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SAN ANTONIO — The authorities here discovered eight bodies in a tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning in what they said was a human trafficking crime that underscored the perils facing migrants trying to enter the United States by any means available.

By Sunday afternoon, another person had died at a hospital, according to a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. All of the dead were men.

The eight people whose bodies were initially found were believed to have died from heat exposure and asphyxiation, a spokesman for the San Antonio Police Department said.

Federal officials said in a statement on Sunday that 39 people had been in the trailer. The city’s fire chief, Charles Hood, said at a news conference that 30 were taken to hospitals; about 20 were in “extremely severe” or critical condition.

In a statement, Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio called the episode “tragic,” adding that it “shines a bright light on the plight of immigrants looking for a better life and victims of human trafficking.”

Smuggling migrants in the backs of trucks is a common form of human smuggling in the region, and it has claimed lives in the past.

An expert on border enforcement and migrant deaths called the trucks “mobile ovens.”

“Those things are made out of steel and metal,” the expert, Néstor P. Rodríguez, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, said on Sunday. “Yesterday in Austin, it was like 96 degrees at 9:30 in the evening. Even if the cooling system is on in the tractor-trailer, it’s just too hot.”

The San Antonio police chief, William McManus, said at a predawn news conference that a store employee making the rounds late Saturday night had been approached by someone from the truck “asking for water.” The employee returned with the water and called the police, who found the bodies.

Chief McManus said that “we’re looking at a human trafficking crime here” and that officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were helping with the investigation.

Two of those found were “school-age children,” and the others were in their 20s and 30s, the chief said. The two youngest of those hospitalized were 15, the authorities said. The bodies were taken to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of death. Details about the victims were unavailable.

The driver, identified as James M. Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Fla., is in custody and will be charged, the top federal prosecutor in the San Antonio area said in a statement on Sunday.

“These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters,” said the prosecutor, Richard L. Durbin Jr., the United States attorney for the Western District of Texas. “Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus-degree heat.”

No further details were available about how long the truck had been in the parking lot of the Walmart, which is on the southwestern side of the city, or where it had come from. Chief McManus said surveillance video showed that several vehicles had approached the trailer to pick up people. Some occupants fled into the woods nearby, and the police chief said officers would search on foot and by air.

Chief Hood said the air-conditioning in the truck had not been working, adding that those found were “very hot to the touch.”

Of the survivors, he said, “our paramedics and firefighters found that each one of them had heart rates over about 130 beats per minute.”

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, said on Sunday that the people in the truck were probably migrants who had crossed the Mexican border on foot and been taken to a stash house before being put in the tractor-trailer to be transported farther north.

The grisly discovery on Sunday was made more than 100 miles from the site of a similar episode of mass migrant deaths 14 years ago. In May 2003, 19 undocumented immigrants suffocated and died in the trailer of a milk truck that was found abandoned near Victoria.

Dozens of immigrants, crammed inside the milk truck’s trailer, struggled to survive temperatures as high as 173 degrees as the truck traveled along South Texas highways. Those inside clawed at the truck’s insulation and broke out a taillight in an attempt to get air and alert drivers.

On Sunday in San Antonio, Celia and Nicole Pérez were home across the street from the Walmart around 1 a.m. when a loud noise woke them up. They saw helicopters and police lights circling their backyard.

They first thought it was a mass shooting. “The cops were blocking the entrance to Walmart,” Celia Pérez said. “Immigration was the last thing on my mind.”

About a year ago, Nicole Pérez said her grandmother, who lives nearby, saw as many as 20 immigrants dash through her yard.

“The problem is that the Walmart is allowing eighteen-wheelers to rest there and they don’t look suspicious,” she said, adding that the back of the store had vacant land and a ditch, “so it’s convenient for anybody to get on foot and run or just to hide out.”

Experts were at odds over whether President Trump’s crackdown on immigration had increased the likelihood of such cases, but Mr. Rodríguez said the 2003 episode illustrated the persistence of the problem.

