The U.S. received a $2 million hospital bill in 2017 from the North Korean government for the care of American Otto Warmbier, who fell into a coma for unknown reasons while he was imprisoned in the country, according to a report.
Pyongyang authorities insisted the U.S. envoy sent to retrieve the University of Virginia student sign a pledge to pay the bill before allowing Warmbier’s comatose body to return to the United States, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Citing two people familiar with the situation, the Post reported the envoy signed an agreement to pay the medical bill on instructions from President Trump. However, it is unclear if the Trump administration ultimately paid the bill, which was sent to the Treasury Department. Sources told Bloomberg that the U.S. did not pay North Korea the money they demanded in the bill.
The White House declined to comment, with press secretary Sarah Sanders saying in a statement: “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”
Warmbier was on tour in North Korea when he allegedly stole a propaganda sign from a hotel. He was arrested in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in March 2016.
The Ohio native, then 21, fell into a coma for unknown reasons while in custody and was held in this condition for another 17 months. North Korean officials did not tell American officials until June 2017 that he had been unconscious the entire time. He died less than a week after he returned to the U.S. in June 2017.
North Korea has repeatedly denied accusations Warmbier was tortured and officials told their U.S. counterparts at the time that he had suffered from botulism and then slipped into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.
News of his condition sparked an effort by Joseph Yun, the State Department’s point person on North Korea at the time, to get Warmbier home, the Post reported.
Yun and an emergency medicine doctor, Michael Flueckiger, traveled to the North Korean capital on a medical evacuation plane and were taken to the Friendship Hospital. There, they found Warmbier lying in a room marked “intensive care unit” and had a feeding tube in his nose.
The Post reported Yun was asked to sign the pledge for payment when he went to retrieve Warmbier. He reportedly called then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who called the president.
Both Tillerson and Trump instructed Yin to sign the pledge, sources told the Post.
Sources told Fox News that Flueckiger signed a medical form for Warmbier’s release, but that this is the first time they had heard about a hospital bill.
A State Department spokesman declined to comment to Fox News and referred to the statement by the White House. Yun, who retired in early 2018, declined to comment to the Post.
On CNN on Thursday, Yun said that while he could not discuss specifics of negotiations or confirm the Post’s report, it was his understanding that in previous prisoner releases, it is standard for there to be some exchange of money for hospital costs. He said that his orders were to “completely do whatever you can to get Otto back.”
“It is my understanding that in previous instances that there was some exchange of money which was justified on the basis of hospital costs, so I know that in previous prisoner releases there was money handed over,” he said, adding that he understood the orders to be directly from the president.
Warmbier’s father, Fred Warmbier, told the news outlet that he wasn’t aware of the medical bill and said it sounded like a “random.”
Fred and Cindy Warmbier sued North Korea over their son’s death and in December were awarded $501 million in damages – money that the Hermit Kingdom will probably never pay.
While the Warmbiers blamed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Trump has said he believes Kim’s claims that he did not know about the student’s treatment.
Trump and Kim have met in two separate summits. The most recent, held in February, ended without an agreement on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Fox News’ John Roberts, Keller Chernenkoff, Blake Burman, and Nicholas Kalman contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News World
Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker gave a pass to Rep. Ilhan Omar and her history of controversial comments, ignoring his own party’s condemnation, and instead said President Trump’s criticism of her leads to right-wing terrorism in the country.
Sen. Booker on Tuesday appeared together with other 2020 Democratic candidates at the She The People Forum in Houston.
Shortly after taking the stage, the New Jersey senator was asked what is he going to do about Omar being the target of hate after her comments about “the outsize influence of AIPAC in determining U.S. foreign policy” and other flippant remarks prompted criticism both the House Democratic Leadership and from President Trump.
“What will you do as president to protect the right of courageous women of color to criticize U.S. policy even when directed at allies?” a woman asked Booker.
Without addressing his own party’s critics of Omar, including a House resolution that condemned hate after her comments that were largely perceived as anti-Semitic, Booker unloaded solely on Trump.
“The criticisms of Congresswoman Omar, what Donald Trump has been saying about her is reprehensible, it is trafficking in Islamophobia, and it should be condemned by everyone,” he said. “This kind of selective condemnation should be a chorus of people condemning it.”
“And more than this, the kind of language our president uses, especially about black women in power, the kind of language this President uses – it is toxic,” he added.
The Minnesota Democrat has been embroiled in a series of controversies since taking office in January. Earlier this month, Omar was accused of being flippant after referring to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks as “some people did something.”
