WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon’s second appearance before a House panel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election has been postponed as the lawyer for President Donald Trump’s former adviser works out details with the White House, a person familiar with the matter said.

Bannon’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee had been scheduled for Jan. 31, according to Rep. Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican who leads the panel’s Russia probe. A new date hasn’t been set, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bannon’s last appearance before the committee on Jan. 17 was interrupted several times so that his lawyer, William Burck, could call the White House to ask whether he could answer certain questions in anticipation that Trump might later assert executive privilege over their conversations, another person said. Bannon’s choice to honor the White House’s requests sparked a battle over the reach and limits of the privilege.

After the appearance, the House panel quickly issued a subpoena for Bannon’s testimony and asked him to return to answer questions about matters during the presidential transition and his time at the White House.

—Bloomberg News


In a reversal, Pentagon releases data showing growing insurgency in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — In an abrupt about face, the U.S. military released data Tuesday showing insurgents in Afghanistan are growing stronger after a Pentagon auditing office complained it had been prohibited from releasing the unclassified statistics.

Even after 16 years of war, only about 56 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are under control of the central government in Kabul. Another 30 percent are contested and 14 percent are under insurgent control, the Pentagon data showed.

In addition, an estimated 60 percent of the Afghan population is under central government control, down from 65 percent last February.

The data were released after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a Pentagon auditing office known as SIGAR, complained in a report that the U.S. military command in Kabul had called the metrics “not releasable to the public,” even though they are unclassified.

“This is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked ‘unclassified’ to the American taxpayer,” John F. Sopko, head of the auditing organization, said in a cover letter to the report.

Navy Capt. Thomas Gresback, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, said it had been a mistake to restrict the data, one of the last publicly available metrics for evaluating progress in America’s longest war.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


3 dead after helicopter crashes into California home

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Three people were killed and two injured after a helicopter crashed into a Newport Beach home Tuesday, authorities said.

The five people involved in the crash included four people onboard and one pedestrian, said Newport Beach Police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella. It’s unclear who among them was killed and who was injured.

The two people who were injured were taken to a trauma center for treatment.

Newport Beach police and the Orange County Fire Authority responded to the single-family home on Shearwater Place in the Bayview Terrace community just before 2:20 p.m., authorities said.

The coroner’s office was at the scene.

Eric Spitzer, of Spitzer Helicopter Leasing in Woodland Hills, said he owns the R44 helicopter that crashed.

“I really don’t know much yet,” Spitzer said via email.

Federal Aviation Administration records show that the helicopter was registered to Spitzer Helicopter LLC in Canyon Lake in Riverside County.

It was manufactured in 2003 by the Robinson Helicopter Co., based in Torrance. The family-owned company’s two-seat R22 and four-seat R44 are among the most popular civilian helicopters in the world.

Lightweight and relatively affordable, they are a top choice for flight schools, police departments, sightseeing companies, ranchers and recreational pilots.

—Los Angeles Times


RNC is said to weigh Todd Ricketts as finance chair after Steve Wynn’s resignation

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee is considering Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts to succeed Steve Wynn as the party’s top fundraiser, according to three people with knowledge of the party’s deliberations.

Ricketts is high on a short list of candidates to replace Wynn, said two of the people, all of whom asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak on behalf of the party. The casino magnate resigned Saturday after reports that he had engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment.

Ricketts, who was President Donald Trump’s first pick to be deputy Commerce secretary, withdrew his nomination in April saying he couldn’t unwind his financial holdings to the satisfaction of the Office of Government Ethics. He was also a finalist last year to lead The Heritage Foundation, the conservative Washington think tank.

—Bloomberg News


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