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White House Ends California Talks on Mileage Standards

The Trump administration broke off vehicle mileage standards talks with California on Thursday, moving the two closer to a possible court battle that threatens to unsettle the auto industry.

The White House said in a statement that the administration, which wants to freeze mileage standards, would now move unilaterally to “finalize a rule later this year with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

California officials and the Trump administration each accused the other of failing to present any good compromise proposal in the mileage dispute, which comes as President Donald Trump feuds with the Democrat-led state over his proposed border wall and his threats to take back federal money.

The administration announced last year it wanted to freeze what would have been tougher, Obama-era mileage standards for cars and light trucks. It would be one of a series of rollbacks targeting Obama administration efforts against pollution and climate change.

Under the administration proposal, the standards would be frozen after slightly tougher 2020 levels go into effect, eliminating 10 miles per gallon of improvement to a fleet average of 36 miles per gallon in 2025.

As part of the proposed mileage freeze, the administration threatened to revoke California’s legal authority to set its own, tougher mileage standards, a waiver granted that state decades ago to help it deal with its punishing smog. About a dozen states follow California’s mileage standards.

Lawmakers and automakers have urged the two sides to settle, warning that a split could divide the auto market, bring years of court battles and raise costs for automakers.

“This administration’s negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been superficial and not robust at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst,” Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat in the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement late Wednesday, as the formal negotiations breakdown loomed.

“Litigation is not the best option here. It wastes time, money, creates uncertainty for American automakers, and harms the environment,” Carper said.

California officials say the administration never offered any compromise and that it broke off any contacts around December.

“We concluded at that point that they were never serious about negotiating, and their public comments about California since then seem to underscore that point,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the state’s air board.

It’s the latest shot by the White House in its escalating feud with California. The Trump administration earlier in the week said it planned to cancel nearly $1 billion for California’s high-speed rail project and would seek the return of $2.5 billion more. Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was political retribution for the state’s role in leading a 16-state lawsuit against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to get funds for his proposed wall at the southern border.

Since it takes several years to design vehicles, automakers have been planning to meet higher mileage requirements under Obama-era standards, as well as those in other countries.

For now, “essentially the industry is ignoring what Trump wants to do,” auto-industry analyst Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research said. “We know at least until this thing gets settled in the courts, we have to deal with California and the other states and have product that can sell there as well as products that can sell overseas.”

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US Embassy Demands Access to US Investor Indicted by Moscow Court

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Thursday confirmed that its diplomats have not been granted access to detained U.S. national Michael Calvey a week after the founder of the Baring Vostok investment fund group was detained in the Russian capital.

Just hours before the embassy announcement, Russian state prosecutors formally indicted the investor.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement it had asked multiple times to visit Calvey but had not received permission, which it said flouted consular rules between the two countries.

“We insist on access now,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, the head of a U.S.-Russian trade organization told VOA that Calvey, who had already been held in a Moscow pre-trial detention center for six days, had been meeting with his lawyers but had not yet had consular access.

“I’ve spoken to [Calvey’s] colleagues, but not him, since the detention,” U.S. national Alexis O. Rodzianko, president of the Moscow-based American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, told VOA on Tuesday.

Rodzianko, who had just left discussions about Calvey’s detention with various Russian, U.S., and European members of Moscow’s financial community, said, “I understand [Calvey] has met with his lawyers. I understand that he has not yet had consular contact — that’s as of lunchtime today.”

According to terms of the Vienna Convention, consular access must be provided within a 72-hour window from the time of arrest, meaning that a member of the U.S. government should have visited Calvey by now.

On Wednesday, a State Department spokesman declined to confirm Rodzianko’s assertion, citing privacy concerns, but seemed to indicate that the U.S. Embassy was still seeking access to the businessman.

“We are aware that a U.S. citizen was arrested on Feb. 14, 2019, in Russia,” said the spokesperson, who spoke on condition of not being identified. “The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is aware of the case and will be following it closely, and will provide all appropriate consular assistance. We have no higher priority than the protection of U.S. citizens abroad.”

Calvey is the second American to face prosecution in Russia since late December, when Paul Whelan, a former Marine, was jailed on accusations of spying. Russia announced Whelan’s detention on Dec. 31, some 24 hours after his arrest.

Whelan’s family sharply criticized Russia’s handling of the announcement, noting that security officials divulged his arrest hours into the start of New Year’s Eve, which in Russia marks the start of a weeklong national holiday. Delaying the announcement, they said, drastically decreased Whelan’s chances of securing access to legal and consular resources within the mandated 72-hour window.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman Jr., was finally permitted to meet with Whelan six days after the arrest.

