It's Friday and people also are talking about Iran claiming it's a 'big lie' that missile downed plane and cancer society shoots down Trump tweet.
'Designed by clowns': Boeing documents show workers knew of plane's problems
Boeing employees knew about problems with flight simulators for the now-grounded 737 Max and apparently tried to hide them from federal regulators, according to documents released Thursday.
In internal messages, Boeing employees talked about misleading regulators about problems with the simulators. In one exchange, an employee told a colleague they wouldn't let their family ride on a 737 Max.
Boeing said the statements "raise questions about Boeing's interactions with the FAA" in getting the simulators qualified. But said the company is confident that the machines work properly.
"These communications do not reflect the company we are and need to be, and they are completely unacceptable," Boeing said in a statement.
Employees also groused about Boeing's senior management, the company's selection of low-cost suppliers, wasting money, and the Max.
"This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys," one employee wrote.
Names of the employees who wrote the emails and text messages were redacted.
The Max has been grounded worldwide since March, after two crashes killed 346 people. The crash that month of an Ethiopian Airlines flight had been preceded in October 2018 by the crash of a brand-new Max operated by Indonesia's Lion Air.
Boeing is still working to update software and other systems on the Max to convince regulators to let it fly again. The work has taken much longer than Boeing expected.
The latest batch of internal Boeing documents were provided to the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress last month and released on Thursday. The company said it was considering disciplinary action against some employees.
An FAA spokesman said the agency found no new safety risks that have not already been identified as part of the FAA's review of changes that Boeing is making to the plane. The spokesman, Lynn Lunsford, said the simulator mentioned in the documents has been checked three times in the last six months.
Third victim's body found after avalanche at ski resort
Another body was recovered Thursday at the site of a ski resort avalanche in Idaho, raising the death toll to three victims.
Silver Mountain Resort confirmed the body was a skier who was missing after the avalanche on Tuesday in Kellogg.
A private air rescue crew based out of Montana discovered the body in the drift, Shoshone County Sheriff Mike Gunderson told reporters. Poor weather conditions complicated the recovery effort, Gunderson said.
No one else is reported missing, officials said.
Investigators believe two victims, identified as Carl William Dick Humphreys and Scott Michael Parsons, both of Washington state, were skiing together on Wardner Peak when the avalanche happened.
Five other skiers were rescued with minor injuries.
Iran claims 'big lie' that missiles downed passenger plane
A spokesman for the Iranian government said reports that missiles downed the Ukraine International Airlines flight that crashed near Tehran Wednesday are "a big lie," state-run media reported.
The spokesman, Ali Rabiei, accused the United States of spreading misinformation about the crash, in which all 176 people on board were killed.
"No one will assume responsibility for such a big lie once it is known that the claim had been fraudulent," Rabiei said in a statement, according to Press TV.
"It is unfortunate that the psychological operation of the US government, and those supporting it knowingly and unknowingly, are adding insult to the injury of the bereaved families and victimizing them for certain goals by propagating such fallacies."
The plane, a Boeing 737-800, was headed for Kiev when it crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport in the Iranian capital. The victims include 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals.
Reports from the United States and its allies surfaced Thursday that the plane may have been shot down by surface-to-air missiles.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, said Thursday that intelligence showed the commercial aircraft was shot down. Both leaders said it may have been unintentional and called for an investigation.
A US official familiar with the intelligence said the plane was shot down by two Russian-made SA-15 surface-to-air missiles. The US saw Iranian radar signals lock onto the jetliner, before it was shot down. Video sent to CNN appears to show a missile fired into the Tehran sky early Wednesday morning and striking an object in the sky.
Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, said the plane's black boxes -- which may contain data that would help investigators figure out what caused the crash -- were damaged, so Tehran may need help decoding them.
Abedzadeh also cast doubt on conclusions the plane was shot down. "If a rocket or missile hits a plane, it will free fall," he told CNN.
Video from night of Epstein suicide attempt is lost, prosecutors say
Video footage of the area around Jeffrey Epstein's jail cell on a day he survived an apparent suicide attempt "no longer exists," federal prosecutors told a judge Thursday.
Officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York believed they had preserved footage of guards finding Epstein after he appeared to have attempted suicide, but actually saved a video from a different part of the jail, prosecutors said.
The FBI also has determined that the footage does not exist on the jail's backup video system "as a result of technical errors," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maurene Comey and Jason Swergold wrote in a court filing.
