A suspect has been identified, authorities say.
- USA TODAY
At least 13 people died after an SUV with 25 passengers collided with a semitruck full of gravel near the U.S.-Mexican border in California.
- The Telegraph
European Union coronavirus passports could be put at risk if member states continue to break away from the bloc’s vaccines strategy by buying Russian and Chinese vaccines, diplomats have warned. Brussels is set to propose legislation to create an EU-wide Digital Green Pass on March 17. The vaccine certificate will be the first step towards an eventual passport that could help save Europe’s summer season and would be open to tourists from the UK and other non-EU countries. But those hopes could be dashed because more and more countries are buying jabs outside of the EU joint procurement scheme and authorising vaccines at national level that have not been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). An EU diplomat told The Telegraph: “It doesn't bode well for a European vaccination certificate as a basis for travel. It will be impossible to certify for the patchwork of vaccines approved by different authorities outside the EU jurisdiction.” EU officials warned that the Digital Green Pass would not become the "tail that wags the dog" on vaccine approvals. They insisted that Brussels would only be guided by advice from the EMA and not cave to pressure to reopen in time for the summer season. The EU negotiated as a bloc to secure jabs but frustration has built with the strategy due to supply shortfalls and the slow pace of vaccine authorisations by the EMA. Restrictions on travel remain in place and the EU is lagging far behind the UK, US and Israel in vaccinations. Some 51 percent of Germans, 35 percent of French and 24 percent of Swedish respondents to a poll said the EU has handled the vaccine rollout badly, the Politico website reported today. “If the EMA is too slow the solution isn’t seeking outside approval but making sure the regulator reforms and speeds up its procedures,” the diplomat said. The European Commission said this week it hoped the pass would be a step towards an agreement with the World Health Organisation for passports to allow travel into the EU from outside the bloc. “If the WHO accepts Sputnik or the Chinese vaccines we might be in a different scenario but at the moment it is too early to tell,” a second EU diplomat said. EU rules allow member states to buy supplies of vaccines not covered by the joint scheme. National regulators can approve jabs not yet authorised by the EMA, which has not yet begun the approval process for the Russian or Chinese vaccines. Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia have bought or plan to buy Russian and Chinese jabs separately to the scheme run by Brussels and without waiting for approval by the EMA. Austria and Denmark said they would develop second generation vaccines with Israel separate to the EU scheme on Monday night. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far right League and former deputy prime minister, called on Italy to become the latest country to go it alone and buy their own vaccines outside of the EU scheme. "Denmark, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary have done well," he said on Tuesday. "If the Austrians are looking now to Israel, good for them. If San Marino is looking to Russia [for the Sputnik vaccine], good for them. We need to do likewise." There is no sign that the new Italian government, led by former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, will listen to Mr Salvini’s demands.
- The Daily Beast
GettyWhen Sen. Josh Hawley voiced his support late last year for giving millions of Americans $2,000 checks, he said he got a call from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ camp. What happened next was the formation of one of Capitol Hill’s stranger political odd couples, as the Trumpist Republican from Missouri and the Democratic Socialist from Vermont joined together to make a very public push for a shared priority.That partnership might have continued last week, with another Hawley announcement that put him in league with Sanders and other progressives: his support for requiring companies with revenues of $1 billion or more to pay their workers a $15 hourly minimum wage.But of course, something rather important happened since Hawley and Sanders first joined forces. The Missouri Republican was a lead endorser and amplifier of former President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories that he unfairly lost the 2020 election—theories that fueled the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6. In a now-infamous photograph, Hawley was pictured raising his fist in solidarity with those gathered outside the Capitol that morning. When the Senate convened after the mob was cleared, Hawley was the only senator to speak in favor of objecting to the Electoral College certification.So when Hawley floated his minimum wage plan on Friday, no apparent public or private efforts to collaborate with progressives followed. There was no sequel to the fight for $2,000 checks. Hawley told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he had not gotten a call from Sanders or any Democratic colleague about the proposal or spoken with any of them about it. Sanders, meanwhile, declined to say if he had even talked to Hawley, only saying in response to questions that Democrats had moved on from an effort to force companies to pay a $15 wage in their COVID bill. A source close to Sanders confirmed that the two men did not speak about the proposed amendment to require companies to pay a $15 minimum