TRUMP DENIES BEING BRIEFED ON RUSSIAN BOUNTIES ON U.S. TROOPS

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has denied that he had been briefed on reported U.S. intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan, and he appeared to minimize the allegations against Moscow.

The New York Times reports that American intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian officials offered rewards for successful attacks on American service-members last year, at a time when the U.S. and Taliban were holding talks to end the long-running war. A senior administration official said the White House planned to brief select members of Congress on the subject today.

Trump, in a tweet yesterday morning, said “Nobody briefed or told me” or Vice President Mike Pence or chief of staff Mark Meadows about “the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians.”

“Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us,” he said.

The White House had issued a statement Saturday denying that Trump or Pence had been briefed on such intelligence. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter.”

Trump’s director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, also said neither the president nor vice president was “ever briefed on any intelligence alleged” in the Times’ report and he said the White House statement was “accurate.”

MISSISSIPPI LAWMAKERS VOTE TO REMOVE CONFEDERATE EMBLEM FROM FLAG

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers have voted to surrender the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag more than a century after white supremacist legislators adopted the design a generation after the South lost the Civil War.

Spectators in the Capitol cheered and applauded after the votes yesterday in the House and Senate.

Each chamber had broad bipartisan support for the historic decision. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said he will sign the bill, and the state flag will lose its official status as soon as he does. That could happen in the next few days.

Mississippi has faced mounting pressure to change its flag during the past month amid international protests against racial injustice in the United States.

After the vote, legislators embraced each other. Even those on the opposite side of the issue also hugged as an emotional day of debate drew to a close.

A commission is to design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and that must have the words “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to approve the new design in the Nov. 3 election. If they reject it, the commission will set a different design using the same guidelines, and that would be sent to voters later.

Mississippi has a 38% Black population — and the last state flag that incorporates the emblem that’s widely seen as racist.

MINNEAPOLIS BEGINS EFFORT TO REVAMP POLICE DEPARTMENT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minneapolis police chief and mayor have began their push for sweeping policy changes with a new rule that prevents officers involved in using deadly force from reviewing body camera footage before completing an initial police report.

The new standards come after a proposal by the Minneapolis City Council to dismantle the police force following the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who is opposed to the abolishing the force, said the updated policies are designed to better capture officers’ perceptions and factors believed to exist when an officer acted. He and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo say the move is the first of what will be a series of new public safety policy reforms.

“Requiring officers who may become suspects to complete a police report before reviewing body cam footage will help ensure that investigators, attorneys, and jurors receive a transparent account of how an officer remembers the incident — one that hasn’t been influenced by other evidence,” Frey said in a statement.

Arradondo said the change would align with the rules for civilians, who are not allowed to watch body camera footage for an incident in which they may be potential suspects.

The framework of police departments across the country has been questioned after recent police killings. Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Police spokesman John Elder said he was told all four officers had their body cameras on, which is department policy, but it’s not clear if any of them have seen the footage. Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the Minneapolis police union, said last week that he had not seen video from the incident. Earl Gray, attorney for former officer Thomas Lane, said he has seen his client’s body camera video.

PRIDE DAY IN NEW YORK CITY

NEW YORK (AP) — There were protests, rainbow flags and performances — it was LGBTQ Pride, after all.

But what was normally an outpouring on the streets of New York City looked a little different this year, thanks to social distancing rules required by the coronavirus.

With the city’s massive Pride parade canceled, yesterday’s performances were virtual, the flags flew in emptier than normal spaces and the protesters were masked.

The disruption caused by the virus would be an aggravation in any year, but particularly in this one, the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march in New York City.

“It’s a great thing to see because the original Pride started with the civil rights movement,” Matthew Fischer said as he passed out hand sanitizer at Foley Square. “So we’re really going back to the roots of that and making sure we encompass everything that empowers people to be who they are.”

Fischer said it was important this year to show cooperation between the Black and LGBTQ communities, given the recent deaths of George Floyd and others that have sparked demonstrations against police brutality.

A number of people in the crowd at Foley Square held signs reading “All Black Lives Matter,” with a black fist surrounded by rainbow colors. Most wore masks, though some scrapped social distancing in favor of hugging friends. One man held a sign advertising free hugs.

The first Pride march, on June 28, 1970, was a marker of the Stonewall uprisings of the year before in New York City’s West Village that helped propel a global LGBTQ movement.

AUTHORITIES CONTINUE PROBE OF WEEKEND SHOOTING AT WALMART DISTRIBUTION CENTER IN CALIF.

RED BLUFF, Calif (AP) — A man who drove into a Walmart distribution center in Northern California and went on a shooting rampage that left him and another man dead, and four others wounded, was fired from his job at the center last year, authorities said.

Louis Wesley Lane, 31, was fired from the distribution center near Red Bluff in February 2019 after failing to show up for work, Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston told a news conference early yesterday.

The violence started Saturday afternoon when a man with a semi-automatic rifle circled the parking lot four times before crashing into the lobby of the building. Lane began shooting randomly into the building and in the parking lot area, where he engaged with Red Bluff police officers who were first to get to the scene.

Johnston said they exchanged 20 to 30 rounds before he was shot by police.

The employee who died was Martin Haro-Lozano, 45, of Orland, California. He was taken to the hospital by a sheriff’s deputy but later died, Johnston said. His relationship to the shooter was not immediately known.

Haro-Lozano was a 12-year employee who had family and friends working in the same facility, according John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S.

“We are shocked and heartbroken about the horrific event that occurred,” he said in a statement.

MAN ARRESTED, CHARGED WITH PULLING DOWN TEN COMMANDMENTS MONUMENT

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Police in northwestern Montana say a man was arrested on a felony criminal mischief charge after he pulled down a Ten Commandments monument using a chain and pickup truck.

The 30-year-old Columbia Falls man reportedly wrapped a chain around the religious monument on the Flathead County courthouse grounds on Saturday. He then attached the chain to his truck and pulled the monument into the street, the Kalispell Police Department told NBC Montana.

The man then reportedly removed the chain, got back into the truck and left the scene. A suspect was later arrested after police located the truck allegedly used in the act.

Police say they do not know why the suspect took down the monument.