March 12, 2018

The Metropolitan Opera in New York fired James Levine on Monday, after an investigation into the conductor's behavior found evidence of sexual misconduct and harassment.

A preeminent conductor, Levine, 74, made his debut at the Met in 1971, and went on to conduct 2,552 performances. He became artistic director in 1976, but stepped down two years ago due to Parkinson's disease, taking on a new role as the head of the young artists program. Levine was suspended in early December when several New York newspapers printed allegations of sexual misconduct against him, some going back to the 1960s.

The firm Proskauer Rose was hired to head the investigation, and the Met said that after interviewing more than 70 people, investigators "uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority. In light of these findings, the Met concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met." He has not been charged with any crime. Levine's representative did not respond to The Associated Press' request for comment. Catherine Garcia

12:11 p.m.

Another poll has found support for impeaching President Trump and removing him from office is on the rise, with a slim majority now on board.

Gallup is out with a new poll Wednesday following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in September announcing the opening of an official impeachment inquiry into Trump, which was sparked by a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump abused his power by pushing for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

In the poll, 52 percent of respondents backed both impeaching Trump and removing him from office, while 46 percent said he shouldn't be impeached and removed. Gallup notes this is essentially a reversal of the findings of its June poll, when 45 percent said Trump should be impeached and removed, but 53 percent said he shouldn't be. The question was asked in June after the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report were released.

Still, this isn't to say Republicans are getting on board with inquiry, with the poll finding only 6 percent of GOP respondents backing impeachment and removal, which is actually down one point from June. Support has risen nine points among independents and eight points among Democrats.

Numerous polls have shown support for impeachment rising in the wake of the House's official inquiry being opened, with a recent Fox News poll showing a slim majority of voters, 51 percent, backing it, with support among Republicans rising five points. This prompted Trump to fire off an angry tweet at Fox, writing, "whoever their pollster is, they suck."

Gallup's poll was conducted by speaking to a random sample of 1,526 U.S. adults over the phone from Oct. 1-13. The margin of error is 3 percentage points. Read the full results at Gallup. Brendan Morrow

12:11 p.m.

Joe Maddon is coming home.

Maddon, one of the most prominent managers in Major League Baseball, reportedly agreed to a three-year-deal worth somewhere between $12 and $15 million to take over as the new skipper for the Los Angeles Angeles after his contract with the Chicago Cubs was not renewed after the season. Maddon was involved with the Angels as a player, scout, and coach from 1975 to 2005, before he left to manage the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006.

Maddon helped turn the previously moribund Tampa Bay franchise into a perennial contender, and made the World Series there in 2008, though he's probably best known for guiding the Cubs to their first World Series victory in 108 years in 2016. While the rest of his Cubs tenure trended downhill, Maddon maintains a reputation as one of the games most innovative tacticians, and the Angels are surely hoping he can help revive an organization that's underachieved for years now, despite employing the greatest player in the game in outfielder Mike Trout.

It won't be an easy task, on or off the field. The Angels have many issues to address in terms of their roster, most notably the pitching staff, but they are currently dealing with scrutiny that goes well beyond baseball — the fallout from the death of former pitcher Tyler Skaggs' death may have revealed a longstanding failure to address drug use and addiction within the organization. Tim O'Donnell

11:29 a.m.

President Trump seems wholly unconcerned with the Kurds he left without backup in Syria.

After pulling U.S. troops from the Kurdish-held area of Syria and promptly allowing Turkey to invade, Trump said in the Oval Office on Wednesday that America's Kurdish allies are "safe" because "Syria's protecting" them. That's not true, but Trump doesn't seem to care regardless, adding that the Kurds are "no angels, by the way."

Once the U.S. pulled support from the Kurds who led America's fight against ISIS, Turkey quickly attacked the region and unquestionably killed Kurds along the way. But Trump brushed off the incursion on Wednesday, saying "If Turkey goes into Syria it is between Turkey and Syria. It's not our problem." "They've got a lot of sand over there... There's a lot of sand that they can play with," he said of the Turkish attacks that have already slaughtered dozens of Kurds. Trump also shrugged off how Russia has already started trolling the U.S. by sending troops to the region and said it's fine for Russia to start supporting Syria.

Trump seems to have forgotten that, like critics and allies on both sides of the aisle have told him, the Kurds lost about 11,000 of their own troops during America's fight against ISIS. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:08 a.m.