wage.Asked if Democrats wanted to work with him right now, Hawley said, “I don’t think they particularly want to work with anybody.”But that doesn’t appear to be so.Sen. Jon Ossoff—the Democrat from Georgia who won his race for Senate the same day Hawley encouraged the mob that attacked it—told The Daily Beast on Tuesday, “I’m not going to rule out working with any colleagues.” He said he’d be open to considering Hawley’s proposal, adding, “I’m encouraged that there is interest among Republican senators in taking action to increase wages.”Ever since Jan. 6, Democrats have contemplated how they could work again as normal with the over 150 congressional Republicans who voted to object to the 2020 election results and who spread conspiracies that President Joe Biden somehow did not win fairly. Relationships on typically chummy Capitol Hill have been strained, with flare-ups and personal attacks boiling over in committee hearings. Some Democratic lawmakers now keep lists of who they can work with and who they cannot, based on the votes that took place after the attack on Jan. 6.But Hawley’s case might be a unique test of the strained new atmosphere on Capitol Hill. To some Democrats, no other high-profile GOP lawmaker is more associated with the events of Jan. 6. Among many, particularly activists, Hawley is now firmly persona non grata—a contemptible figure who has fully earned himself a career as a pariah. “Josh Hawley has a lot to answer to,” said Joe Sanberg, a California businessman and advocate for raising the wage. “I don’t think he’s a relevant part of the conversation about the righteous fight for the minimum wage for 22 million people who earn less than $15 an hour.”But few, if any, occupy the space on the political spectrum that the freshman Republican has staked out—space that has situated Hawley to find, on occasion, common ground with progressives.In addition to the splashier $2,000 check campaign and the minimum wage proposal, Hawley has introduced legislation to require some colleges to pay off the debts of students who default on their loans and bills to rein in pharmaceutical prices. He has been an outspoken critic of Wall Street and corporate America, albeit from a conservative perspective, but in ways that found him occasionally hitting similar notes as some on the left.For many progressives who might be inclined to agree with some of Hawley’s proposals, wariness and skepticism about the ambitious senator’s populist overtures have prevailed. Many have noted that his brand of populism is animated by a nationalist, anti-immigration sentiment they find xenophobic or even racist; others simply don’t take his stances all too seriously.Show-Me State Tells Hawley to Show Himself Out, Poll Finds“I have always been immensely skeptical of it,” said Marshall Steinbaum, an economics professor at the University of Utah who focuses on inequality, labor, and antitrust issues. “It’s not a matter of making common cause with strange political bedfellows… I definitely take the view that having Hawley in some putative coalition discredits that coalition.”But other Democrats have welcomed the emergence of Republicans who could, potentially, help them advance the pro-worker economic policies they’ve been campaigning on for years. Clearly, Sanders previously believed that working with Hawley could help deliver direct relief to people hit hard by the pandemic. "We are working on bipartisan legislation," Sanders said in a speech from the Senate floor in December. "And Senator Hawley has done a very, very good job on this."Hawley, meanwhile, has been a vocal critic of the “radical left.” But when the partnership with Sanders emerged last year, he told reporters, “Hey, as I’ve said, I’ll work with anybody.”The senators’ efforts on stimulus checks prompted commentators to raise their eyebrows—at a “budding left-right populist alliance,” as The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent put it. Ultimately, the bill that passed on Dec. 26 fell far short of what the duo asked for, with direct checks of only $600, and a standalone floor vote on $2,000 checks they pushed for later was blocked by Senate GOP leadership. But that full amount will almost certainly come eventually, with the Democratic-controlled Congress slated to send out $1,400 direct payments as part of a new relief plan this month.The new round of relief was still an abstraction when Capitol Hill was ruptured on Jan. 6, the very day Democrats sealed the Senate majority. In the aftermath, seven Senate Democrats requested that the Senate Ethics Committee open an investigation to obtain a “complete account” of Hawley’s role, and that of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX), in the events of the day. Arguing that they had “lent legitimacy to the mob’s cause and made future violence more likely,” the senators said the body to determine whether the Republicans violated the rules and therefore merited punishment—including expulsion. Sanders was not on the letter.In response, Hawley accused the Democrats of trying to “cancel” him and filed his own complaint to the Ethics panel about their letter.The Missouri senator proceeded to play virtually no role in the shaping of the COVID relief plan that developed after Biden took office. Most Senate Democrats have avoided declaring they will never work with him again, but no one is rushing to work with him.Hawley has nevertheless tried to get a piece of the ongoing stimulus action, especially on the minimum wage, which has become a key focus of the current relief plan. In addition to proposing a requirement for “billion-dollar” companies to pay a $15 