Suspect in Camas man’s death enters not-guilty plea
A Camas man accused of killing his neighbor pleaded not guilty Thursday in Clark County Superior Court to second-degree murder.
Randy John Schmidt, 47, entered the not-guilty plea in connection with the death of Michael Chad Holmes, 52. A trial date is set for June 17.
Holmes went missing Feb. 5 when he left his home on Northeast 94th Street and got into Schmidt’s tan GMC Yukon, according to a probable cause affidavit. He was never heard from again.
Schmidt showed up at Holmes’ doorstep three hours later, telling family there that Holmes got out of his vehicle near the intersection of Riley and Blair roads and walked away, according to the affidavit. Schmidt has changed his story several times since then, the affidavit said.
In March, Clark County sheriff’s deputies found the GMC Yukon submerged in the Lewis River, not far from the location where Schmidt said he sold it to strangers a few weeks earlier, according to the affidavit. Investigators located blood stains on the front passenger’s seat that returned a DNA match to Holmes, court records say.
Data collected through a search warrant placed Schmidt near the river where the vehicle was recovered, according to the affidavit.
Earlier this month, kayakers on the Washougal River called police after finding a body in the river. The body turned out to be Holmes, who had “an apparent traumatic injury to his head. Metal fragments in his skull likely from bullet projectiles,” the affidavit said.
SWAT officers served warrants April 9 and arrested Schmidt.
Portugal: All 29 dead in crash German
LISBON, Portugal — All 29 people killed in a tour bus crash on Portugal’s Madeira Island were German, Portugal’s foreign ministry confirmed Thursday.
The bus carrying 55 people — all German tourists except a Portuguese driver and guide — rolled down a steep hill after veering off the road on a bend east of Madeira’s capital, Funchal, on Wednesday evening when it was still light and the weather was fine. The crash injured 28 others.
A foreign ministry statement reiterated the government’s condolences to the families of victims, and said the crash “claimed the lives of 29 German citizens.”
Authorities said they are investigating the cause and would inspect the bus for mechanical problems.
People on the side of the road are also thought to be among the injured.
Tomasia Alves, head of the Funchal hospital, said authorities hope to have a list of victims by Saturday. She said the victims were roughly between 40 and 60 years old and included no children.
She said 28 people were taken from the accident scene to a morgue, and another person died later in hospital.
County solid-waste panel seeks new members
The Clark County Council is looking for volunteers who want to serve on the Solid Waste Advisory Commission.
Commission members advise the county council on solid waste issues like recycling, landfills, collection, transfer stations and waste reduction. The group meets at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of February, May, August and November at the Center for Community Health, 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
The vacant position represents southwest Clark County, and applicants must live in Salmon Creek, Felida, Lake Shore, Hazel Dell, Minnehaha, Walnut Grove, Five Corners, Pleasant Valley or west Vancouver — anyone who lives west of state Highway 503 and south of Northeast 179th Street is eligible.
If selected, the applicant’s term on the commission would start June 1 and last until May 31, 2022.
Applicants should send a resume and letter of interest to Alyssa Weyhrauch, County Manager’s Office, PO Box 5000, Vancouver, WA, 98666. Materials can also be sent by email to Alyssa.Weyhrauch@clark.wa.gov or by fax to 360-397-6058. The application deadline is 5 p.m. May 10.
N. Korea rejects Pompeo role in nuclear talks
TOKYO — North Korea spurned the top U.S. diplomat as not sufficiently “mature” and offered a hand to Moscow on Thursday in back-to-back moves by Kim Jong Un to possibly reset the terms of his outreach with Washington.
The announcements came hours after North Korea announced it had tested a tactical guided weapon, its first public weapons test since the breakdown of a summit between President Donald Trump and Kim in February.
North Korea further jabbed Washington by announcing it no longer wants to talk to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The statement, carried on state media, demanded that Pompeo be replaced with someone who “is more careful and mature in communicating.”
Then, in Moscow, the Kremlin announced that Kim plans to meet President Vladimir Putin in Russia later this month. For Kim, the planned summit is an opportunity to expand his options and potential leverage with the United States and China, the North’s longtime ally.
