents.
The strongest earthquake to hit Puerto Rico in a century killed at least one person, toppled buildings, and left about 93 percent of the island without power this week. The magnitude-6.4 earthquake originated off the island’s southwestern coast following more than a week of relentless quakes and aftershocks—including a magnitude-5.8 quake a day earlier—unnerving residents still recovering from 2017’s Hurricane Maria. An estimated 300,000 people were without water. The roof of a three-story school in Guánica collapsed—one of seven schools damaged with no students inside. Puerto Rico’s electrical grid suffered damage despite $3.2 billion in reinforcements since Maria. One quake destroyed Punta Ventana, a treasured stone arch creating a natural “window” to the sea. “I don’t think Puerto Rico is ready for more devastation,” said Yesenia Ramos, 53. “This looked the same as when Maria hit.” ■