Russian Embassy officials were to meet Thursday with a Siberian gun rights activist jailed in Washington on charges of spying on the United States, as Moscow blasted the arrest as "anti-Russian hysteria." The embassy said in a Facebook post that consular officials will meet with Maria Butina for the first time since her Sunday arrest, and will provide her "all necessary help." Butina, 29, denies wrongdoing, and the Russian government claims the arrest was driven by U.S. domestic politics and an overall anti-Russian mood. U.S. federal prosecutors accuse Butina of being a covert Russian agent, having contacts with the KGB successor agency FSB, and using sex and deception to forge influential U.S. connections. Court documents released at her hearing Wednesday outlined ways Butina allegedly worked covertly to establish back-channel lines of communication to the Kremlin and infiltrate U.S. political organizations, including the National Rifle Association. Her father, Valery Butin, said the … [Read more...] about Russian Embassy officials to meet suspected spy Maria Butina jailed in U.S.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The top lawyer at the Oklahoma State Department of Health already at the center of a controversy over new marijuana rules was charged for allegedly sending threatening emails to herself. The agency's former general counsel, 37-year-old Julia Ezell of Edmond, was charged Tuesday in Oklahoma County with two felonies and one misdemeanor for allegedly sending the threats and then lying to investigators about it. A forensic examination of Ezell's mobile phone revealed she sent several menacing emails to her own government email address and then reported them to authorities, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Nicholas Rizzi wrote in an affidavit. In one of the emails from "MaryJameprotonmail.com," Ezell's home address and vehicle description was included. The first reported email, sent on July 8, was titled "marijuana laws" and accused the government of taking away people's rights and warned her: "We will watch you." Ezell reported the emails to the Health … [Read more...] about Oklahoma medical board lawyer Julia Ezell charged with sending threats to herself
By Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Kabir Khanna Only a third of Americans (32 percent) approve of the way Donald Trump handled his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a CBS News poll shows. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans approve. Most Americans (70 percent) believe U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the elections, though Republicans are more skeptical. Just half say they believe U.S. intelligence, while nine in ten Democrats do. More Americans see President Trump as too friendly toward Russia than they did last year. This is largely due to an increase in the number of Democrats and independents who say so. More than three-in-four Republicans think the President has the right balance. Thirty-nine percent of Americans report feeling less confident after the summit about Mr. Trump standing up for U.S. interests, though much of that comes from Democrats; Republicans say they are more confident or unchanged. … [Read more...] about CBS News poll: Most Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of Putin summit
Gay-rights supporters who thronged the Supreme Court plaza after justices declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right expect to have little to celebrate if Brett Kavanaugh replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of all the court's major gay-rights rulings. None of Kavanaugh's roughly 300 opinions as an appellate judge deals directly with LGBT issues, but his approach to judging leads some scholars and activists to believe he is unlikely to echo Kennedy's votes. Still, they said Kavanaugh might be reluctant to overrule the landmark 2015 same-sex marriage decision, even if he might have voted against it in the first instance. While LGBT advocates sound alarms about Kavanaugh, opponents of same-sex marriage are applauding his nomination, though not necessarily focusing on its potential impact on gay rights. The Family Research Council, a major Christian conservative advocacy group, lauded Kavanaugh's rulings on religious freedom and "long and praiseworthy history of judging as … [Read more...] about LGBT advocates fear Brett Kavanaugh’s votes on gay-rights issues
A measure that would divide California into three parts won't appear on the November ballot, the state Supreme Court decided Wednesday, marking the latest defeat for a long-shot push to reimagine the nation's most populous state. The justices ordered the secretary of state not to put the ballot initiative before voters, saying significant questions have been raised about its validity. The court now will consider a challenge from the Planning and Conservation League, an environmental group that argued splitting up California would drastically change its government structure beyond what can be accomplished through a simple ballot initiative. "We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election," the justices wrote in a unanimous ruling. They said time constraints forced them to rule on the issue immediately. Venture capitalist Tim Draper, who spent more than $1.7 million … [Read more...] about California Supreme Court rules voters won’t decide whether to divide state