Taken all together, the steps by Kim suggest a push toward bolder initiatives by the North with U.S. talks stalled after the collapse of the Hanoi, Vietnam, summit. But it does not appear to signal that Kim wants to break off the dialogue, experts said.
“Kim Jong Un does not intend to walk out of negotiations but shows that he can ‘seek a new way’ in the worst case,” said Lee Jong-Seok, a former South Korean unification minister who is now at the Sejong Institute.
The apparent snub of Pompeo could also force a revised approach from Trump.
Pompeo’s main offense appears, in the North Koreans’ eyes, seems to be when he referred to Kim as a “tyrant” during a Senate hearing.
Nevertheless, the North Korean regime is clearly frustrated with denuclearization talks, analysts say, and by what it sees as unreasonable American demands to fully dismantle nuclear facilities before receiving relief from international economic sanctions.
A statement quoting senior North Korean official Kwon Jong Gun, reported by the Korean Central News Agency and picked up by Reuters, said that whenever Pompeo “pokes his nose in, talks between the two countries go wrong without any results even from the point close to success.”
In testimony to a Senate subcommittee last week, Pompeo was asked whether he would agree that Kim is a “tyrant.”
“Sure. I’m sure I’ve said that,” Pompeo replied.
Watergate figure James McCord dies
WASHINGTON — James McCord, a retired CIA employee who was convicted as a conspirator in the Watergate burglary and later linked the 1972 break-in to the White House in revelations that helped end the presidency of Richard Nixon, died June 15, 2017, at his home in Douglassville, Pa. He was 93.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, according to his death certificate obtained at the Berks County Register of Wills office in Reading, Pa.
McCord’s death was first reported in “Dirty Tricks,” a 2018 history of the Watergate investigation by filmmaker Shane O’Sullivan. But the news did not appear in local or national media outlets and surfaced online in March, when the website Kennedys and King published an obituary referencing his gravesite in Pennsylvania.
McCord served in the CIA for 19 years, including as security chief at the Langley, Va., headquarters, before his supporting, at times sensational role in the events that precipitated the first resignation of a U.S. president.
He had retired from the spy agency and was privately employed as head of security for the Committee for the Re-Election of the President — commonly called CREEP — when he became entangled in a scheme to burglarize and bug the Democratic national headquarters at the Watergate building in Washington.
McCord had once taught a college course on how to protect buildings from intrusions, and he helped lead the operation. Preparing for the break-in, the conspirators rigged door latches at the Watergate complex with adhesive tape to prevent the doors from locking.
The tape caught the attention of a security guard, Frank Wills, who alerted the police to suspicious activity in the building. In the early morning hours of June 17, 1972, plainclothes officers entered the Democratic headquarters and found five burglars clad in suits and surgical gloves.
Those men — McCord, Bernard Barker, Frank Sturgis, Eugenio Martinez and Virgilio Gonzalez — were carrying bugging devices, cameras, film and a walkie-talkie. McCord was quickly connected to the re-election committee.
In September 1972, a federal grand jury indicted McCord, the other burglars, and Nixon aides Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy on charges stemming from the bugging attempt. Hunt and four burglars pleaded guilty. McCord and Liddy were tried in January 1973 and were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and bugging.
McCord’s statements were credited with helping to break open the Watergate investigation by connecting the burglary to high-ranking Nixon officials.
Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974. McCord served four months in prison.
Pope says bishops must be ‘most servant-like’
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 prisoners Thursday and urged them to serve one another as brothers, as he ushered in the solemn pre-Easter rituals made more poignant this year following the devastation of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.
Francis traveled to a prison in Velletri, outside Rome, for the Holy Thursday service that re-enacts the biblical story of Christ washing the feet of his disciples. The Mass opens the most solemn period in the liturgical calendar, leading up to the commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter.
Francis has frequently performed the Holy Thursday ceremony at prisons to reinforce his message that even the most important figures must serve the most marginal like slaves, as Jesus did in washing the feet of his disciples.
“The bishop isn’t the most important. The bishop must be the most servant-like,” Francis said.
Directing his message at the prisoners themselves, Francis urged them to not try to dominate one another, and to make the fights that break out between them a “fleeting thing.”
