Rosenstein agrees to sit for transcribed interview with Judiciary, Oversight leaders

WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has agreed to sit for a transcribed interview with leaders of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees Oct. 24, the panels’ chairmen announced Thursday evening.

The announcement comes just hours after House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, an Oversight subcommittee chairman, called on Rosenstein to resign, citing his unwillingness to cooperate with the panels’ investigation.

“Even more importantly, based on further information we’ve learned over the last week, it’s also clear Mr. Rosenstein has shown a lack of candor in the way he characterized his involvement in a number of events to congressional investigators,” the North Carolina Republican said in a statement. “Repeatedly, he has declined opportunities to come before Congress and tell the truth.”

Several Judiciary and Oversight members thought Rosenstein was going to appear before the panels Oct. 11, but the date was never officially agreed to as Rosenstein allegedly did not want to sit for a transcribed interview before the full committees but offered to do a briefing instead.

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy announced later Wednesday that Rosenstein will sit for a transcribed interview that they will conduct with Judiciary ranking members Jerold Nadler and Oversight ranking member Elijah E. Cummings.

The only other person will who be present for the interview besides Rosenstein and the four committee leaders will be a court reporter.

— CQ Roll Call

Florida lifts voting restrictions in eight Panhandle counties hit by hurricane

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order Thursday that eases voting restrictions in eight Panhandle counties where election plans have been severely disrupted by Hurricane Michael.

The storm left more than 400,000 people without power and damaged or destroyed elections offices and polling places across the region.

The counties are Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington. Together, they represent about 200,000 voters, or less than 2 percent of the statewide total of more than 13 million voters.

Seven of the eight counties (all except Gadsden) are reliably Republican and all eight have a history of above-average turnouts in midterm elections.

Scott’s order gives the eight counties the ability to extend early voting days and to designate more early voting locations, even though the deadline to do so has passed.

Thursday’s action, while a direct result of the devastation caused by the hurricane, recalled Scott’s decision six years ago to sign legislation that curtailed early voting across the state, an action that was reversed the following year.

Scott’s executive order also allows counties to send mail ballots to an address different from the address of the voter requesting a ballot, and to provide mail ballots to a voter’s immediate family member on Election Day without the need for a signed affidavit declaring an emergency.

— Tampa Bay Times

Judge orders Trump administration to move forward with asylum process for migrants in family separation cases

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego federal judge has ordered the government to get moving on asylum determinations for reunited migrant families, dismissing the government’s objections that the settlement agreement that calls for such determinations hasn’t been finalized yet.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who has been overseeing the effort to reunify families forcibly separated at the border, gave unofficial preliminary approval to the settlement agreement last month. The settlement calls for immigration authorities to give the migrant families a second chance at applying for asylum.

The lawyers for the families had argued that when the families were separated at the border by the government, most children were not interviewed to determine if they had credible fear of returning to their homeland — an initial step to the asylum process. Their parents, however, were granted credible-fear interviews, but many were so distraught over being forcibly separated that they were not able to clearly advocate for themselves.

Under the settlement, those families still in the U.S. — including many in immigration detention — will be granted interviews. The entire family unit will be allowed to remain in the U.S. until every family member has completed the process, even if one or more members fails.

— San Diego Union-Tribune

Federal authorities launch probe into Pennsylvania Catholic church

HARRISBURG, Pa. — On the heels of the scathing grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia has subpoenaed all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state for its records, according to two sources familiar with the inquiry.

The subpoenas cast a wide net, seeking information for crimes ranging from possession of child pornography and priests transporting children across state lines, the sources said.

The Associated Press, which first reported the subpoenas, said federal authorities also sought documents stored in the church’s so-called “secret archives,” and records related to the dioceses’ organizational charts, finances, insurance coverage, clergy assignments, treatment and other documents.

Several dioceses in the state confirmed the existence of a federal inquiry, including the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has received a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury, which requires the production of certain documents,” said spokesman Ken Gavin. “The Archdiocese will cooperate with the United States Department of Justice in this matter.”

Federal authorities served subpoena on the archdiocese Oct. 9, Gavin said.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

Jury finds maintenance workers not guilty in first trial after waterslide accident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A jury in Kansas’ Wyandotte County acquitted two Schlitterbahn maintenance workers who were accused of lying to obstruct an investigation into the 2016 death of a boy on the Verruckt water slide.

The judge read verdicts of not guilty to the charges against David Hughes and John Zalsman. A jury of eight women and two men reached the verdict Thursday afternoon.

Hughes and Zalsman were indicted in May on charges of lying to interfere with a law enforcement investigation.

Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents last year were investigating the death of Caleb Schwab, who died Aug. 7, 2016, on the Verruckt water slide. Verruckt carried riders down an initial 17-story descent before the raft climbed a second hump. It’s about a third of the way up that second hump where a brake mat had existed, ostensibly to slow the pace of the raft as it made the ascent.

Defense attorneys said both men made misstatements to investigators, just like others who had been interviewed, but that Hughes and Zalsman had been singled out.

The attorneys said the Kansas attorney general could not prove that they knowingly lied and sought to interfere with the investigation. In fact, they spoke with investigators willingly and without attorneys present.

During separate interviews with KBI agents, Hughes and Zalsman appeared to suggest that the brake pad had only been in place during testing of the ride, but not when it was operating for the general public.

— The Kansas City Star

Top Afghan officials killed in Kandahar shooting; U.S. commander unhurt

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least two senior Afghan officials, including a powerful police chief, were killed and two Americans were injured Thursday when an Afghan security guard opened fire at the provincial governor’s compound in Kandahar province, officials said.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan had just left a meeting at the compound and was unhurt, but the shooting claimed the life of a key U.S. ally: Abdul Raziq, the Kandahar police chief and one of the most reliable — and controversial — commanders in the 17-year war against the Taliban.

Afghan officials said the provincial intelligence chief was also killed, and there were unconfirmed reports that the provincial governor had died of injuries sustained in the shooting.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the most devastating assassinations of the war, and said its targets were Razaq and Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Afghan news media reported that the gunman was wearing the uniform of the Afghan security forces and was a member of the provincial leadership’s security team.

A statement from the U.S.-led NATO coalition described the shooting as “an Afghan-on-Afghan incident.” It said Miller had escaped unharmed and three coalition personnel had been wounded and were medically evacuated. They included a U.S. service member, an American civilian and a coalition contractor whose nationality was not immediately released.

— Los Angeles Times