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Accused White House intruder is decorated Iraq war veteran

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The Texas man accused of breaking into the White House while armed with a knife is a U.S. military veteran who was decorated for his service in the Iraq war, the U.S. Army said on Sunday.

Omar Gonzalez, 42, is expected to appear in court in Washington on Monday facing a charge of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Gonzalez was carrying a folding knife with a 3-1/2-inch-long (9-cm-long) serrated blade when he climbed a fence and made it into the White House on Friday night after President Barack Obama had departed.

According to an affidavit released by prosecutors, Gonzalez told a U.S. Secret Service agent after he was apprehended that “he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and (he) needed to get the information to the President of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people.”

The incident was one of the most significant breaches since Obama became president in 2009 and raised questions about security procedures at the White House, a heavily guarded complex filled with Secret Service officers and snipers.

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According to the Army, Gonzalez, who had the rank of sergeant, enlisted in July 1997, listing his home as Puerto Rico, and was discharged in September 2003 after completing his service obligation. He re-enlisted in 2005 and retired on disability from the Army in 2012.

Gonzalez served in Iraq from October 2006 to January 2008, receiving decorations including an Iraq Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.

During his first enlistment, he served with the 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. Postings during his second enlistment included Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and Fort Hood.

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A second man was arrested on Saturday for trespassing at the White House after approaching the White House gates on foot, being sent away and then returned in a vehicle, the Secret Service said.

The agency has increased security around the White House following the security breach and started a review of its response.

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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Fatal drug overdoses drop in US for first time in decades

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Fatal drug overdoses in the US declined by 5.1 percent in 2018, according to preliminary official data released Wednesday, the first drop in two decades.

The trend was driven by a steep decline in deaths linked to prescription painkillers.

"The latest provisional data on overdose deaths show that America's united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, though he cautioned the epidemic would not be cured overnight.

The total number of estimated deaths dropped to 68,557 in 2018 against 72,224 the year before, according to the figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Judge blocks effort to conceal details in Trump campaign crimes case as Bill Barr’s DOJ mysteriously closes the probe

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A federal judge confirmed on Wednesday that the Justice Department has ended its investigation into campaign finance crimes committed by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, indicating that no one else will face charges in the case. But Judge William Pauley also announced that, over the government’s objections, he will be making many of the underlying documents in the case public without requested redactions.

The case stemmed from Cohen’s efforts during the 2016 campaign to secure hush money payments for two women who said they had affairs with Donald Trump. Since investigators determined these payments were done in order to help secure Trump’s victory, the spending counted as campaign contributions that were never recorded and were, in fact, illegally concealed. The Trump Organization, Cohen has said, helped repay him for the costs of the hush money while disguising the payment falsely as a legal retainer.

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Rand Paul just blocked the 9/11 victim fund because it isn’t paid for — but didn’t care when it was a $1.5 trillion tax cut

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a call for unanimous consent on Wednesday to push forward with a funding extension for the victims of 9/11, claiming that the new spending should be paid for.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for the bill to be passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, but even a single lawmaker’s objection can block the move and slow down the process. The measure is still widely expected to pass, but Paul wants to use the opportunity to complain about the national debt.

“We need to address our massive debt in this country,” he said “We have a $22 trillion debt. We’re adding debt at about a trillion dollars a year. And therefore any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70-80 years, should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at least have this debate.”

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