Fraud indictment

Calvey has been charged with fraud stemming from a protracted dispute with shareholders of Vostochny Bank, of which Baring Vostok owns 52.5 percent. He was detained along with five others, including three Baring Vostok employees, according to the Russian state news agency, RIA Novosty.

A coalition of lobby groups representing European businesses active in Russia has issued a joint statement expressing concerns about the arrest of Calvey and his colleagues.

“The detention of Baring Vostok’s top management has sent shock waves through the country’s business community and can potentially seriously damage the investment climate and attractiveness of Russia for foreign direct investments,” it said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to make a passing reference to Calvey’s case during his annual State of the Nation address to the federal assembly on Wednesday.

“Good faith business shouldn’t feel threatened by the law or constantly feel the risk of criminal or even administrative punishment,” Putin said.

If convicted, Calvey faces up to 10 years in a Moscow prison.

 

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Pompeo: American-Born Islamic State Woman Is Not US Citizen

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contended Thursday that an American-born woman who defected to the Islamic State terrorist group is not a U.S. citizen and should not be allowed to return home from Syria because her father was a Yemeni diplomat.

President Donald Trump said he ordered Pompeo to not let the woman, Hoda Muthana, return to the U.S., even though her lawyer says she is willing to face U.S. prosecution for willingly going to Syria and using social media to praise the killings of Westerners.

“She may have been born here,” Pompeo told NBC’s “Today” show. “She is not a U.S. citizen, nor is she entitled to U.S. citizenship.”

He contended that the 24-year-old woman, now with a child born in a relationship with one of her three jihadist husbands, is not an American citizen because of her father’s diplomatic status.

But Muthana’s lawyer is telling U.S. news outlets that the father had ended his diplomatic service “months and months” before his daughter was born in the eastern U.S. state of New Jersey in 1994, thus making her an American citizen.

The lawyer, Hassan Shibly, told CNN that Muthana “should have known better” than to leave her home in the southern state of Alabama in 2014 without her parents’ knowledge to head to Syria to embrace Islamic State.

Shibly said she immediately was locked up with 200 other women and told she would not be released unless she married one of the IS fighters.

Muthana posted on Twitter a picture of herself and three other women appearing to burn their Western passports, including an American one.

Now, however, with territory held by IS dwindling fast, Muthana has renounced extremism and wants to return home to confront any criminal charges that could be lodged against her.

“To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family, and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly,” she said in a handwritten note to her lawyer.

Shibly said, “She wants to face our legal system.”

Standing in the way is Trump.

“I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” he said Wednesday on Twitter.

The U.S. normally grants citizenship to anyone who is “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, which would exclude the children of diplomats such as Muthana, if indeed Muthana’s father was a diplomat at the time of her birth.

Muthana’s lawyer said, “We cannot get to a point where we simply strip citizenship from those who break the law. That’s not what America is about. We have one of the greatest legal systems in the world, and we have to abide by it.”

Trump has attacked European allies that have not taken back hundreds of IS prisoners caught in Syria, where Trump plans to withdraw U.S. troops. By comparison, relatively few Americans have embraced radical Islam. The Counter Extremism Project at George Washington University has identified 64 Americans who joined IS in Syria or Iraq.

Europe is debating the nationality of some extremists. Britain recently revoked the citizenship of Shamina Begum, who like Muthana traveled to Syria and wants to return to her country of birth.

London asserted that because of her heritage she was entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship, but the Dhaka government Wednesday denied that she was eligible, leaving her  effectively stateless.

 

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US Coast Guard Officer Held in Alleged Mass Murder Plot

A U.S. Coast Guard officer who federal prosecutors allege stockpiled weapons to launch a spree of domestic terrorism and mass murder will appear in court Thursday.

Police arrested Christopher Paul Hasson last week on drug and weapon charges after finding a large stash of guns, ammunition and drugs in his suburban Washington apartment.

Federal prosecutors are expected to argue at Thursday’s bail hearing that Hasson must remain in jail until his trial.

“The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” the government’s court filing says. It calls Hasson a “domestic terrorist bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct.”

Along with the weapons and drugs, investigators found documents in which Hasson allegedly calls for “focused violence” and expresses a desire to “establish a white homeland.” 

He is said to have written about ways to “kill almost every last person on Earth,” and called the idea of a biological attack and poisoning the nation’s food supply “interesting.”