hourly wage, Hawley rolled out what he called the “Blue-Collar Bonus,” a tax credit intended to give employees of smaller companies a way to reach the $15 threshold, at government expense. Critics responded that the structure of his plan would give companies huge loopholes to avoid paying a fair wage.It also explicitly excludes non-citizens and undocumented workers—a nonstarter for Democrats, and a sign to progressives like Sanberg that it’s impossible to take any good in Hawley’s proposals without also taking on the bad. “He has terrible judgment. He’s always trying to move to where he thinks political winds are—when you’re moving with political winds without any moral center, it takes you right into hurricanes,” he said.But Pete d’Alessandro, a former top Sanders political adviser in Iowa, said sometimes there isn’t a choice. “Are you not gonna work with every single senator who thinks we still need to look into the election?” he told The Daily Beast. “Because there’s more than Hawley on that. If you buy into what Congress is supposed to do, if you draw these buckets, there’s not gonna be a lot of people to work with, at some point.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Associated Press
President Joe Biden took office promising to move quickly to restore and repair America’s relations with the rest of the world, but one major nation has yet to see any U.S. effort to improve ties: China. From Iran to Russia, Europe to Latin America, Biden has sought to cool tensions that rose during President Donald Trump’s four years in office. Although the Biden administration has halted the ferocious rhetorical attacks and near daily announcements of new sanctions on China that had become commonplace under Trump, it has yet to back down on any of Trump's actions against Beijing.
- Associated Press
Kevin Stefanski's first season as an NFL head coach was sublime, almost storybook. Stefanski, who was voted AP Coach of the Year for the Browns' turnaround in 2020, met with reporters Tuesday on Zoom for the first time since a day after the team's 22-17 divisional-round playoff loss at Kansas City. As is his style, Stefanski offered no juicy news nuggets about the Browns' offseason plans.
- The Independent
John Brennan says ‘there are so few Republicans in Congress who value truth, honesty, and integrity’
- Raleigh News and Observer
“I got away with things others were shot or arrested for,” the man said in a text message, according to court documents.
- Associated Press
Three women who worked for a local radio and TV station in eastern Afghanistan were gunned down Tuesday in separate attacks, the news editor of the privately owned station said. Shokrullah Pasoon, of Enikass Radio and TV in Jalalabad, said one of the women, Mursal Wahidi, was walking home when gunmen opened fire, according to eyewitnesses. Afghanistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media workers.
- The Daily Beast
Sergei Ilnitsky/APHe’s sent Wagner mercenaries to Ukraine, Syria, and Libya; faced U.S. indictments for assigning his “troll farm” to interfere in the 2016 presidential election; and even dispatched white supremacists and neo-Nazis to sow anti-Western sentiment in African nations. Now Yevgeny Prigozhin, the catering magnate commonly referred to as “Putin’s chef,” has trained his attention a little closer to Russia’s doorstep: Europe and the Baltic States.A joint investigation by The Daily Beast, the Dossier Center, German broadcaster ARD, Delfi.ee in Estonia, and Siena.lt in Lithuania reveals that operatives closely associated with the Russian oligarch’s previously exposed influence operations organized a two-day conference in Berlin from Jan. 14-15 pegged to economic and environmental issues affecting Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Germany.The Baltic Sea Region Strategic Dialogue was the first of what is meant to be a series of so-called “foresight sessions” to “create a new vision of the post-pandemic future” for the aforementioned countries, with an ostensible focus on COVID-19, Brexit, environmental sustainability, e-governance, and digital technology. Participants included Rihards Kols, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee of Latvia’s parliament, as well as several members of the German Bundestag including Stefan Keuter, a member of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party.The event was organized by two organizations, both of them closely connected to the Association for Free Research and International Cooperation, or AFRIC.As The Daily Beast reported, AFRIC is run by Prigozhin’s St. Petersburg-based organization. According to internal documents obtained by the Dossier Center, AFRIC was conceived as a “network of agents of influence” meant to provide “expert evaluations and opinions beneficial to Russia” in Africa. Founded in 2018, AFRIC sent “election observers”—many of them well-known white supremacists and neo-Nazis from Europe—to try to sway democratic races in Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa, in races in which other arms of Prigozhin’s vast empire often supported one or more of the candidates.Russia Is Using Undercover Racists to Exploit Africa’s Anti-Racist Political RevoltLast week, the FBI announced that Prigozhin had been added to its Most Wanted list for his alleged “conspiracy to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Department of State” from 2014 to 2018. A $250,000 award was posted for any information leading to his arrest.As with most of Prigozhin’s foreign influence operations, this one consists of a series of nesting doll structures registered outside of Russian Federation