Is the world finally ready to end the deadliest infectious disease?

Maybe the short answer is: We need a better imagination?

The global health world hasn’t set its goals high enough, hasn’t dreamed big enough when it comes to stopping tuberculosis, says Dr. Paul Farmer, physician at Harvard Medical School and founder of the nonprofit Partners In Health.

“We’ve had a failure of imagination,” he says. “We haven’t had the same optimism, commitment and high ambitious goals around TB that we’ve seen around HIV. And what’s the downside of setting high goals? I think it’s very limited.”

This week, world leaders are starting to give Farmer what he’s been hoping for.

On Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly hosted the first-ever high level meeting focused exclusively on tuberculosis. World leaders pledged an ambitious goal: to try and nearly wipe out the disease by 2030.

A cure for TB has been widely available since the 1950s. And yet TB is still the deadliest infectious disease on earth. It kills about 1.5 million people each year, or 4,000 people each day, including 600 children. It kills more people than HIV or car accidents.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to end TB,” the World Health Organization’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the U.N. General Assembly.

One of the big obstacles is that TB strikes the poorest people in the world, who can’t afford — or don’t have access — to medications, Dr. Tedros said. In response, world leaders committed Wednesday to treating 40 million people in the next five years. By comparison, only about 54 million people were successfully treated since 2000. Each year about, there are about 10 million new infections. So the goal is to treat about 80 percent of the new cases. They also pledged to provide preventive treatments to 30 million people who are at risk of catching TB from a friend or family member.

The overall goal is to reduce TB deaths by 90 percent by 2030.

“These are bold promises,” Tedros said.

In global health, goals are often lofty but aren’t easy to reach. So could a big meeting like this — big promises like these actually make a dent in the fight against a disease that’s been neglected for decades.

The medical nonprofit Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is skeptical, given how few leaders showed up at the historic meeting.

“Out of the 193 U.N. member states, fewer than 30 leaders chose to attend the meeting today,” Sharonann Lynch, who advises MSF on TB and HIV, wrote in a press statement. “Leaders missing from this critical meeting include many from high-burden TB countries and donors that have been promising to help fund the fight to ‘end TB.’ Shame on the more than 160 leaders who were absent today.”

But Dr. Paul Farmer is more optimistic. He is hopeful the meeting could be a turning point in the global fight against TB.

“I have been a skeptic about the relevance of yet another meeting about a problem that really hasn’t been addressed ever,” Farmer says. “I felt that way about a similar meeting focused on AIDS, but then that meeting ended up being radically life-altering.”

That meeting, held back in 2001, ended up spurring the launch of one of the most successful anti-HIV programs ever — the U.S. program PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. At the same time, the meeting spurred a surge in money for HIV treatment and research.

Farmer is hopeful that this year’s UNGA meeting may have similar effect on the fight against TB because, right now, he spends a huge amount of his time doing one thing: Begging.

“Begging for money, begging for social support for patients,” Farmer says. “[Treating people for TB] involves a lot of begging.”

Currently, the funding for TB treatment and research falls short each year by about $5 billion, said the president of the UNGA, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, on Wednesday.

Farmer regularly sees patients falling through this funding gap.

“I just got back from eastern Sierra Leone — the same part of Sierra Leone where diamonds come from — blood diamonds,” he explains. “I saw a patient who was 33 years old and had a very confusing illness. It was clearly killing him.”

His name is Moses, and eventually Farmer figured out that TB was killing him. But treating him wasn’t easy. The hospital was struggling to acquire the drugs and resources Moses needed.

“He needs nutritional support. He needs physical therapy. He needs lots of medications,” Farmer says. “If I could, I would part all the Red Seas in the world so that a young person like Moses could live a healthy life and not have it be over at 33- or 34-years-old.

“It shouldn’t be that hard for my colleagues in Sierra Leone to find the resources necessary to diagnose a young man like that and bring him to cure,” Farmer adds.

In a few years, maybe it won’t be as hard, if leaders of the world keep their promise — and their commitment to imagine a world without TB.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍

Elon Musk settles with SEC, agrees to step down as Tesla chairman

Updated at 1:02 a.m. ET Sunday

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, has reached a deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle a securities fraud charge brought against him on Thursday, the agency announced on Saturday.

Under the terms of the settlement, Musk has agreed to step down as chairman of the Silicon Valley-based company, but will remain in his post as CEO.

Tesla and Musk will each pay a separate fine of $20 million, the SEC said in a press release, and Musk will resign as chairman within 45 days. After that, he’ll be ineligible to be re-elected chairman for three years.

The resolution comes two days after the SEC sued Musk in federal court for fraud, alleging that he misled investors when he announced on Twitter last month that he had “funding secured” to take the electric-car company private at $420 a share. Musk later admitted that the share price — a nod to marijuana culture — was a calculated stunt meant to amuse his girlfriend, the musician Grimes.

As NPR’s Vanessa Romo reported on Thursday:

The court documents note the calculation resulted in a price of $419, but that Musk later admitted he had added the extra dollar — $420 — “because he had recently learned about the number’s significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend ‘would find it funny, which admittedly is not a great reason to pick a price.’ “

The SEC says that Musk and Tesla agreed to the deal without admitting or denying the allegations brought against them.

The day after the SEC filed its lawsuit, Tesla’s stock sank 14 percent, dissolving more than $7 billion in shareholder returns. Since the Aug. 7 tweet, Tesla’s stock has fallen 30 percent, closing Friday at $264.77, according to The Associated Press.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍

U.S. closes consulate in Basra, citing Iran-backed violence

The State Department is temporarily closing the U.S. Consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra and evacuating all diplomats stationed there, following a rocket attack early Friday morning.

Although there were no casualties, concerns back in Washington grew. The decision comes out of concern for the safety of U.S. personnel stationed in that Iraqi city near the border with Iran.

In a statement released Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited “repeated incidents of fire” from Iranian-backed militias.

“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” Pompeo said.

He blamed the security threat specifically on Iran, its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and militias under the control of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force.

The Basra airport was also the target of an attack earlier this month. NPR’s Jane Arraf reported that according to Iraqi security officials, the attacks didn’t land on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate compounds. There were no injuries or serious damage, but the White House, in a statement, called them “life-threatening attacks” against its diplomatic missions.

“Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training and weapons,” the White House said.

Basra hosts one of three U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq. It is the country’s oil capital and main port but has been battered by successive wars and neglect for decades. After the U.S. invasion in 2003, Basra fell under militia control and as a result, there was rampant corruption.

Hundreds of anti-government protests have descended on the city since the beginning of July.

Protesters duck as Iraqi security forces fire tear gas during a demonstration against unemployment and a lack of basic services in Basra. (Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Arraf reported that protesters are demanding much needed government services, and a water crisis has pushed them to the edge.

Nasser Jabar, one of the protesters, told Arraf, “We are tired of their killing. We are tired of their corruption. All the parties in the government now — they are corrupted, all of them.”

“We want to change them,” he added.

Earlier this month, protesters turned their rage on neighboring Iran, blaming its outsize influence on Iraq’s political affairs for their misery. They stormed the Iranian Consulate and set it on fire, causing significant damage.

An Iraqi protester waves a national flag while demonstrating outside the burned-down local government headquarters in the southern city of Basra on Sept. 7, during demonstrations over problems including poor public services. (Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Pompeo tweeted Tuesday that militias supported by Iran had launched the attacks, warning, “We’ll hold Iran’s regime accountable for any attack on our personnel or facilities, and respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives.”

“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” Pompeo added in the statement.

The decision comes at a particularly fraught time as tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated during the Trump presidency.

In a speech addressing the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week, President Trump hammered Iran over its support for terrorism and aggression against U.S. allies in the Middle East.

“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump said.

“They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.”

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍

U.S. closes consulate in Basra, citing Iran-backed violence

The State Department is temporarily closing the U.S. Consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra and evacuating all diplomats stationed there, following a rocket attack early Friday morning.

Although there were no casualties, concerns back in Washington grew. The decision comes out of concern for the safety of U.S. personnel stationed in that Iraqi city near the border with Iran.

In a statement released Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited “repeated incidents of fire” from Iranian-backed militias.

“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” Pompeo said.

He blamed the security threat specifically on Iran, its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and militias under the control of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force.

