White House says Turkey’s role in F-35 program now ‘impossible’

WASHINGTON — The White House said Turkey’s continued participation in the F-35 fighter jet program is now “impossible” because of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to begin receiving parts for a Russian-made missile defense system.

“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” according to a White House statement on Wednesday.

It’s a move President Donald Trump has made clear he was reluctant to take, telling reporters on Tuesday that “it is a very tough situation that they are in, and it’s a tough situation that we have been placed in, the United States.”

The Trump administration’s decision is separate from economic sanctions Trump might impose on Turkey through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA. Those penalties range from limiting the size of American bank loans to Turkish entities to more severe efforts such as cutting off access to the U.S. financial system, an unlikely step that would shatter the already-fragile Turkish economy.

Turkey, with its planned purchases of about 100 of the F-35s made by Lockheed Martin Corp., is one of the four top foreign customers for the world’s costliest weapons program, along with Japan, Australia and the U.K. Ten Turkish companies may be suspended from making more than 900 parts for the F-35 that over the program’s lifetime could generate more than $9 billion in orders. Turkey’s first two jets were to have been delivered later this year.

— Bloomberg News

Tension between Democratic factions spills into minimum wage debate

WASHINGTON — Tension between the progressive and moderate factions of the Democratic Caucus are again spilling into public view ahead of a priority party vote to raise the federal minimum wage.

A day before a planned Thursday vote on a bill to incrementally increase the current $7.25 federal minimum wage to $15, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chairs Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal issued a statement that served as a warning to their moderate colleagues.

“We have no doubt that congressional Republicans will try to divide the Democratic Caucus with a disingenuous motion to recommit,” they said. “It’s up to all of us to stand unified and reject their bad faith effort to undermine this bill. After consulting with our members this week, we are confident that any bill that includes a poison pill Republican motion to recommit will lack the votes to pass on the House floor.”

To translate, progressives are willing to vote against a piece of legislation they have championed if moderate Democrats help Republicans adopt a last-minute amendment to the bill, known as a motion to recommit, or MTR.

Their warning, coming in the form of a public statement and not a private conversation, is significant and shows a lack of trust between the two factions. Tension that had surfaced among Democrats amid intraparty debate over border funding last month clearly has not cooled.

— CQ-Roll Call

Maryland Gov. Hogan says Trump tweets ‘very unbecoming of a president,’ stops short of calling them racist

BALTIMORE — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has criticized President Donald Trump’s tweets and comments that certain members of Congress should “go back” to other countries.

“I thought the comments were terrible and very unbecoming of a president,” Hogan, a Republican, told WJZ-TV Tuesday night. “Totally inappropriate.”

Hogan’s statement, while critical of the president, stopped short of calling the president’s tweets racist, as they’ve broadly been described.

Asked if the governor believes the president’s tweets were racist, a spokeswoman for Hogan said the governor had nothing to add.

— The Baltimore Sun

LAPD officer charged with two counts of rape, prosecutors say

LOS ANGELES — An LAPD officer has been charged with rape following a sexual assault investigation, authorities said Wednesday.

Officer William Rodriguez, a 10-year veteran of the LAPD who most recently was assigned to the Valley Traffic Division, was taken into custody Tuesday and relieved of his police powers. The L.A. County district attorney’s office charged him with two counts of forcible rape in a case with a special allegation of multiple victims.

The investigation stemmed from a Nov. 1 report of a sexual assault involving an acquaintance at Rodriguez’s home. The investigation led to the discovery of Rodriguez’s involvement in a second sexual assault in August 2015, officials say. Prosecutors say that the attack occurred under similar conditions. Both incidents occurred while Rodriguez was off-duty.

Rodriguez was identified through a combined DNA index system, or a “cold hit” DNA match, authorities said.

— Los Angeles Times