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Local
South Tulsa apartment complex ordered vacated due to lack of heat

Health authorities have ordered that a Tulsa apartment complex be vacated after several failures of the property owner to repair the complex’s heating system.

Tulsa City-County Health Department Environmental Health Services publicly posted the order to vacate at Chateau 68, an apartment complex at 6805 S. Lewis Ave., on Thursday.

Several months ago, the complex was ordered to repair a dysfunctional heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, according to a news release from the Health Department. Chateau 68 property managers received several extensions on the order to repair the system.

Property managers permitted a repair crew to remain Thursday evening until the issue was resolved, according to the release.

“Our staff verbally communicated to the property manager that as long as the repair company was working on the issue and the interior temperature remained above 65 degrees, residents did not have to vacate tonight,” a THD spokesperson said in the release Thursday evening. “No resident needs to leave their home tonight.”

A low of 27 degrees was expected in the Tulsa area Thursday night.

“The Tulsa Health Department has been in contact with local agencies and Emergency Management today to identify resources to assist with relocation should that be necessary,” the press release states.

The International Property Maintenance Code dictates that adequate and safe heat sources must be available to occupants and must be able to warm the living space to a minimum of 65 degrees, the Health Department noted.


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National
AP
Judge fines Trump $2 million for misusing charity foundation

NEW YORK — A judge Thursday ordered President Donald Trump to pay $2 million to an array of charities as a fine for misusing his own charitable foundation to further his political and business interests.

New York state Judge Saliann Scarpulla imposed the penalty after the president admitted to a series of abuses outlined in a lawsuit brought against him last year by the New York attorney general’s office.

Among other things, Trump acknowledged in a legal filing that he allowed his presidential campaign staff to coordinate with the Trump Foundation in holding a fundraiser for veterans during the run-up to the 2016 Iowa caucuses. The event was designed “to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign,” Scarpulla said.

In a defiant statement issued Thursday evening, though, Trump suggested he was neither sorry nor in the wrong.

“I am the only person I know, perhaps the only person in history, who can give major money to charity (19M), charge no expense, and be attacked by the political hacks in New York State,” he wrote.

He assailed a series of Democratic attorneys general of New York who were involved with the suit, saying they should have spent their time investigating the Clinton Foundation.

“It has been 4 years of politically motivated harassment,” Trump said.

Trump’s foundation will be dissolved and its $1.7 million in remaining funds will be given to other nonprofits, under agreements reached by Trump’s lawyers and the attorney general’s office. As part of those agreements, made public Thursday, the two sides left it up to the judge to decide what penalty Trump should pay.

The settlement was an about-face for Trump. He had tweeted, “I won’t settle this case!” when it was filed in June 2018.

Trump’s fine and the charity’s funds will be split evenly among eight organizations, including Citymeals on Wheels, the United Negro College Fund and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Attorney General Letitia James welcomed the resolution of the case as a “major victory in our efforts to protect charitable assets and hold accountable those who would abuse charities for personal gain.”

“No one is above the law — not a businessman, not a candidate for office, and not even the president of the United States,” said James, a Democrat.

The president admitted, among other things, to arranging for the charity to pay $10,000 for a 6-foot portrait of him. He also agreed to pay back $11,525 in foundation funds that he spent on sports memorabilia and champagne at a charity gala.

Trump also accepted restrictions on his involvement in other charitable organizations. His three eldest children, who were members of the foundation’s board, must undergo mandatory training on the duties of those who run charities.

Charities are barred from getting involved in political campaigns, but in weighing the Iowa fundraiser, Scarpulla gave Trump credit for making good on his pledge to give $2.8 million that his charity raised to veterans’ organizations.

Instead of fining him that amount, as the attorney general’s office wanted, the judge trimmed it to $2 million and rejected a demand for punitive damages and interest.

The Trump Foundation said it was pleased by those decisions, claiming that the judge “recognized that every penny ever raised by the Trump Foundation has gone to help those most in need.”

Trump Foundation lawyer Alan Futerfas said the nonprofit has distributed approximately $19 million over the past decade, including $8.25 million of the president’s own money, to hundreds of charitable organizations.

At the time of the Iowa fundraiser, Trump was feuding with then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and refusing to participate in the network’s final Republican presidential primary debate before the Iowa caucuses.

Instead, he held a rally at the same time as the debate at which he called on people to donate to veterans’ charities. The foundation acted as a pass-through for those contributions.

James said the evidence of banned coordination between campaign officials and the foundation included emails exchanged with then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

In one email, a Trump company vice president asked Lewandowski for guidance on precisely how to distribute the money raised.

Trump also admitted in the agreements to directing that $100,000 in foundation money be used to settle legal claims over an 80-foot flagpole he had built at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, instead of paying the expense out of his own pocket.

In addition, the foundation paid $158,000 to resolve a lawsuit over a prize for a hole-in-one contest at a Trump-owned golf course, and $5,000 for ads promoting Trump’s hotels in the programs for charitable events. Trump admitted these transactions were also improper.