“The biggest must serve the smallest. He who feels biggest must be the servant,” Francis said. “May this gesture that I make help us to be more servant-like with one another, more friendly, brothers in service.”
He proceeded to wash, dry and kiss the feet of the inmates: nine Italians, and one each from Brazil, Ivory Coast and Morocco. Francis, who suffers from sciatica, needed help from his aides to stand up and kneel down before each prisoner.
The final days of Holy Week have taken on particular resonance following the fire at Notre Dame, a symbol of French Catholicism.
Francis has offered his condolences repeatedly to the French faithful, and French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that during a call to Francis after the blaze, he had invited the pontiff to visit Paris. On Wednesday, Francis fielded a call from U.S. President Donald Trump offering the sympathy of the American people over the loss, the Vatican spokesman said.
Report: NAFTA update’s benefits limited
President Donald Trump’s new North American trade deal would have a marginal effect on the nearly $21 trillion U.S. economy, boosting output by just 0.35 percent and delivering an even smaller gain to the labor market, according to an independent analysis by the International Trade Commission.
In a 379-page report released Thursday, the ITC said the agreement would “have a positive impact” on manufacturing and services industries.
Notably, it would increase auto parts production and employment, which are key administration goals.
But the narrow benefits for the auto sector would come at the expense of the broader economy, making overall U.S. production more expensive, reducing exports and denting wages and employment, the report said.
Congress required the assessment, which was delayed five weeks by the partial government shutdown, before lawmakers hold an up-or-down vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“I don’t see it as providing much ammunition to either side. The skeptics will still be skeptical, and the advocates will still be advocating,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Administration officials are pushing for quick congressional action, but most trade analysts expect the process to drag on for months. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said tougher enforcement measures need to be written into the deal to make sure that Mexico complies with promised labor reforms.
Several prominent lawmakers, including Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, insist the president must remove tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico and Canada before a vote. Both countries have imposed retaliatory measures that have damaged U.S. exports, especially from farm states.
Administration officials said last year that the tariffs would be eliminated once the three countries reached a new trade deal. But instead, they have remained in place while the U.S. tries to get Mexico and Canada to accept quotas on their shipments of industrial metals.
“This report confirms what has been clear since this deal was announced — Donald Trump’s NAFTA represents at best a minor update to NAFTA, which will offer only limited benefits to U.S. workers,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the committee’s ranking member.
The USMCA would allow the free flow of data among the three trading partners, an important step for banks, airlines, online retailers and entertainment companies.
It would limit a procedure for companies to settle disputes with the three governments, which the report says will discourage U.S. investment in Mexico and boost capital spending in U.S. manufacturing and mining.
An overhaul of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, the changes in the new USMCA are less sweeping than the broad elimination of virtually all trade barriers in the earlier accord, economists say.
NAFTA was expected to increase the size of the U.S. economy by just 0.5 percent and boost employment by less than 1 percent, according to the ITC’s 1993 study.
Those effects exceeded what’s likely from the new deal, including an employment gain of 176,000 jobs, or 0.12 percent, according to the ITC.
“Most trade deals don’t have an outsized effect on growth over the long term,” said David Page, senior economist for AXA Investment Managers in London. “It does tend to be a little bit peripheral.”
While its top-line effects are modest, the deal would reshape North American auto production by requiring more American content and mandating that 40 percent of each vehicle be produced by workers earning $16 per hour — aimed at steering jobs away from lower-wage Mexican workers.
Democrats Draw Closer to a Dicey Question: Whether to Impeach Trump
Democrats took the legal analysis in the special counsel’s report as a clear nod that Congress should make its own judgment on obstruction of justice.
A Portrait of the White House and Its Culture of Chaos
At one juncture after another, the Mueller report describes how Mr. Trump made his troubles worse, giving into anger and grievance and lashing out in ways that turned advisers into witnesses against him.
On Politics With Lisa Lerer: The ‘On Politics’ Mueller Report Cheat Sheet
From the On Politics newsletter: The Times read all 448 pages of the special counsel’s report, so you don’t have to. Here are the highlights.