The U.S. at a glance ...
The dashcam video
Ahead: Wedding cake case
Jane and Bernie Sanders
Kushner(AP (3), Zach Gibson/Bloomberg)
Police cover-up? Three Chicago police officers were indicted on felony charges this week for allegedly conspiring to cover up the fatal 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald. White officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in McDonald’s death in November 2015, on the same day that authorities released a video showing McDonald, 17, being shot 16 times by Van Dyke as the teen walked away. Prosecutors say the three officers in question conspired to shape the probe of McDonald’s death after the shooting. They allegedly prepared police reports that falsely portrayed them as victims of McDonald, who they claimed was swinging a knife “in an aggressive manner,” and avoided carrying out interviews with witnesses. The officers “did more than merely obey an unofficial code of silence,” said prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes. “They lied.”
Religious freedom: The Supreme Court issued two big announcements on religion this week—ruling in favor of a Missouri church school that wanted to use taxpayer funds to repave its playground and accepting a potentially landmark case involving a gay couple’s wedding cake. In a 7-2 decision, the justices ruled that the state of Missouri discriminated against the Trinity Lutheran Church preschool in Columbia by denying it a state grant because of its status as a church. Missouri’s decision penalized the free exercise of religion, an action that “is odious to our Constitution,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. The justices will revisit religious liberty in the fall after accepting a case involving a Colorado cake artist who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Russian sanctions delayed: House Republicans were stalling this week on a Senate bill that would block President Trump from lifting sanctions on Russia, after the White House complained that the measure would interfere with the Trump administration’s ability to deal with the Kremlin. Passed on a 98-2 vote in the Senate in mid-June, the bill strengthens existing sanctions and imposes new ones on Russia’s energy, banking, and defense sectors, partly as punishment for Moscow’s alleged cybercampaign to disrupt the 2016 election. House Republican leaders said the legislation had been delayed by a technicality. But Democrats accused House Republicans of caving to pressure from Trump, whose campaign is under investigation for potential collusion with Russia. The White House said the legislation impairs the president’s ability to “calibrate” U.S. penalties “in response to Russian behavior.”
CNN controversy: President Trump’s feud with CNN escalated this week after the network retracted a story that claimed Congress was investigating a Russian investment fund with alleged ties to Trump officials. Three journalists resigned over the article—which cited a single anonymous source—including the editor in charge of a new CNN investigative unit. The article’s author and an editor also lost their jobs, and CNN pulled the piece, saying it didn’t meet “editorial standards.” Hours after the retraction, conservative political activist James O’Keefe released an undercover video appearing to show a CNN producer calling the network’s coverage of the investigation into collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign “mostly bulls---” and driven by ratings. Trump later attacked the network on Twitter. “Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories,” he wrote.
Bernie lawyers up: Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, have hired attorneys amid an ongoing FBI investigation into a loan Jane Sanders procured while president of the now-defunct Burlington College. The struggling liberal arts school obtained a $6.5 million loan from the People’s United Bank in 2010 and used the money to purchase 33 acres of land for an expansion. But it struggled to repay its debts, and Sanders resigned from the school in 2011. In January 2016, the chair of President Trump’s Vermont campaign, Brady Toensing, filed a complaint with the state’s U.S. attorney, accusing Jane Sanders of inflating pledges from donors on the loan application. Federal prosecutors are also reportedly looking into allegations that Sen. Sanders’ office pressured the bank to approve the loan. Sen. Sanders, an independent, has called the allegations politically motivated “nonsense.”
New York City
Kushner’s loan: Jared Kushner’s real estate company received a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank at the height of last year’s presidential campaign, just as the German bank was negotiating to settle charges that it aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme, The Washington Post reported this week. Kushner, who is President Trump’s sonin- law and senior aide, was juggling his roles as real estate mogul and adviser to the Trump presidential campaign when the loan was finalized in October. The loan was part of a refinancing package for one of Kushner’s properties near Times Square, and Kushner reportedly did not list the deal on his financial disclosure form with the Office of Government Ethics. When the loan closed, Deutsche Bank was embroiled in a federal mortgage fraud case and the New York case involving alleged Russian money laundering; the bank settled both cases in December and January. The loan could come under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller. ■