The Basra airport was also the target of an attack earlier this month. NPR’s Jane Arraf reported that according to Iraqi security officials, the attacks didn’t land on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate compounds. There were no injuries or serious damage, but the White House, in a statement, called them “life-threatening attacks” against its diplomatic missions.

“Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training and weapons,” the White House said.

Basra hosts one of three U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq. It is the country’s oil capital and main port but has been battered by successive wars and neglect for decades. After the U.S. invasion in 2003, Basra fell under militia control and as a result, there was rampant corruption.

Hundreds of anti-government protests have descended on the city since the beginning of July.

Protesters duck as Iraqi security forces fire tear gas during a demonstration against unemployment and a lack of basic services in Basra. (Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Arraf reported that protesters are demanding much needed government services, and a water crisis has pushed them to the edge.

Nasser Jabar, one of the protesters, told Arraf, “We are tired of their killing. We are tired of their corruption. All the parties in the government now — they are corrupted, all of them.”

“We want to change them,” he added.

Earlier this month, protesters turned their rage on neighboring Iran, blaming its outsize influence on Iraq’s political affairs for their misery. They stormed the Iranian Consulate and set it on fire, causing significant damage.

An Iraqi protester waves a national flag while demonstrating outside the burned-down local government headquarters in the southern city of Basra on Sept. 7, during demonstrations over problems including poor public services. (Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Pompeo tweeted Tuesday that militias supported by Iran had launched the attacks, warning, “We’ll hold Iran’s regime accountable for any attack on our personnel or facilities, and respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives.”

“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” Pompeo added in the statement.

The decision comes at a particularly fraught time as tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated during the Trump presidency.

In a speech addressing the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week, President Trump hammered Iran over its support for terrorism and aggression against U.S. allies in the Middle East.

“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump said.

“They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.”

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍

Matt Damon is a sniffing, shouting Brett Kavanaugh on ‘SNL’ season premiere

Saturday Night Live kicked off its 44th season in a sketch many of us expected in some form or another: a send-up of the emotionally charged hearings into the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The show skipped any impression of accuser Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, starting the scene just before Kavanaugh’s entrance.

“We’ve heard from the alleged victim, but now it’s time to hear from the hero, Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” says Sen. Chuck Grassley, played by cast member Alex Moffat.

In walks a shouting, sniffing Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in an appearance by Matt Damon.

“I’m gonna start at an 11, I’ma take it to about a 15 real quick!” he yells.

He talks a lot about beer. “I’m usually an optimist, I’m a keg is half-full kind of guy,” he says.

Echoing the real Kavanaugh’s statement that “you’ll never get me to quit,” Damon’s judge notes, “I’m not backing down … I don’t know the meaning of the word stop.”

Aidy Bryant played Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor brought in to question Ford, who says, “I’m here mostly for Twitter.”

Later on in the scene, Kate McKinnon, who can do a good impression of pretty much anybody, channeled the indignation of Sen. Lindsey Graham, who lashed out on Thursday at Democrats.

“You put this man on the Supreme Court now,” McKinnon’s Graham says. “No vote, no discussion. You give him a damn robe and you let him do whatever the hell he wants. Because this right now, this is my audition for Mr. Trump’s Cabinet. And also for a regional production of The Crucible.

Weekend Update had its usual digs at the week in politics, beginning with the Ford and Kavanaugh appearances. “A classic debate of she said, he yelled,” as Colin Jost described it.

Kate McKinnon was back (again!) as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, giving her take on Kavanaugh and his calendars. Today on Ginsburg’s agenda: “Don’t die.”

Kanye West was the night’s musical guest. He performed three times, the first of which was … in a costume of a bottle of Perrier.


He ended the show with a song performed wearing a Make America Great Again hat. West is a noted fan of President Trump.

The show is back live next week with host Awkwafina and musical guest Travis Scott.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍

More than 800 confirmed killed after tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia

Updated at 5:49 a.m. ET Sunday

The number of people confirmed killed after a tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia rose dramatically to 832 on Sunday, Indonesian authorities said.

Officials warned that the number of people killed could even reach into the thousands as rescuers reach more affected areas.

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake triggered an unexpected tsunami in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi Friday, leaving hospitals and rescuers struggling to respond.

