Mueller to make first appearance since special counsel appointment

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who is now leading the Russia investigation, will speak publicly Monday afternoon for the first time since taking on his prominent new role.

The former FBI director is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Tabor Academy, a small college preparatory school in Marion, Massachusetts, located on the shores near Cape Cod. Mueller’s granddaughter is one of the 133 graduates, school spokeswoman Molly Horan told CNN.

The school announced Muller as its graduation speaker on April 27, three weeks before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him to serve as a special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

“Mr. Mueller oversaw the FBI during one of the most complex periods of our nation’s history and will no doubt share some unique perspectives with our graduates about leading in a position with such public and high-level responsibility,” head of school John Quirk said in a press release at the time.

It is unlikely Mueller’s commencement address will make any references to the ongoing investigation he’s running, but his address could provide some clues about Mueller’s values and his worldview.

Back in Washington, the investigation continues into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The federal probe is widening, and investigators are now looking at senior White House adviser Jared Kushner. There are no indications that Kushner is a target of the investigation, but the FBI is focusing on his involvement in the Trump campaign’s data operation, Kushner’s own contacts with prominent Russian government officials and his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump, will testify soon before Congress. But he wants to talk with Mueller before going public, House oversight committee chairman Jason Chaffetz told CNN last week. Chaffetz has invited Comey to testify at his committee.

Mueller is no stranger to the Bay State, where he’ll be spending his Memorial Day this year.

Before joining the FBI, Mueller worked as an assistant US attorney in Boston. He worked under Bill Weld, the US attorney for Massachusetts who later served as the state’s Republican governor in the 1990s. Last year, Weld was Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s vice presidential running mate.

In addition to his widely respected government service, Mueller previously worked for private law firms in the Boston area, including Hale and Dorr and Hill and Barlow, according to Boston Magazine.

He most recently worked for WilmerHale, and he resigned that position upon becoming special counsel. Two of his colleagues form that law firm joined him to work on the Russia investigation.

Computer meltdown may cost British Airways over $100 million

The computer system failure that grounded thousands of British Airways flights over the weekend could cost the airline more than $100 million.

British Airways canceled all Saturday flights from London’s two biggest airports following the tech meltdown. The outage was caused by a power surge that affected messaging across the airline’s system, and there was no evidence that hackers were to blame, it said.

More flights were scrapped on Sunday and long delays and some cancellations continued well into Monday. BA said 75,000 passengers had been affected.

The cost of compensating passengers, refunds, additional staffing and lost revenue could total between £80 million ($102 million) to £100 million ($138 million), according to Robin Byde, an aviation analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald.

A one day outage costs the company about £30 million ($39 million) in lost revenue alone, said Stephen Furlong, analyst at Davy Research.

“The main cost will be compensations — depending on how many people claim it, my guess would be it could reach around €50 million ($56 million),” Furlong said.

Passengers on flights operated by European airlines to and from countries in the European Union are entitled to compensation of between €250 ($280) and €600 ($670) each, depending on the route.

Most passengers on BA flights canceled over the weekend should be eligible for the compensation.

Shares in British Airways’ parent company IAG fell 2.7% on Monday.

Analysts say the outage is unlikely to have a lasting impact on BA’s revenue. Furlong said the airline probably lost about £4 million in operating profit a day during the outage. (It made almost £1.5 billion in 2016.)

“This is a PR nightmare and a huge inconvenience for passengers, but the market almost doesn’t care about events like this, it’s likely it will be treated as one off,” Furlong said.

BA is not the only major airline to suffer a major system collapse recently.

“Delta and Southwest airlines both had similar issues within the last year and while both were very inconvenient for passengers, they didn’t have a lasting impact on the stock price,” Furlong added.

Delta was hit by a global computer outage that caused days of travel chaos, including about 2,000 flight cancellations last August.

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights following a system failure in July.

— Sarah Chiplin and Rishi Iyengar contributed reporting.

SCOTUS grapples with partisan gerrymandering

During a lull between elections, the Supreme Court is taking on a hot-button political issue that could change the way legislative lines are drawn across the country.

It’s called gerrymandering — a term that arises from a district shaped like a Salamander that was drawn during the 1810 term of Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry. Two hundred years later, legal experts are still divided on the racial and partisan considerations at issue.

Earlier this month, Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, tore up two congressional district maps in North Carolina, holding that they amounted to an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. “A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines,” she wrote referencing a 1993 court standard, “unless it has a compelling reason.”

The ruling was a victory for Democrats and civil rights groups who had challenged the North Carolina maps arguing that they unnecessarily packed African-Americans into two districts. This made it easier for African-Americans to re-elect incumbents to those two seats, but diluted their votes in surrounding areas.

But it’s the next step the Supreme Court takes that could really change the game. Here’s why:

The Supreme Court has a standard limiting overreliance on race in map-drawing except under the most limited circumstances. But it has never been successful in developing a test concerning a much thornier issue: partisan gerrymandering.

“The court has said that too much partisanship is illegal,” said Justin Levitt a Professor of Law at Loyola Law School. “But it hasn’t yet decided how much is too much.”

But that could soon change, and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote — as it is on so many other issues — could be key.

“For most Americans, it’s obvious that our elected officials shouldn’t be able to punish voters based on what party they prefer,” said Levitt. “A Supreme Court decision setting limits on drawing districts for partisan advantage would substantially change the way that local, state, and congressional districts are drawn after the next census.”

In most states, the maps are drawn after all by the party in power after each census, meaning neither party has a guarantee of controlling the districts indefinitely. But given US House districts generally survive for 10 years — or five elections — the impact on policy and government is substantial.

Levitt and others believe that the legislators in charge of drawing the maps have gone to new extremes impacting voters’ right to fair representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendment.

Upcoming cases

In the coming days and weeks the court will deal with two separate cases about partisan gerrymanders. The issue deeply divided them back in 2004 in a case called Vieth v. Jubelirer.

The conservatives on the court felt that the issue should be handled by the political branches. But Kennedy at the time was unwilling to bar all future claims of injury from partisan gerrymanders.

The court recognizes, for instance, that the map drawing process is political, and that there will always be a certain amount of partisan politics involved. After all, it is politicians drawing political lines.

As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in Vieth, “Political gerrymanders are not new to the American scene.” He even noted there were allegations that Patrick Henry attempted, unsuccessfully, to gerrymander James Madison out of the First Congress.

But, Scalia concluded, “no judicially discernible and manageable standards for adjudicating political gerrymandering claims have emerged.”

“The justices have struggled to figure out where to draw the line between acceptable partisan influence and an excessive influence that burdens the right to vote,” said Danielle Lang of the Campaign Legal Center.

“Essentially, the court has not yet settled on a rule to determine the ‘how much is too much’ question,” she said.

The ‘efficiency gap’

Lang’s group is behind one of the cases making its way to the court. She represents Wisconsin Democratic voters who are challenging district maps. Democrats claim that the maps discriminated against Democratic voters by diminishing the strength of their votes.

Last fall, a divided three-judge panel in Wisconsin held that the redistricting plan “was intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats.”

The court accepted the plaintiff’s standard based in part on the new work of political scientists who used voting data to calculate the amount of bias against one party or another in the maps.

The formula is called the Efficiency Gap.

“We proposed a standard that uses political science quantitative measures — a new standard that has never been presented to the courts before,” said Lang. “The court endorsed the use of those measures as evidence of the harmful effects of partisan gerrymandering.”

Wisconsin state Attorney General Brad Schimel blasted the ruling and the standard. “Our maps are lawful and constitutional under any standard,” he said in a statement.

Justices are also looking at another challenge to the North Carolina map that alleges an illegal partisan gerrymander.

A lower court denied a partisan gerrymander claim, but left the door open to future claims if plaintiffs did propose a standard. Supreme Court justices discussed the pending case behind closed doors last week.

Marc E. Elias, who served as the general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, is the lead lawyer in the case.

“Having been told last week that they can’t engage in illegal racial gerrymandering, republican legislators may now face a case in which they can’t illegally use partisanship,” Elias said in an interview.

“This will hopefully, finally, lead to truly fair redistricting throughout the country,” he said.

Memorial Day weather: Strong winds, hail forecast for Southeast

Georgia and the Carolinas are expected to get hit hard by severe storms on Monday, threatening barbecues and other outdoor events for the Memorial Day holiday.

Around 16 million in that Southeast swath are expected to get drenched or pummeled by strong storms, CNN Meteorologist Monica Garrett said.

Storms are forecast in Georgia and the Carolinas in the afternoon hours, with damaging winds and hail expected to be the main threat.

The Northeast will also be wet, Garrett said, with rain moving through the region in the morning but drying out later. There also will be isolated storms in the Mid-Atlantic on Monday, she said.

Residents in Missouri and Tennessee are still trying to recover from what hit them over the weekend.

2 dead, 1 missing in Missouri

Two bodies were recovered Sunday after a car carrying three people drove into water the day before. All three were from Nashville, Arkansas, visiting Branson, Missouri, in affiliation with the HoopsPlay Basketball Tournaments being held there, city officials said.

Rescue personnel are still searching for the driver of vehicle.

The popular tourist destination was deluged with 4 to 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours.

James Lucas Jr. was driving with his family on Fall Creek Road when they were suddenly caught in a flash flood.

“The creek had swollen out of its banks and was pushing stalled-out cars down the hill into me,” Lucas said.

“Four kids were screaming the whole time, watching people and cars floating by,” he said. “Kinda was really amazing because we all made it safe.”

At least 12 people were rescued from the rapid flooding.

Garrett said Branson will be sunny on Monday, with a chance of rain on Tuesday night.

Long-term power outages

Ferocious winds reached 69 mph in Memphis, CNN affiliate WMC reported Sunday. They were strong enough to topple a memorial at Tom Lee Park.

The storm cut electricity to more than 150,000 residents in the Memphis area — and some of them might not get power for a week, said Memphis Light, Gas and Water.

“Please begin to prepare for a long term outage situation. Make arrangements for elderly, young children,” the power company tweeted. “Full restoration could take at least a week.”

Garrett said storms are clearing now in Memphis where it “looks like a nice Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day weather: Strong winds, hail forecast for Southeast

Georgia and the Carolinas are expected to get hit hard by severe storms on Monday, threatening barbecues and other outdoor events for the Memorial Day holiday.

Around 16 million in that Southeast swath are expected to get drenched or pummeled by strong storms, CNN Meteorologist Monica Garrett said.

Storms are forecast in Georgia and the Carolinas in the afternoon hours, with damaging winds and hail expected to be the main threat.

The Northeast will also be wet, Garrett said, with rain moving through the region in the morning but drying out later. There also will be isolated storms in the Mid-Atlantic on Monday, she said.

Residents in Missouri and Tennessee are still trying to recover from what hit them over the weekend.

2 dead, 1 missing in Missouri

Two bodies were recovered Sunday after a car carrying three people drove into water the day before. All three were from Nashville, Arkansas, visiting Branson, Missouri, in affiliation with the HoopsPlay Basketball Tournaments being held there, city officials said.

Rescue personnel are still searching for the driver of vehicle.

The popular tourist destination was deluged with 4 to 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours.

James Lucas Jr. was driving with his family on Fall Creek Road when they were suddenly caught in a flash flood.

“The creek had swollen out of its banks and was pushing stalled-out cars down the hill into me,” Lucas said.

“Four kids were screaming the whole time, watching people and cars floating by,” he said. “Kinda was really amazing because we all made it safe.”

At least 12 people were rescued from the rapid flooding.

Garrett said Branson will be sunny on Monday, with a chance of rain on Tuesday night.

Long-term power outages

Ferocious winds reached 69 mph in Memphis, CNN affiliate WMC reported Sunday. They were strong enough to topple a memorial at Tom Lee Park.

The storm cut electricity to more than 150,000 residents in the Memphis area — and some of them might not get power for a week, said Memphis Light, Gas and Water.

“Please begin to prepare for a long term outage situation. Make arrangements for elderly, young children,” the power company tweeted. “Full restoration could take at least a week.”

Garrett said storms are clearing now in Memphis where it “looks like a nice Memorial Day.”

Man with rifle fires shots on Palmetto Expressway

A man was arrested Monday morning after he shot rounds a passing vehicles on the Palmetto Expressway. 

The man also fired rounds from a rifle at police, Miami-Dade police Director Juan Perez said. 

The incident, which police have called a “non-contact police shooting,” took place at about 1:15 a.m. near Northwest 58th Street. 

Police were able to apprehend the shooter. 

“A tragedy was averted,” Perez said in a tweet. 

The Palmetto Expressway’s southbound lanes were shut down near Northwest 58th Street as police investigated.

Stay with Local 10 and Local10.com for updates.

 

@MiamiDadePD risked their lives as they apprehended armed subject firing rifle at passing vehicles and police on SR826. Tragedy was averted

— Juan Perez (@JPerezinMia) May 29, 2017

Highest alert level issued after Alaskan volcano erupts

A volcanic eruption Sunday prompted the temporary raising of the highest aviation alert, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) said Sunday.

The event, which took place on Alaska’s Bogoslof Island, part of the Aleutian island chain, caused the issuance of a code “red” aviation alert, which was subsequently downgraded to “orange.”

The cloud from the eruption reached at least 35,000 ft., and possibly as high as 45,000 ft., the Observatory said.

“We actually went to color code red this afternoon because of numerous lightning detections and increased seismic signals,” Jeffrey Freymueller of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks tells CNN.

“Lightning in the Aleutians is mostly due to volcanic plumes, as the meteorological conditions for lightning are not common,” Freymueller said.

“The combination of lightning and seismic data allowed us to go to red within about half an hour of the start of the eruption.”

The eruption lasted for about 50 minutes, the AVO said.

Flight path concern

The volcano sits under the flight path of many flights from Asia to North America and its ash cloud could adversely affect aircraft. “Ash and aircraft do not mix, as volcanic ash is abrasive, melts at jet engine temperatures, and can cause engine failure,” according to the United States Geological Survey.

Aircraft are often instructed to fly around or over ash clouds, although in some circumstances air traffic has been grounded due to the hazards from airborne ash. In 2010 the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland caused the cancellation of flights around Europe for six days.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week said that flights were being rerouted around a similar ash cloud when the volcano previously erupted, according to CNN partner CBC.

‘Heightened state of unrest’

An image taken by AVO scientists around 14 minutes after the start of the eruption, from nearby Unalaska Island, showed a large white-gray mushroom cloud form over the site. Ash fallout was occurring to the west of the site, according to AVO.

Bogoslof volcano remains at a heightened state of unrest and in an unpredictable condition,” according to a report issued by the Observatory, which added that “additional explosions producing high-altitude volcanic clouds could occur at any time.”

It warns that continuing low-level activity could “pose a hazard in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.”

Previous volcanic activity earlier in 2017 “significantly changed the shape and coastline of the island” and the land mass tripled in size between early 2015 and January of this year.

There have been eight documented eruption events at Bogoslof, the most recent one in 1992. Previous eruption events have lasted weeks to months, according to the AVO. This current eruption sequence started in December, 2016.

Teen on Portland train: ‘They lost their lives because of me and my friend’

As tears streamed down her cheeks, Destinee Mangum, 16, thanked the three strangers who intervened on a Portland light rail after a man hurled anti-Muslim slurs at her and her friend who was wearing a hijab.

Two of the men were killed. One is in the hospital after the suspect, identified as Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, stabbed the three victims, according to police.

“I just want to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me,” Mangum told CNN affiliate KPTV, as her voice cracked. “Because they didn’t even know me and they lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we look.”

On Friday afternoon, Mangum and her friend were riding the MAX light rail when the suspect allegedly targeted them. He yelled at Mangum, who is not Muslim, and her friend, using what police described as “hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions.”

“He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country,” Mangum told KPTV. “He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should just kill ourselves.”

Frightened by his outburst, the pair moved away to the back of the train.

Then a stranger intervened, telling the man that he “can’t disrespect these young ladies like that.”

“Then they just all started arguing,” Mangum said.

By the time the light rail pulled into the next station, Mangum and her friends were ready to leave.

“Me and my friend were going to get off the MAX and then we turned around while they were fighting and he just started stabbing people,” she said.

“It was just blood everywhere and we just started running for our lives.”

Several passengers chased after the suspect and called 911, directing officers to his whereabouts, according to local media.

Mangum, wearing pigtails, held tightly to her mother’s hand as she spoke to a KPTV reporter.

“It’s haunting me,” she said.

Good Samaritans

The men who had intervened were viciously attacked, police said.

Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, died at the scene. The military veteran worked as a technician for the city of Portland and gravitated towards public service.

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Portland, died at the hospital. He had graduated from Portland’s Reed College with a degree in economics last year and had just begun his career working at an environmental consulting agency.

The third victim, Micah Fletcher, 21, is being treated at a hospital with serious injuries. A GoFundMe account to pay for his medical bills showed a picture of him on a hospital bed with the visible neck wound that read: “Thank you for all the support.”

Mangum’s mother, Dyjuana Hudson, said she owes everything to the three men and their grieving families.

“I want to say thank you so much,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine what you’re going through right now as far as losing someone.”

The suspect

Christian was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted murder, all felonies. The aggravated murder charge has the death penalty as a possible sentence.

He also was charged with misdemeanors: two counts of second-degree intimidation and a count of being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, police said.

Christian was being held at the county jail without bail, he will be arraigned on Tuesday in Multnomah County Court.

Police said detectives are looking at Christian’s background, “including the information publicly available about the suspect’s extremist ideology.”

Videos have surfaced showing Christian at various events shouting at people, at one point saying the N-word, as police officers separated him from others.

The FBI has joined the Portland police-led investigation to gather evidence.

Authorities are trying to determine whether Christian will be charged with federal hate crimes.

Teen’s family asks for privacy

After granting interviews to a few local media outlets, Hudson and her daughter posted a video on Facebook saying they were thankful to the victims and the community support, and asked for privacy.

“The best thing you guys can help us out with is just giving me and my family time to process everything and for me to cope with what happened and to actually heal from this and get over this somehow,” Mangum said.

“When the time comes, we will come forward,” her mother said. “But right now it’s all just too much to keep rehashing it over and over again.”

The other woman on the train hasn’t spoken out publicly.