In our news wrap Thursday, a powerful spring blizzard hammered the central U.S., bringing heavy snow and gusty winds. The bomb cyclone has knocked out power to nearly 56,000 customers across Minnesota and Iowa. Meanwhile, a Southern California federal grand jury has indicted attorney Michael Avenatti on 36 new charges, ranging from tax and bank fraud to stealing millions of dollars from clients.
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Money generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes, typically in form of payments designed to string along victims, so as to prevent Mr. Avenatti's financial house of cards from collapsing.
Avenatti said he will plead not guilty to the charges. He could face up to 333 years in prison if convicted on all 36 counts. Avenatti had already been arrested last month in New York for allegedly trying to extort $25 million from Nike.
A 21-year-old man has been arrested in connection to arsons at three black churches in Louisiana. Officials confirmed today the suspect, Holden Matthews, is the son of a sheriff's deputy in rural St. Landry Parish. The churches, each more than 100 years old, were set on fire between March 26 and April 2. No injuries were reported.
Today, the state's fire marshal declared the community is safe again.
This investigation is probably one of the most unique arson investigations that I have been involved in, in my 33 years, in that this was an attack on a house of God.
Though the spirit is still strong, the landmark has been destroyed. We took that very seriously in this investigation.
Matthews faces three charges of simple arson on religious buildings. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
The governor of Ohio has signed into law one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills. It bans the procedure after the first detectable fetal heartbeat. That can be as early as five or six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. Ohio is now the fifth state to ban abortions after the first heartbeat.
President Trump today repeated unfounded claims made by his attorney general that U.S. intelligence agencies spied on his 2016 presidential campaign. Yesterday, William Barr testified before Congress that he believes — quote — "spying did occur" against the Trump campaign.
Today, in an Oval Office meeting with South Korea's president, Mr. Trump endorsed that assessment, but offered no proof.
There was absolutely spying into my campaign. I will go a step further. In my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying, and something that should never be allowed in our country again. And I think his answer was actually a very accurate one.
The Senate's top Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, warned today that Barr's testimony — quote — "just destroyed the scintilla of credibility he had left."
Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig has been charged with lying and hiding information about his lobbying work in Ukraine. The indictment was announced today in Washington. The federal investigation stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort's work on behalf of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
The U.S. Senate has voted to confirm David Bernhardt as secretary of the interior. Bernhardt had been leading the department as acting secretary. He is also a former oil and gas lobbyist. His predecessor, Ryan Zinke, resigned in December amid ethics investigations.
Retired Pope Benedict has penned a rare essay addressing the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. It was published today in a German church magazine. Benedict said the sexual revolution of the 1960s and — quote — "homosexual cliques" in seminaries were largely to blame for the crisis. He also said during the 1980s and '90s — quote — "The right to a defense was so broad as to make a conviction nearly impossible for priests."
Benedict has been criticized for not doing more to investigate the abuse claims.
In India, at least four people were killed in violent clashes, as the first phase of voting began in the country's national election. The vote is seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Prime Minister, who's seeking a second term. Nearly 900 million people are eligible to cast their ballots. The process is expected to take about six weeks to finish, before results are announced on May 23.
And back in this country, there are new signs the nation's job market is strengthening. The Labor Department reported jobless claims fell to a nearly 50-year low last week. Even so, there was little movement on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 14 points to close at 26143. The Nasdaq fell 17 points, and the S&P 500 was unchanged.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": analysis of the legal and political fallout from the arrest of Julian Assange; the president of Sudan is ousted from power after 30 years; residents of the Florida Keys struggle to rebuild after a devastating hurricane; and much more.