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Crime-and-courts
Deputies take man into custody alleging he shot into Natrona County home, striking cat

A woman was in bed Saturday morning in her home near Bar Nunn when a man fired into her bedroom and hit a cat she was petting, her husband said Monday morning.

Both the woman and her husband were unharmed. The cat, Morris, who had lived with the family for 14 years, died.

Natrona County sheriff’s deputies took Lyle James Clark, 43, of Natrona County, into custody in relation to the shooting. Sgt. Aaron Shatto said he expects Clark to be booked into jail Monday on suspicion of aggravated assault.

Shatto said Monday morning the shooter fired “several rounds” into the home on the 3400 block of North Plateau Street around 1:15 a.m. The Star-Tribune is not publishing the exact address of the home or the names of the residents at the request of Shatto and the alleged victim of the shooting.

Deputies were still looking for Clark on Monday morning, when he was considered a “person of interest.” By the time Shatto announced the detention Monday afternoon, Clark was considered a suspect. Clark was apprehended in Casper.

On Monday, blue painter’s tape covered multiple bullet holes in the home’s bedroom window.

The man who lives in the home said he had just gotten up from the bed to ash his cigarette when the shooting began.

“I said to my wife, ‘Somebody’s shooting at us,’” the man told a Star-Tribune reporter. “Then the hellfire came through.”

Shatto declined to say at a Monday afternoon news conference what type of gun was used in the attack, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. He said sheriff’s investigators recovered eight shell casings from the scene. He said he was uncertain how many shots had been fired in total.

Shatto would not comment earlier Monday on whether a nearby security camera had recorded the shooting.

A neighbor said she was surprised to learn of the shooting on Monday. Melissa Apel, who lives on the same street, said the neighborhood is typically safe and peaceful. She was out of town with her two daughters when the shooting took place, she said.

The shooting was an isolated incident, Shatto said. Someone had targeted the family who lives in the home, he said. He declined to say what the shooter’s motive may have been.


Washington
AP
Trump threaten Syria strike, suggests Russia shares blame (copy)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump threatened an imminent military strike against Syria on Monday night, vowing to respond “forcefully” to Saturday’s apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians and warning that Russia or any other nation found to share responsibility will “pay a price.”

As he began an evening meeting with military leaders at the White House, Trump promised to “make a decision tonight or very shortly thereafter.” He said, “We have a lot of options militarily, and we’ll be letting you know pretty soon. Probably after the fact.”

The White House sharply rejected any suggestion that Trump’s own words about pulling U.S. troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack, which killed more than 40 people, including children.

Trump, asked at midday whether Russian President Vladimir Putin bore any responsibility for the weekend attack, responded, “He may, yeah, he may. And if he does it’s going to be very tough, very tough.” He added, “Everybody’s gonna pay a price. He will. Everybody will.”

Then, during the meeting with top military leaders, he said the weekend assault “will be met and it will be met forcefully.” Those at the meeting included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Amid the tough talk at the White House, the U.S. military appeared to be in position to carry out any attack order. A Navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, was underway in the eastern Mediterranean after completing a port call in Cyprus. The guided missile destroyer is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the weapon of choice in a U.S. attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria following an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians.

The Russian military, which has a presence in Syria as a key Assad ally, said its officers had visited the weekend site in a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital, and found no evidence to back up reports of poison gas being used. Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, accused Washington of deliberately stoking international tensions by threatening Russia in a tone “beyond the threshold of what is acceptable, even during the Cold War.”

Trump said there was little question that Syria was responsible for the apparent weekend attack, although the government of President Bashar Assad denied it. “To me there’s not much of a doubt, but the generals will figure it out,” Trump said.

Emphatic in his condemnation of the apparent gas attack, Trump noted graphic pictures of the dead and sickened, calling the assault “heinous,” ‘’atrocious,” ‘’horrible” and “barbaric.”

Fielding questions at the White House, Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it would be “outrageous” to say that Trump’s recent announcement that he intends to remove all U.S. forces from Syria in the coming months had emboldened Assad. “I think that it is outrageous to say that the president of the United States green-lit something as atrocious as the actions that have taken place over the last several days,” she said.

Mattis, in separate remarks at the Pentagon, also suggested Moscow bore some blame. He criticized Russia for what he suggested was its failure to ensure the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under terms of a 2013 agreement.

Trump said no action was “off the table” and also conferred with Vice President Mike Pence and his new national security adviser, John Bolton. Monday was the first day on the job for Bolton, who has previously advocated military action against Syria.

Trump said, “If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out.”

The United States, meanwhile, urged the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution that would condemn the continuing use of chemical weapons in Syria “in the strongest terms” and establish a new body to determine responsibility for chemical attacks. The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, was circulated ahead of an emergency Security Council meeting.

An American official said the U.S. was discussing with allies whether they would participate in a retaliatory strike. If Trump decides to proceed quickly, the most likely partner would be France rather than Britain, because of concerns about obtaining permission from Parliament, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the planning publicly and requested anonymity.

Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan spoke by phone Monday with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Sullivan and Johnson agreed that based on reports in the media and from the ground, “this attack bore hallmarks of previous chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime,” the British foreign office said.

The White House deliberations came as Russia and the Syrian military blamed Israel for a pre-dawn missile attack on a major air base in central Syria, saying Israeli fighter jets launched missiles from Lebanon’s air space. A group that monitors Syria’s civil war said the airstrikes killed 14 people, including Iranians active in Syria.

Syria’s state news agency SANA initially said that attack on the T4 air base was likely “an American aggression,” but Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood quickly denied the United States was behind the strike and the agency then dropped the accusation, blaming Israel instead.

The timing of the airstrikes in central Homs province, hours after Trump said there would be “a big price to pay” for the chemical weapons attack, raised questions about whether Israel was acting alone or as a proxy for the United States.


Washington
AP
Trump furious after FBI seizes documents from his lawyer (copy)

WASHINGTON — Federal agents on Monday raided the office of President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, seizing records on topics including a $130,000 payment made to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

A furious Trump, who in the last month has escalated his attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, said from the White House that it was a "disgrace" that the FBI "broke into" his lawyer's office. He called Mueller's investigation "an attack on our country," prompting new speculation that he might seek the removal of the Justice Department's special counsel.

The raid was done by the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan and was based at least partly on a referral from Mueller, according to Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan.

"The decision by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary," Ryan said in a statement. "It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients."

The raid creates a new legal headache for Trump even as he and his attorneys weigh whether to agree to an interview with Mueller's team, which in addition to investigating potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign is also examining whether the president's actions constitute obstruction of justice.

The law enforcement action will almost certainly amplify the public scrutiny on the payment to Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. The payment was made just days before the 2016 presidential election, and Trump told reporters last week that he did not know about it.

Search warrants are a fairly standard, though aggressive, law enforcement tool and are often sought in cases where authorities are concerned someone may hide or withhold evidence. To obtain one, agents must convince a judge they have probable cause of criminal activity and they believe they'll find evidence of wrongdoing in a search. A warrant requires high-level approval within the Justice Department, and agency guidelines impose additional hurdles when the search target is an attorney.

Authorities working with Mueller chose a similar tactic last summer when they raided the home of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was subsequently indicted.

In this case, though, Mueller opted to refer the matter to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Besides Cohen's office, agents also searched a hotel room where he's been staying while his home is under renovation.

Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller is required to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate. Rosenstein then will determine whether to allow Mueller to proceed or to assign the matter to another U.S. attorney or another part of the Justice Department.

A spokesman for Mueller's office did not immediately return a call seeking comment. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the U.S. attorney's office also had no comment. The New York Times first reported on Monday's raid.

Ryan did not elaborate on the documents that were taken from Cohen's office but said he has cooperated with investigators, including meeting last fall with lawmakers looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen has more recently attracted attention for his acknowledgment that he paid Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket just days before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen has said neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Daniels and he was not reimbursed for the payment.

Several former officials at the Federal Election Commission have said the payment appears to be a violation of campaign finance laws, and multiple Washington-based groups have filed complaints with the FEC, urging it to investigate.

There have been few signs that Mueller was interested in investigating the payment, though. One Mueller witness, former Trump aide Sam Nunberg, recently connected the special counsel with the payment, saying in an interview on MSNBC last month that prosecutors had asked him about payments to women.

Trump answered questions about Daniels for the first time last week, saying he had no knowledge of the payment made by Cohen and he didn't know where Cohen had gotten the money. The White House has consistently said Trump denies the affair.

Daniels has said she had sex with the president in 2006. She has been suing to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement she signed before the election and has offered to return the $130,000 she was paid in order to "set the record straight."

Daniels argues the agreement is legally invalid because it was signed by only Daniels and Cohen, and was not signed by Trump.

Last month, Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, sent letters to the Trump Organization demanding the business preserve all of its records relating to the $130,000 transaction.

The letter demanded they preserve all emails by Cohen that mention Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, as well as any emails and text messages related to the alleged relationship. He sent similar demand letters to two banks — City National and First Republic — asking they preserve documents connected to the transaction.


Energy
Barrasso praises controversial EPA head following allegations of unethical behavior

Sen. John Barrasso put out a statement Monday lauding the achievements of the embattled Environmental Protection Agency leader who visited Wyoming’s largest coal mine in late March.

Media reports have put Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, under pressure for a variety of allegations including that raises that were given to his top aides despite White House disapproval, that Pruitt lived part time at an energy lobbyist’s apartment in Washington for a low-rent deal, and more recent allegations surrounding the apparent dismissal or demotion of those within the agency who raised questions about Pruitt’s actions. The New York Times reported Monday morning that a letter from the lead federal ethics official was calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate allegations of inappropriate behavior.

By Monday afternoon, the Atlantic reported that an internal email exists that contradicts Pruitt’s earlier denial that he knew about his staffers’ raises.

But in Wyoming, Pruitt is the man who’s putting an end to rules that burden fossil fuel industries, like his rollback of controversial surveys required of oil and gas firms — a precursor to a rule on methane emissions. He’s also leading the EPA in a direction away from what some have called a “war on coal.” The controversial Clean Power Plan, which would be a blow to Wyoming’s coal production, is under review and expected to be unraveled.

Pruitt’s visited Black Thunder mine March 29, two days after a meeting on the Clean Power Plan in Gillette, where coal miners, environmentalists and Wyoming politicians took the microphone to proclaim either the worth of Wyoming’s coal industry or the danger of coal-fired power plants and climate change.

Barrasso, who stumped for an end of the Clean Power Plan at the meeting in Gillette last month, praised Pruitt’s work at the EPA in a statement Monday. Barrasso has repeatedly criticized the direction of the agency under the previous president. He is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“Pruitt has accomplished key priorities as head of the EPA,” Barrasso said. “With the support of the president, he has been instrumental in returning the agency to its original mission.”

The senator did not comment specifically on the ethical issues that have been raised about Pruitt in recent weeks, but noted indications of a “formal review” coming from the White House.

“Certain questions have been raised about internal operations of the agency and administrator’s actions,” Barrasso said in the statement. “I will wait for the outcome of that process.”