“We don’t have any good way of measuring if it’s increasing because of Trump, but we know it’s a constant,” he said. “Smuggling is a billion-dollar industry when you look at the whole border.”

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an expert in border issues and a fellow at the Wilson Center, a Washington research institute, said these types of smuggling services were in greater demand because of the difficulty of crossing the border by other means.

“Events like this are an unintended consequence of enhanced border enforcement and security measures,” she said. “Further enhancing border security puts migrants under greater risk and strengthens transnational human smuggling networks.”

On the border in South Texas, migrants often enter the country in small groups on foot but do not travel north immediately. Instead, smugglers organize them into larger groups in stash houses, often in cramped and dangerous conditions. Those houses are in cities and towns between the border and a network of Border Patrol traffic checkpoints.

Smugglers then transport migrants from the stash houses in large groups in tractor-trailers, or disperse them in smaller vehicles, taking them to cities like Houston or San Antonio. Some do not risk driving through the checkpoints and instead force immigrants to walk around the checkpoints through the South Texas brush.

Tractor-trailers loaded with migrants that try to make it past the traffic checkpoints pose a host of problems: Drivers who turn off the cooling system as they pass the checkpoints may forget to turn it back on, or the cooling system may break down or be ineffective in keeping the migrants cool.

In the Victoria case in 2003, the truck’s driver told a Border Patrol agent at the checkpoint that the vehicle was empty and that he was going to Houston to pick up produce, according to court documents. The agent allowed the driver through without an inspection because the trailer’s refrigeration unit was turned off.

Other cases similar to the one on Sunday have occurred in recent months.

This month in Houston, about a dozen immigrants being smuggled in a cargo truck were rescued after being left in the locked vehicle for about 12 hours in a strip-mall parking lot. A police officer heard the immigrants, including a 16-year-old girl, banging on the walls.

Tom Berg, the first assistant district attorney in Harris County, told reporters at the time, “Thirty more minutes, and this could have been a dozen homicide cases.”

Correction: July 23, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of deaths and people found in the truck based on information provided by the authorities. The number of fatalities was nine, not 10, and the number of people was 39, not 38.

Correction: July 23, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated who had previously seen immigrants running through her yard. It was Nicole Pérez’s grandmother, not Celia Pérez’s.

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By and Karoun Demirjian,

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, walked into Senate offices Monday morning to begin answering questions behind closed doors about his contacts with Russian officials.

In written remarks made public prior to his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kushner denies any improper contacts or collusion. The 11-page statement by Kushner details four meetings he had with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and transition period — including one set up by Donald Trump Jr. with a Russian lawyer.

Kushner defends his interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other Russian officials as typical contacts in his role as the Trump campaign’s liaison to foreign governments, according to the prepared statement he plans to submit for the record.

Kushner is answering questions behind closed doors, first to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday and then again on Tuesday to the House Intelligence Committee. Both panels are probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials and associates.

[Read Kushner’s prepared statement]

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government orchestrated a far-reaching campaign to meddle with last year’s presidential campaign and influence the outcome in Trump’s favor.

In his testimony, which will be submitted to the congressional committees before he answers questions from lawmakers, Kushner says he has had only “limited contacts” with Russian representatives and denies any wrongdoing.

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner writes. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

Kushner portrays himself as a goal-oriented task master new to presidential politics who assumed increasingly important responsibilities on a fast-paced campaign in which decisions were made “on the fly,” including serving as the main point of contact for foreign government officials.

Kushner writes that his first meeting with a Russian official was in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech, the execution of which Kushner says he oversaw. Kushner writes that he attended a reception to thank the event’s host, Dimitri Simes, publisher of the National Interest, a foreign policy magazine. Simes introduced Kushner to four ambassadors at the reception, including Kislyak, Kushner says.

“With all the ambassadors, including Mr. Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy,” Kushner writes. “The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”

Kushner does not name the other three ambassadors he met at the reception.

Kushner denies having had any other contact with Kislyak during the campaign, disputing a report by Reuters that he had two phone calls with the ambassador.