In February, Omar drew bipartisan uproar after suggesting that politicians in the U.S. were bought by AIPAC, a non-partisan organization that seeks to foster the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
Just weeks later, Omar reignited the controversy, this time saying that supporters of Israel were pushing for U.S. politicians to declare “allegiance” to that nation.
Yet Booker continued his answer reiterating that Trump’s criticism of Omar “fuels the kind of hate we see in our communities, manifesting itself in the kind of terrorism that has been most seen in our nation since 9/11.”
“Most of the terrorist attacks in our nation since 9/11 have been right-wing extremist attacks. The majority of those have been white supremacist attacks,” he said to the crowd’s cheers.
“And so when you have a president uttering such bigotry, and uttering such racist attacks, talking about nations where black and brown people have come from in this nation as sh–hole countries …That is giving license to hate and to violence that we should not be tolerating,” he continued.
“So it’s not just important to be an ally. As one of our great black women has said in the past, it’s not enough just to say I’m not a racist. We must, where racism exists, all be anti-racist,” Booker concluded.
“Because if we are not dealing with this issue in our country, we will continue to see these kind of attacks and we will continue to see the kind of vicious violence that has been affecting our nation from black churches to synagogues to Muslim mosques as well.”
Source: Fox News Politics
A man who had allegedly been hiding out in his ex-girlfriend’s Pittsburgh home is now facing burglary charges, officials said.
Cary Michael Cocuzzi’s ex-girlfriend, who had a protection from abuse order against Cocuzzi, discovered her ex in her bedroom Saturday, authorities said.
The woman, who was not identified, told WPXI she saw signs around her home someone else was inside with her, such as when she discovered a blanket on the floor even though she hadn’t left it there.
“I feel like this is going to affect me for the rest of my life,” she told WPXI. “I had an intuition about it but I ignored it, I brushed it aside. I didn’t want to seem paranoid. But I should have trusted my instincts because I was right.”
Cocuzzi, 31, allegedly grabbed the woman, put a hand over her mouth and told her “Get over here,” according to the criminal complaint.
However, she pushed him away and was able to make it outside, where her terrified screams spurred several neighbors to call 911, officials said.
When police arrived and searched the home, they reported Cocuzzi was still there. They said he told officers he was homeless and had been sneaking in and out of the house for about two weeks.
The woman told the media outlet she was thankful her daughters were not at the residence at the time of the incident.
Cocuzzi is being held in the Allegheny County Jail and a preliminary hearing is slated for May 2. It was not immediately clear if he had retained an attorney.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News National
Robert Wolf, former economic adviser to President Obama, said former Vice President Joe Biden, who officially announced his 2020 bid Thursday morning, has “really been resonating the last few weeks because he looks like he’s the most powerful candidate to go against President Trump.”
Wolf, a Fox News contributor, made the statement on “Fox & Friends” 90 minutes after Biden officially announced his 2020 presidential bid.
He announced his run in an online video Thursday, after weeks of speculation and anticipation, making him the 20th Democrat fighting for the Oval Office.
Asked about Biden’s announcement video, Wolf said, “I thought it was powerful and compassionate. I think that, listen, in this polarizing environment it’s an incredible contrast to
“The truth is, I think that he’s saying we have to bring people together and this is not the right way. And I’m going to show you the right way and I think it’s very powerful.”
Wolf, who said he has known Biden for more than a decade, added, “I think there’s a reason his polls, the Monmouth (University) Poll came out where he was top in the Democratic field, (a) poll this morning came out where he was plus 8 over Trump, I know polls mean nothing at this point, but he’s really been resonating the last few weeks because he looks like he’s the most powerful candidate to go against President Trump.”
A former senator from Delaware, Biden, who also served as vice president for two terms under Barack Obama, has emerged as a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination — topping the polls alongside self-proclaimed Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Biden’s announcement on Thursday marks the beginning of his third campaign for the White House.
Wolf acknowledged Biden’s name recognition will prove to be an asset for his campaign.
“I think there’s no question early on name recognition matters. We know at this point in 2008 or 2007 Rudy Giuliani was beating Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama became president. So as the guy that was backing Obama when he was at 1 percent, I know many things can change,” Wolf said.
“I would say it’s a little different (now), I would say name recognition is actually more important today because when there is a field of 20, you know, you’re going to have a lot of people get 10 to 15 percent. And then all of a sudden name recognition on stage doesn’t cost you money to introduce yourself and there’s going to be a fight for money.”
