'Start Here': Trump Jr.'s calls, Trump Sr.'s wall, sexual assaults in military spike

3 weeks ago

It’s Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. Let’s start here.

1. Trump Jr.’s blocked calls went to family friends

Mystery long surrounded three blocked phone calls Donald Trump Jr. made before and after the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016.

There were questions of whether he informed his father about the controversial meeting, but now ABC News has learned the calls were between Trump Jr. and two family friends: NASCAR CEO Brian France and real estate developer Howard Lorber, according to sources.

Both men actively supported Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. A spokesperson for Lorber said the real estate executive “has absolutely not had conversations with Donald Jr. about any Russian matters.”

ABC News’ John Santucci and Matthew Mosk break down the developments.

“It doesn’t actually prove anything, one way or the other, in terms of whether Donald Trump Jr. spoke with his father about the Trump Tower meeting or not,” Mosk tells us. “They could’ve spoken in person, they could’ve spoken in other calls. It just means that these blocked calls, that there was so much suspicion about, weren’t a lot of what the Democrats thought they were.”

2. Walled in

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that any border security proposal without a wall “doesn’t work.”

Congressional negotiators have until Feb. 15 to come up with a deal.

ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl says the president is also going back and forth on whether he agrees with assessments from his intelligence chiefs.

3. Sharp increase in sexual assault: Pentagon

An anonymous survey discovered that unwanted sexual contact at the three service academies spiked almost 50 percent last year, Pentagon officials announced Thursday.

ABC News’ Luis Martinez says the survey also found that the number of incidents reported directly to authorities remained relatively unchanged.

“We do not believe the trends in this year’s report reflect the time, energy and commitment dedicated to eliminating sexual misconduct from the service academies,” said Dr. Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Defense Department’s Office of Force Resiliency.

4. Cop who shot other cop was drinking on duty

Nathanial Hendren of the St. Louis Police Department is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the shooting death of 24-year-old colleague Katlyn Alix.

Police initially called it an “accidental” killing in which an officer “mishandled a firearm.” But investigators later determined that Hendren, who was on duty, and Alix, who was off duty, were playing a version of Russian roulette.

Hendren “recklessly discharged a firearm, resulting in the death of another officer” and “consumed alcoholic beverages while on duty,” according to court documents.

Prosecutors are now suggesting police may have been too quick to call the shooting an accident, ABC News’ Linsey Davis tells us.

Other news:

‘When Alaska is acting like Alaska, I usually just hang the meat from a meat pole in my side yard’: Warmer temperatures in Alaska are threatening dog-sledding competitions.

‘Public safety’: Firefighters join tech firms in battle for net neutrality.

‘Nearly 6,000 Tweets we identified as attempted voter suppression’: Twitter deletes more bogus accounts.

‘Oh whoa, there’s a U-Haul over there’: A stolen truck goes airborne during a high-speed chase.

‘Persistent nosebleeds … vomiting several times a day’: ICE confirms it’s force-feeding detainees.

From our partners at FiveThirtyEight:

Where did all the lopsided Super Bowls go?: On paper, Sunday’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams has all the earmarks of an instant classic. The teams are evenly matched in their strengths and weaknesses, and the favored Patriots’ pregame chance of victory — 52.8 percent, according to our Elo model — is among the lowest of any favorite in Super Bowl history, meaning the game is close to a toss-up.

America isn’t really set up for third-party presidential bids: Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s dalliance with a 2020 presidential run as an independent has sparked outrage among many in the Democratic Party who are worried he’d divert votes away from their nominee and help President Donald Trump get re-elected.

Last ‘Nightline’:

Woman who killed ‘Dirty John’ says she channeled ‘Walking Dead’: Terra Newell said she fought back in self-defense after her mother’s estranged husband, John Meehan, who had conned, terrorized and stalked her family, attacked her.

Tom Brady’s Super Bowl legacy: The Patriots quarterback, 17 years older than Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, told ESPN there’s “zero” chance this is his last game.

On this day in history:

Feb. 1, 2003 — The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing everyone aboard.

The must-see photo:

Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agents take part in a safety drill in Sunland Park, New Mexico. (photo credit: Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)

For more great photos from around the world, CLICK HERE.

Cold on social:

Ice covers Lake Michigan as dangerous cold paralyzes the Midwest.

All right, you’re off and running. Get the latest news on ABCNews.com and on the ABC News app. Details on how to subscribe to the “Start Here” podcast are below.

See you Monday.

“Start Here” is the flagship daily news podcast from ABC News — a straightforward look at the day’s top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or the ABC News app. On Amazon Echo, ask Alexa to “Play ‘Start Here'” or add the “Start Here” skill to your Flash Briefing. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content, show updates and more.

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