“While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Kushner writes. “We have reviewed the phone records available to us and have not been able to identify any calls to any number we know to be associated with Ambassador Kislyak and I am highly skeptical these calls took place.”

In fact, Kushner goes on to note that on Nov. 9, the day after the election, when the campaign received a congratulatory note from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kushner tried to verify it was real and could not remember Kislyak’s name. “So I sent an email asking Mr. Simes, ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?’ ” Kushner writes.

Kushner also describes attending a June 2016 meeting organized by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian attorney. He says it was listed on his calendar as “Meeting: Don Jr. | Jared Kushner.” He writes that he arrived at the meeting late, and when he got there the Russian lawyer was talking about a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

“I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting,” Kushner writes. “Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get our of meeting.’ ”

Kushner writes that he received a “random email” on Oct. 30, 2016, from a screen name “Guccifer400,” which he interpreted as “a hoax” that was “an extortion attempt and threatened to reveal candidate Trump’s tax returns and demanded that we send him 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing that information.”

Kushner says he brought the email to the attention of a Secret Service agent he was traveling with, who advised him “to ignore it and not to reply — which is what I did.”

Kushner also details two interactions with Russian officials during the transition period, before Trump was sworn in as president on Jan. 20. The first, on Dec. 1, was a meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York, which retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who would become the president’s national security adviser, also attended.

“I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations,” Kushner writes. “Also, as I had done in other meetings with foreign officials, I asked Ambassador Kislyak if he would identify the best person (whether the Ambassador or someone else) with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with his President. The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.”

Kushner writes that Kislyak addressed U.S. policy in Syria and wanted to “convey information from what he called his ‘generals’ ” but that they could not come to the United States and “he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation.”

Kushner continues that he or Flynn explained there were no such lines, and that Kushner asked Kislyak if the Russians had “an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn.” He writes that Kislyak said “that would not be possible” and they agreed to wait until after the inauguration to receive the information.

The Washington Post first reported in May on Kushner and Kislyak’s discussions about establishing a secret communications channel, though Kushner suggests in his testimony that the channel would have been for the purpose of this one meeting as opposed to establishing a “secret back channel.”

“I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel,’ ” Kushner writes. “I did not suggest an on-going secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office. I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period.”

The second transition-period meeting Kushner says he had with Russians was on Dec. 13, when Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, a banker with “a direct line to the Russian President,” at the urging of Kislyak. On Dec. 6, the Russian Embassy asked Kushner to meet with Kislyak on Dec. 7, and Kushner declined, he writes. They asked if he could meet on Dec. 6 and Kushner declined again, he writes. Kislyak then requested a meeting with Kushner’s assistant — “and, to avoid offending the Ambassador, I agreed,” Kushner writes.

Kislyak and Kushner’s assistant, whom Kushner does not name in his testimony, met on Dec. 12, where Kislyak requested that Kushner meet with Gorkov, “who could give insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together.”

Kushner agreed to meet Gorkov, making room in his schedule for him the next day. Their meeting lasted 20 to 25 minutes, Kushner writes, and Gorkov presented two gifts — a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where Kushner’s grandparents were from in Belarus, and a bag of dirt from there. Kushner then gave the gifts to his assistant and asked him to formally register them with the transition office.

During the meeting, Kushner writes, Gorkov told him about his bank and discussed the Russian economy, expressing “disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for a better relationship in the future.” Kushner writes that “no specific policies were discussed,” including sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.

At the end of his testimony, Kushner offers an explanation for failing to disclose all of his foreign government contacts on his SF-86 application for security clearance. He writes that his form was “prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication and initially did not list any contacts (not just with Russians) with foreign government officials.”

Kushner describes a frenzied period disentangling from his real estate business and moving his family to Washington during which a “rough draft” of his form was submitted by his assistant because of a “miscommunication.” Kushner writes that the initial submission omitted “all foreign contacts” and that a supplemental submission disclosed more than 100 contacts from more than 20 countries.

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A California woman is in custody after allegedly livestreaming a fatal car crash on Instagram that killed her 14-year-old sister and injured another teen.

