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Report: Jared Kushner a focus of Russia probe

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 7:26 PM
Updated: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 8:05 PM

(Photo by Brooks Kraft/ Getty Images)
Brooks Kraft/Getty Images

UPDATE May 26, 8:00 p.m. The Washington Post reported Friday that in December Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak told his superiors that Kushner discussed setting a up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin.

Kushner, according to the report, asked Kislyak about using Russia’s diplomatic facilities to prevent monitoring of the discussions. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, also attended the meeting, which was not under U.S. surveillance, according to officials.

The White House disclosed the meeting in March, but people familiar with the matter told The Post the meeting is of investigative interest.

The White House has not returned requests for comment, nor has the Russian Embassy or a lawyer for Flynn.


Is Jared Kushner, the senior White House official, a person of interest in the investigation into ties between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign?

Thursday, The Post reported that Jared Kushner is under investigation “because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians,” citing unnamed people familiar with the investigation.

>> Read more trending news 

Investigators are looking specifically at meetings held by Kushner, who is also the president’s son-in-law as well as an adviser, as part of their investigation into Russia’s pull in the 2016 election, The Post reported.

Kushner has said that he will cooperate with the federal investigators, The Associated Press reported.

In a statement released by attorney Jamie Gorelick, “Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

>> RELATED: Who are the key players in the Russia/Trump saga?

The FBI and the Congressional oversight committee, in addition to other Congressional panels, are looking into what role, if any, Russia had in the 2016 presidential election.

The Post and the AP said that the investigation does not mean that Kushner himself is a suspect of a crime.

Last week, The Washington Post has reported that Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are current Trump administration officials who have acknowledged contact with Russian officials, according to the report.

The source was not named, but was described as someone close to Trump in the story that was originally released minutes after Trump and his advisors departed for his first overseas trip as president.

Stuffed cow prevents serious injuries for 2-year-old boy who fell from window

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 11:00 AM

Less than 24 hours after plunging 16 feet out of a second story window, Eduardo Jose Luis Gomez arrived home Thursday from the hospital in good health and good spirits.

The 2-year-old was carried upstairs by his mother, who then snapped photos of her son’s reunion with the stuffed cow credited with saving his life.

"It’s just a miracle it’s a miracle,” neighbor Julia Sandoval said.

>> Read more trending news

Eduardo’s family is convinced it’s divine intervention. Several neighbors who watched the little boy as he was taken away on a stretcher while wearing a neck brace Wednesday night seem to agree.

"That was god that was with the baby,” neighbor Teresa Vega said.

Police said Eduardo’s mother was out shopping when he fell out this window. His adult cousin and uncle were in the other room of the apartment as he and his 12-year-old sister bounced around on a bed.

The sister told investigators her little brother was clenching onto the stuffed cow when he somehow bounced right out the window.

Police believe the toddler would’ve landed directly on the concrete, but somehow his favorite stuffed animal broke the fall.

"I was thinking the worst I was thinking the baby wasn't going to make it,” Vega said.

His family said Eduardo only has bumps, bruises and a sprained ankle. He was kept overnight at Mass. General Hospital for observation before returning and giving this neighborhood a glimpse of an incredible outcome that some say defies explanation.

A family friend told Boston25News.com that Eduardo carries the stuffed cow around with him everywhere and will likely continuing doing so for the foreseeable future.

5-year-old befriends neighbor while father is deployed overseas

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 10:32 AM

Annie Otzen/Getty Images

When Brian Kelly’s father deployed overseas with the Air Force in May, he bonded with neighbor Dean Cravens over yard work, an activity he enjoyed doing with his dad, and the two have been inseparable ever since.

>> Read more trending news

Brian became friends with Craven when the family moved to Belleville, Illinois, last July, but the friendship continued to grow and develop after his father was deployed, Brian’s mother, Barbara Kelly, told ABC News.

“He loves John Deere,” she said. “He gave his dad a John Deere shirt before he deployed because he loves lawn care. He told me, ‘Let Brian know I’m wearing my John Deere shirt,’ and I told him, and he just smiled.”

>> Related: 7-year-old girl travels country on 'tour' to hug police officers

After Brian’s father left, Cravens, a father of three girls, said the little boy would come over and ask if he could come out and play.

“Originally he’d ask to do more yard work, and I thought, ‘Well, let’s do other things too,’ so we play catch, we’ll be shooting the ball, working on my golf swing,” he said. “I appreciate it a lot. I love kids and being with them.”

Kelly said the family doesn’t have any communication with Brian’s father while he’s overseas, but she thinks he would be grateful for Cravens’ presence in his son’s life.

“Brian knows that no one is going to replace his father,” she said. “The bond between a father and son, it’s just unbreakable. When Dan gets back, Brian’s going to cry and run to him with open arms.”