Most of the confirmed deaths are from the city of Palu. But rescuers worry that they could find more victims of the disaster in the Donggala region, which is closer to the epicenter of the earthquake.

Indonesian disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said earlier that bodies of some victims were found trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, adding that hundreds more were injured and many were missing, according to Reuters.

Authorities said that “tens to hundreds” of people were by the ocean in the hard-hit city Palu for a beach festival when the tsunami struck on Friday just after 5:02 PM Western Indonesian Time.

“The tsunami didn’t come by itself, it dragged cars, logs, houses, it hit everything on land,” Nugroho told reporters.

Nugroho tweeted that Indonesia’s military has been mobilized to assist search and rescue teams.


Yenni Suryani, Catholic Relief Services’ country manager in Indonesia, said that this number “doesn’t yet account for anyone who might have been swept to sea by the tsunami.”

“I’m worried about people who might have been washed away,” she added.

Nugrogo tweeted photos of local hospitals that are overflowing with the injured. Many people are being treated in makeshift medical tents set up out on the streets.

Medical team members help patients outside a hospital after an earthquake and a tsunami hit Palu, on Sulawesi island on September 29, 2018. (Muhammad Rifki /AFP/Getty Images)

Multiple attempts have been made to reach out to Palu’s main hospital, but it appears that its telephone lines may be disconnected.

Dramatic videos show rising waves smashing into buildings and people running away in fear.


Other footage has shown the aftermath: destroyed buildings and body bags lying in the street.

A man looks for his belongings amid the debris of his destroyed house in Palu after a strong earthquake and tsunami struck the area. (Bay Ismoyo /AFP/Getty Images)

Several mosques, a shopping mall and many houses have collapsed, according to the CRS. The impact is significant, but the scope of the destruction is unclear because communications are down and emergency teams have not reached all affected areas.

Palu’s airport also suffered damages, its runway badly cracked from the quake.

The Jakarta Post reported that one of the air traffic controllers, Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, died after he jumped off the traffic control tower when the earthquake hit the area.


His colleagues had evacuated the tower when they felt the trembling, but he stayed behind to ensure that an airplane safely took off, Air Nav Indonesia, the agency that oversees aircraft navigation, said in a statement.

Nugroho said that the casualties and the damage could be greater along the coastline 190 miles north of Palu in Donggala.

Communications “were totally crippled with no information” from Donggala, he added. More than 600,000 people live in Donggala and Palu.

NPR’s Anthony Kuhn tells our Newscast unit that this is the most serious quake to hit Indonesia since August, when a series of tremors killed hundreds on Lombok Island.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍

More than 800 confirmed killed after tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia

Updated at 5:49 a.m. ET Sunday

The number of people confirmed killed after a tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia rose dramatically to 832 on Sunday, Indonesian authorities said.

Officials warned that the number of people killed could even reach into the thousands as rescuers reach more affected areas.

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake triggered an unexpected tsunami in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi Friday, leaving hospitals and rescuers struggling to respond.

Most of the confirmed deaths are from the city of Palu. But rescuers worry that they could find more victims of the disaster in the Donggala region, which is closer to the epicenter of the earthquake.

Indonesian disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said earlier that bodies of some victims were found trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, adding that hundreds more were injured and many were missing, according to Reuters.

Authorities said that “tens to hundreds” of people were by the ocean in the hard-hit city Palu for a beach festival when the tsunami struck on Friday just after 5:02 PM Western Indonesian Time.

“The tsunami didn’t come by itself, it dragged cars, logs, houses, it hit everything on land,” Nugroho told reporters.

Nugroho tweeted that Indonesia’s military has been mobilized to assist search and rescue teams.


Yenni Suryani, Catholic Relief Services’ country manager in Indonesia, said that this number “doesn’t yet account for anyone who might have been swept to sea by the tsunami.”

“I’m worried about people who might have been washed away,” she added.

Nugrogo tweeted photos of local hospitals that are overflowing with the injured. Many people are being treated in makeshift medical tents set up out on the streets.

Medical team members help patients outside a hospital after an earthquake and a tsunami hit Palu, on Sulawesi island on September 29, 2018. (Muhammad Rifki /AFP/Getty Images)

Multiple attempts have been made to reach out to Palu’s main hospital, but it appears that its telephone lines may be disconnected.