Obdulia Sanchez, 18, was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter after Friday’s crash.

Sanchez was behind the wheel when the vehicle veered onto the right shoulder of the road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

She over-corrected, causing the vehicle to swerve across lanes, crash through a wire fence and overturn into a field, the authorities said.

Image: Obdulia Sanchez is in police custody after an Instagram Live story revealed a deadly crash that killed her 14 year-old sister.Image: Obdulia Sanchez is in police custody after an Instagram Live story revealed a deadly crash that killed her 14 year-old sister.

Obdulia Sanchez is in police custody after an Instagram livestream revealed a deadly crash that killed her 14-year-old-sister.Merced County Sheriff’s Office

Part of the livestream shows Sanchez outside the car with what appears to be her sister Jacqueline’s body. The other teen can be seen attempting to wave down help.

“I f—–g killed my sister, OK? I know I’m going to jail for life,” Sanchez says in the video. “This is the last thing I wanted to happen, OK? I don’t f—–g care though, I’m going to hold it down. Rest in peace, sweetie. If you don’t survive, I am so f—–g sorry.”

Sergio Ramos Estrada, a cousin, told NBC News the teens were preparing for a Quinceanera when the accident happened.

“We were going to go to her house the next day to celebrate her Quinceanera and unfortunately that happened,” Ramos Estrada said. The CHP is examining the video as part of the investigation.

Sanchez is currently being held on a $300,000 bond at the John Latoracca Correctional Facility in Merced.

Mary Hernandez, 25, was following Sanchez on Instagram and watched as the livestream showed the car careen into the fence.

Disturbed by what she saw, Hernandez said she recorded a copy of the video.

“There are so many people that are on my Snapchat that I see driving on their phone,” Hernandez told NBC News over the phone. “I hope that this video makes people think twice about what they’re doing in their car.”

Related: Cleveland Shooting Highlights Facebook’s Responsibility in Policing Depraved Videos

Hernandez, a medical assistant from Stockton, California, said she doesn’t personally know Sanchez, but the women have mutual friends.

“This is real,” she said. “This is something that could seriously happen to someone.”

Instagram did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment on how long the video was left up.

Social media sites such as Instagram of Facebook have faced a host of violent or disturbing postings since users were given the ability to livestream.

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The Latest: Insurance Firm: 2 Employees Hurt in Swiss Attack
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The Swiss newspaper Blick is quoting an insurance company as saying that two of its employees in the northern city of Schaffhausen had to be taken to a hospital after an attack by a man wielding a chainsaw. July 24, 2017, at 8:32 a.m.. MORE.
Swiss Chainsaw Attack: Five Injured, Two SeriouslyNBCNews.com
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By Hope Yen | AP,

WASHINGTON — The Senate will move forward with a key vote this week on a Republican health bill but it’s not yet known whether the legislation will seek to replace President Barack Obama’s health care law or simply repeal it.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will make a decision soon on which bill to bring up for a vote, depending on ongoing discussions with GOP senators. Thune sought to cast this week’s initial vote as important but mostly procedural, allowing senators to begin debate and propose amendments. But he acknowledged that senators should be able to know beforehand what bill they will be considering.

“That’s a judgment that Senator McConnell will make at some point this week before the vote,” Thune said, expressing his own hope it will be a repeal-and-replace measure. “But no matter which camp you’re in, you can’t have a debate about either unless we get on the bill. So we need a ‘yes’ vote.”

He said the procedural vote will be held “sometime this week.”

President Donald Trump has said he wants Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, but would accept a straight-repeal of the law if senators couldn’t reach agreement. In a sign of the high stakes involved, Trump exhorted senators anew Sunday night to pass health legislation. “If Republicans don’t Repeal and Replace the disastrous ObamaCare, the repercussions will be far greater than any of them understand!” Trump tweeted.

The Republican-controlled House in May narrowly passed its version of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”

Senate Republicans are now considering two versions of similar legislation, one that would repeal and replace, and another that would simply repeal “Obamacare” with a two-year delay for implementation to give the Senate more time to agree on a replacement.