territory and helmed, at least on paper, by non-Russians. The same cast of characters recurs, both at the hierarchical level of these operations and among the Western political figures they aim to cultivate.For instance, one of the organizers of the conference was ADMIS Consultancy, a company founded and operated by Vaiva Adomaityte, a Lithuanian national who is also a member of AFRIC’s administration. An occupational psychologist and self-described “global change expert,” Adomaityte has participated in at least one of AFRIC’s three conferences in Berlin, co-authored its “Africa Vision” report, and has been an AFRIC representative at the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in 2019. She is also a confidante and associate of Yulia Afanasyeva, the Prigozhin operative who established AFRIC in 2018 out of the oligarch’s “back office” in St. Petersburg, as leaked documents obtained by the Dossier Center demonstrate.Adomaityte previously edited a questionnaire written by Afanasyeva for AFRIC’s similarly named “foresight session” in Berlin in 2019. She also wrote to the Hilton Hotel complaining about substandard accommodations and to settle AFRIC’s billing dispute with the management. Adomaityte even updated her résumé to account for her work on behalf of AFRIC. In one awkwardly worded letter dated March 3, 2020, she wrote to Afanasyeva in English, “Shall I start calling you my God Mother I wonder... sounds much ore badass then God Father.”AFRIC-related events, in fact, appear to be the only ones with which Adomaityte’s ADMIS Consultancy has ever worked. Afanasyeva even hired and paid for a Russian social media expert to work on ADMIS Consultancy’s social media pages, as per the correspondence obtained by the Dossier Center. The Baltic Sea event in January took place in the same Hilton Hotel in Berlin as previous AFRIC conferences. One of the earlier events was presided over by Aleksandr Malkevich, a top Prigozhin operative who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2018 for running a subsidiary company working on behalf of the oligarch’s Project Lakhta, a global political and election interference operation. Malkevich, according to the Treasury Department, ran a company called USA Really, which “engaged in efforts to post content focused on divisive political issues but is generally ridden with inaccuracies. In June 2018, USA Really attempted to hold a political rally in the United States, though its efforts were unsuccessful.”Still another co-organizer of the Baltic Sea conference was the Federal Association for Economic Development and Foreign Trade in Germany, better known by its acronym BWA. BWA and ADMIS consultancy co-hosted AFRIC’s last event in Berlin, an online conference on global consequences of COVID-19 in June 2020.BWA is headed by Michael Schumann, a German business consultant specializing in China. Under Schumann’s leadership, BWA has developed partnerships with a series of Russian outfits in Germany including the Association of Russian Businesses and the Dialogue of Civilizations think tank, which was founded in 2016 by Vladimir Yakunin, a former KGB officer and close confidant of Vladimir Putin. Yakunin was the vice president of Russia’s state rail monopoly until 2015, a year after he was sanctioned by the United States for his alleged involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So far he has evaded EU sanctions.Two other BWA members, Volker Tschapke and Urs Unkauf, acted as AFRIC election observers in Madagascar, DRC, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the past few years. Tschapke and Unkauf were also present at AFRIC’s second and third conferences in Berlin, in July 2019 and January 2020, respectively. Yulia Afanasyeva, Prigozhin’s St. Petersburg-based operative, is also a member of BWA. Misha Japaridze/AP Afanasyeva did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on this story.Adomaityte said in a Zoom interview that she had no information about Afanasyeva’s involvement in the Baltic Sea conference and that she “felt uncomfortable” talking about AFRIC. She claimed that she was directly hired by BWA in Germany. “We did [earlier] work together with BWA with the AFRIC institution,” she said. “So that was the direct link. However, I was directly requested by the BWA to conduct the research study for the Baltic Sea region.”This account, however, is contradicted by documents obtained by the Dossier Center indicating that not only was Afanasyeva actively involved in organizing the Baltic Sea event, which she attended virtually, but she was in constant communication with Adomaityte about it. Afanasyeva was included in a back-and-forth exchange setting up the venue in the Berlin Hilton; Adomaityte further kept the Russian abreast of how everything had gone.“When we look at the backgrounds [of the people involved], the connection to Prigozhin is clearly visible,” said Indrek Kannik, the former head of analysis of Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence and now the director of the International Centre for Defence and Security in Tallinn. He said the Baltic intelligence services likely follow such influence operations closely.According to a person with direct knowledge of how the Baltic Sea conference was organized, Afanasyeva gave a direct order not to touch on matters of international security and instead focus on economics and ecology. That, too, Kannik said, is textbook tradecraft for the early stages of any successful influence operation.“It is noteworthy that they started with politically uncontroversial topics such as the green deal,” Kannik told The Daily Beast. “They start ‘soft’ and only when they gain some public trustworthiness and a moderately positive image, they take on more relevant topics for the Kremlin such as security, criticism of the Baltic states, Russia’s talking points about dialogue between Europe and Russia, not to mention everything else to do with Crimea and Ukraine.”Another classic tradecraft technique employed by the conferences was employing unwitting foreigners to make the events appear legitimate, in this case by producing ancillary literature. A “strategy recommendation” report, released subsequent to the Berlin conference and branded as an ADMIS Consultancy product, was written by unsuspecting freelancers hired over the internet, The Daily Beast has confirmed. In September, U.S. news outlets reported that Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency, or “troll farm,” had set up two fake news websites—one catering to the far right, the other to the far left—which hired unwitting American writers to contribute. Even the avatars of the putative editors of these sites were bogus, their faces generated with AI software. The goal was clearly to launder disinformation and propaganda through native participants, whose worldviews intersect with Kremlin interests.The danger with bricks-and-mortar operations like the conferences is that they’re liable to snare respectable and credible participants who are fixtures at similarly themed events. And the participants don’t necessarily have to be influenced or persuaded by Russia propaganda; their mere presence is itself an operational success. Having, say, a government minister from an EU or NATO country photographed alongside a Prigozhin operative is a great way to signal back to Moscow that these exercises pay off.In October 2014, months after Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea, the psychological warfare of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, orchestrated an entire security conference in Athens using cut-outs and front groups including a local Greek think tank and a Russian institute purportedly devoted to Russian diaspora issues. According to Estonia’s foreign intelligence service, an officer from GRU Unit 54777 even participated in a panel discussion next to Panos Kammenos, a Moscow-friendly Greek politician who subsequently became Greece’s defense minister.One of the people invited to give a presentation at the Baltic Sea event was Mihkel Krusberg, an Estonian official from the Ministry of Environment. He received a personal invitation from Adomaityte a little over two weeks ahead of the conference. Because Krusberg is frequently asked to attend such forums and the other publicly named guests appeared legitimate, Krusberg told The Daily Beast he didn’t see any red flags in the offer. “Had I known about the background of the organizers, I would have politely turned down their invitation,” he said.The Baltic Sea Region Strategic Dialogue was not envisaged as a one-off affair. The same group of organizers is already planning a follow-up conference to focus on the relationship between the Baltic and Nordic countries. According to Adomaityte, it’s scheduled to take place online in late March. “However we are really hoping to have a physical conference in the summer,” she said.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Yahoo News
President Biden said Tuesday that he had accepted a request from Neera Tanden to withdraw her nomination for a Cabient position, the first such defeat of his administration.
- The Week
Manhattan DA investigators are reportedly focusing on the Trump Organization's chief financial officer
Investigators with the Manhattan District Attorney's office are taking a closer look at Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, as they continue a probe into former President Donald Trump and his family business, people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times. They are investigating potential financial fraud, and whether Trump and the Trump Organization manipulated property values in order to receive loans and reduce property taxes, the Times reports. Weisselberg, 73, has worked for the Trump Organization for decades, starting at the company when it was helmed by Fred Trump, the former president's father. Two people familiar with the matter said prosecutors have been asking witnesses about Weisselberg, and spoke with one person about Weisselberg's sons — Barry, the property manager of Trump Wollman Rink in Central Park, and Jack, who works at Ladder Capital, one of Trump's lenders. None of the Weisselbergs have been accused of wrongdoing, and there is no indication Barry and Jack are a focus of the probe, the Times says. The investigation began more than two years ago, with the district attorney looking into hush money payments made to two women who said they had affairs with Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, arranged the payments, and pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges. He testified before Congress that Weisselberg came up with a strategy to hide the fact that the Trump Organization was reimbursing Cohen for making payments to one of the women, pornographic actress Stormy Daniels. Trump has called the investigation "a witch hunt." More stories from theweek.comThe biggest jazz star you've never heard of7 scathingly funny cartoons about Trump's CPAC appearanceArizona GOP lawyer tells Supreme Court the party needs certain voting restrictions to compete with Democrats
- LA Times
When the 'Punky Brewster' star embarked on a new documentary, she found that confronting her past, including surviving sexual assault, was the only way forward.
- Yahoo News
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday addressed the multiple allegations of sexual harassment made against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying the Biden administration supports an investigation of him and believes the three women making the accusations should be heard.
- USA TODAY
The case could have a wide impact if the high court sets a new standard for deciding when election laws are discriminatory.
- Associated Press
An Israeli-owned cargo ship that suffered a mysterious explosion last week has left Dubai’s port and was transiting the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday, satellite tracking data showed. The giant MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship, was sailing along the Omani coast toward the Arabian Sea, according to satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com, days after docking in Dubai for repairs.
- Business Insider
Crew and guests over 16 years old on the cruise line's new Odyssey of the Seas' trips from Israel must be vaccinated against the virus.
- Business Insider
Rep. Adam Kinzinger tore into Sen. Josh Hawley for his 'smug' CPAC speech, saying 5 people died because of 'what you did'
"Like, there are five people dead, two that took their own life on top of that, as a result of what you did," Kinzinger said of Hawley.
Turkey has stopped insulting France and the European Union, providing some reassurance, but ties will remain fragile until it takes concrete action, France's foreign minister said. Ankara has repeatedly traded barbs with Paris over its policies on Syria, Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and other issues, but the NATO members said in February they were working on a road map to normalise relations.
- The Daily Beast
Ben Birchall/WPA Pool/GettyMeghan Markle has denied detailed accusations of “bullying” her former Buckingham Palace staff and accused opponents of conducting a “calculated smear campaign” in advance of her much-hyped CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey this Sunday.If Meghan and Prince Harry had anticipated an open field to criticize the royal family and/or air various grievances, certain Buckingham Palace sources seem determined to torpedo their ambitions prior to Sunday night.Harry and Meghan Are Begged to Delay Oprah Broadcast While Prince Philip Is Gravely IllRoyal aides told The Times of London that Meghan was the subject of an official bullying complaint made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, Meghan and Harry’s former communications secretary. The Times reported that the complaint detailed how Meghan allegedly “drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member.” Prince Harry asked Knauf not to pursue the complaint, a source told the paper.“Staff would on occasion be reduced to tears” because of the duchess, The Times reported. One aide, anticipating a confrontation with Meghan, told a colleague: “I can’t stop shaking.” Another aide claimed it felt “more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying.”Knauf, in an email to Simon Case, then the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary, said the palace’s head of HR, Samantha Carruthers, “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious.” He added: “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”Knauf, who is now chief executive of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Royal Foundation, said in his email: “I am very concerned that the Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X was totally unacceptable… The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying Y and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behavior towards Y.”Sympathetic sources around Harry and Meghan relayed their frustration and hurt with the attitudes of palace officials in Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family.However, palace sources told The Times that the bullying allegations had not been investigated by the palace and that officials had made Meghan more “welcome” than the couple’s supporters have long claimed. One source said of the bullying complaint: “I think the problem is, not much happened with it. It was, ‘How can we make this go away?,’ rather than addressing it.”Another source told The Times: “Senior people in the household, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, knew that they had a situation where members of staff, particularly young women, were being bullied to the point of tears. The institution just protected Meghan constantly. All the men in grey suits who she hates have a lot to answer for, because they did absolutely nothing to protect people.”The paper said the sources were speaking out now in advance of Meghan’s Sunday night interview to give their view of Harry and Meghan’s royal life, presumably anticipating that it may be very different from what the couple may relay to Winfrey. The broadcast of the interview—the result of a reported two years’ worth of planning by Meghan and Winfrey—is being criticized as ill-timed given the illness and hospitalization of Prince Philip.Buckingham Palace declined to comment to The Times.The paper also details how Meghan wore earrings to a formal dinner in 2018 that were a wedding gift from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA concluded last week had ordered the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The dinner took place three weeks after Khashoggi was killed. At the time Meghan said the earrings were borrowed. “The duchess does not deny this was what she said, despite being aware of their provenance,” The Times reported.In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for the Sussexes said of the various allegations: “Let’s just call this what it is—a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation. We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet. It’s no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years.“In a detailed legal letter of rebuttal to The Times, we have addressed these defamatory claims in full, including spurious allegations regarding the use of gifts loaned to The Duchess by The Crown. The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma. She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Associated Press
At least 10 rockets targeted a military base in western Iraq that hosts U.S.-led coalition troops on Wednesday, the coalition and the Iraqi military said. The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province at 7:20 a.m., coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said. The Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets.