Russian court begins trial of US soldier arrested on theft charges

Russian court begins trial of US soldier arrested on theft charges
US Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black sits in a glass cage in courtroom in Vladivostok, Russia, on Jun. 6, 2024. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 07 June 2024
Follow

Russian court begins trial of US soldier arrested on theft charges

Russian court begins trial of US soldier arrested on theft charges
  • Black agreed to testify in the trial and will respond to the accusations against him later in the proceedings
  • Russia is holding a number of Americans in its jails, including corporate security executive Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich

MOSCOW: A court in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok on Thursday began the trial of an American soldier arrested earlier this year on charges of stealing.
Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, 34, flew to Vladivostok, a Pacific port city, to see his girlfriend and was arrested after she accused him of stealing from her, according to US officials and Russian authorities. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported from the courtroom in the Pervomaisky District Court in Vladivostok that Black agreed to testify in the trial and will respond to the accusations against him later in the proceedings. The report also cited local police as saying that Black is cooperating with the authorities.
Black’s arrest further complicates US relations with Russia, which have grown increasingly tense as the fighting in Ukraine continues.
Russia is holding a number of Americans in its jails, including corporate security executive Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. The US government has designated both men as wrongfully detained and has been trying to negotiate for their release.
Others detained include Travis Leake, a musician who had been living in Russia for years and was arrested last year on drug-related charges; Marc Fogel, a teacher in Moscow who was sentenced to 14 years in prison, also on drug charges; and dual nationals Alsu Kurmasheva and Ksenia Khavana.
The US State Department strongly advises American citizens not to go to Russia.
Under Pentagon policy, service members must get clearance for any international travel from a security manager or commander.
The US Army said last month that Black hadn’t sought clearance for the international travel and it wasn’t authorized by the Defense Department. Given the hostilities in Ukraine and ongoing threats to the US and its military, it is extremely unlikely he would have been granted approval.
Black was on leave and in the process of returning to his home base at Fort Cavazos, Texas, from South Korea, where he had been stationed at Camp Humphreys with the Eighth Army. Cynthia Smith, an Army spokesperson, said Black signed out for his move back home and, “instead of returning to the continental United States, Black flew from Incheon, Republic of Korea, through China to Vladivostok, Russia, for personal reasons.”
Black’s girlfriend, Alexandra Vashchuk, told reporters after the court hearing on Thursday that “it was a simple domestic dispute,” during which Black “became aggressive and attacked” her. “He then stole money from my wallet and I didn’t give him permission to do it,” Vashchuk said.
US officials have said that Black, who is married, met his girlfriend in South Korea.
According to US officials, the Russian woman had lived in South Korea, and last fall she and Black got into some type of domestic dispute or altercation. After that, she left South Korea. It isn’t clear if she was forced to leave or what, if any, role South Korean authorities had in the matter.


Elon Musk pledges $45 million a month to electing Donald Trump

Elon Musk pledges $45 million a month to electing Donald Trump
Updated 3 sec ago
Follow

Elon Musk pledges $45 million a month to electing Donald Trump

Elon Musk pledges $45 million a month to electing Donald Trump
  • Tech billionaire’s donations will go to a political group dubbed America PAC
  • Tesla founder formally endorsed Trump’s candidacy for US president on Saturday
WASHINGTON: Tech billionaire Elon Musk said he plans to commit roughly $45 million each month to a new fund backing Donald Trump for US president, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Musk’s donations will go to a political group dubbed America PAC, which will focus on promoting voter registration, early voting and mail-in ballots among residents in swing states ahead of the November general election, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Musk is one of several major backers of the new fund, with others reportedly including Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, former US ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft and cryptocurrency investors Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss.
The Tesla founder formally endorsed Trump’s candidacy for US president on Saturday after the former president survived a shooting at a political rally in Butler, Pennsylvania.
“I fully endorse President Trump and hope for his rapid recovery,” Musk wrote on the social media platform X, which he acquired in 2022.
Musk, the wealthiest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $250 billion, has grown increasingly friendly with Trump over the course of the 2024 US election.
In March, the two met in person during a donor breakfast hosted at the Florida residence of billionaire Nelson Peltz.
Though individual campaign donations in the United States are capped at $3,300 per person, loopholes in the campaign finance system allow political mega donors to contribute to funds known as political action committees or “PACs,” which support candidates.
Trump previously decried mail and absentee voting, but has backtracked on his criticisms after it became clear Democrats had an edge among mail voters.