Televangelist indicted after television investigation

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 7:49 AM

via WSOCTV.com

A televangelist and so-called “prosperity preacher” with ties to Charlotte has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Pastor Todd Coontz is accused of failing to pay taxes and filing false tax returns, as well as hiding assets that were paid for by donations. The U.S. attorney said, “This is a classic example of, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’”

>> Read more trending news

WSOCTV.com reporter Jim Bradley began investigating Coontz nearly five years ago.

As a cable TV evangelist, Coontz promised financial miracles for people who sent money to his ministry.

“You need to plant the $273 recovery seed. I’m only going to give you two to three minutes to respond,” Coontz once told his viewers.

Coontz posted videos on Twitter as recently as Wednesday, promising financial blessings to the faithful.

“Suddenly miracles are happening. I want to work with your faith for quick things, swift things,” Coontz said in the video.

In February 2013, a Channel 9 investigation revealed some of Coontz’s own “blessings,” which included a $1.38 million condo at a building on the corner of Providence and Sharon Amity roads. In the garage of that building was his Ferrari and his Maserati.

A federal criminal indictment on Thursday pointed to those exact same assets in WSOCTV’s investigation.

The condo was purchased by Coontz’s Rockwealth Ministries as "parsonage" for him, according to the indictment. The court documents said the cars were also titled in the name of the ministry.

The U.S. Secret Service started looking into Coontz and Rockwealth Ministries as a result of the WSOCTV investigation.

The indictment revealed delinquent tax returns from as far back as 2000. From 2010-2013, Coontz owed more than $326,000 in taxes.

Investigators said he also hid his income from the Internal Revenue Service by cashing checks he received from churches and ministries for travel and speaking engagements and then claiming that same travel as business expenses.

The indictment also revealed he used business funds to pay for personal expenses, such as more than $227,000 for clothes, $140,000 at restaurants and more than 400 charges at movie theaters.

Coontz's defense attorney, Mark Foster, said the indictment makes allegations but isn't proof.

“He's otherwise is a good man,” Foster said. “He's tried to do the right thing all his life and he has no criminal record. We're going to fight this out.”

Foster said Coontz trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS. 

Coontz has been ordered to appear in federal court in Charlotte. 

Statement from Coontz’s attorney:

"William Todd Coontz has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Charlotte on several criminal tax charges. Coontz unequivocally asserts his innocence of these charges. 

A grand jury is tasked only with determining whether there is probable cause to believe that a defendant has committed a federal crime. The government presents its evidence to the grand jury in secret and the defense cannot be present. Thus, the grand jury’s indictment of Coontz is not a determination of guilt -- it is merely a preliminary finding that is necessary before the federal government can prosecute someone. 

The government has chosen to make a statement to the press about Mr. Coontz’s indictment. It must be remembered that Todd Coontz is presumed innocent. Todd Coontz has retained veteran federal criminal defense attorney Mark Foster to represent him in this case and will vigorously defend himself against these charges. Todd Coontz has always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father and minister. He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS.

We expect that after hearing all the evidence, a jury will fully vindicate Mr. Coontz by finding him not guilty of all charges. 

- Mark Foster, Attorney at Law"

Train blocks road; people climb train to get through

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 8:37 AM

People were seen climbing through a train that blocked access to and from their neighborhood.
via ActionNewsJax

Motorists told Action News Jax that a train blocked traffic for more than two hours at Roosevelt Boulevard and Ortega Hills Drive on Thursday evening.

>> Read more trending news 

Neighbors told Action News Jax that the blockage affected Ortega Village Apartments, as there are only two ways in and out of the neighborhood, and the train blocked both of them. 

One viewer sent Action News Jax video of a woman climbing over the space between stopped train cars.

That same viewer sent Action News Jax video of a man lifting a child over the space between stopped train cars, and a woman who was with that child climbing over the space as well.

Action News Jax called CSX to find out why the train was blocking the road. They said the delay was caused because the train was waiting for another train to pass. They also said the delay was due to people climbing through the train and trespassing.

Neighbors said they're used to train delays, but this backup was much too long. For some people, like Lisa Jones, the delay was much more than an inconvenience. Jones has stage 3 breast cancer and was due to get radiation at UF Health.

"I missed my radiation treatment, I missed meeting the doctors with my mom because of CSX. I waited that 45 minutes, told my radiation people, 'OK, I'm gonna be late,' that went by," Jones said.

Miriam Byrd, who lives in the Ortega Village Apartments, said a train has blocked her neighborhood at least three times in the last two months. She said eventually there's going to be an emergency with no way in or out.

"It's not fair to the residents that live back here, cause elderly people live in the neighborhood and what if something happened? No authorities could get back here," Byrd said.

We asked the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office if it made any arrests for trespassing for people who climbed over the train and we have not yet heard back.