Even Biden’s entry into the crowded Democratic primary field isn’t enough to move former President Barack Obama off the sidelines. Obama’s team released a statement praising Biden on Thursday but didn’t offer an explicit endorsement.
“Former presidents never endorse. Maybe the only one who did was President Bush (who) endorsed his brother. But they just don’t endorse. They sit on the sidelines and they wait for the primary to actually take place. They don’t like to put their finger on the scale so it’s not a surprise,” said Wolf on Thursday.
He added, “I have been with him (Obama) for over a decade. I mean, their love for each other is real.”
Wolf said that he thinks Obama would “love” to see Biden as president, adding, “You don’t think that President Obama wants Joe or any of the field to beat President Trump?”
He also weighed in on if Biden can take on Sanders.
“There’s no question you cannot discount Bernie Sanders. You would say today, until Joe Biden announced, he was absolutely the frontrunner. He had the most money. He has the most grassroots. He’s been running for four years. And he has a lane that really no one’s matching yet, the populist left,” said Wolf.
“That being said, within the party, we’re not sure if he just has the highest floor at 20 percent and does he have possibly a ceiling at 30 percent? We don’t know.”
He added, “It’s clear that one of the reasons, I think, the polls for Vice President Biden have gone up, is he’s viewed as the candidate that can best beat both Bernie Sanders and President Trump and I think there’s a lot of Democrats that want to see that.”
Source: Fox News Politics
In a series of tweets Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez said that in order to avoid looking “utterly out of touch,” people should question whether a non-violent criminal should lose the right to vote.
Her comments furthered an already brewing debate that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., started when he indicated that he would support all felons — including sexual assaulters and murderers like Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — receiving the right to vote.
For Ocasio-Cortez, critics should have been more concerned about a “nonviolent person stopped [with] a dime bag,” a reference to a small bag of illicit drugs.
She went on to suggest the U.S. prison system was unjust, pointing to slavery and international incarceration rates.
The New York Congresswoman portrayed mass incarceration as ultimately stemming from slavery in the United States.
“Black Americans & [people of color] are far more likely to be convicted + sentenced longer than White Americans for similar crimes,” she tweeted.
Apparently annoyed by the responses on Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez knocked pundits whom she felt were like “1st graders” commenting on her tweets.
“GOP already bad-faith attacking ‘nonviolent offenses.’ Clearly if you are looking at CONTEXT CLUES in my thread & limits of 280 chars you know I’m referring to nonviolent drug offenses,” she tweeted.
Her chief of staff also received backlash after his Wednesday tweet which implied prisoners were “most affected by unjust laws.”
“What’s the reason NOT to let incarcerated people vote?” he asked. “Shouldn’t the people most affected by unjust laws have some say in electing people to change them?”
Although Sanders, somewhat of a progressive icon, has endorsed voting rights for prisoners, other 2020 hopefuls seemed more hesitant. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was ranked among the top three candidates in a poll this month, said that while he supported restoring felons’ voting rights, he didn’t think they should receive that right while incarcerated.
Source: Fox News Politics
“GOP: Let’s pose our older male members next to cardboard cutouts of young female legislators,” she tweeted. Her tweet included a post from the Republican Party of Kentucky. However, the politician pictured was Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, Ky., not a Republican as she claimed.
Ocasio-Cortez later deleted the tweet but not before critics pointed out the gaffe on Twitter.
“It literally says in the tweet that she is quoting that Yarmuth is a Democrat,” writer Ryan Saavedra tweeted.
“1st grade readers are in fact the worst,” Matt Whitlock, a senior advisor to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, tweeted. He was knocking Ocasio-Cortez for one of her earlier tweets in which she called pundits “first graders” for apparently misinterpreting her comments on voting rights for prisoners.
This wasn’t the first time the freshman congresswoman appeared to mix up her political parties. While appearing in a video with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., she enthusiastically declared that she would turn a Kansas house seat “red” — the color often representing the Republican Party.
In 2018, she also faced criticism after she suggested that the government could pay for a large portion of Medicare-for-all by transferring “$21 trillion” in Pentagon “financial transactions” — a claim that fact checkers disputed.
Ocasio-Cortez has been portrayed as one of the leaders of the progressive wing in the Democratic Party. She, along with Sanders, has received intense criticism for policy proposals like the “Green New Deal.”
Source: Fox News Politics
The reaction came fast and furious.