The revelation came despite assurances prosecutors made that jail officials were preserving the footage at the request of a defense attorney for Nicholas Tartaglione, a former police officer who shared a cell with Epstein in July when the wealthy financier was discovered with bruises on his neck and then placed on suicide watch.
Epstein later hanged himself in jail Aug. 10 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, officials said.
Tartaglione's defense attorney, Bruce Barket, told The Associated Press he intends to ask U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas to hold a hearing with "live testimony" to determine what happened to the missing video.
"The various and inconsistent accounts of what happened to that video are deeply troubling," Barket said in an email.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
One of Epstein's attorneys, Marc Fernich, said the missing video "only adds to the unanswered questions and deepens the air of mystery surrounding (Epstein's) death, feeding the perception that the public will never really know what happened — and that the powers that be aren't really interested in finding out."
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said in Thursday's court filing that jailhouse officials had preserved video for the "correct date and time" but captured the wrong part of the jail. They said the jail's computer system listed a "different, incorrect cell" for Tartaglione.
The footage in question involves a July 23 episode in which correctional officers say they found Epstein on the floor of his cell with a strip of bedsheet around his neck. Michael Thomas, one of the officers charged with falsifying records the night Epstein died, was one of the officers who responded to that scene.
Epstein was moved out of that cell and placed on suicide watch. He was transferred back to the jail's special housing unit July 30, meaning he was less closely monitored but still supposed to be checked every 30 minutes. He was also required to have a cellmate, but he was left with none after his cellmate was transferred out of the jail Aug. 9, the day before his death, authorities have said.
Prosecutors charged the two officers responsible for guarding Epstein the night he died with falsifying prison records to conceal they were sleeping and browsing the internet during the hours they were supposed to be keeping a close watch on prisoners.
Woman sues church that reported husband's sexual abuse of girl
An Oregon woman whose husband is in prison for sexually abusing a child is suing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for reporting his confession to state authorities.
In the lawsuit, Kristine Johnson said her husband confessed his sexual abuse to clergy as required by church rules. That confession was passed along to state authorities, forming the basis of their investigation, she says.
She filed the lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court last week and seeks $9.5 million for loss of income, emotional distress and her family's loss of her husband's companionship. The lawsuit, which argues the church went against its own policy that considers confessions confidential, also seeks an additional $40,000 for his criminal defense.
In 2016, the lawsuit states, plaintiff Kristine Johnson learned that her husband, Timothy Johnson, had engaged in inappropriate conduct with an underage girl.
"In response to that, plaintiff Kristine Johnson and Timothy Johnson followed the rules and scriptures of the church, which ... requires and admonish church members to 'confess their sins unto the brethren before the Lord,'" the lawsuit says.
But the church failed to advise the couple that if he followed the guidance and confessed his sins, it would report him to state authorities. The church should have warned her husband that his confession would not stay private, the lawsuit says.
Timothy Samuel Johnson, 47, was arrested in 2017 and is serving 15 years in prison in Pendleton, Oregon, for abusing an underage girl, according to the state Department of Corrections.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said it considers protecting victims a top priority, and has a 24-hour help line to report abuse.
"The church teaches that leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse to civil authorities," church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement.
Oregon is one of 28 states that considers clergy among professionals mandated by law to report known or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect. But that law makes some exceptions, and statutes in some states specify circumstances under which a communication is "privileged" or allowed to remain confidential.
Cancer Society shoots down Trump's effort to take credit for death decline
President Donald Trump insinuated in a tweet that his administration played a role in the US cancer death rate hitting a record low in 2017. The American Cancer Society says that's not true.
Trump's tweet appeared to be referring to the findings of an American Cancer Society report released on Wednesday, which said the rate of people dying from cancer in the United States declined in 2017 for the 26th year in a row. Trump took office in January 2017.
Trump's tweet on Thursday said, "U.S. Cancer Death Rate Lowest In Recorded History! A lot of good news coming out of this Administration."
Gary M. Reedy, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told CNN that the 2017 findings are not connected to the actions of the Trump administration.
"The mortality trends reflected in our current report, including the largest drop in overall cancer mortality ever recorded from 2016 to 2017, reflect prevention, early detection, and treatment advances that occurred in prior years," Reedy said in a written statement on Thursday.
"Since taking office, the president has signed multiple spending bills that have included increases in funding for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute -- though the impact of those increases are not reflected in the data contained in this report," he said.
