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National Govt & Politics
The Latest: In Houston, O'Rourke backs assault weapons ban
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The Latest: In Houston, O'Rourke backs assault weapons ban

The Latest: In Houston, O'Rourke backs assault weapons ban
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke acknowledges the crowd as he arrives on stage with his family at his presidential campaign kickoff in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, March 30, 2019. With him are his wife, Amy, and their children, Ulysses, 12, left; Molly, 10, center, and son Henry, 8. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Latest: In Houston, O'Rourke backs assault weapons ban

The latest on Beto O'Rourke official presidential campaign kickoff in Texas (all times local):

6:10 p.m.

Beto O'Rourke has evoked a school shooting last year near Houston to call for banning assault weapons and points to that city's 2017 devastation during Hurricane Harvey to push for fighting climate change.

The former Democratic congressman is formally launching his presidential campaign with Saturday rallies across Texas. He began in his native El Paso, then visited Houston's historically black Texas Southern University and is holding a late-night Austin event.

Wearing a Texas Southern cap, O'Rourke recalled the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School last May. He advocated for universal background checks for firearms purchases.

O'Rourke also said he wanted to ensure that weapons "sold to the United States military with the sole purpose of killing people" are confined to the battlefield.

He said Harvey meant Houston understands the perils climate change "better than just about anyone."

___

12:30 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke has told 1,000-plus supporters near the Texas-Mexico border that immigrants make the country stronger.

Formally kicking off his campaign in his hometown of El Paso on Saturday, O'Rourke offered support for unapologetically liberal positions, including backing federal legalization of marijuana. He promised to strengthen unions nationwide, make it easier to register to vote and end U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The former congressman again vowed to work with Republicans, saying that a unified campaign will help him win his party's 2020 nomination and "defeat Donald Trump."

President Donald Trump has threatened to shutter the U.S.-Mexico border to combat a rise in the number of immigrants crossing.

Speaking mere blocks from the border, O'Rourke said, "We have learned not to fear our differences but to respect and embrace them."

____

5:30 a.m.

Beto O'Rourke is formally kicking off his presidential campaign with three rallies across his home state, where he came close enough to upsetting Sen. Ted Cruz to generate the national buzz now buoying his 2020 White House bid.

The Democratic ex-congressman is holding a Saturday morning rally mere blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border in his native El Paso, then traveling to historically black Texas Southern University in Houston before an evening event in the shadow of Austin's state Capitol.

O'Rourke has visited nine states since joining the race March 14, though he'd promised to head home for an official launch.

Texas is America's largest red state, but Democrats aren't writing it off in 2020. Another presidential candidate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, drew large crowds at Texas Southern last weekend.

Read More

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Explosions hit three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more, news outlets are reporting. >> PHOTOS: Easter Sunday blasts at Sri Lanka churches, hotels kill dozens Here are the latest updates: Update 3:34 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 137 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 45 people in Colombo, 67 in Negombo and 25 in Batticaloa, officials said. At least nine of the people killed were foreigners, the news agency reported. More than 500 people were hurt in the explosions, according to The Associated Press. Original report: Explosions hit three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring nearly 300 more, news outlets are reporting. According to The Associated Press, blasts occurred Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and a church in Batticaloa. Explosions also rocked the Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo, the BBC reported. >> Read more trending news The Agence France-Presse news agency said 52 people died in the blasts. At least 283 people were taken to the hospital, the AP reported. Suicide bombers may have caused at least two of the church blasts, a security official told the AP.  – The Associated Press contributed to this report
  • In a World where Mickey and Star Wars seek to make their debut at the Hollywood Studios with new stuff at the same time, it looks like only one is going to take center stage in 2019.  Initially, all signs pointed to a fall release for Mickey And Minnie's Runaway Railway, which replaced the Great Movie Ride. However, since the primary focus has been on the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge project, the lovely duo's new ride has been set on the back burner.  Disney has announced that both the ride that is coming to Hollywood Studios and Toontown at Disneyland Park have been delayed and is now planned to open in Spring of 2020.  Although we do not yet have a specific date to when the ride will open on either coast, the company has noted that special details to both rides will make them slightly different from one another. This will surely give fans a reason to check out both parks.
  • April 20th has a significant meaning to a variety of people. For some, its about smoking some green, while for others, its a reminder of what we can do to think and stay green. The Vegetarians of Central Florida is hosting the 14th annual Central Florida Earth Day at the east side of Lake Eola.  This free vegan event truly aims to be as green and clean as possible considering it is both a smoke and alcohol free event. Also, the whole event is solar powered, with recycling and composting bins located all over the park for those who attend.  The event is also family and dog friendly and will feature music, food, art, and other activities for all ages which aim to educate and inspire more eco-friendly mindsets.  It will start at 10 am and run until 6pm. More details on this event, including the list of vendors at the park can be found here: http://www.cfearthday.org/
  • A line of strong storms crossed Central Florida today, prompting severe thunderstorm warnings in multiple counties, tornado watches and a ground stoppage at Orlando International Airport. The most severe weather came late in the afternoon just in time for the holiday Friday rush home. Listeners reported downed trees and scattered tree branches in several local counties, as well as hail in Lake County.  Several Flight were canceled at OIA and at least several others delayed. The storms also forced the outside Orlando Magic playoff party to move inside Amway Center ahead of Friday nights game.  Winds will be strong through Saturday, temperatures Saturday will be much more comfortable, highs in the mid 70s, in the evening the temperature will drop to the mid 50’s.  Drier air arrives just in time for Easter, with the winds out of the northwest.   Highs Sunday will reach the mid to upper 70s with plenty of sunshine.
  • The family of a 5-year-old boy thrown from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America last week says he is making “small steps” as he recovers from his devastating injuries. Landen Hoffman was shopping with his mother and friends around 10:15 a.m. April 12 when Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, of Minneapolis, is accused of picking the boy up and hurling him over a railing to the first floor nearly 40 feet below. Aranda tried to run, but police, with help from witnesses, found him on a light rail train at the mall and took him into custody.  >> Read more trending news “The family doesn’t know him and are completely clueless as to why this monster would target their family with this heinous act of violence,” a GoFundMe page set up to help with Landen’s medical bills states. As of Friday morning, the page had raised more than $870,000 of its $1 million goal.  Landen, who suffered broken arms and legs and significant head trauma, was initially in critical condition, according to the criminal complaint against Aranda. His condition has since stabilized, but he has a long road to recovery, the GoFundMe page reads.  “(His) condition is again similar to previous days. Another peaceful night of sleep -- small steps towards the healing process. Each new day is a good day,” the page read Thursday.  “Landen's recovery is expected to be ongoing for a long time. While it’s hard to estimate costs, this will change everything for their family and require much of their time and focus.” Aranda is charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Aranda is being held in the Hennepin County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond.  >> Related story: Man who threw 5-year-old from third floor of Mall of America intended to kill someone, police say “This crime has shocked the community,” Freeman said in a news release. “That a child, with his mother at a safe public area like a mall, could be violently attacked for no reason is chilling for everyone. Our victim advocates are working with the family during this very difficult time for them. We charged Mr. Aranda with the most severe crime that the evidence allowed.” Bloomington police Chief Jeff Potts said during a news conference Saturday that Aranda was cooperative with detectives. The criminal complaint indicates that Aranda confessed to committing the brazen assault.  Read the criminal complaint against Emmanuel Aranda below. “This is a horrific situation,” Potts said. “The family and this child are in our thoughts and prayers. I know the family appreciates all the thoughts and prayers they can get on this case.” The Hoffman family issued a statement through Freeman’s office showing appreciation for the outpouring of support from the community but requesting privacy as Landen recovers from his life-threatening injuries.  Mall of America officials also praised the outpouring of support. “We are grateful for the efforts of all the first responders involved -- including guests and tenants -- for their immediate actions and the outpouring of concern shown by so many for this young child and his family,” a statement read. “For those who have left gifts, flowers and messages of love at the mall, we thank you. Please know we will keep these items safe and handle them according to the family’s wishes.” The criminal complaint says Aranda told police he had gone to the mall on April 11 intending to kill an adult, but that it did not “work out.” He returned to the mall the next day.  “He said he planned to kill an adult because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the victim instead,” the document reads.  Aranda told investigators he chose to kill out of frustration over years of rejection from the opposite sex.  “Defendant indicated he had been coming to the mall for several years and had made efforts to talk to women in the mall, but had been rejected,” the complaint says. “The rejection caused him to lash out and be aggressive.”  Aranda admitted he knew what he did was wrong. “Defendant acknowledged repeatedly in his interview that he had planned and intended to kill someone at the mall that day, and that he was aware that what he was doing was wrong,” the document says.  According to the criminal complaint, surveillance camera footage shows Aranda walking on the third floor of the mall and looking over the balcony several times before approaching Landen and his mother.  Landen’s mother told detectives she saw Aranda approach and stand very close to her and her son, the newspaper reported. She asked him if he needed them to move. “Without warning, defendant picked up the victim and threw him off the third floor balcony in front of (Landen’s mother) and several other witnesses, including children,” the complaint states.  Witnesses told the Minneapolis Star Tribune they heard screaming after the boy went over the railing. “Oh my God! Pray for my son!” Landen’s mother begged, witnesses told the newspaper.  Potts said Saturday that Aranda previously was arrested at the Mall of America. Officers were called there in July 2015 after Aranda was seen throwing an object from the third floor.  “When the officers tried to speak with him, he became … he was not cooperative,” Potts said.  Aranda was charged in that incident with obstruction, disorderly conduct and damage to property, the chief said.  Watch the update from Bloomington police Chief Jeff Potts below.  He was also accused of trespassing at the mall previously after he threw a glass of water in a woman’s face and destroyed property, the criminal complaint says. It was not clear if that was the same incident Potts spoke about during his news conference.  Aranda had been banned from the mall, but apparently ignored the ban.  Aranda next came in contact with Bloomington police officers at a local restaurant, where he refused to pay his bill, Potts said. In a third 2015 incident, Aranda was accused of throwing a glass at a worker at a different restaurant.  He was charged with fifth-degree assault, trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing legal process in the third case. That was the last contact Bloomington officers had with Aranda prior to the alleged assault at the mall last week.  The Star Tribune reported that Aranda was also previously arrested for smashing computers at a public library in Minneapolis. At that time, he told arresting officers he has “anger issues,” the newspaper said.  Court records indicate Aranda has a string of arrests and convictions in Minnesota, as well as charges of assault and theft in Illinois, the Star Tribune reported. The criminal complaint indicates he had an outstanding warrant for assault in Illinois.  Judges have repeatedly ordered him to undergo mental health treatment, as well as to abstain from alcohol and drugs, the newspaper reported.  Prosecutors are taking Aranda’s latest Mall of America attack very seriously.  “The state intends to pursue an aggravated sentence based on particular cruelty to the victim, particular vulnerability of the victim and the commission of the act in the presence of other children and the victim’s mother,” the criminal complaint says.  The Mall of America website states that the facility “holds itself to the highest standards” when it comes to its security. It has 175 security officers on the payroll.  “We pride ourselves on our high caliber officers, training and forward-thinking attitude,” the webpage reads. “We take a holistic approach with our industry leading programs and practices which include bike patrol, K-9 units, special operations plain clothes officers, a state-of-the art dispatch center, parental escort policy, crisis planning and lockdown drills. “We are a unique property and we protect it as such.”

Washington Insider

  • The newly released report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections rejected the claims of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that he received leaked emails from a young employee at the Democratic National Committee, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Assange used the murder of DNC worker Seth Rich in an effort to cover up the fact that Russian Intelligence had hacked the DNC emails, and transferred them to WikiLeaks. 'As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,' the Mueller report stated, referring to Assange's claim that Rich was involved. 'The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails,' the report added on page 56 of the 448 page document released on Thursday by the Justice Department. The redacted version of the Mueller Report reiterated what had been alleged in a previous indictment of a group of Russian Intelligence agents, that they had hacked into a DNC email server starting in May 2016, and posing as 'Guccifer 2.0,' sent an encrypted attachment, 'wk dnc link1.txt.gpg' to WikiLeaks. For the Rich family, it was confirmation that Assange's claim - which had readily been embraced by familiar Republican voices, Fox News, and conservative talk radio - was indeed false, and had created 'unimaginable pain.' The Mueller report said WikiLeaks did not receive the hacked DNC emails and documents from GRU officers until July 14 - four days after Rich had been murdered. 'The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks's claims about the source of material that it posted,' the Mueller report stated. During the campaign, in an August 25, 2016 interview with Fox News cited by Mueller, Assange asserted that Rich - who was murdered on July 10, 2016 - was a 'potential' source of emails from inside the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks stuck to that story, even as U.S. investigators began to focus more and more on the ties between Assange and Russian GRU hackers, as WikiLeaks increased the reward for clues to Rich's murder to $130,000 the day before President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January of 2017. Not only did WikiLeaks push the Seth Rich angle - along with Fox News, Infowars, and various conservative talk radio hosts - but so too did the Russians; this tweet was from the Russian Embassy in London in May of 2017. Two days after that tweet from the Russian government, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used an appearance on 'Fox and Friends' to further spread the theory that Rich had been murdered after giving WikiLeaks thousands of hacked documents from the DNC, as the matter quickly gained the attention of talk radio and conservative commentators. Soon after that Gingrich interview in May of 2017, Fox News retracted the network's original report tying Rich to the leak of materials to WikiLeaks. In the end, investigators concluded all signs pointed to Moscow and Assange, as the Mueller Report said the mentions of Rich were 'designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,' that being the Russians. Like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory - which claimed that a supporter of Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a neighborhood pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. - no evidence was ever offered up by Assange and WikiLeaks to support the Rich claim.