Dramatic videos show rising waves smashing into buildings and people running away in fear.


Other footage has shown the aftermath: destroyed buildings and body bags lying in the street.

A man looks for his belongings amid the debris of his destroyed house in Palu after a strong earthquake and tsunami struck the area. (Bay Ismoyo /AFP/Getty Images)

Several mosques, a shopping mall and many houses have collapsed, according to the CRS. The impact is significant, but the scope of the destruction is unclear because communications are down and emergency teams have not reached all affected areas.

Palu’s airport also suffered damages, its runway badly cracked from the quake.

The Jakarta Post reported that one of the air traffic controllers, Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, died after he jumped off the traffic control tower when the earthquake hit the area.


His colleagues had evacuated the tower when they felt the trembling, but he stayed behind to ensure that an airplane safely took off, Air Nav Indonesia, the agency that oversees aircraft navigation, said in a statement.

Nugroho said that the casualties and the damage could be greater along the coastline 190 miles north of Palu in Donggala.

Communications “were totally crippled with no information” from Donggala, he added. More than 600,000 people live in Donggala and Palu.

NPR’s Anthony Kuhn tells our Newscast unit that this is the most serious quake to hit Indonesia since August, when a series of tremors killed hundreds on Lombok Island.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍

Government may gain new power to track, shoot down drones

An aviation bill Congress is rushing to approve contains a little-noticed section that would give authorities the power to track, intercept and destroy drones they consider a security threat, without needing a judge’s approval.

Supporters say law enforcement needs this power to protect Americans from terrorists who are learning how to use drones as deadly weapons.

They point to the Islamic State terrorist group’s use of bomb-carrying drones on battlefields in Iraq, and warn that terrorists could go after civilian targets in the United States.

Critics say the provision would give the government unchecked power to decide when drones are a threat. They say the government could use its newfound power to restrict drone-camera news coverage of protests or controversial government facilities, such as the new detention centers for young migrants.

The provision is tucked in a huge bill that provides $1.7 billion in disaster relief and authorizes programs of the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates drones. The House approved the measure Wednesday by a 398-23 vote, and the Senate is expected pass it on to President Donald Trump’s desk in the coming days. The White House signaled support of the drone provision in July.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, introduced the Preventing Emerging Threats Act this year. It would give the Homeland Security Department and the Justice Department power to develop and deploy a system to spot, track and shoot down drones, as unmanned aircraft are called. Officers would have the authority to hack a drone operator’s signal and take control of the device.

The bill was never considered on its own by the full Senate or the House. Instead, in private negotiations that ended last weekend, it was tucked into a “must-pass” piece of FAA legislation.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote in a recent op-ed that the threat of drone attacks “is outpacing our ability to respond.” She said criminals use drones to smuggle drugs across the border, but worse, terrorists like the Islamic State are deploying them on the battlefield.

“We need to acknowledge that our first and last chance to stop a malicious drone might be during its final approach to a target,” she wrote.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement this week that the measure “would finally give federal law enforcement the authority we need to counter the use of drones by drug traffickers, terrorists and criminals.”

The National Football League’s top security executive recently endorsed the bill’s intent but said it should go further by letting trained local police officers intercept drones. The official, Cathy Lanier, a former Washington, D.C., police chief, said the NFL is alarmed by an increase in drone flyovers at stadiums.

Opponents including the American Civil Liberties Union argue that the proposal gives the government unchecked power to track and seize drones without regard for the privacy and free-speech rights of legitimate drone operators. It exempts the government agencies from certain laws, including limits on wiretapping.

The bill provides no oversight or means to question a government decision about what is a “credible threat” and what is an “asset” or “facility” in need of protection when drones are nearby.

News organizations are increasingly using drones. They deploy them to cover natural disasters like the recent flooding from Hurricane Florence and also controversies such as the Trump administration’s construction of new camps for migrant children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Being able to see footage of protests, the size of protests, being able to see facilities like those at the border is useful — those are newsworthy events,” said India McKinney, a legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Without a specific means to protect First Amendment rights — something not in the bill — “it’s entirely feasible to think that the DOJ or DHS could just decide that a drone owned by a news organization provides a credible threat and then destroys the footage,” she said.