Investigators also found a hit list of liberal politicians Hasson allegedly singled out for assassination, including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a number of Democratic presidential candidates. CNN and MSNBC television personalities were also included on the list.

Prosecutors said they believed Hasson was not just fantasizing but was serious about his plans. They said he was a longtime white nationalist and neo-Nazi.

They said he spent time studying the manifesto of far-right Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people during a 2011 massacre.

Hasson has a public defender who as of late Wednesday afternoon had yet to comment on the charges.

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US Coast Guard Officer Held in Alleged Mass Murder Plot

A U.S. Coast Guard officer who federal prosecutors allege stockpiled weapons to launch a spree of domestic terrorism and mass murder will appear in court Thursday.

Police arrested Christopher Paul Hasson last week on drug and weapon charges after finding a large stash of guns, ammunition and drugs in his suburban Washington apartment.

Federal prosecutors are expected to argue at Thursday’s bail hearing that Hasson must remain in jail until his trial.

“The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” the government’s court filing says. It calls Hasson a “domestic terrorist bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct.”

Along with the weapons and drugs, investigators found documents in which Hasson allegedly calls for “focused violence” and expresses a desire to “establish a white homeland.” 

He is said to have written about ways to “kill almost every last person on Earth,” and called the idea of a biological attack and poisoning the nation’s food supply “interesting.”

Investigators also found a hit list of liberal politicians Hasson allegedly singled out for assassination, including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a number of Democratic presidential candidates. CNN and MSNBC television personalities were also included on the list.

Prosecutors said they believed Hasson was not just fantasizing but was serious about his plans. They said he was a longtime white nationalist and neo-Nazi.

They said he spent time studying the manifesto of far-right Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people during a 2011 massacre.

Hasson has a public defender who as of late Wednesday afternoon had yet to comment on the charges.

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Trump Administration Says US-Born Jihadist Can’t Return

The United States said Wednesday that it would refuse to take back a U.S.-born Islamic State propagandist who wants to return from Syria, arguing that she is no longer a citizen. 

 

The Trump administration’s refusal to admit Hoda Muthana, 24, could set precedent and face legal challenges, because it is generally extremely difficult to lose US citizenship. 

 

“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States.”  

“We continue to strongly advise all U.S. citizens not to travel to Syria,” he added. 

Pompeo did not elaborate on the legal rationale for why the Alabama native, who is believed to have traveled to Syria on her U.S. passport, was not considered a citizen or where she should go instead. 

 

Pompeo’s statement on Muthana — one of the comparatively few U.S.-born jihadists amid the hundreds of Europeans to have joined the ranks of the Islamic State group in Syria — is at odds with his calls on other countries to take back and prosecute their own jihadist nationals. 

 

Just this weekend, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to chastise European allies who have not taken back IS prisoners caught in Syria. 

US-born, then radicalized

Muthana was born in the United States to parents from Yemen who became naturalized American citizens, according to the Counter Extremism Project at George Washington University, which has identified 64 Americans who went to join IS in Syria or Iraq. 

 

In late 2014, shortly after moving to Syria, Muthana posted on Twitter a picture of herself and three other women who appeared to torch their Western passports, including an American one. 

 

She went on to write vivid calls over social media to kill Americans, glorifying the ruthless extremist group that for a time ruled vast swaths of Syria and Iraq. 

 

But with IS down to its last stretch of land, Muthana has said she renounced extremism and wanted to return home. 

 

Muthana, who has been detained by U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, said that she had been brainwashed by reading social media as a closeted teenager in Hoover, Ala. 

 

“To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly,” she said in a note to her lawyer reported by The New York Times.  

She was married three times to male jihadists and has a toddler son. 

Hard to lose citizenship

The U.S. decision on Muthana comes amid rising debate in Europe on the nationality of extremists. Britain recently revoked the citizenship of Shamina Begum, who similarly traveled to Syria and wants to return to her country of birth. 

 

Britain asserted that she was entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship because of her heritage, but the Dhaka government on Wednesday denied that she was eligible, leading her to become effectively stateless. 

 

U.S. citizenship is significantly more difficult to lose. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1868 after the Civil War as slavery was abolished, establishes that anyone born in the country is a citizen with full rights. 

 

In recent years, it has been considered virtually impossible to strip Americans of citizenship, even if they hold dual nationality. 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 1967 Afroyim decision rejected the government’s attempt to revoke the nationality of a Polish-born naturalized American after he voted in Israel. 

 

And last year a federal judge rejected a government attempt to strip the nationality of a Pakistani-born naturalized American who was convicted in a plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. 

 

But Trump has campaigned on a hard line over immigration and raised the prospect of ending birthright citizenship ahead of last year’s congressional elections. 

 

In 2011, President Barack Obama ordered drone strikes that killed two Americans in Yemen — prominent al-Qaida preacher Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son — but did not believe it was possible to revoke citizenship.

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Trump Administration Says US-Born Jihadist Can’t Return

The United States said Wednesday that it would refuse to take back a U.S.-born Islamic State propagandist who wants to return from Syria, arguing that she is no longer a citizen. 

 

The Trump administration’s refusal to admit Hoda Muthana, 24, could set precedent and face legal challenges, because it is generally extremely difficult to lose US citizenship. 

 

“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States.”  

“We continue to strongly advise all U.S. citizens not to travel to Syria,” he added. 

Pompeo did not elaborate on the legal rationale for why the Alabama native, who is believed to have traveled to Syria on her U.S. passport, was not considered a citizen or where she should go instead. 

 

Pompeo’s statement on Muthana — one of the comparatively few U.S.-born jihadists amid the hundreds of Europeans to have joined the ranks of the Islamic State group in Syria — is at odds with his calls on other countries to take back and prosecute their own jihadist nationals. 

 

Just this weekend, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to chastise European allies who have not taken back IS prisoners caught in Syria. 

US-born, then radicalized

Muthana was born in the United States to parents from Yemen who became naturalized American citizens, according to the Counter Extremism Project at George Washington University, which has identified 64 Americans who went to join IS in Syria or Iraq. 

 

In late 2014, shortly after moving to Syria, Muthana posted on Twitter a picture of herself and three other women who appeared to torch their Western passports, including an American one. 

 

She went on to write vivid calls over social media to kill Americans, glorifying the ruthless extremist group that for a time ruled vast swaths of Syria and Iraq. 

 

But with IS down to its last stretch of land, Muthana has said she renounced extremism and wanted to return home. 

 

Muthana, who has been detained by U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, said that she had been brainwashed by reading social media as a closeted teenager in Hoover, Ala. 

 

“To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly,” she said in a note to her lawyer reported by The New York Times.  

She was married three times to male jihadists and has a toddler son. 

Hard to lose citizenship

The U.S. decision on Muthana comes amid rising debate in Europe on the nationality of extremists. Britain recently revoked the citizenship of Shamina Begum, who similarly traveled to Syria and wants to return to her country of birth. 

 

Britain asserted that she was entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship because of her heritage, but the Dhaka government on Wednesday denied that she was eligible, leading her to become effectively stateless. 

 

U.S. citizenship is significantly more difficult to lose. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1868 after the Civil War as slavery was abolished, establishes that anyone born in the country is a citizen with full rights. 

 

In recent years, it has been considered virtually impossible to strip Americans of citizenship, even if they hold dual nationality. 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 1967 Afroyim decision rejected the government’s attempt to revoke the nationality of a Polish-born naturalized American after he voted in Israel. 

 

And last year a federal judge rejected a government attempt to strip the nationality of a Pakistani-born naturalized American who was convicted in a plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. 

 

But Trump has campaigned on a hard line over immigration and raised the prospect of ending birthright citizenship ahead of last year’s congressional elections. 

 

In 2011, President Barack Obama ordered drone strikes that killed two Americans in Yemen — prominent al-Qaida preacher Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son — but did not believe it was possible to revoke citizenship.

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US Sanctions Indian National, Declaring Him a Drug Trafficker 

The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Indian national Jasmeet Hakimzada, declaring him a major foreign drug trafficker. 

Six other people and entities were also sanctioned, including Hakimzada’s parents, who allegedly help him run his operation.

“Jasmeet Hakimzada’s global drug trafficking and money laundering network has been involved in smuggling heroin and synthetic opioids around the world,” a senior Treasury Department official said.

Hakimzada lives in the United Arab Emirates. He is accused of running a worldwide drug trafficking ring that smuggles heroin, cocaine, opioids and other substances into the United States, Australia, Britain and New Zealand.

Treasury said he has laundered hundreds of millions of dollars through a trading company in the UAE.

A U.S. federal grand jury indicted Hakimzada in 2017 on 46 counts of drug trafficking and money laundering. 

Under the sanctions, all of Hakimzada’s assets in the U.S. are frozen and U.S. citizens are barred from doing any business with him. 

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