“Joe Biden stands in near complete opposition to where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party today,” the Justice Democrats wrote on their Twitter feed.
Taking aim at Biden — who’s perceived to be more moderate than many of the current contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, including progressive favorites Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – the group argued that “we can’t let a so-called ‘centrist’ like Joe Biden divide the Democratic Party and turn it into the party of ‘No, we can’t.’”
Justice Democrats — who also called Biden “out-of-touch” – is an increasingly influential group among the left of the party. They’ve championed progressive rock-star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York as well as Sanders. The group was founded by members of Sanders 2016 presidential campaign.
While Sanders himself didn’t torch Biden as he jumped into the race, it’s clear that many of his progressive supporters view the former vice president as a threat.
Biden’s entry into the race – at least in the early going – sets up a battle between himself and Sanders, who thanks to his fierce fight with eventual nominee Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, enjoys name ID on the level of the former vice president.
But it’s not just Sanders supporters who are targeting Biden.
The head of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee – which has backed Warren — also took aim at Biden, who enters the race as the front runner in most national polls and early primary and caucus voting state surveys, slightly atop of Sanders and well ahead of the rest of the large field of 20 contenders.
“With billionaires deciding not to run, progressive candidates have been in need of a foil. If Joe Biden positions himself as the political insider from yesteryear who says big ideas like universal child care, student debt relief, and a wealth tax on ultra-millionaires are not possible, he would be an easy foil, Adam Green, the co-founder of PCCC, told Fox News.
These kind of jabs from progressive groups could be the appetizer for a building clash between the progressive and establishment sings of the party.
Biden has pushed back against the perception that he’s a moderate in a party that’s increasingly moving to the left. Earlier this month he described himself as an “Obama-Biden Democrat.”
Former President Barack Obama, Biden’s boss for eight years, remains extremely popular with Democrats.
And Biden said he’d stack his record against “anybody who has run or who is running now or who will run.”
Highlighting his early public push for same-sex marriage, he said, “I’m not sure when everybody else came out and said they’re for gay marriage.”
Former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile – a Fox News contributor – highlighted that “Joe Biden can occupy his own lane in large part because he’s earned it. He’s earned the right to call himself whatever.”
But she emphasized that “elections are not about the past, they’re about the future…I do believe he has the right ingredients. The question is can he find enough people to help him stir the pot.”
Brazile pointed out that “the party now has a very vocal and sizeable number of millennials who are not old school. They want someone who can lead their generation as opposed to someone who can lead the country.”
And she spotlighted that Biden’s “challenge is going to be to convince a new generation of Democrats that he can represent their views as well.”
A leading Republican strategist suggested that Sanders could have the upper hand over Biden.
“I predict a slow and steady drop in the polls for Joe Biden. A politician who has been in the public eye since before Watergate is going to find a far different Democratic Party than even the one he remembers from even the Obama-Biden years,” argued Colin Reed, a veteran of presidential and senate campaigns who later served as executive director of the pro-Republican opposition research shop America Rising.
Reed claimed that age is a bigger factor for the 76-year old Biden that for Sanders, who’s a year older.
“Bernie Sanders is pushing 80 years old, but his socialist policy prescriptions are the present and future as far as liberal primary voters are concerned,” Reed spotlighted. “All the Beltway chatter about Biden’s perceived strength in a general election means nothing if he can’t get through the raucous primary contest before him.”
With slightly more than nine months to go until the first votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s far from a sure thing that Biden and Sanders will remain standing atop the rest of the pack.
“While Bernie and Biden have some advantages, there is a lot of time for other candidates to break through. In other words, we will see if the two front-runners have peaked too early,” noted Wayne Lesperance, vice president of academic affairs at New England College.
And University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala said he’s “not convinced that those two combined, take all the oxygen out of the room and then it becomes a two person race.”
And he questioned Biden’s staying power more than that of Sanders, saying “I’m still curious whether Biden’s appeal to moderate Democrats is going to be as enduring as Sanders is so far among progressives.”
Source: Fox News Politics
Another member of the Bush dynasty could be entering politics.
According to the Texas Tribune, political insiders in the Longhorn State are buzzing about the possibility of Pierce Bush — the head of Houston-based Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star and the grandson of late President George H.W. Bush — Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, D-Texas, for her congressional seat in the state’s 7th District. Jim McGrath, the longtime Bush family spokesman, tweeted the story and said it’s “not fake news.”