Trump, ear bandaged, appears at Republican National Convention

Trump, ear bandaged, appears at Republican National Convention
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

Trump, ear bandaged, appears at Republican National Convention

Trump, ear bandaged, appears at Republican National Convention

MILWAUKEE: Two days after surviving an attempted assassination, former President Donald Trump appeared triumphantly at the Republican National Convention’s opening night with a bandage over his right ear, the latest compelling scene in a presidential campaign already defined by dramatic turns.
GOP delegates cheered wildly when Trump appeared onscreen backstage and then emerged in the arena, visibly emotional, as musician Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the USA.” That was hours after the convention had formally nominated the former president to head the Republican ticket in November against President Joe Biden.
Trump did not address the hall — with his acceptance speech scheduled for Thursday — but smiled silently and occasionally waved as Greenwood sang. He eventually joined his newly announced running mate, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, to listen to the night’s remaining speeches, often with a subdued expression and muted reactions uncharacteristic for the unabashed showman
The raucous welcome underscored the depth of the crowd’s affection for the man who won the 2016 nomination as an outsider, at odds with the party establishment, but now has vanquished all Republican rivals, silenced most GOP critics and commands loyalty up and down the party ranks.
“We must unite as a party, and we must unite as a nation,” said Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley, Trump’s handpicked party leader, as he opened Monday’s primetime national convention session. “We must show the same strength and resilience as President Trump and lead this nation to a greater future.”
But Whatley and other Republican leaders made clear that their calls for harmony did not extend to Biden and Democrats, who find themselves still riven by worries that the 81-year-old question is not up to the job of defeating Trump.
“Their policies are a clear and present danger to America, to our institutions, our values and our people,” said Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, welcoming the party to his battleground state, which Trump won in 2016 but lost to Biden four years ago.
Saturday’s shooting at a Pennsylvania rally, where Trump was injured and one man died, were clearly in mind, but the proceedings were celebratory — a stark contrast to the anger and anxiety that had marked the previous few days. Some delegates chanted “fight, fight, fight” — the same words that Trump was seen shouting to the crowd as the Secret Service ushered him off the stage, his fist raised and face bloodied.
“We should all be thankful right now that we are able to cast our votes for President Donald J. Trump after what took place on Saturday,” said New Jersey state Sen. Michael Testa as he announced all of his state’s 12 delegates for Trump.
When Trump cleared the necessary number of delegates, video screens in the arena read “OVER THE TOP” while the song “Celebration” played and delegates danced and waved Trump signs. Throughout the voting, delegates flanked by “Make America Great Again” signs applauded as state after state voted their support for a second Trump term.
Multiple speakers invoked religious imagery to discuss Trump and the assassination attempt.
“The devil came to Pennsylvania holding a rifle,” said Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. “But an American lion got back up on his feet!”
Wyoming delegate Sheryl Foland was among those who adopted the “fight” chant after seeing Trump survive Saturday in what she called “monumental photos and video.”
“We knew then we were going to adopt that as our chant,” added Foland, a child trauma mental health counselor. “Not just because we wanted him to fight, and that God was fighting for him. We thought, isn’t it our job to accept that challenge and fight for our country?”
“It’s bigger than Trump,” Foland said. “It’s a mantra for our country.”
Another well-timed development boosted the mood on the convention floor Monday: The federal judge presiding over Trump’s classified documents case dismissed the prosecution because of concerns over the appointment of the prosecutor who brought the case, handing the former president a major court victory.
The convention is designed to reach people outside the GOP base
Trump’s campaign chiefs designed the convention to feature a softer and more optimistic message, focusing on themes that would help a divisive leader expand his appeal among moderate voters and people of color.
On a night devoted to the economy, delegates and a national TV audience heard from speakers the Trump campaign pitched as “everyday Americans” — a single mother talking about inflation, a union member who identified himself as a lifelong Democrat now backing Trump, a small business owner, among others.
Featured speakers also included Black Republicans who have been at the forefront of the Trump campaign’s effort to win more votes from a core Democratic constituency.
US Rep. Wesley Hunt of Texas said rising grocery and energy prices were hurting Americans’ wallets and quoted Ronald Reagan in calling inflation “the cruelest tax on the poor.” Hunt argued Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris didn’t seem to understand the problem.
“We can fix this disaster,” Hunt said, by electing Trump and sending “him right back to where he belongs, the White House.”
Scott, perhaps the party’s most well-known Black lawmaker, declared: “America is not a racist country.”
Republicans hailed Vance’s selection as a key step toward a winning coalition in November.
Trump announced his choice of his running mate as delegates were voting on the former president’s nomination Monday. The young Ohio senator first rose to national attention with his best-selling memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” which told of his Appalachian upbringing and was hailed as a window into the parts of working-class America that helped propel Trump.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who had been considered a potential vice presidential pick, said in a post on X that Vance’s “small town roots and service to country make him a powerful voice for the America First Agenda.”
Yet despite calls for harmony, two of the opening speakers at Monday’s evening session — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and North Carolina gubernatorial nominee Mark Robinson — are known as some of the party’s most incendiary figures.
Robinson, speaking recently during a church service in North Carolina, discussed “evil” people who he said threatened American Christianity. “Some folks need killing,” he said then, though he steered clear of such rhetoric at the convention stage.
The campaign continues
Trump’s nomination came on the same day that Biden sat for another national TV interview the president sought to demonstrate his capacity to serve another four years despite continued worries within his own party.
Biden told ABC News that he made a mistake recently when he told Democratic donors the party must stop questioning his fitness for office and instead put Trump in a “bullseye.” Republicans have circulated the comment aggressively since Saturday’s assassination attempt, with some openly blaming Biden for inciting the attack on Trump’s life.
The president’s admission was in line with his call Sunday from the Oval Office for all Americans to ratchet down political rhetoric. But Biden maintained Monday that drawing contrasts with Trump, who employs harsh and accusatory language, is a legitimate part of a presidential contest.
Inside the arena in Milwaukee, Republicans did not dial back their attacks on Biden, at one point playing a video that mocked the president’s physical stamina and mental acuity.
They alluded often to the “Biden-Harris administration” and took regular digs at Vice President Kamala Harris — a not-so-subtle allusion to the notion that Biden could step aside in favor of his second-in-command.


