GOP lawmaker raises ‘serious questions’ about Kushner family conflicts

A Republican congressman says he’s concerned about potential conflicts of interest raised by Jared Kushner and his family’s business ties.

Walter Jones, a member of the House from North Carolina, wrote to the Office of Government Ethics on May 18 to ask whether the pitch by the Kushner family business to Chinese investors last month violated ethics rules.

Nicole Kushner Meyer, the sister of top White House aide Jared Kushner, mentioned her brother’s role in the administration during a pitch in China seeking EB-5 financing for a real estate development in New Jersey.

EB-5 visas offer a path to green cards for investors who put more than $500,000 into a project that creates jobs in the United States.

Last month, an attorney told CNNMoney that Kushner divested his interest in the project touted by his sister. Kushner also stepped away from the family business when he took his White House job.

The attorney also said Kushner will recuse from “particular matters concerning the EB-5 program.”

The program has come under fire by some lawmakers who say it effectively sells citizenship to wealthy immigrants. The federal government is weighing reforms to the program.

Prospective Chinese investors, meanwhile, have told CNNMoney that they considered the Kushner project safer than others because of the family’s connections to Trump.

Jones wrote that “this raises serious questions about the nature of Mr. Kushner’s role in the White House and his counsel on a myriad of issues with which his family may have conflicts of interest,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNNMoney through a public records request. His office declined to comment.

The letter was sent amid broader tensions between the White House and the ethics office. The administration and the office have been tussling over several issues, including the release of ethics waivers the White House has given its staff.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democratic lawmakers have raised questions about conflicts involving the Trump administration, but complaints from Republicans have been relatively rare.

In February, Republican Jason Chaffetz, the outgoing chairman of the House Oversight Committee, co-authored a bipartisan letter to the ethics office to ask it to review a plug that Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway made for Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand.

And another Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has also expressed concerns about the Kushner pitch for EB-5 funding to the Trump administration. He wrote last month to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to demand assurances that no one would be given preferential treatment after Nicole Kushner Meyer name dropped her brother.

In the letter that Jones sent to the ethics office, he asked director Walter Shaub whether the situation violated a ethics code that “prohibits executive branch employees from advising on policies which have a financial interest to the employee or his family.”

An attorney for Jared Kushner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nicole Kushner Meyer apologized after the event in China and said her comments were not intended to be an “attempt to lure investors.”

Kushner Companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Shaub, the ethics director, wrote back to Jones on Tuesday. He wrote that the ethics law does not prohibit family members of executive branch employees from participating in “non-governmental activities.”

But he added that he agreed with Jones “that it would be disappointing for the family members of any government official to seek to profit from their relationships with that official.”

Shaub also said that it “might be expected that high-level officials would take reasonable measures to discourage relatives from profiting from family ties to the government.”

Shaub did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Students in Wisconsin could be expelled for speaking out

Under a new piece of legislation that passed through the Wisconsin State Assembly on Wednesday night, students who disrupt speeches on campus at University of Wisconsin schools could be suspended, or even expelled, for speaking out.

“Hateful speech is protected under the First Amendment, whether we like it or not,” Rep. Jesse Kremer, a sponsor of the bill, told CNN.

The Campus Free Speech Act passed 61-36 along party lines after a four-hour debate Wednesday night and will move to the state Senate. No Democrats voted for the bill.

When former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro visited UW-Madison last fall to give a lecture on “dismantling safe spaces,” it didn’t take long for student protesters to start chanting over him.

But the unrest was resolved quickly and amicably, unlike other similar incidents across the country.

In February, violent protests broke out at UC Berkeley against a speech by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, injuring several people and causing $100,000 worth of damage. And in April, punches were thrown at Auburn University before a speech from white nationalist Richard Spencer.

UW schools haven’t seen any protests that violent, but Kremer said he wants to “nip it in the bud before it gets to that point.”

“This thing is more of a proactive approach than anything,” he said.

Proactive or unnecessary

But what Kremer considers proactive is seen as unnecessary by critics in the state assembly.

