Afternoon Briefs: House holds attorney general in contempt; opioid executives charged
Attorney General William Barr. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
• The U.S. House voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents on now-scuttled plans to add a citizenship question to the census. The vote refers the case to the Justice Department for prosecution of Barr and Ross, but that is unlikely to happen. Barr and Ross assert they were cooperating, but legal privileges prevent release of the material. Democrats believe the documents would have revealed the real reason for including the question was to depress the count of immigrants and help Republicans in redistricting. (Bloomberg News, the New York Times)
• Federal prosecutors have charged the now-defunct pharmaceutical company Miami-Luken and two of its former officials in connection with sales of its opioid drugs. The Cincinnati indictment claims the group conspired to distribute painkillers to doctors and pharmacies in rural Appalachia while ignoring suspicious orders. In one instance, the company shipped more than 2.3 million oxycodone pills and 2.6 million hydrocodone pills to a pharmacy in a town of fewer than 1,400 people, prosecutors said. (The Washington Post, Cincinnati U.S. Attorney)
• Sherwin-Williams and two other paint companies have agreed to pay $305 million to settle a public-nuisance lawsuit claiming the company knowingly marketed toxic lead paint. The plaintiffs, 10 California counties and cities, will use the money for abatement. The case has been going on for 19 years. The companies did not admit liability. (The Mercury News, Law360)
• Prosecutors in Massachusetts dropped sexual assault charges against actor Kevin Spacey on Wednesday. His accuser, who was 18 at the time of the alleged assault, had invoked the Fifth Amendment last week in response to questions about deleted cellphone messages. (The New York Times)
• Prosecutors have “effectively concluded” their investigation into hush money payments made to two women who said they had affairs with Donald Trump, according to a court document unsealed Thursday. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty last August to campaign finance violations for making the payments. Prosecutors said in the document they are ending their investigation into whether anyone besides Cohen should be criminally liable, and whether “certain individuals” made false statements in the probe. (The New York Times, the Washington Post)