Secret Service agrees to independent probe over Trump shooting

Secret Service agrees to independent probe over Trump shooting
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

Secret Service agrees to independent probe over Trump shooting

Secret Service agrees to independent probe over Trump shooting
  • The Secret Service faces intense scrutiny over how a gunman aiming an assault rifle was able to take position on a roof some 500 feet (150 meters) from one of the most protected political figures on the planet

WASHINGTON: Facing growing criticism over a massive security failure, the US Secret Service on Monday vowed to cooperate with an independent review after a shooter was allowed to open fire on Donald Trump.
The 78-year-old former president was injured but survived an assassination attempt at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, a brazen attack that shocked a nation already deeply polarized ahead of the November election.
“The Secret Service is working with all involved federal, state and local agencies to understand what happened, how it happened, and how we can prevent an incident like this from ever taking place again,” the agency’s director Kimberly Cheatle said in a statement.
“We understand the importance of the independent review announced by President (Joe) Biden yesterday and will participate fully,” Cheatle added.
Trump was speaking at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, when multiple bangs rang out.
He clutched his ear, with blood visible on his ear and cheek, then ducked to the floor as Secret Service agents swarmed onto the podium, surrounding him and rushing him to a nearby vehicle.
The shooter and a bystander were killed, and two spectators injured.
Newly surfaced video backs up reports from witnesses that they had called out to police and physically pointed at the shooter as he lay on the roof preparing to open fire, the Washington Post reported Monday.
The shots targeting Trump rang out 86 seconds after the first audible attempts to warn the police, the Post said, citing an analysis it did of video clips from the scene of the attack.
Biden ordered a full review of the security at the rally, as well as at this week’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Trump will be crowned the party’s presidential nominee.
He also ordered Secret Service protection for independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and long-time vaccine skeptic who has no chance of winning in November, but whose candidacy could potentially sway close contests in key swing states.
The Secret Service faces intense scrutiny over how a gunman aiming an assault rifle was able to take position on a roof some 500 feet (150 meters) from one of the most protected political figures on the planet.
With Trump set to star at the convention, Cheatle said the agency was working to toughen security.
The Secret Service designs plans for major events “to respond to a kinetic security environment and the most up-to-date intelligence,” her statement said.
Earlier in the day, Trump had called for Secret Service protection for Kennedy “in light of what is going on in the world today.”
“Given the history of the Kennedy Family, this is the obvious right thing to do!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social web site.
Kenedy’s uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1963. Five years later, the candidate’s father, Robert, was shot to death in Los Angeles while on the campaign trail.
The US Secret Service is responsible for the safety of the president, vice president and former presidents, and their families, as well as major election candidates and visiting foreign heads of state.


Who is JD Vance? Things to know about Donald Trump’s pick for vice president

Who is JD Vance? Things to know about Donald Trump’s pick for vice president
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

Who is JD Vance? Things to know about Donald Trump’s pick for vice president

Who is JD Vance? Things to know about Donald Trump’s pick for vice president
  • He called Trump “dangerous” and “unfit” for office. Vance, whose wife, lawyer Usha Chilukuri Vance, is Indian American and the mother of their three children, also criticized Trump’s racist rhetoric, saying he could be “America’s Hitler”

COLUMBUS, Ohio: Former President Donald Trump on Monday chose US Sen. JD Vance of Ohio to be his running mate as he looks to return to the White House.
Here are some things to know about Vance, a 39-year-old Republican now in his first term in the Senate:
Vance rose to prominence with the memoir ‘Hillbilly Elegy’
Vance was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio. He joined the Marines and served in Iraq, and later earned degrees from Ohio State University and Yale Law School. He also worked as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.
Vance made a name for himself with his memoir, the 2016 bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy,” which was published as Trump was first running for president. The book earned Vance a reputation as someone who could help explain the maverick New York businessman’s appeal in middle America, especially among the working class, rural white voters who helped Trump win the presidency.
“Hillbilly Elegy” also introduced Vance to the Trump family. Donald Trump Jr. loved the book and knew of Vance when he went to launch his political career. The two hit it off and have remained friends.
He was first elected to public office in 2022
After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Vance returned to his native Ohio and set up an anti-opioid charity. He also took to the lecture circuit and was a favored guest at Republican Lincoln Day dinners where his personal story — including the hardship Vance endured because of his mother’s drug addiction — resonated.
Vance’s appearances were opportunities to sell his ideas for fixing the country and helped lay the groundwork for entering politics in 2021, when he sought the Senate seat vacated by Republican Rob Portman, who retired.
Trump endorsed Vance. Vance went on to win a crowded Republican primary and the general election.
He and Trump have personal chemistry
Personal relationships are extremely important to the former president and he and Vance have developed a strong rapport over years, speaking on the phone regularly.
Trump has also complimented Vance’s beard, saying he “looks like a young Abraham Lincoln.”
Vance went from never-Trumper to fierce ally
Vance was a “never Trump” Republican in 2016. He called Trump “dangerous” and “unfit” for office. Vance, whose wife, lawyer Usha Chilukuri Vance, is Indian American and the mother of their three children, also criticized Trump’s racist rhetoric, saying he could be “America’s Hitler.”
But by the time Vance met Trump in 2021, he had reversed his opinion, citing Trump’s accomplishments as president. Both men downplayed Vance’s past scathing criticism.
Once elected, Vance became a fierce Trump ally on Capitol Hill, unceasingly defending Trump’s policies and behavior.
He is a leading conservative voice
Kevin Roberts, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, called Vance a leading voice for the conservative movement, on key issues including a shift away from interventionist foreign policy, free market economics and “American culture writ large.”
Democrats call him an extremist, citing provocative positions Vance has taken but sometimes later amended. Vance signaled support for a national 15-week abortion ban during his Senate run, for instance, then softened that stance once Ohio voters overwhelmingly backed a 2023 abortion rights amendment.
Vance has adopted Trump’s rhetoric about Jan. 6
On the 2020 election, he said he wouldn’t have certified the results immediately if he had been vice president and said Trump had “a very legitimate grievance.” He has put conditions on honoring the results of the 2024 election that echo Trump’s. A litany of government and outside investigations have not found any election fraud that could have swung the outcome of Trump’s 2020 loss to Democratic President Joe Biden.
In the Senate, Vance sometimes embraces bipartisanship. He and Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown co-sponsored a railway safety bill following a fiery train derailment in the Ohio village of East Palestine. He’s sponsored legislation extending and increasing funding for Great Lakes restoration, and supported bipartisan legislation boosting workers and families.
Vance can articulate Trump’s vision
People familiar with the vice presidential vetting process said Vance would bring to the GOP ticket debating skills and the ability to articulate Trump’s vision.
Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative activist group Turning Point USA, said Vance compellingly articulates the America First world view and could help Trump in states he closely lost in 2020, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, that share Ohio’s values, demographics and economy.

 


Trump supporters see his narrow escape from death as God’s work

Trump supporters see his narrow escape from death as God’s work
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

Trump supporters see his narrow escape from death as God’s work

Trump supporters see his narrow escape from death as God’s work

MILWAUKEE: Donald Trump’s narrow brush with a would-be assassin’s bullet has further convinced his evangelical supporters he is blessed by God, reinforcing the messianic undertones of his populist presidential campaign.
Trump and his campaign have infused his candidacy with Christian imagery, prompting critics to accuse them of fostering a cult of personality with him as its leader, solely capable of saving an America he falsely portrays as crime-ridden and on the verge of collapse.
In interviews with 18 delegates on Monday at the Republican Party’s national convention in Milwaukee, all but two believed God had a hand in Trump’s escape from assassination.
Many said that divine intervention was God’s way of showing American voters that Trump, and not President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is the right man to occupy the White House after the election.
“To me, it was God-given protection,” said Sharon D. Regan, a Trump delegate from Florida. “It was miraculous. It was sent by heaven and I pray that protection continues.”
Trump himself cast his narrow escape as the work of God. On Sunday, the eve of his formal nomination as the Republican candidate, he wrote on his Truth Social platform that “it was God alone who prevented the unthinkable from happening.”
In both the 2016 and 2020 elections, evangelical voters staunchly supported Trump despite claims of adultery and sexual misconduct, which he denied. Critics in both political parties denounce him as immoral and set on dismantling democracy.
With Trump convicted in May for a hush money payment to a porn star and facing dozens of other criminal charges as he pursues a second term, some Christian media are portraying him as an instrument of God’s will being persecuted by internal foes.
Ray Myers, a Texas delegate, said: “There’s some kind of mystical thing going on. After everything he’s been through, everything that’s been thrown at him, and now he’s even shed his own blood. And he’s still here. I don’t know how else you can explain it, but God is involved.”
For voters who believe that Trump is anointed by God, Saturday’s attempted assassination is “another piece of the puzzle that fell into place,” said Paul Djupe, a political scientist at Denison University who specializes in religion and politics.
Djupe said the shooting helped affirm for those voters that “Trump is battling forces of evil on the other side, and it affirmed his special role as the protector of Christians against the vast forces of evil including Democrats.”
Trump and his followers frequently post images of Trump as a Christ-like figure on social media. T-shirts at his rallies also promote this idea, including one of Jesus laying his hands on Trump’s shoulders.
Melanie Collette, a New Jersey delegate, said there was a strong belief at the convention that “God interceded” to save Trump. But she cautioned: “We certainly don’t want to deify Donald Trump. That’s a cautionary tale for Christians.”
Mike Madrid, a Republican strategist who is an outspoken critic of Trump, said he does not believe the deification of Trump among his supporters helps Trump in a general election.
“I think it frightens a lot of voters, that a lot of his supporters think he’s the messiah,” Madrid said.