"The administration has an opportunity to significantly impact future declines in both cancer incidence and mortality by increasing access to comprehensive health care, supporting robust and sustained increases in federal funding for cancer research and passing and implementing evidence-based tobacco control policies."
The President has a history of proposing to cut funding from the National Institutes of Health's budget, which includes funding for the National Cancer Institute, an agency that leads, conducts and supports cancer research. The final budgets that Congress approved ended up being more generous than Trump's proposals.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote on Twitter, in response to Trump, that "cancer rates dropped before you took office. Hopefully they keep dropping because Congress rejected your cruel research budgets, which sought billions in CUTS to @NIH and the National Cancer Institute. This is good news despite you - not because of you."
News organizations routinely fact check Trump's claims:
TRUMP: “Your chosen candidate lost the election in 2016, in an Electoral College landslide (306-227).” — letter to Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Far from true. Trump's 2016 victory bore no resemblance to a landslide. He won with about 57% of electoral votes, a comfortable margin but no better than average or below average. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton each won bigger victories twice and many other presidents outperformed Trump.
Here is what Electoral College landslides look like: Franklin Roosevelt, 98.5% in 1936, 88.9% in 1932; Ronald Reagan, 97.6% in 1984; 90.9% in 1980. Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Lyndon Johnson also topped 90% in an analysis of all elections by Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.
Moreover, Republican Trump lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton, a rare occurrence for a winning candidate.
And Trump misstated the electoral count by which he won. The official count was 304-227, not 306-227, according to an Associated Press tally of the electoral votes in every state.
TRUMP, speaking when the stock market was down: “If the stock market goes up or down — I don’t watch the stock market. I watch jobs." — remarks Dec. 3 during NATO summit.
TRUMP, speaking when the stock market was up: “Broke all time Stock Market Record again today. 135 times since my 2016 Election Win. Thank you!” — tweet Friday.
Broke all time Stock Market Record again today. 135 times since my 2016 Election Win. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2019
THE FACTS: He watches the stock market.
Impeachment and Ukraine
TRUMP: “More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: No. Nineteen people were executed after being falsely accused of witchcraft in trials in colonial Massachusetts. Defendants, who typically lacked counsel, were convicted with no evidence other than personal accusations, the presence of a “devil’s mark” on their bodies or if they failed “witch tests.” The courts also accepted spectral evidence that was purportedly based on invisible spirits; defendants sometimes were tortured into confessing.
Trump has lawyers, a Republican-controlled Senate, the power of the presidency, constitutional protections and money behind him.
The Salem trials were so unfair that they have become the metaphor of choice for Trump in complaining about the “witch hunt” against him. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll urged Trump to “learn some history.”
TRUMP: “You know full well that Vice President Biden used his office and $1 billion dollars of U.S. aid money to coerce Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was digging into the company paying his son millions of dollars.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect to say that Biden, now a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, pressed to have the prosecutor fired while the prosecutor was investigating Burisma, the energy company in Ukraine where Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of directors. In fact, by the time Biden came out against the prosecutor, the investigation into the company was dormant.
Biden, among other international officials, was pressing for a more aggressive investigation of corruption in Ukraine, not a softer one.
Trump's team cites a video of Joe Biden from 2018. Speaking on a public panel, Biden recounted threatening to withhold a loan guarantee from Ukraine's government unless it fired the prosecutor, who was widely considered ineffective if not corrupt himself.
What Trump doesn't say is that in February 2016, a few months after Biden threatened to hold back a $1 billion loan guarantee, the International Monetary Fund threatened to delay $40 billion in aid unless Ukraine took action to fight corruption.
An investigation into Burisma's owner for money laundering, tax evasion and other alleged misdeeds began in 2012 and pertained to the years before Hunter Biden joined the board.
TRUMP, on Hunter Biden: “How about when he went to China? And he walks away with $1.5 billion to manage ... He gets $1.5 billion.” — remarks Saturday in West Palm Beach, Fla., to a conservative student conference.
THE FACTS: There's no evidence Hunter Biden pocketed $1.5 billion from China.
In 2014, an investment fund started by Hunter Biden and other investors joined with foreign and Chinese private equity firms in an effort to raise $1.5 billion to invest outside China. That's far from giving Hunter Biden such a sum, as Trump describes it.