“This is the GOP Big Brother attempting to impose their will on the university system and the Board of Regents that has never had an issue enforcing this in Wisconsin,” Minority Leader Peter Barca said.

While the legislation was drafted to protect the First Amendment rights of campus speakers, Barca and other opponents of the bill are concerned about protesters’ free speech being stifled in the process. Kremer said that students in disagreement can still voice their opinions — just maybe not quite so literally.

“They still have the right to speak,” Kremer said. “They can go outside the venue, have their own forums, but the individual has the right to get out what they want.”

Three strikes

If the bill becomes law, students would be subject to disciplinary action if they engage in “violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others.”

Students who break the rules are subject to a “three-strikes system,” Kremer said. After two allegations, students become subject to a formal investigation and hearing. If the student is found guilty twice, they are suspended for a minimum of one semester. After three violations, the student is expelled.

“It’s a Draconian effort that will lead to a chilling effect,” Barca said.

The constitutionality of the bill

Barca said the effort behind the bill is to suppress free speech, which he said would make the legislation unconstitutional. David Vanness, an associate professor at UW-Madison, testified against the bill when it was still in committee in May, saying that the interpretations of terms in the bill were too broad and that “the risks to students of participation in any form of expression would be enormous.”

“Nothing in this bill is unconstitutional,” Kremer said. “There is nothing here that the Supreme Court hasn’t vetted already.”

In his testimony on the bill while it was in committee in May, UW System President Ray Cross agreed that a policy was needed but voiced several concerns about the details of the legislation. Cross disputed a minimum punishment for students and said the disciplinary details seemed inflexible. He also said the bill could make Wisconsin a “target for lawsuits” from students and speakers.

Board of Regents President John Robert Behling did not mention the bill directly in his statement but said the board welcomes input from stakeholders, including the legislature.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank had no comment on the legislation.

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Convicted sex offender moves next door to his victim

Fourteen years ago, Danyelle Dyer was molested by her step-uncle.

Now, the man has moved next door to Dyer’s parent’s house in Oklahoma — and legally, there’s nothing they can do about it.

Sexual offenders laws are in place to keep predators away from children. Like many other states, Oklahoma law bars sex offenders from living nears schools and churches.

But what Dyer and her family discovered is the state doesn’t have a statute that prevents a sexual predator from moving next door to his victim.

Dyer, who’s now 21, is fighting to change that.

The crime

Dyer was only 7 when her dad’s step-brother, Harold Dwayne English, came to visit their Bristow, Oklahoma, home for the summer.

He had been convicting of sexually abusing a child. But Dyer’s parents didn’t know that.

Throughout that summer, her repeatedly molested her, Dyer said.

“As a 7-year-old, I had never been exposed to anything like that so I didn’t know it was bad until he told me not to tell,” Dyer told CNN.

When she finally told her parents, English was arrested, convicted, and sent away to prison.

“I would rather look down the barrel of a gun than relive the time I had to look into my 7-year-old daughter’s eyes as she struggled to tell me what had happened to her,” the father said.

The move

Dyer is now studying for a degree in kinesiology and wants to eventually work with amputees and veterans. She comes back to her parents home every weekend and spends most of her summer there.

Two weeks ago, English was released from prison and he moved in with his mother — Dyer’s grandmother — who lives right next door.

“If I look outside, I can see my grandmother’s entire house. We are maybe 100 yards from her house,” Dyer said.

The action

At first, her parents told Dyer not to worry.

“Legally, we didn’t think he could,” she said.

Her parents called lawmakers, the police, the prison system. Each assured them the law barred English from living so close to his victim.

But then, each called back to say they were wrong. There was nothing that legally prevented English from doing so.

“My mom called and told me that we can’t stop this from happening,” Dyer said.

At first, Dyer said she felt let down by the state. Then she decided to do something about it.

“I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through the feelings of reliving the trauma from something like this,” she said.

Her first step: Post a picture of her abuser on Facebook.

