MUELLER EMPANELS GRAND JURY TO ASSIST IN TRUMP/RUSSIA PROBE: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in his probe into whether President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, according to the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. Grand juries can be the first step in a criminal trial and are generally reserved for serious felonies, but the impaneling of a grand jury does not mean someone is being charged with a crime. Grand juries do have subpoena power for witnesses and records before they have chosen whether to indict the involved party. Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, referring to Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”
WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR SWITCHES PARTIES FROM "D" TO "R": West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday he's switching parties to join Republicans as President Donald Trump visited the increasingly conservative state. Justice told about 9,000 Trump supporters at a rally in Huntington that he will be changing his registration Friday. He recently visited the White House twice with proposals on manufacturing and coal, neither he nor Trump are politicians and they both ran to get something done, he said. Elected in his first run for statewide office, Justice is a 66-year-old businessman whose family owns farms and coal mines who largely funded his own campaign against then West Virginia Republican Senate President Bill Cole. He has spoken often during the campaign and since publicly about his friendship with the Trump family and hosted Donald Trump Jr. turkey hunting and trout fishing earlier this year.
ISRAELI PM NETANYAHU FACING CHARGES OF CORRUPTION: Israeli media say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ex-chief of staff has agreed to testify in two corruption cases against his former boss. The reports, including by the Haaretz daily and others, say Ari Harrow reached a deal with the prosecutors on Friday. Israeli police revealed on Thursday that Netanyahu is suspected of crimes involving fraud, breach of trust and bribes. Police have been questioning Netanyahu over allegations that he improperly accepted lavish gifts from wealthy supporters and separately held talks with the publisher of a major Israeli newspaper for positive coverage in exchange for diminishing the impact of a free pro-Netanyahu daily.
KOCH BROTHERS PROBE TENTACLES INTO TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at an event hosted by a group backed by the conservative Koch (kohk) brothers. A statement from Americans for Prosperity, the flagship organization of the political network backed by industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch, announced Friday that Pence will speak to a group of “grassroots volunteers” on Aug. 19 in Richmond, Virginia. The Kochs never engaged in the 2016 presidential race, instead spending millions on advertising in Senate races. This week, they had their first event with Trump administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) and Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, touting a theme of tax reform.
TOURISTS TURNED AWAY DUE TO OUTER BANKS POWER OUTAGE STRUGGLE TO GET REFUNDS: The outage caused by a construction accident forced an estimated 50,000 visitors to leave Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, and others never made it to the popular vacation spots because of evacuation orders that are still in place. Utility officials are hoping to have power restored by early next week, but that will be too late to salvage many vacations. “I do hope that we’re refunded. We did not step one single foot onto the island,” said Tianna Lee, who was traveling from Connecticut on Saturday when she heard about the evacuation for Hatteras Island. She said she hasn’t gotten an answer about whether her family can recoup the $1,700 they spent to rent a beachfront condo for this week. Scores of vacationers like her are now navigating the sometimes confusing process of seeking repayment for lost travel expenses. Some are filing claims with travel insurance companies, while others are seeking refunds from the property owners. Travel insurance plans vary, and many don’t cover man-made disasters.