Hunter Biden's lawyer, George Mesires, says his client was an unpaid director of the fund at the time and pocketed nothing.
"Hunter has not received any compensation for being on BHR's board of directors," Mesires said, referring to the fund. “He has not received any return on his investment.”
TRUMP: “I have been denied the most fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution, including the right to present evidence, to have my own counsel present, to confront accusers, and to call and cross-examine witnesses.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: This is a distortion. In the House proceedings, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee that drafted the articles of impeachment invited Trump and his lawyers to take part and ask for witnesses. The witnesses who did come forward were questioned by Republicans on the committee as well as by Democrats.
Earlier hearings by the House Intelligence Committee did not invite Trump or his team. Those hearings were like the investigative phase of criminal cases, conducted without the participation of the person under investigation. But lawmakers from both parties questioned the witnesses. Trump complained about being shut out of that but when the Judiciary Committee hearings were opened to his team and him, he declined.
TRUMP: “This is nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: No illegal takeover is afoot.
The impeachment process is laid out in the Constitution, giving Congress the authority to impeach and try a president as part of its responsibilities as a coequal branch of government to provide a check on a president who commits treason, bribery, or "other high crimes and misdemeanors."
The standard of "high crimes and misdemeanors" is vague and open-ended to encompass abuses of power even if they aren't illegal.
Some Democrats also cried “coup” when the House impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 and it wasn't one then, either.
TRUMP, referring to "the so-called whistleblower who started this entire hoax with a false report of the phone call that bears no relationship to the actual phone call that was made." — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: No, the whistleblower's accusations have not been shown to be incorrect. Key details have been corroborated.
For example, the White House account of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's new president showed that the whistleblower had accurately summarized the conversation, as relayed by unidentified U.S. officials, in the complaint sent to the acting director of national intelligence. Witnesses who heard the call testified to the accuracy of that account.
TRUMP: “Fortunately, there was a transcript of the conversation taken, and you know from the transcript (which was immediately made available).” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: Not that immediate. Trump made the call in question to Ukraine's president July 25. The White House released the rough transcript Sept. 25, only (but quickly) after Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.
TRUMP: “The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes." — letter to Pelosi.
TRUMP: “How do you impeach? You had no crime.” — remarks Saturday to conservative student conference.
THE FACTS: This frequent defense by Trump and his Republican allies is misleading. The constitutional grounds for impeachment do not require a statutory crime to have been committed.
In setting the conditions of treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors, the Founding Fathers said a consequential abuse of office was subject to the impeachment process they laid out.
The House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump: abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden while withholding nearly $400 million in military aid as leverage; and obstruction of Congress for stonewalling the House's investigation.
Frank Bowman III, a University of Missouri law professor and author of “A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump," said that while it seems “almost commonsensically right" that the House shouldn't impeach unless there's a crime, that has not been the requirement in more than 600 years of British and American law.
TRUMP: “Congressman Adam Schiff cheated and lied all the way up to the present day, even going so far as to fraudulently make up, out of thin air, my conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and read this fantasy language to Congress.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: He's overstating the exaggerated account by the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of what Trump said in his July 25 phone call with Ukraine's leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Most of Schiff's details were accurate and not made up “out of thin air" nor a “fantasy.”
Schiff prefaced and concluded his account at a House Intelligence Committee hearing by saying he was giving the “essence” of what Trump said on the phone call, skipping the "rambling” parts. He invited people not to take him literally.
Trump routinely and coarsely mocks critics and invents dialogue that he attributes to them. He did so at an impeachment-night rally Wednesday in Michigan, when he put himself in the voice of Bill Clinton, as if advising Hillary Clinton to campaign in that state and Wisconsin on the eve of the 2016 election. “And he said, ‘You horrible human being, you had better start listening to me because you are going to get your ass whipped,’” Trump said to laughs.
TRUMP: “Ambassador Sondland testified that I told him: 'No quid pro quo. I want nothing. I want nothing. I want President Zelensky to do the right thing, do what he ran on.'" — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: Trump is shading what Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union, told House investigators.
As one of the officials most deeply involved in trying to get Ukraine to do Trump's bidding, Sondland testified that there was indeed a quid pro quo in the matter and “everyone was in the loop.” Specifically, Sondland said it was understood that Ukraine's new president would only get a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office if he publicly pledged to investigate the Bidens and the Democrats.
“Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ Sondland asked in his statement to the House Intelligence Committee. ”As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."