Since U.S. and South Korean authorities busted one of the world's largest child pornography sites in 2018, more than 300 site users in 11 countries — and more than two dozen U.S. states — have been arrested, while at least 23 minor victims in the U.S., U.K., and Spain who were actively abused by the site's users have been rescued, Bloomberg reports.

The site was shuttered in March 2018 and its founder, 23-year-old South Korean national Jong Woo Son, was indicted in August of that year. Son remains in custody in South Korea where he was convicted, while his indictment was unsealed Wednesday.

Son operated a Darknet, or encrypted online content, market that was hidden from traditional search engines to distribute more than 1 million explicit videos involving children, while accepting Bitcoin as currency. Agents from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division reportedly were able to determine the location of the Darknet server, which led to Son's arrest. They were then able to "de-anonymize" the Bitcoin transactions on the site to unmask many of the site's users.

Bloomberg notes that child pornography is a crime that's increasing at a rapid rate around the globe in part because of the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which allow transactions to remain anonymous. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

10:46 a.m.

Ex-Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch wasn't the only career diplomat who ran into trouble under President Trump, at least according to former State Department official Michael McKinley.

McKinley will testify behind closed doors for Congress' impeachment investigation Wednesday, following his surprising resignation as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's senior adviser last week. But a person familiar with McKinley's testimony has told The Washington Post that McKinley saw career diplomats "mistreated" and "their careers derailed for political reasons" while serving under Trump, and that he'll tell Congress all about it.

McKinley had spent 37 years in the State Department until his apparently "bitter" resignation last week, the Post writes. His resignation likely stemmed from Yovanovitch's firing as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and how the State Department did not "defend" her or "interfere with an obviously partisan effort to intervene in our relationship with Ukraine" for Trump's political benefit, the source said.

But McKinley reportedly won't directly criticize Pompeo in his Wednesday testimony. He will instead will reiterate an August report from the department's inspector general that said Trump appointees alleged career diplomats were disloyal to Trump, the source says. McKinley will specifically focus on Yovanovitch's firing, "a punitive action he and many other rank-and-file diplomats viewed as wholly unjustified," the Post continues. Read more about McKinley's probable testimony at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:01 a.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's snubbing of Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sure didn't last long.

Sky News on Wednesday morning published an interview with Erdogan in which he indicated ahead of a U.S. delegation's visit to Turkey he wouldn't meet with Pence and Pompeo, saying "I'm not going to talk to them" and that he'll talk "when Trump comes here." This seemed to surprise Pence, who in an interview subsequently said, "we have every expectation that we will meet with President Erdogan."

But the meeting is evidently back on, with Erdogan's communications director quickly telling Turkish press he actually does plan to meet with Pence and the rest of the U.S. delegation after all, Axios reports. Pence and Pompeo are visiting in order to negotiate a ceasefire in Syria.

At the same time that he's reversing this snub, Erdogan is floating the possibility of canceling his upcoming meeting with Trump in the United States next month, per Reuters, saying he may re-evaluate it because "arguments, debates, conversations being held in Congress regarding my person, my family and my minister friends are a very big disrespect" to Turkey. Brendan Morrow

9:53 a.m.

More questions have arisen surrounding President Trump's businesses after ProPublica obtained documents via New York's Freedom of Information Law.

The documents show that for two of Trump's New York properties — 40 Wall Street and the Trump International Hotel and Tower — different financial figures were reported to lenders and to tax authorities. For example, the Trump Organization told a lender that 40 Wall Street had been 58.9 percent leased on Dec. 31, 2012, before vaulting to 95 percent a few years later, which reportedly represented borrower-friendly "leasing momentum." But the company reportedly disclosed that the building was 81 percent rented as of Jan. 5, 2013 to tax officials. Ultimately, the reporting strategy helped Trump reach favorable terms — he received a 10-year loan with a lower interest than the building previously had and was also able to defer paying off much of the principal until the end of the loan. "There was a story crafted here," said Kevin Riordan, a financing expert and real estate professor at Montclair State University.

As for Trump Tower, the company reportedly told tax authorities that the building made around $822,000 renting space to commercial tenants in 2017, while reporting to lenders that it took in nearly double that. In eight years of data ProPublica examined for the property, the Trump organization generally reported gross income to tax authorities that was around 81 percent of what it reported to the lender.

There can be legitimate reasons for such numbers to diverge, real estate experts have noted, but those same experts told ProPublica that some of the gaps in the documents did not appear to have any reasonable justification. Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley said the discrepancies amount to some "versions of fraud." Read more at ProPublica. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads