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investigations
February 17, 2019

Police in Chicago on Saturday said their investigation of the alleged assault against Empire actor Jussie Smollett has changed focus following the interview of two brothers linked to the case.

"We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation," said a police statement. "We've reached out to the Empire cast member's attorney to request a follow-up interview."

An unnamed police source told NBC the new information suggests Smollett hired two men to stage the attack. Smollett's lawyers vehemently denied that report, saying, "Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."

Smollett has likewise expressed indignation at accusations that his account is not accurate. "It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth," he said Thursday. "You don't even want to see the truth."

Like his Empire character, Smollett is gay. He alleged two people yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, poured a substance that may have been bleach on his body, and put a noose around his neck as he left a Chicago restaurant. The two brothers who spoke with police were arrested and at first considered suspects, but they have since been released without charges and are no longer suspected. One of the brothers is Smollett's personal trainer, his attorneys said. Bonnie Kristian

January 23, 2019

The House Oversight Committee announced on Wednesday it is launching an inquiry into the White House security clearance process.

The committee is now led by Democrats, and its chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), sent the White House a letter stating the probe is due to "grave breaches of national security at the highest level of the Trump administration." The goal of the investigation, he added, is to "determine why the White House and transition team appear to have disregarded established procedures for safeguarding classified information, evaluate the extent to which the nation's most highly guarded secrets were provided to officials who should not have had access to them, and develop reforms to remedy the flaws in current White House systems and practices."

The committee is requesting information on several current and former White House officials, including Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and former aide Rob Porter, who was accused of spousal abuse. Despite the allegations against him, Porter was able to get an interim security clearance, and Kushner had to edit his application for a top-level clearance three times because he left out more than 100 foreign contacts. Catherine Garcia

November 27, 2018

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate whether three members of President Trump's Florida Mar-a-Lago resort had undue influence on his administration's policy for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) requested a GAO probe in August after a report from ProPublica alleged this "informal council that is exerting sweeping influence on the VA." Multiple current and former VA officials corroborated the report to CNN that month.

The three Mar-a-Lago members implicated are a Palm Beach doctor named Bruce Moskowitz, Marvel Entertainement chair Ike Perlmutter, and an attorney named Marc Sherman. "None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government," ProPublica reported, "Yet from a thousand miles away, they have leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans." The three men said they'd simply volunteered requested advice without wielding any real authority.

The GAO told Warren and Schatz in a Nov. 19 letter the investigation is "within the scope of its authority" and will begin in the spring. In the meantime, read more about the VA's longstanding and numerous problems here at The Week. Bonnie Kristian

November 15, 2018

FBI agents are investigating the death of a 52-year-old woman while aboard a Princess Cruises ship on its way to Aruba.

Early Tuesday, the woman, whose name has not been released, fell from an upper deck onto a lifeboat, authorities in Aruba said. A local news outlet said witnesses saw the woman fighting with another passenger before she plunged to her death.

The Caribbean cruise left Port Everglades, Florida, on Nov. 9, and was traveling from Curacao to Aruba when the woman died. Her husband was on the ship with her, HuffPost reports, and has not been named as a suspect. A spokeswoman for the Aruba Public Prosecutor's Office told USA Today it is "obvious that she fell, but why did she fall? Was she pushed? Did she jump? That is what we are investigating, to find out exactly what happened." Catherine Garcia

October 25, 2018

Authorities investigating the explosive devices sent this week to several critics of President Trump are now focusing on southern Florida, a law enforcement official told The New York Times Thursday.

After analyzing information collected by the U.S. Postal Service, investigators believe that most of the 10 pipe bombs that have been sent were mailed from the state, the Times reports. The Postal Service records images of mail items, and officials are looking through those photos as they try to figure out who sent the packages and if there are still any out there.

The first explosive device was delivered to billionaire George Soros on Monday, with packages addressed to Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama intercepted on Wednesday. On Thursday, it was announced suspicious packages containing explosives were sent to former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Robert De Niro.

All 10 explosive devices were mailed in manila envelopes lined with bubble wrap, with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as the return address. New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill said Thursday they were all "live devices," and although none exploded, they should be "treated with the utmost seriousness." Catherine Garcia

October 18, 2018

The Interior Department's inspector general's office has found that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the department's travel policy by bringing his wife, Lola, on an overseas trip and letting her travel in government vehicles.

In a report released Thursday, the watchdog said Zinke violated additional policies by allowing his unarmed security detail to drive an associate to the airport. The report also said it cost taxpayers $25,000 for the Zinkes to travel with a security detail during a vacation to Turkey last summer. The inspector general's office is conducting at least four investigations into Zinke.

Also on Thursday, Interior Department officials said they never approved the hiring of Suzanne Israel Tuft, a political appointee to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as the Interior Department's acting inspector general, despite HUD Secretary Ben Carson announcing her move last week. This was "100 percent false information," Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement. "Ms. Tufts is not employed by the department and no decision was ever made to move her to Interior."

Swift confirmed to The Washington Post that Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall is still leading the office, and said that while the White House did refer Tufts to the Interior Department "as a potential candidate" for a position in the inspector general's office, "at the end of the day, she was not offered a job at Interior." Catherine Garcia

October 2, 2018

After The New York Times published a blockbuster investigation Tuesday on President Trump's finances, detailing how he allegedly helped his parents dodge taxes and disguise millions of dollars in gifts, the New York State Tax Department announced it will look into the claims.

Department officials told ABC News they are "vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation." After reviewing financial records and confidential tax documents and interviewing several people, the Times reports that Trump used "dubious tax schemes" in the 1990s to increase his wealth and helped his father, Fred, take improper tax deductions worth millions. Trump has long asserted that he turned a $1 million loan from his father into billions, but the Times says that Trump has been receiving money from his dad's real estate empire since he was a toddler, getting the equivalent today of at least $413 million.

Trump's attorney called the report "100 percent false and highly defamatory." New York tax authorities have already been investigating the Trump Foundation and Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney and fixer. Catherine Garcia

August 1, 2018

Ohio State University announced Wednesday it has placed head football coach Urban Meyer on paid leave while the school investigates accusations that he knew about a 2015 domestic violence allegation against former assistant football coach Zach Smith.

Smith's ex-wife, Courtney Smith, told Stadium that several people close to Meyer, including his wife, Shelley, were aware of Zach Smith's alleged abuse of her, and she believes Meyer "knew, and instead he chose to help the abuser and enable the abuser and believe whatever story Zach was telling everybody." In July, Zach Smith was charged with criminal trespassing after dropping his children off at Courtney Smith's house, an event that led to his firing. After Smith was let go, Meyer said he didn't know about the 2015 police investigation into domestic violence by his assistant coach. Courtney Smith also said that following an altercation in 2009, she was told by Hiram DeFries, special assistant to Meyer, not to pursue charges of domestic violence against her then-husband.

Ohio State's offensive coordinator, Ryan Day, will serve as acting head coach during the investigation. The football team starts practicing on Friday. Catherine Garcia

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