Moreover, on the more serious matter of withholding military aid to Ukraine unless the country investigated Democrats, Sondland testified that a this-for-that explanation was the only one that made sense to him.
Testimony from other officials shored up the picture of a president and his associates systematically trying to get Ukraine to do what Trump wanted during a period when the military assistance approved by Congress was put on hold without explanation.
TRUMP, on his July call: “President Zelensky has repeatedly declared that I did nothing wrong, and that there was No Pressure." — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: Trump misleads.
While Zelenskiy initially said there was no discussion of a quid pro quo, he told Time this month that Trump should not have blocked military aid to Ukraine. Zelenskiy also criticized Trump for casting the country as corrupt, saying it sends a concerning message to international allies.
On that call discussing military aid, Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Trump’s political rivals in the U.S.
“Look I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo,” Zelenskiy said. “But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness."
It’s true that in early October, Zelenskiy had told reporters “there was no pressure or blackmail from the U.S.” But he did not state Trump had done “nothing” wrong.
In any event, Zelenskiy knew months before the call that much-needed U.S. military support might depend on whether he was willing to help Trump by investigating Democrats.
TRUMP: “You completely failed with the Mueller report because there was nothing to find.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: Not true. The inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller uncovered criminal behavior, put some perpetrators in prison, traced a virulent effort by Russia to disrupt the U.S. election in 2016 and pointed to troubling behavior by Trump and his associates, leaving Congress to weigh it and decide whether to respond. Mueller's report did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
Mueller's two-year investigation produced guilty pleas, convictions and criminal charges against Russian intelligence officers and others with ties to the Kremlin, as well as Trump associates. It certainly found something.
All told, Mueller charged 34 people, including the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn; and three Russian companies. Twenty-five Russians were indicted on charges related to election interference, accused either of hacking Democratic email accounts during the campaign or of orchestrating a social media campaign that spread disinformation on the internet.
Five Trump aides pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Mueller. A sixth, longtime confidant Roger Stone, was convicted last month of lying to Congress and witness tampering.
Mueller's report concluded that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was "sweeping and systematic." Ultimately, Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy. But the special counsel didn't render judgment on whether Trump obstructed justice partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn't be indicted.
TRUMP: “I could be loved in Germany. They would love me — my father came from Germany.” — Michigan rally Wednesday.
THE FACTS: His father came from the Bronx, in New York City.
Trump repeatedly describes his father as German-born. The president's grandfather came from Germany.
TRUMP: “Your party simply cannot compete with our record: 7 million new jobs." — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: He's overstating it. The U.S. has created 6.6 million jobs since Trump took office.
TRUMP: “Our record ... a colossal reduction in illegal border crossings.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: That depends on what you consider colossal. Border arrests are down about 27% from Obama's last month in office. December 2016 was a high number for Obama's presidency as people rushed to cross the border before Trump's inauguration.
Arrests and denials of entry along the Mexico border can vary widely from month to month, so at one point — comparing September to May — Trump could claim a 64% decline. The drop is less than half of that over the sweep of his presidency.
Border arrests are a flawed gauge of illegal immigration. It may be impossible to know how many people escaped capture, but the Border Patrol estimates 20% eluded arrest in 2018. Also, an estimated 40% of people in the country illegally arrived legally and overstayed their visas. Border arrests don't take them into account. So the letter rests on partial accounting and misleading figures.
TRUMP: “Our record ... a completely reformed VA with Choice and Accountability for our great veterans.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: Not exactly his record. Trump didn't enact Veterans Choice and a government watchdog found that the new accountability law had failed in its core mission of protecting whistleblowers who reported potential harm to veterans.
He refers to Choice, a program that allows veterans under some conditions to go outside the Veterans Affairs health care system and seek private care at public expense. Obama created the program. Trump routinely claims credit for it. But he only built on Obama's achievement.
On accountability, a report released last month by the VA inspector general found that the VA accountability office established under the 2017 law did not consistently conduct sound and unbiased investigations and may not have protected identities of whistleblowers reporting wrongdoing.
It said the office had “significant deficiencies,” like poor leadership, shoddy training of investigators and a failure to push out underperforming senior leaders.
Just one senior manager out of the 8,000 employees fired by VA had been removed by an office created to help keep senior-level managers accountable, according to the findings by inspector general Michael Missal.
The VA acknowledged many of the findings and said it was working to make changes.