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Guilty Plea For The Pittsburgh Shooting Suspect

Trump shook hands with the synagogue's rabbi, Jeffrey Myers

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This courtroom sketch depicts Robert Gregory Bowers, who was wounded in a gun battle with police as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court. VOA

The man accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue pleaded not guilty Thursday in a U.S. federal court on 44 charges that include murder and hate crimes.

Robert Bowers, 46, spoke little during the brief court appearance beyond saying he understood the charges and his “not guilty” plea.

A grand jury indicted Bowers on Wednesday in connection with the October 27 attack at the Tree of Life synagogue.

In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the alleged crimes “are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation.”

 

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Pittsburgh police stand guard as the casket of Irving Younger, 69, is wheeled from Congregation Rodef Shalom after his funeral, VOA

 

Victims’ funerals 

Funerals for the victims continue Thursday with services for Bernice and Sylvan Simon, as well as Dr. Richard Gottfried.

On Wednesday, hundreds of friends gathered to pay tribute to Melvin Wax, 88, who was leading Sabbath services on Saturday when the gunman burst into the synagogue shouting, “All Jews must die!” and began shooting. Funerals also were held for retired real estate agent Irving Younger, 69, and retired university researcher Joyce Fienberg, 75.

Trump visit 

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the synagogue on Tuesday, placing a stone at each of the 11 Stars of David set up outside. Placing stones at a grave or remembrance site is an ancient Jewish tradition.

Trump also met with police officers wounded by gunfire in a shootout as they apprehended Bowers and spent an hour talking with Peg Durachko, whose husband, Dr. Richard Gottfried, was among the 11 killed.

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A sign during a protest gathering on the block of the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the funeral for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. VOA

“Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh,” Trump said on Twitter. “The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. We were treated so warmly.”

Protests 

Several thousand protesters demonstrated in the streets during Trump’s visit, contending that his rhetoric helped fuel the gunman’s anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant views against a Jewish group that aids refugees arriving in the U.S. from overseas. Trump complained about news coverage of the several hours he spent in Pittsburgh.

“Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away,” he said. “The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!”

Trump shook hands with the synagogue’s rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.

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Flowers surround Stars of David on Oct. 31, 2018, part of a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue to the 11 people killed during worship services Saturday in Pittsburgh., VOA

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — wearing a Jewish yarmulke — and daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism when she married Kushner, accompanied the first couple to offer their condolences.

“The president was very moved by the visit and his time with the rabbi and called it very humbling and sad,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

Also Read: Trump Meets Florida School Shooting Survivors, Suggests Arming Teachers

Worst attack in history 

The Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked hatred and violence against Jews since the 1970s, said the Pittsburgh mayhem was the worst attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history. (VOA)

Next Story

Signs Of The U.S. Government Shutdown Ending May Soon Be Emerging

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats.

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President Donald Trump speaks about American missile defense doctrine, Jan 17, 2019, at the Pentagon. VOA

The first tangible signs of movement may be emerging in the impasse that has shut down the government for weeks: President Donald Trump is promising a “major announcement” about the closure and the U.S.-Mexico border and Democrats are pledging more money for border security.

It was unclear whether the developments, following days of clashes between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., might represent serious steps toward resolving the partisan fight or instead may simply be political posturing as the partial shutdown reached a record 29th day. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have gone without paychecks, enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.

The White House has declined to provide details about what the president would announce midafternoon Saturday. Trump was not expected to sign a national emergency declaration he has said was an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.

Instead, he was expected to propose the outlines of a deal that the administration believes could have the potential to pave the way for a shutdown end, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to publicly discuss details about the impending announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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From left, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. VOA

 

Democrats are now proposing hundreds of millions of dollars for new immigration judges and improvements to ports of entry from Mexico but nothing for the wall, a House aide said, as the party begins fleshing out its vision of improving border security.

Trump’s refusal to sign spending bills that lack $5.7 billion he wants to start constructing that wall, which Democrats oppose, has prompted the shutdown.

Whatever the White House proposed would be the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he gave an Oval Office address trying to make the public case for the border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.

Democrats were proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, the Democratic House aide said. The money is to be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, that the House plans to vote on next week.

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Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, opposed to immigration raids targeting Central American families with children. VOA

In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.

It was possible Democrats would introduce that measure next week as the cornerstone of their border security alternative to Trump’s wall, the aide said. Earlier Friday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who leads the House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee, said in an interview that some Democrats were asking leaders, “What is our plan?”

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the details publicly.

In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should “take the politics out of it” and “get to work” to “make a deal.” But he also repeated his warnings, saying: “We have to secure our southern border. If we don’t do that, we’re a very, very sad and foolish lot.”

Few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration’s hard-line response overwhelm border resources. But critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and they argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.

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Migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Central America queue at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, to cross the border and request political asylum in the United States, Jan. 9, 2019. VOA

Trump’s Friday evening tweeted announcement came after Pelosi on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip. The White House said there was no such leak.

It was the latest turn in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi that has played out against the stalled negotiations.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Proposes Deal To End Shutdown

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats. It is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29.

Trump never responded directly. Instead, he abruptly canceled Pelosi’s military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops. (VOA)