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Rapper talks mental illness, ‘the universe’ in Trump meeting

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Rapper Kanye West, in an Oval Office meeting Thursday with President Donald Trump, delivered a rambling speech about his mental health, his family, his business, “the universe” and his fondness for the president.

Sporting a red “Make America Great Again” cap, West said, “They try to scare me into not wearing this hat.”

“This hat gives me power in a way,” he said, later comparing it to a “Superman cape.”

West, who was at the White House for a lunch meeting on criminal justice, gang violence prevention and other topics, gave extended remarks that lasted nearly 10 minutes, in front of rolling cameras and a trove of reporters.

He was seated alongside former NFL star Jim Brown, who was also there to discuss prison reform.

West spoke of his family, noting that “my dad and my mom separated so I did not have a lot of male energy in my home and also I married into a family where, you know, there’s not a lot of male energy. It’s beautiful though.”

He also disclosed that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but that he felt it was a “misdiagnosis” and that he was simply sleep-deprived.

Over the course of his sprawling speech of loosely connected ideas, West also talked about the Thirteenth Amendment, his business partnership with Adidas, and whether he would ever run for president.

To that, West said, “Let’s stop worrying about the future, all we have is today.” The president, he added, “is on his hero’s journey.”

At other points, however, West touched on issues of race and criminal justice, including policing and other social issues.

He said that controversial “stop-and-frisk” policing used in Chicago “does not help relationships” in the city, and seemed to criticize welfare. He also encouraged schools to implement mental health and art programs for children and said violence on the streets is a product of illegal guns, not legal guns.

Following the statement by West, Trump said, “I tell you what, that was pretty impressive.”

“That was quite something,” Trump said.

West then said, “It was from the soul. I just channeled it.”

West has repeatedly expressed support for Trump during his presidency, drawing backlash as a result. West has said that he didn’t vote in 2016, but if he had, he would have voted for Trump, and he met with Trump during his presidential transition.

Last month, West sported a “Make America Great Again” hat as he delivered an off-air politically themed rant to an uncomfortable audience after the taping of the Sept. 29 season premiere of “Saturday Night Live,” which airs on NBC.

During the speech, West defended Trump and claimed to be his “real” self, boasting that he had not taken what many presumed to be his psychiatric medication.

In May, Trump met with West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, about criminal sentencing reform. During the meeting, Kardashian West pushed Trump to commute the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a first-time offender who was sentenced to life in prison in Tennessee in 1996 for her involvement in a drug conspiracy. The president commuted her sentence in June.

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Doubling down, Trump calls congressman who body-slammed reporter a ‘tough cookie’

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TEMPE, Ariz. — President Donald Trump on Friday redoubled his praise for a Montana congressman’s assault on a reporter during the lawmaker’s campaign for Congress last year.

“Greg is a tremendous guy, tough cookie,” Trump said of Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., who was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management counseling and a $385 fine after he pleaded guilty to attacking Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian.

On Thursday night, at a campaign rally in Missoula, Mont., Trump lauded Gianforte to a cheering crowd.

“Never wrestle him,” Trump said Thursday night. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my guy.”

He reiterated his admiration for Gianforte Friday at a signing ceremony for a presidential memorandum instructing members of his Cabinet to remove impediments to major water projects, including streamlining the environmental review process — a boon to farmers and a loss for environmentalists in Western water wars.

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Paul Manafort shows up to court in a wheelchair, learns sentencing date

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Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was rolled into a Virginia federal court Friday in a wheelchair, wearing a green prison uniform instead of his signature tailored suit.

The judge scheduled Manafort to be sentenced Feb. 8 for eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud and dismissed the remaining charges against him.

Manafort, appearing visibly grayer, was pushed into court in a wheelchair, missing his right shoe.

“There are significant issues with Mr. Manafort’s health concerning confinement,” his lawyer, Kevin Downing, told the judge.

Downing requested that the court expedite Manafort’s sentencing so he could be moved to a facility better equipped to deal with his health issues.

A jury in Alexandria convicted Manafort on eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud counts in August, but were unable to reach a verdict on 10 additional counts, leaving Mueller’s prosecutors to decide whether to retry him. The new ruling no longer gives them that option.

In September, Manafort took a plea deal based on separate charges filed by the Mueller team in Washington, agreeing to cooperate with investigators. Court filings in that case indicated that the prosecutors would seek to delay Manafort’s sentence in the Virginia case until they were satisfied that he had answered all their questions as part of his cooperation agreement.

Both cases against Manafort involved his political consulting for the Russian-backed government of Ukraine and its former president, Viktor Yanukovych, well before Manafort served briefly as Trump’s campaign chairman. Manafort was found guilty of intentionally dodging taxes on the millions he was paid for the work, by stashing it in overseas banks and using it to indulge his expensive tastes.

The Virginia federal judge, T.S. Ellis, denied an earlier request by Manafort to wear a suit to Friday’s court hearing.

“Defendants who are in custody post-conviction are, as a matter of course, not entitled to appear for sentencing or any other hearing in street clothing,” he said.

The judge said Manafort should be treated no differently.

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New York man arrested for threatening to kill senators supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation

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A man was arrested in New York on Friday for threatening the lives of two U.S. senators for their support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Ronald DeRisi of Smithtown, New York, allegedly left more than 10 voicemails for two senators to discourage them from voting to confirm Kavanaugh, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Kavanaugh had a contentious confirmation process after he was publicly accused of sexual misconduct by three women, including Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who testified he sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school.

Neither of the senators who received messages was named in the criminal complaint.

“Nine millimeter, side of the f—ing head! If f—ing Kavanaugh gets in, he’s dead f—ing meat,” one message from Sept. 27 threatened. “Actually, even if Kavanaugh doesn’t get in, he’s dead f—ing meat.”

Another message, recorded on Oct. 6, only said “tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.” The caller included one senator’s home address in some of the calls, stating “we’ll be in touch.”

Image: Ronald DeRisi
Ronald DeRisi was arrested in New York after leaving voice messages threatening to kill two U.S. Senators for their support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.Suffolk County Police

Federal prosecutors say DeRisi began leaving messages for the lawmakers on Sept. 27, the day Kavanaugh and Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the allegations, and continued on after Kavanaugh’s swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 6.

Authorities traced the calls made to a pre-paid cellphone purchased with a debit card belonging to DeRisi, according to an unsealed affidavit by Lawrence O. Anyaso, a special agent with the United States Capitol Police.

Anyaso wrote that during the investigation he learned of a 2015 case in which DeRisi pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment in the second degree after calling someone’s home and office more than 15 times and leaving threatening voicemails.

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