August 4, 2014

A House investigation into the Benghazi embassy attack concluded that the Obama administration was not guilty of any deliberate, negligent wrongdoing, according to Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). Thompson told SFGate that the report, from a GOP-led panel, "confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order" was given to troops in the area.

The House Intelligence Committee voted last week to declassify the report, pending approval from security agencies.

Certainly it's possible Thompson was sugar-coating the report ahead of its formal release. Yet the broad conclusion he outlined — that while the administration botched its initial talking points due to conflicting intelligence, it was not hiding some big explosive scandal — further undercuts the GOP's claims to the contrary. A bipartisan Senate report released in January similarly found that there was no evidence of a cover-up.

Nevertheless, House Republicans are still pressing ahead with a separate investigation into the attack. And though House Democrats have agreed to participate in it, they have branded the investigation a "political stunt" timed, coincidentally, to align with the midterm elections. Jon Terbush

3:41 p.m.

A Fort Worth police officer who killed a black woman with her 8-year-old nephew in the room resigned Monday and could see criminal charges.

The officer, who Police Chief Ed Kraus identified as Aaron Dean, shot 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson through a window at her house around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Kraus said in a Monday press conference that he was going to fire Dean, but that the ex-officer had resigned before he could do so. Dean is now facing a criminal investigation, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Neighbors of Jefferson's called for a welfare check at her home on Saturday morning because the home's doors were open and its lights had been on for hours, per The Dallas Morning News. The officers who responded didn't know it was a non-emergency call, Kraus said. When they arrived, Dean did not announce himself as a police officer, but shouted at Jefferson to put up her hands and then quickly shot her through a bedroom window, a body-cam video of the situation shows. Dean was set to be interviewed regarding the shooting Monday, but "resigned before his opportunity to be cooperative," reflecting a "dishonorable discharge," Kraus said Monday.

The news has sparked an ongoing stream of protests and rallies demanding justice for the Jeffersons. "Why this man is not in handcuffs right now is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community, and it must be addressed," S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the family, told The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:10 p.m.

It appears that President Trump was a bit off the mark Monday morning when he tweeted a theory that Kurdish forces were releasing prisoners with ties to the Islamic State in an attempt to get the U.S. to continue fighting alongside them. Trump's suspicions were likely derived from the fact that the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the Middle East, were disappointed in Washington for removing U.S. troops from the region, providing Turkey — which considers Kurdish forces a national security threat — an opening to invade.

U.S. officials have said that prisoners with ISIS ties are being deliberately released, but it's actually Turkish proxy forces in the Free Syrian Army — a decentralized rebel group that has been linked to extremists groups and was once recruited by the CIA to aid the U.S. in its fight against ISIS — who are behind it, rather than the Kurds, Foreign Policy reports. The Free Syrian Army has also been accused of executing Kurdish prisoners and killing unarmed civilians.

As for the Kurds, one U.S. official said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have not abandoned or released any prisoners with ISIS ties and, in some cases, the SDF has reportedly moved detainees to other facilities further south.

Subsequently, Trump's theory is not sitting well with U.S. and Kurdish forces. "That has enraged our forces in Syria," another senior U.S. administration official said. "Kurds are still defending our bases. Incredibly reckless and dishonest thing to say." Tim O'Donnell

3:09 p.m.

It's been more than seven months since former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he wouldn't run for president in 2020, but he's reportedly still thinking about doing it anyway.

Bloomberg has been telling associates recently that "Joe Biden's recent struggles against Sen. Elizabeth Warren are making him rethink his decision to stay out of the 2020 Democratic primary," CNBC reports.

“I think it's something he wants," an ally of Bloomberg's told CNBC. "He has not been shy about that."

There's a catch, though: in this hypothetical scenario, Biden would apparently need to drop out of the race early on in the primaries. "Nothing can happen unless Biden drops out, and that's not happening anytime soon," the Bloomberg ally told CNBC.

Axios similarly reported way back in April that Bloomberg would reconsider his decision not to run if Biden didn't get into the race. Biden did announce his candidacy soon after, but with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) overtaking him in some national polls recently, Bloomberg is apparently doing that reconsideration as we speak, even with just four months left to go until the Iowa caucuses.

"He's like everyone else," an associate of Bloomberg's told CNBC. "They can't get it out of their system." He can't get teasing the increasingly unlikely idea of a late entrance into the race out of his system, at least. Brendan Morrow

2:17 p.m.

As she seeks sole custody of their daughter, Jeremy Renner's ex-wife has reportedly accused him of threatening to kill her.

The Avengers actor is currently in a custody battle with Sonni Pacheco, who TMZ writes Monday is accusing him of "rhapsodizing about killing" her at a club while he was "coked up and drunk." Later that night, Renner allegedly "put a gun in his mouth, threatened to kill himself, and fired the gun into the ceiling" while his 6-year-old daughter, Ava, was sleeping in her bedroom.

Pacheco also claims in the legal documents that Renner was once overheard by their nanny saying he was going to kill Pacheco at her home because "it was better that Ava had no parents than to have [Pacheco] as a mother," TMZ reports. Additionally, she alleges Renner has often been under the influence while with their daughter and left cocaine on his bathroom counter, where she could have reached it. Renner and Pacheco married in 2014, with Pacheco filing for divorce less than a year later.

In a statement to TMZ, a representative for Renner said, "The well-being of his daughter Ava has always been and continues to be the primary focus for Jeremy. This is a matter for the court to decide. It's important to note the dramatizations made in Sonni's declaration are a one-sided account made with a specific goal in mind." Renner himself has yet to speak publicly about the report. Brendan Morrow

1:58 p.m.

Fiona Hill might be a major threat to President Trump.

Hill, who previously served as Trump's top adviser to Russia, was hired in March 2017 as an ally to then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And as a story of her first time meeting Trump reveals, she's seemingly unafraid to hurt the president's feelings — something that could prove notable as she testifies for Congress on Monday.

As The Washington Post reported in 2017, Hill's hiring was "a reassuring selection among Russia hard-liners." But as the Post continues, Hill's "relationship with Trump, however, was strained from the start."

In one of her first encounters with the president, an Oval Office meeting in preparation for a call with Putin on Syria, Trump appeared to mistake Hill for a member of the clerical staff, handing her a memo he had marked up and instructing her to rewrite it. When Hill responded with a perplexed look, Trump became irritated with what he interpreted as insubordination, according to officials who witnessed the exchange. As she walked away in confusion, Trump exploded and motioned for McMaster to intervene.

Things got even worse for Hill "when she was forced to defend members of her staff suspected of disloyalty" after Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked, per the Post. Read more about Hill and Trump's troubles at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:52 p.m.

Deutsche Bank has been under a lot of scrutiny recently, mostly due to its role as the primary lender to President Trump. But it turns out the bank also has a questionable history in China, The New York Times, along with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, reports.

Beginning nearly two decades ago, Deutsche Bank, while seeking to make inroads in China, conducted a campaign that involved enriching Beijing's elite in exchange for contracts. This included some lavish gifts for the country's former president and premier and millions of dollars paid to Chinese consultants. It also meant that the bank reportedly hired more than 100 relatives of the country's political elite, even if they were unqualified.

For example, a man named Ma Weiji was considered "one of the worst candidates" for the job he applied for with the bank, but he was brought on anyway in 2007, likely because his parents were senior executives at state-owned companies, per a senior bank executive. Ma reportedly then secured meetings for Deutsche Bank with his parents' companies.

In another instance, China's former propaganda minister's son was up for a gig. One Deutsche Bank employee wrote in an email that the son "cannot meet our standard," but — you guessed it — he was offered the job, anyway. The same goes for another candidate who was deemed unqualified, but happened to be the daughter of Li Zhanshu, who is now a top member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

12:18 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is ready to cross the aisle.

Graham, normally a loyal supporter, has been one of the leading critics of President Trump's decision to remove U.S. troops from northern Syria, which — as many predicted — led to Turkey invading the region, placing the U.S.'s Kurdish allies in danger.

Graham can't reverse the Turkish incursion at this point, but he is rallying support to impose sanctions on Turkey for its actions, and he's ready to work with Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to get the job done quickly.

Despite the negative reaction to his decision-making, Trump also appears to be on board after warning Turkey not to cross him following the U.S. withdrawal. Tim O'Donnell

Update: Pelosi later announced that she and Graham agreed to a "joint resolution to overturn the President's dangerous decision in Syria immediately."

See More Speed Reads