While Pierce Bush told the Texas newspaper that he is “currently putting my heart and soul into my role as CEO of the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in the country,” he did seem to leave the door open to a possible run at the congressional seat his grandfather held in the 1960s.
“If I were to run for this office, or any other office, I would certainly run as a big tent candidate focused on discussing the important matters,” Bush said. “Together, we can stand for real opportunity for the many who need it.”
The Houston-based CEO, who is the nephew of former President George W. Bush and son of Texas businessman Neil Bush, would become the second Bush family member to currently hold office if he were to run and win in the race against Fletcher.
George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is currently Texas’ land commissioner.
Fletcher, a first term congresswoman who defeated incumbent Houston Republican John Culberson last fall, has quickly become a target of the GOP in their hopes of winning back control of the lower chamber of Congress in 2020.
While Republicans still enjoy a favorable advantage overall in Texas, President Trump hold low approval numbers in Fletcher’s district, which could prove difficult for a GOP candidate to overcome in the upcoming election cycle.
Source: Fox News Politics
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson said on “America’s Newsroom” Thursday that the first summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was short on substance, but long on the kind of symbolism that both men need.
“It’s not much substance,” said Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico. “No economic assistance went to Kim, but it fulfills the objectives of the two leaders.”
“For Putin, it shows he is still a major player on the world stage. For Kim, it shows he is not isolated diplomatically,” Richardson said.
“And basically Kim is building support in two areas with Russia – one, give me a little sanctions relief, in other words, cheat a little bit on the border, let some of that oil come in. And secondly, I think he is saying Russia needs to be part of the countries that supervise any deal between the U.S. and North Korea, the way they used to 10 years ago, the six-party talks included Russia, but they’ve been excluded the last 10 years.”
After the two leaders’ summit, Putin said that the North Korean leader confirmed during it that he is willing to give up his nuclear weapons — but only if he gets an ironclad security guarantee first.
The Russian president stressed that Moscow and Washington both want North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. But he said the security guarantees should be underwritten by multiple countries, hinting at an arrangement like the six-nation talks that Richardson referred to in the “America’s Newsroom” interview.
Putin added that Kim encouraged him to explain the nuances of Pyongyang’s position to President Donald Trump. He said he’s willing to share details of the summit with the American president.
Putin’s remarks, after the one-day summit just off the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, reflect Kim’s growing frustration with Washington’s efforts to maintain “maximum pressure” until the North commits to denuclearization.
Richardson said that the Trump administration should proceed with caution in its dealings with Kim.
“I hope the president is not too hasty in saying ‘Let’s have another summit,’” Richardson said. “He has to enable the secretary of state to narrow the differences. We have not decided what our strategy is and the North Koreans want us to have full sanctions off. We don’t want that to happen unless they take concrete steps toward denuclearization, which they have not.”
Richardson, who traveled to North Korea several times as a special U.S. envoy, said Trump should let others in his administration conduct talks with the North Korean leader’s officials to bring the two sides closer together on denuclearization and the sanctions before another possible meeting between Trump and Kim.
Trump’s much-anticipated meeting with Kim, held in late February in the Vietnamese capital, ended abruptly and without the two leaders signing any agreements. Trump spoke with reporters soon after the talks broke down and said the dispute over sanctions was the deal breaker. Trump said he walked away from his second summit with Kim Jong Un because Kim demanded the U.S. lift all of its sanctions, a claim that North Korea’s delegation called a rare news conference in the middle of the night to deny.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News World
In a motion to withdraw from the case, the Broward County Public Defender’s Office said Cruz is set to receive half of his late mother’s life insurance policy worth $864,929.17.
“The Law Office of the Public Defender is statutorily prohibited from representing a non-indigent defendant,” the attorneys said in the filing.
Public defender Howard Finkelstein and his top assistant, Gordon Weekes, said they only learned about the insurance policy this week, according to the Associated Press.
Finkelstein said it is not clear if Cruz will receive any of the insurance money or actually change lawyers.
He explained that Cruz also faces civil lawsuits filed by families of the victims.
“The victims’ families’ lawyers are probably going to move to freeze those assets,” Finkelstein told the Washington Post. “Because of their significant trauma and awful loss, they’re entitled under the law to receive monetary damages. So if they freeze those assets, then he doesn’t have access to them.”
Finkelstein noted that the case has already resulted in more than 4 million pages of discovery, and questions surrounding the insurance policy could further delay the trial, which is scheduled to begin early next year.
Cruz faces 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Cruz has pleaded not guilty, but his attorneys have said he would be willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Source: Fox News National