“Meet my abuser and my new neighbor,” it said.

Her dad put up signs in their front yard alerting people that a sex offender lived nearby. First, he went to the neighbors to make sure no one would object.

“They were very supportive and most of them have children and they don’t want him around,” Dyer said.

The other side

Dyer says she has a strained relationship with her grandmother because she continued to support English even after the abuse.

Right before English was released from prison, Dyer wrote her grandmother a letter.

“I felt like it was a very heartfelt letter explaining my feelings,” she said. “I don’t think it affected her at all.”

CNN called the grandmother, Betty Dyer, and she defended her decision.

“The only thing I have to say about this, I don’t agree with what my son did. But I gave him a place to stay temporary until he could find a place,” she said.

“I think Danyelle is okay for trying to get a law passed. But she shouldn’t blame me for what happened because this is my son and I just give him a place to stay until he can find a place on his own.”

The grandmother said English was sitting next to her as she talked to CNN on the phone. But he declined to speak himself.

The fight

Now, the Dyer family is working with Oklahoma State Rep. Kyle Hilbert to introduce a new bill protecting victims.

The legislative season begins again in February. So they have roughly six months to write the bill.

“I’m doing everything I can to try and help and do something statutorily to prevent this from happening to anyone else in Oklahoma,” Hilbert said.

Will the bill be named after Dyer? Hilbert said that’s completely up to her.

“It would be an honor for the bill to be named after me,” Dyer said. “It’s because of my father that I am strong enough to fight this battle. He has always taught me to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive one to help others.”

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At least 2 dead in California amid heat wave

The record-breaking heat roasting the West has killed at least two people.

A 72-year-old man and an 87-year-old woman died Monday in San Jose, California. Their deaths were attributed to the heat, Santa Clara County officials said.

“It is tragic when someone dies of hyperthermia since in most every case it could have been prevented,” Dr. Michelle Jorden of the county’s medical examiner office said in a statement. “Hyperthermia and heat stress happen when a body’s heat-regulation system cannot handle the heat.”

San Jose sweltered in record-breaking, 103-degree weather on Sunday, and the area is under a heat advisory until 9 p.m. PT Thursday.

Large swaths of California, Nevada and Arizona are under excessive heat warnings as residents have endured stifling, triple-digit temperatures in the last few days. Parts of eastern Texas and New Mexico are under heat advisories.

In New Mexico, two hikers were found dead earlier this week at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and heat could have been a factor in their deaths, authorities told CNN affiliate KRIS.

Phoenix burns through the records

For the third day in a row, the heat in Phoenix set new daily records.

The week started with a high of 118 degrees on Monday, then hit 118 degrees on Tuesday and 117 degrees on Wednesday.

Though it has cooled off a few degrees in the Grand Canyon state, it’s still burning hot, with a forecast of 113 degrees for Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Crayons melt in Las Vegas

In Las Vegas, which also has seen its share of record-shattering heat, National Weather Service staffers got creative — and conducted an experiment to show just how hot it is.

They eschewed the cliché of frying an egg on the sidewalk and instead left crayons outside in the sun on Wednesday, when the temperature hit 114 degrees. The wax sticks melted into a rainbow sludge of colors.

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No, the ‘big one’ didn’t hit California Wednesday

A brief panic was sparked Wednesday afternoon after the US Geological Survey sent out an alert that a magnitude-6.8 earthquake had struck 10 miles west of Santa Barbara, California.

An earthquake of that size did strike the area.

But it happened in 1925.

“They clicked the wrong button,” said Justin Pressfield, a spokesman for the agency. “It was human error and software.”

The alert, according to Pressfield, was caused by a software edit of the quake that rocked Santa Barbara in 1925, killing 13.

While revising location information on the earthquake in their software, a California Institute of Technology seismologist set the date of the incident as 2025, according to Caltech spokeswoman Deborah Williams-Hedges. The system misinterpreted it as a current event, prompting an alert to be sent out.

Fourteen minutes later, the USGS sent out a tweet clearing up the confusion.

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