The National Press Photographers Association has joined in opposing the provision.

“It will chill newsgathering using drones by news organizations and individual journalists,” said Mickey Osterreicher, lawyer for the press photographers group.

___

David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter

SUBSCRIBE 👍

FBI contacts Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh accuser, as investigation begins

Updated at 7:35 a.m. ET Sunday

The FBI on Saturday began its first full day of work on an additional background investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and has reached out to the woman who alleges that the Supreme Court nominee exposed himself to her while the two were students at Yale University.

The woman, Deborah Ramirez, has agreed to cooperate with the FBI investigation, according to a statement issued by her attorney, John Clune. “Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time,” the statement said.

Ramirez’s allegations, outlined in a report by The New Yorker last Sunday, come on top of the allegations brought against Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford, who in dramatic testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday testified that the judge sexually assaulted her at a high school party more than 30 years ago. As part of a deal negotiated yesterday by Senate Republicans, the FBI will have one week to look into the allegations, which Kavanaugh has strenuously denied.

President Trump formally ordered the FBI to conduct the probe on Friday, but according to a report by NBC News, the White House is limiting the scope of the bureau’s investigation. The agency is examining the claims brought against Kavanaugh by Ford and Ramirez, but according to NBC, agents have not been permitted to investigate allegations made by a third woman, Julie Swetnick.

In a sworn declaration released Wednesday by her attorney, Michael Avenatti, Swetnick alleges that from 1981 to 1983, she went to several parties that Kavanaugh also attended and observed him drunkenly pressing himself against girls without their consent. The judge has denied those allegations as well.

Rather than investigating Swetnick’s allegations, NBC reported, the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses it is permitted to interview. According to the report, officials who spoke to NBC on the condition of anonymity “characterized the White House instructions as a significant constraint on the FBI investigation and caution that such a limited scope, while not unusual in normal circumstances, may make it difficult to pursue additional leads in a case in which a Supreme Court nominee has been accused of sexual assault.”

The FBI declined to comment to NBC about its report. White House spokesman Raj Shah said “the White House is letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do.”

Late on Saturday, Trump called the NBC report incorrect on Twitter, saying, “Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!”


Asked about the FBI investigation earlier on Saturday, President Trump told reporters he thought the probe was “going very well.”

“They have free reign, they can do whatever they have to do, whatever it is that they do,” said President Trump. “They’ll be doing things we have never even thought of … and hopefully at the conclusion, everything will be fine.”

The president also said he wanted the FBI to identify who may have leaked a confidential letter written by Ford about the alleged assault to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

“Was it Sen. Feinstein? Certainly her body language was not exactly very good when they asked her that question,” the president said. “I would like to find out as part of it who leaked the papers. Which Democrat leaked the papers.”

Feinstein has denied that she or anyone on her staff leaked the letter.

White it remains unclear who else the FBI may engage during the investigation, at least two potentially key witnesses have said they intend to cooperate.

The first is Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh who according to Ford, was in the room during the alleged assault. Judge has said he has no memory of such an assault ever occurring.

An attorney for Leland Keyser, who Ford says was at the party, was also willing to cooperate with the FBI, but Keyser’s attorney has said her client has no recollection of the party where the assault is said to have happened.

In a statement issued by the White House on Friday, Kavanaugh said he will continue cooperating with the confirmation process.

“Throughout this process, I’ve been interviewed by the FBI, I’ve done a number of ‘background’ calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the Senators and their counsel asked me. I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate.”

The FBI is expected to produce a final report for the White House, which the administration will then give to the Senate. As NPR’s Philip Ewing reported:

“The FBI is unlikely to open a criminal investigation. Instead, its investigators are expected to pursue the same kind of background inquiry they have conducted on Kavanaugh in the past, focused on the new allegations.”

The FBI will not provide a determination about the truthfulness of what witnesses tell investigators in interviews, but as Ewing noted, “Even if the bureau serves only as a gold-plated transcription service in this case, the completeness of those transcripts might exceed the body of evidence that now exists — and it would be evidence obtained from witnesses who could be prosecuted if they lied to the feds.”

The Senate moved ahead with a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination late on Friday, but is expected to put off the final floor vote until the FBI finishes its review.