Both versions encountered opposition from enough GOP senators to doom the effort, but McConnell, R-Ky., is making a last-gasp attempt this week after Trump insisted that senators not leave town for the August recess without sending him some kind of health overhaul bill to sign.

In the Senate, Republicans hold a 52-48 majority. They can only afford to have one of their senators defect and still prevail on a health bill. That’s because Republican Sen. John McCain is in Arizona dealing with brain cancer, while Democrats are standing united in opposition. Vice President Mike Pence would cast a tie-breaking vote.

Thune said no matter the outcome of the upcoming vote, senators would continue working to pass health legislation no matter how long it took, having promised voters they would do so.

“We are going to vote to repeal and replace Obamacare,” he said, arguing that it was better if done sooner rather than later. “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”

Still, at least two Republican senators Sunday appeared to reaffirm their intention to vote against the procedural motion if it involved the latest version of the GOP’s repeal-and-replace bill.

Moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she continued to have concerns about reductions to Medicaid and criticized the Republican process, saying lawmakers were being unfairly kept in the dark. Under McConnell’s plan, 22 million more people would become uninsured by 2026, many of them Medicaid recipients. She wants to hold public hearings and work with Democrats.

“We don’t know whether we’re going to be voting on the House bill, the first version of the Senate bill, the second version of the Senate bill, a new version of the Senate bill, or a 2015 bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act,” Collins said. “I don’t think that’s a good approach to replacing legislation that affects millions of people.”

Conservative Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he would only support a repeal-only bill. That version would reduce government costs but lead to 32 million additional uninsured people over a decade. At least three senators including Collins have previously expressed opposition to that plan.

“The real question is what are we moving to? What are we opening debate to? Last week, Senate leadership said it would be a clean repeal … and I think that’s a good idea,” Paul said. “The other alternative is the Senate leadership bill that doesn’t repeal Obamacare, is Obamacare light and is loaded with pork. … I’m not for that.”

Thune appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” Collins was on CBS’ ”Face the Nation,” and Paul spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

___

Follow Hope Yen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hopeyen1

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Jared Kushner will appear before the committee on Monday. (AP)

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, plans to detail four meetings he had with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and transition period — including one set up by Donald Trump Jr. with a Russian lawyer — but will deny any improper contacts or collusion in testimony to a congressional panel on Monday.

Kushner defends his interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other Russian officials as typical contacts in his role as the Trump campaign’s liaison to foreign governments, according to an 11-page prepared statement he plans to submit for the record, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

Kushner is scheduled to testify in closed-door sessions, first before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday and then before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, as part of the congressional probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials and associates.

With some of the closest members of President Trump’s campaign slated to testify before Senate committees investigating its ties with Russia, here’s what lawmakers want to ask Trump’s son, son-in-law and former campaign manager. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government orchestrated a far-reaching campaign to meddle with last year’s presidential campaign and influence the outcome in Trump’s favor.

In his testimony, which will be submitted to the congressional committees before he answers questions from lawmakers, Kushner says he has had only “limited contacts” with Russian representatives and denies any wrongdoing.

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner writes. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

Kushner portrays himself as a goal-oriented task master new to presidential politics who assumed increasingly important responsibilities on a fast-paced campaign in which decisions were made “on the fly,” including serving as the main point of contact for foreign government officials.

Kushner writes that his first meeting with a Russian official was in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech, the execution of which Kushner says he oversaw. Kushner writes that he attended a reception to thank the event’s host, Dimitri Simes, publisher of the National Interest, a foreign policy magazine. Simes introduced Kushner to four ambassadors at the reception, including Kislyak, Kushner says.

“With all the ambassadors, including Mr. Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy,” Kushner writes. “The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”

Kushner does not name the other three ambassadors he met at the reception.

Kushner denies having had any other contact with Kislyak during the campaign, disputing a report by Reuters that he had two phone calls with the ambassador.

“While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Kushner writes. “We have reviewed the phone records available to us and have not been able to identify any calls to any number we know to be associated with Ambassador Kislyak and I am highly skeptical these calls took place.”

