Trump Orlando rally attendance was 19,792, city says

ORLANDO, Fla. — President Donald Trump’s Orlando campaign rally drew 19,792 spectators, according to official turnstile counts released by the city of Orlando on Wednesday, just shy of capacity for the Amway Center.

The arena’s website lists 20,000 as the maximum NCAA basketball capacity, with 19,700 for a center stage concert and 16,000 for an end stage concert. But a city spokesperson gave a capacity of 20,000 when asked how many people could have been allowed inside Tuesday.

The arena is owned by the city.

Trump said during his 78-minute speech that his campaign received 120,000 requests for the event.

“You know if we have three or four empty seats, the fake news will say, ‘Hey, they didn’t fill it up,’” Trump said at the rally. “They said, maybe we shouldn’t go to Orlando, we should go someplace else. I said, no, go to Orlando. Not only did we fill it up, we had 120,000 requests.”

Anyone could have requested two tickets at the Trump campaign’s website before the event, with a text verification required. Seating in the arena was mostly first-come, first-serve.

While most of the sections were filled to capacity, several sections in the upper tier of the arena had empty seats as the time approached for Trump to start his speech. But there also was a standing-room-only section on the arena floor in front of the stage that was crowded with people.

— Orlando Sentinel

4 more crew members arrested in record-breaking cocaine seizure at Philly port

PHILADELPHIA — Four additional crew members were charged Wednesday in connection with a record-breaking 16-ton cocaine seizure aboard a cargo ship docked in the Port of Philadelphia, sources with knowledge of the investigation said.

But details surrounding the arrests, including the names of the defendants, what role they are alleged to have played in the smuggling effort and the positions they held aboard the vessel remained under court seal while the investigation continues.

The sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the arrests, said all four worked aboard the MSC Gayane, on which federal agents discovered the illicit cargo in seven shipping containers Monday. They remain in custody after making their first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia declined to comment.

The additional arrests came a day after two other crew members — the ship’s second mate, Ivan Durasevic, and seaman Fonofaavae Tiasaga — were charged with violations of maritime drug smuggling laws.

Both men admitted to investigators that they helped haul aboard bales of cocaine from 14 smaller boats that approached the Gayane under cover of darkness at various points during journeys between Panama and the Peruvian coast in May and earlier this month. For their efforts, they said, they were promised payments of $50,000 or more.

Durasevic, a Serbian national, and Tiasaga, of Samoa, each implicated others aboard the vessel, including the Gayane’s chief officer, chief mate, an electrician, and an engineer, according to court filings that did not name those men and that have since been removed from the court’s public docket.

It was not clear whether any of those crew members were among the four charged Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain described the seizure aboard the Gayane as the largest ever in the region and one of the biggest in U.S. history. He estimated the value of the drugs at more than $1 billion.

The Gayane remained moored in Philadelphia as investigators continued to examine its cargo. The vessel is owned by Mediterranean Shipping Co., a Geneva, Switzerland-based firm with operations in several U.S. cities.

— Philadelphia Inquirer

Former SEAL sniper testifies his chief shot Iraqi civilian during 2017 deployment

SAN DIEGO — The third day of the court-martial trial of Navy SEAL Edward R. Gallagher featured testimony from a platoon sniper who said he saw his chief — Gallagher — shoot an old man during a deployment to Iraq in 2017.

Gallagher is charged with premeditated murder for allegedly killing a wounded ISIS fighter while providing medical treatment. He’s also charged with shooting two civilians and, at other times during that deployment, shooting indiscriminately at civilians.

Gallagher denies all the charges and has pleaded not guilty.

A former sniper in Gallagher’s platoon, Dylan Dille, testified Wednesday that he was present when, on at least three different occasions, Gallagher fired his sniper rifle at people Dille said were civilians — an old man, two women and a crowd of people. Dille said Gallagher hit the old man.

Dille said he and other members of the platoon had felt obligated to protect civilians from Gallagher because he “kept shooting” at them. Dille said he kept a journal during the deployment and had noted that on Father’s Day that year he had “failed” to protect the old man.

Timothy Parlatore, Gallagher’s lead defense attorney, has said in court that there is evidence some of Gallagher’s team members were conspiring against Gallagher and had concocted the allegations as part of a “mutiny,” to get Gallagher removed.

Parlatore on Wednesday asked Dille about texts messages exchanged on the WhatsApp messaging application between service members who are now witnesses in the trial. Their group chat, called the “Sewing Circle,” included some witnesses discussing the allegations against their chief.

Parlatore asked Dille about a comment he made in the group text about the story being “watertight.”

Dille responded, “The truth is watertight, Mr. Parlatore.”

The two continued to verbally spar over the contents of the group chat.

The text conversation among witnesses at some point turned to news media coverage and a public backlash against the prosecution of Gallagher from some of his supporters who have called themselves the “Real Brotherhood.”

“It ain’t over until we’re sitting on a front porch with six shooters and the ‘Real Brotherhood’ comes knocking,” Dille wrote in a text. “I look forward to laying down some lead again on that occasion.”

Parlatore asked Dille, “Who is the “Real Brotherhood?”

“People who are OK with war crimes,” answered Dille.

Cmdr. Jeff Pietrzyk, the Navy’s lead prosecutor, asked Dille to explain why he said that.

Dille said the comment was in regard to people who had threatened him.

“I was prepared for an angry mob to come knocking,” he said. “Conservative media, former SEALs — that’s where these threats are coming from.”

— S.D. Union-Tribune

MH17 investigators identify four suspects in plane’s downing

AMSTERDAM — An international team of investigators on Wednesday identified four suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine nearly five years ago.

The suspects are considered responsible for bringing a Buk anti-aircraft missile system from Russia into the conflict area in eastern Ukraine, a member of the Dutch-led investigation team told reporters.

The missile system came from the Russian military and was used to shoot down the jetliner over an area held by Moscow-backed rebels, according to the investigators.

The intention had been to “down a military plane,” the investigation team’s representative said at a televised press conference in the Dutch city of Nieuwegein.

The suspects were identified as Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko.

They have been placed on international wanted lists, with their trial intended to begin in March.

Girkin, a former colonel of Russia’s Federal Security Service, was highest military commander in a rebel group in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region at the time of the incident, according to the investigation team.

Both Dubinsky and Pulatov were connected with Russia’s Military Intelligence Service, the investigation team said. The Ukrainian, Kharchenko, was in charge of a combat unit in Donetsk, it said.

The Boeing 777, which originated in Amsterdam and was en route to Malaysia, was shot down on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board. Most were Dutch nationals.

The joint investigation team is led by Dutch authorities and involves Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine. It has researched numerous pieces of physical evidence, as well as photos, videos and testimonies relating to the crash.

Russia has denied any involvement in the incident and suggested the missile may have come from Ukraine’s armed forces.

— dpa