Asked on Saturday about whether he needs a backup plan in the event that Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, President Trump said, “I don’t need a backup plan. I think he’s going to be fine.”

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍

FBI contacts Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh accuser, as investigation begins

Updated at 7:35 a.m. ET Sunday

The FBI on Saturday began its first full day of work on an additional background investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and has reached out to the woman who alleges that the Supreme Court nominee exposed himself to her while the two were students at Yale University.

The woman, Deborah Ramirez, has agreed to cooperate with the FBI investigation, according to a statement issued by her attorney, John Clune. “Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time,” the statement said.

Ramirez’s allegations, outlined in a report by The New Yorker last Sunday, come on top of the allegations brought against Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford, who in dramatic testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday testified that the judge sexually assaulted her at a high school party more than 30 years ago. As part of a deal negotiated yesterday by Senate Republicans, the FBI will have one week to look into the allegations, which Kavanaugh has strenuously denied.

President Trump formally ordered the FBI to conduct the probe on Friday, but according to a report by NBC News, the White House is limiting the scope of the bureau’s investigation. The agency is examining the claims brought against Kavanaugh by Ford and Ramirez, but according to NBC, agents have not been permitted to investigate allegations made by a third woman, Julie Swetnick.

In a sworn declaration released Wednesday by her attorney, Michael Avenatti, Swetnick alleges that from 1981 to 1983, she went to several parties that Kavanaugh also attended and observed him drunkenly pressing himself against girls without their consent. The judge has denied those allegations as well.

Rather than investigating Swetnick’s allegations, NBC reported, the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses it is permitted to interview. According to the report, officials who spoke to NBC on the condition of anonymity “characterized the White House instructions as a significant constraint on the FBI investigation and caution that such a limited scope, while not unusual in normal circumstances, may make it difficult to pursue additional leads in a case in which a Supreme Court nominee has been accused of sexual assault.”

The FBI declined to comment to NBC about its report. White House spokesman Raj Shah said “the White House is letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do.”

Late on Saturday, Trump called the NBC report incorrect on Twitter, saying, “Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!”


Asked about the FBI investigation earlier on Saturday, President Trump told reporters he thought the probe was “going very well.”

“They have free reign, they can do whatever they have to do, whatever it is that they do,” said President Trump. “They’ll be doing things we have never even thought of … and hopefully at the conclusion, everything will be fine.”

The president also said he wanted the FBI to identify who may have leaked a confidential letter written by Ford about the alleged assault to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

“Was it Sen. Feinstein? Certainly her body language was not exactly very good when they asked her that question,” the president said. “I would like to find out as part of it who leaked the papers. Which Democrat leaked the papers.”

Feinstein has denied that she or anyone on her staff leaked the letter.

White it remains unclear who else the FBI may engage during the investigation, at least two potentially key witnesses have said they intend to cooperate.

The first is Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh who according to Ford, was in the room during the alleged assault. Judge has said he has no memory of such an assault ever occurring.

An attorney for Leland Keyser, who Ford says was at the party, was also willing to cooperate with the FBI, but Keyser’s attorney has said her client has no recollection of the party where the assault is said to have happened.

In a statement issued by the White House on Friday, Kavanaugh said he will continue cooperating with the confirmation process.

“Throughout this process, I’ve been interviewed by the FBI, I’ve done a number of ‘background’ calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the Senators and their counsel asked me. I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate.”

The FBI is expected to produce a final report for the White House, which the administration will then give to the Senate. As NPR’s Philip Ewing reported:

“The FBI is unlikely to open a criminal investigation. Instead, its investigators are expected to pursue the same kind of background inquiry they have conducted on Kavanaugh in the past, focused on the new allegations.”

The FBI will not provide a determination about the truthfulness of what witnesses tell investigators in interviews, but as Ewing noted, “Even if the bureau serves only as a gold-plated transcription service in this case, the completeness of those transcripts might exceed the body of evidence that now exists — and it would be evidence obtained from witnesses who could be prosecuted if they lied to the feds.”

The Senate moved ahead with a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination late on Friday, but is expected to put off the final floor vote until the FBI finishes its review.

Asked on Saturday about whether he needs a backup plan in the event that Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, President Trump said, “I don’t need a backup plan. I think he’s going to be fine.”

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SUBSCRIBE 👍