As part of the settlement, Donald Trump Jr. reimbursed the Trump Foundation for the cost of the portrait.


Washington
AP
The words Trump had to hear: Investigations, Biden, Clinton

WASHINGTON — There were three words President Donald Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine president: Investigations, Biden, Clinton.

That’s according to the transcript, released Thursday, of an impeachment inquiry interview with career State Department official George Kent.

“POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton,” Kent testified. “Basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand.”

Kent told investigators that that was his understanding of what Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to say in order to unlock U.S. military aid, as relayed to the official by others, including those in direct contact with the president.

Numerous current and former Trump officials have testified that the president was conditioning U.S. aid on Ukraine publicly investigating Democrats including his potential 2020 political foe Joe Biden and Biden’s son.

Clinton, he explained, was was “shorthand” for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. It was a reference to Trump’s view, pushed by his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani but outside of mainstream U.S. intelligence, that Ukraine played a role interfering in the election.

Kent also raised concerns about Giuliani’s “campaign of lies” against Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the Trump administration’s firing of the veteran diplomat.

House investigators are releasing key transcripts from days of closed-door interviews in the impeachment inquiry as they prepare for public sessions with witnesses next week. A whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy was the spark that ignited the investigation.

Kent had testified for hours in October about the shifting U.S. policy toward Ukraine as administration officials and Giuliani were taking the lead, acting outside of regular foreign policy channels.

The career official began to understand that unless Ukraine took on the investigations Trump wanted, the administration would hold up nearly $400 million in military aid to the young democracy that relies on U.S. support to counter Russian aggression.

Kent said he memorialized in writing the conversations he was having with other diplomats amid his concerns of “an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and U.S.” The memorandum was submitted to the State Department.

He told investigators he was uncomfortable with what he was hearing about Giuliani pushing the investigations and Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, engaging Ukrainian officials on the subject.

“And I told Bill Taylor, that’s wrong, and we shouldn’t be doing that as a matter of U.S. policy,” Kent said, referring to William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine who has also testified in the inquiry.

Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, had dubbed himself, Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry the “three amigos” with a mandate to take the lead on Ukraine policy over the career diplomats, Kent testified.

At one point, Kent said, Volker’s assistant, Catherine Croft, asked if anyone had sought investigations from Ukraine. Kent said he hoped the U.S. had not, because “that goes against everything that we are trying to promote in post-Soviet states for the last 28 years, which is the promotion of the rule of law.”

In one particularly unsettling scene, Kent describes mounting unease over Trump’s phone call with Zelenskiy.

Within days, he was receiving a readout from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council who was among the officials listening to the call. Vindman has become a key witness in the House investigation.

Vindman was “uncomfortable” as he gave Kent the readout and unwilling to share much of what was discussed, even over the secure phone line between the NSC and State.

“It was different than any readout call that I had received,” Kent said. “He felt—I could hear it in his voice and his hesitancy that he felt uncomfortable.”

Vindman told him the tone of the Trump-Zelenskiy call was “cooler, reserved” and that Zelenskiy, a former comedian, had tried to turn on the charm.

He said that Vindman told him that “the conversation went into the direction of some of the most extreme narratives that have been discussed publicly.”

The diplomats and national security officials weren’t the only ones concerned about the military aid being shut off to the East European ally.

“Many senators, particularly from the Republican side,” called and talked to the president, he said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Rob Portman of Ohio and were among them.

Trump has insisted it was a “perfect” call with Zelenskiy, and he tweeted Thursday that Americans should just “Read the Transcript.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used that as an opportunity to tweet excerpts from the call, including the part where Trump asks Ukraine for “a favor.”

Next week, Kent, Yovanovitch and Taylor are expected to appear in the public hearings.

First to testify, on Wednesday, will be Taylor, still the top diplomat in Ukraine, who relayed in his closed-door session his understanding that there was a blatant quid pro quo, with Trump holding up military aid to Ukraine, a U.S. ally facing threats from its giant neighbor Russia.

The diplomats are among those who have worked on Ukraine issues for years and have expressed deep concerns about the Trump administration’s new approach, especially in the face of an aggressive Russian neighbor.

Kent testified that Trump initially did not want to sign a congratulatory letter to Zelenskiy on his election in May.

“He actually ripped up the letter that had been written for him,” he recalled. By the end of the meeting, though Trump been convinced, and Sondland helped him draft a new version.

Kent said he did raise concerns with Biden’s staff back in 2015 when he first learned the then-vice president’s son Hunter was on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma. He considered that a potential conflict of interest.

But he said Biden’s office told him the vice president’s other son, Beau, was dying of cancer, and there was no bandwidth to deal with the situation.

Pressed by Republicans if that was the end of the discussion, Kent said it was. He noted the situation at the time — Russia had recently annexed Crimea — and said the staff at State was working nonstop. “We had a war with Russia,” he said.