In fact, Kushner goes on to note that on Nov. 9, the day after the election, when the campaign received a congratulatory note from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kushner tried to verify it was real and could not remember Kislyak’s name. “So I sent an email asking Mr. Simes, ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?’ ” Kushner writes.

Kushner also describes attending a June 2016 meeting organized by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian attorney. He says it was listed on his calendar as “Meeting: Don Jr. | Jared Kushner.” He writes that he arrived at the meeting late, and when he got there the Russian lawyer was talking about a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

“I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting,” Kushner writes. “Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get our of meeting.’ ”

Kushner writes that he received a “random email” on Oct. 30, 2016, from a screenname “Guccifer400,” which he interpreted as “a hoax” that was “an extortion attempt and threatened to reveal candidate Trump’s tax returns and demanded that we send him 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing that information.”

Kushner says he brought the email to the attention of a Secret Service agent he was traveling with, who advised him “to ignore it and not to reply — which is what I did.”

Kushner also details two interactions with Russian officials during the transition period, before Trump was sworn in as president on Jan. 20. The first, on Dec. 1, was a meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York, which retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, who would become the president’s national security adviser, also attended.

“I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations,” Kushner writes. “Also, as I had done in other meetings with foreign officials, I asked Ambassador Kislyak if he would identify the best person (whether the Ambassador or someone else) with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with his President. The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.”

Kushner writes that Kislyak addressed U.S. policy in Syria and wanted to “convey information from what he called his ‘generals,’ ” but that they could not come to the United States and “he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation.”

Kushner continues that he or Flynn explained there were no such lines, and that Kushner asked Kislyak if the Russians had “an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn.” He writes that Kislyak said “that would not be possible” and they agreed to wait until after the inauguration to receive the information.

The Washington Post first reported in May on Kushner and Kislyak’s discussions about establishing a secret communications channel, though Kushner suggests in his testimony that the channel would have been for the purpose of this one meeting as opposed to establishing a “secret back channel.”

[Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin]

“I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel,’ ” Kushner writes. “I did not suggest an on-going secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office. I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period.”

The second transition-period meeting Kushner says he had with Russians was on Dec. 13, when Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, a banker with “a direct line to the Russian President,” at the urging of Kislyak. On Dec. 6, the Russian Embassy asked Kushner to meet with Kislyak on Dec. 7, and Kushner declined, he writes. They asked if he could meet on Dec. 6 and Kushner declined again, he writes. Kislyak then requested a meeting with Kushner’s assistant — “and, to avoid offending the Ambassador, I agreed,” Kushner writes.

Kislyak and Kushner’s assistant, whom Kushner does not name in his testimony, met on Dec. 12, where Kislyak requested that Kushner meet with Gorkov, “who could give insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together.”

Kushner agreed to meet Gorkov, making room in his schedule for him the next day. Their meeting lasted 20 to 25 minutes, Kushner writes, and Gorkov presented two gifts — a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where Kushner’s grandparents were from in Belarus, and a bag of dirt from there. Kushner then gave the gifts to his assistant and asked him to formally register them with the transition office.

During the meeting, Kushner writes, Gorkov told him about his bank and discussed the Russian economy, expressing “disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for a better relationship in the future.” Kushner writes that “no specific policies were discussed,” including sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.

[Explanations for Kushner’s meeting with head of Kremlin-linked bank don’t match up]

At the end of his testimony, Kushner offers an explanation for failing to disclose all of his foreign government contacts on his SF-86 application for security clearance. He writes that his form was “prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication and initially did not list any contacts (not just with Russians) with foreign government officials.”

Kushner describes a frenzied period disentangling from his real estate business and moving his family to Washington during which a “rough draft” of his form was submitted by his assistant due to a “miscommunication.” Kushner writes that the initial submission omitted “all foreign contacts,” and that a supplemental submission disclosed more than 100 contacts from more than 20 countries.

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Jared Kushner will appear before the committee on Monday. (AP)

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, plans to detail four meetings he had with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and transition period — including one with a Russian lawyer set up by Donald Trump Jr. — but deny any improper contacts or collusion in testimony to Congress on Monday.

Kushner defends his interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other Russian officials as typical contacts in his role as the Trump campaign’s liaison to foreign governments, according to an 11-page prepared statement he plans to submit for the record, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

Kushner is scheduled to testify in closed-door sessions, first before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday and then before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, as part of the congressional probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials and associates.

With some of the closest members of President Trump’s campaign slated to testify before Senate committees investigating its ties with Russia, here’s what lawmakers want to ask Trump’s son, son-in-law and former campaign manager. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government orchestrated a far-reaching campaign to meddle with last year’s presidential campaign and influence the outcome in Trump’s favor.

In his testimony, which will be submitted to the congressional committees before he answers questions from lawmakers, Kushner says he has had only “limited contacts” with Russian representatives and denies any wrongdoing.

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner writes. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

Kushner portrays himself as a goal-oriented task master new to presidential politics who assumed increasingly important responsibilities on a fast-paced campaign in which decisions were made “on the fly,” including serving as the main point of contact for foreign government officials.

Kushner writes that his first meeting with a Russian official was in April of 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech, the execution of which Kushner says he oversaw. Kushner writes that he attended a reception to thank the event’s host, Dimitri Simes, the publisher of The National Interest, a foreign policy magazine, where Simes introduced Kushner to four ambassadors, including Kislyak.

“With all the ambassadors, including Mr. Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy,” Kushner writes. “The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”

Kushner does not name the other three ambassadors he met at the reception.

Kushner denies having had any other contact with Kislyak during the campaign, disputing a report by Reuters that he had had two phone calls with the ambassador.

“While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Kushner writes. “We have reviewed the phone records available to us and have not been able to identify any calls to any number we know to be associated with Ambassador Kislyak and I am highly skeptical these calls took place.”

In fact, Kushner goes on to note that on Nov. 9, the day after the election, when the campaign received a congratulatory note from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kushner tried to verify it was real and could not remember Kislyak’s name. “So I sent an email asking Mr. Simes, ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?’” Kushner writes.

Kushner also describes attending a June 2016 meeting organized by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian attorney. He says it was listed on his calendar as “Meeting: Don Jr. | Jared Kushner.” He writes that he arrived at the meeting late, and when he got there the Russian lawyer was talking about a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

“I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting,” Kushner writes. “Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get our of meeting.’”

Kushner writes that he received a “random email” on Oct. 30, 2016, from a screenname “Guccifer400,” which he interpreted as “a hoax” that was “an extortion attempt and threatened to reveal candidate Trump’s tax returns and demanded that we send him 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing that information.”

Kushner says he brought the email to the attention of a U.S. Secret Service agent he was traveling with, who advised him “to ignore it and not to reply — which is what I did.”

Kushner also details two interactions with Russian officials during the transition period, before Trump was sworn in as president on Jan. 20. The first, on Dec. 1, was a meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York, which retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, who would become the president’s national security adviser, also attended.

“I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations,” Kushner writes. “Also, as I had done in other meetings with foreign officials, I asked Ambassador Kislyak if he would identify the best person (whether the Ambassador or someone else) with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with his President. The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.”

Kushner writes that Kislyak addressed U.S. policy in Syria and wanted to “convey information from what he called his ‘generals,'” but that they could not come to the United States and “he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation.”

Kushner continues that he or Flynn explained there were no such lines, and that Kushner asked Kislyak if the Russians had “an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn.” He writes that Kislyak said “that would not be possible” and they agreed to wait until after the inauguration to receive the information.

“I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel,'” Kushner writes. “I did not suggest an on-going secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office. I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period.”

The second transition-period meeting Kushner says he had with Russians was on Dec. 13, when Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, a banker with “a direct line to the Russian President,” at the urging of Kislyak. On Dec. 6, the Russian Embassy asked Kushner to meet with Kislyak on Dec. 7, and Kushner declined, he writes. They asked if he could meet on Dec. 6 and Kushner declined again, he writes. Kislyak then requested a meeting with Kushner’s assistant – “and, to avoid offending the Ambassador, I agreed,” Kushner writes.

