Esper defends shifting defense funds for Trump’s border wall

MUNICH, Germany — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday defended his decision to divert billions of dollars in funding for Navy and Air Force aircraft and other military programs to help pay for President Donald Trump’s promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Esper was asked by a reporter about criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Congress, including Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas, who called the diversion of funds contrary to the constitutional authority of Congress.

“Border security is national security,” Esper said, “and national security is our mission.”

He added, “The action we took is legal under the law, and so it should be no surprise, and I’ll just leave it at that for now.”

Esper spoke on the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich.

The Pentagon announced on Thursday that Esper approved shifting $3.8 billion in funds that Congress had previously authorized for F-35 fighter aircraft and other military programs.

Avenatti is convicted of trying to extort Nike

NEW YORK — Michael Avenatti, the combative lawyer who gained fame by representing porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits involving President Donald Trump, was convicted Friday of trying to extort sportswear giant Nike.

The verdict was returned by a federal jury in Manhattan following a three-week trial in which prosecutors said Avenatti threatened to use his media access to hurt Nike’s reputation and stock price unless the company paid him up to $25 million.

The convictions for attempted extortion and honest services fraud carry a combined potential penalty of 42 years in prison.

Avenatti glared at the jurors as the verdict was being announced but said nothing.

Afterward, he shook hands with his lawyers and told them “great job” before he was led back to the cell where he has been held since a judge found he had violated his bail conditions.

Evidence in trash can links dead neighbor to missing S.C. girl

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Investigators found a man dead inside his South Carolina home shortly after finding an item from a missing 6-year-old girl who lived in his neighborhood inside his trash can, authorities said.

Three days after Faye Marie Swetlik’s mother frantically called 911 to report her daughter’s disappearance from their front yard in Cayce, the girl’s body was found Thursday. Her death is being investigated as a homicide, although details about how she died have not been released.

The girl’s body was found in the woods, and police think it was put there after investigators found the evidence inside the trash can, Cayce Public Safety Sgt. Evan Antley said at a Friday news conference.

Antley didn’t directly link the death of 30-year-old Coty Scott Taylor, whose body was found at his home, to the girl’s killing. But Antley said the item found in Taylor’s trash Thursday was something listed on the missing person flyer created after she disappeared. He did not specify exactly what it was.

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