Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a video file containing malware in a WhatsApp chat in 2018 that enabled his security service to hack Bezos’ phone, a cybersecurity firm hired by Bezos alleged this week. U.N. experts said the hack was part of a “massive online campaign” against Bezos in the months before the Saudi heir known as MBS ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Bezos, who owns the Post, and MBS allegedly exchanged friendly texts before Bezos received a file that let the Saudis siphon massive troves of data. Bezos has accused Saudi Arabia of feeding the National Enquirer photos and information about his affair with Lauren Sanchez. Months after the alleged hack, MBS appeared to taunt Bezos by sending him a photo of a woman who looked like Sanchez with a sarcastic caption. Riyadh called the claim that Saudi Arabia hacked the phone “absurd.”
Redacted in full
The Justice Department ignored a court order and failed to release memos about Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, CNN.com reported last week. Last October, a judge granted a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN and BuzzFeed News, requiring that a batch of interview notes from Robert Mueller’s team be made public each month. The department has produced more than 800 pages of memos, many of which are heavily redacted, yet the Kushner documents set to be released this month were entirely missing. The Justice Department gave no reason for excluding the Kushner interview. The latest notes that were released detail how Fox News host Sean Hannity served as a “back channel” to Trump, especially in text messages with former campaign chairman Paul Manafort after he was indicted. Manafort told investigators that Hannity urged him to “hang in there” because “Trump had his back.”
Investigating the investigator
Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into a sexual abuse allegation against Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who himself was tapped last September by the Vatican to investigate an abuse scandal at the diocese in Buffalo. Mark Matzek, 56, alleges he was repeatedly abused in the 1970s by the late Rev. Albert Mark and by DiMarzio when he was a parish priest in Jersey City, the Associated Press reported this week. DiMarzio said he’d be “fully vindicated” by the probe. His investigation into accusations that the Buffalo diocese let an abusive priest remain on the job led to the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone last month. Matzek seeks $20 million in compensation, suing at the start of a two-year “look back” period in New Jersey that exempts sexual abuse victims from the statute of limitations.
The Supreme Court denied a motion this week to review an attack on the Affordable Care Act before the presidential election. House Democrats and 20 Democratic-led states had pushed for an “emergency” appeal, hoping to draw voters’ attention to a Republican lawsuit that could gut the health-care law. The Trump administration argues that because Congress reduced the tax penalty on individuals who don’t buy insurance to $0, the rest of the ACA should be invalidated. In December, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the individual mandate is now unconstitutional, but didn’t address whether it can be “severed” from the statute. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas ruled in 2018 that the entire law must go, staying his decision pending appeal. Democrats said the case poses a “severe, immediate” threat to millions of Americans, but the Supreme Court could now take years to weigh in.
Immigration officials defied a judge’s order this week and sent a student back to Iran who’d been granted a visa to attend Northeastern University. Shahab Dehghani, 24, was detained at Boston’s Logan International Airport, and NBC News reports that he was deemed to have family connections to individuals “intricately involved” in a terrorist organization. At least 11 Iranians with valid student visas have been blocked from entering the U.S. since August, amid growing military tension with Iran. Dehghani’s attorneys filed an emergency petition, and Judge Richard Stearns ordered a 48-hour stay before a hearing. Nevertheless, Customs and Border Protection agents put Dehghani—who previously studied in Boston from 2016 to 2017—on a plane to France. Stearns said he couldn’t compel CBP agents to bring Dehghani back to the U.S. “I don’t think they’re going to listen to me,” he said.
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Puerto Ricans devastated by an onslaught of natural disasters expressed outrage after a warehouse full of unused food, water, diapers, medicine, cots, and propane tanks was discovered last week. The disaster-relief supplies, many of which are now expired, date back to Hurricane Maria, which led to the deaths of an estimated 3,000 Puerto Ricans in 2017. After enduring hundreds of earthquakes and aftershocks this month, residents stormed the warehouse in the southern city of Ponce, leading Gov. Wanda Vazquez to fire Carlos Acevedo, director of the territory’s Office of Emergency Management, plus several senior officials. As Puerto Rico fights for the release of $20 billion in relief funds allocated by Congress, the Trump administration imposed strict terms last week for delivering most of that aid, including a requirement that Puerto Rico pay contractors working on disaster relief less than $15 an hour. ■