Kislyak and Kushner’s assistant, whom Kushner does not name in his testimony, met on Dec. 12, where Kislyak requested that Kushner meet with Gorkov, “who could give insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together.”

Kushner agreed to meet Gorkov, making room in his schedule for him the next day, Dec. 13. Their meeting lasted 20-25 minutes, Kushner writes, and Gorkov presented two gifts – a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where Kushner’s grandparents were from in Belarus, and a bag of dirt from there. Kushner then gave the gifts to his assistant and asked him to formally register them with the transition office.

During the meeting, Kushner writes, Gorkov told him about his bank and discussed the Russian economy, expressing “disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for a better relationship in the future.” Kushner writes that “no specific policies were discussed,” including sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.

At the end of his testimony, Kushner offers an explanation for failing to disclose all of his foreign government contacts on his SF-86 application for security clearance. He writes that his form was “prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication and initially did not list any contacts (not just with Russians) with foreign government officials.”

Kushner describes a frenzied period disentangling from his real estate business and moving his family to Washington during which a “rough draft” of his form was submitted by his assistant due to a “miscommunication.” Kushner writes that the initial submission omitted “all foreign contacts,” and that a supplemental submission disclosed more than 100 contacts from more than 20 countries.

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SAN ANTONIO — Nine people are dead and the death toll could rise after emergency crews pulled dozens of people from a sweltering tractor-trailer found parked outside a Walmart in the midsummer Texas heat, victims of what officials said was an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.

The driver was arrested, and nearly 20 others taken from the rig were hospitalized in dire condition, many with extreme dehydration and heatstroke, officials said Sunday.

Thirty survivors were hospitalized in all, officials said.

“We’re looking at a human-trafficking crime,” said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, calling it “a horrific tragedy.”

One U.S. official said Sunday evening that 17 of those rescued were being treated for injuries that were considered life-threatening. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the information has not been publicly released.

Authorities were called to the San Antonio parking lot late Saturday or early Sunday and found eight people dead inside the truck. A ninth victim died at the hospital, said Liz Johnson, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The victims “were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.

All the dead were adult males, authorities said.

Authorities would not say whether the trailer was locked when they arrived, but they said it had no working air conditioning.

It was just the latest smuggling-by-truck operation to end in tragedy. In one of the worst cases on record in the U.S., 19 immigrants locked inside a stifling rig died in Victoria, Texas, in 2003.

San Antonio resident Juan Reyes told the CBS affiliate there, KENS-TV finding newly-arrived travelers near his home isn’t “unheard of — people walking up and telling me stories that they got here from walking or jumped off the train. I’ve seen a lot of different things. I’ve heard a lot of different things.”

Reyes said he does what he can to help the people who come to his yard. “I’m a human being and I care about others,” Reyes said emotionally.         

Based on initial interviews with survivors of the San Antonio tragedy, more than 100 people may have been packed into the back of the 18-wheeler at one point in its journey, ICE acting Director Thomas Homan said. Officials said 39 people were inside when rescuers arrived, and the rest were believed to have escaped or hitched rides to their next destination.

2017-07-23t163143z-1865848794-rc1a9cb4f6c0-rtrmadp-3-texas-bodies.jpg

Police officer at scene where several people believed to be illegal immigrants being smuggled into U.S. were found dead inside sweltering 18-wheeler trailer parked behind a Walmart store in San Antonio on July 23, 2017

Ray Whitehouse/ Reuters

Four of the survivors appeared to be between 10 and 17 years old, Homan said. Investigators gave no details on where the rig began its journey or where it was headed.

But Homan said it was unlikely the truck was used to carry the immigrants across the border into the United States. He said people from Latin America who rely on smuggling networks typically cross the border on foot and are then picked up by a driver.

“Even though they have the driver in custody, I can guarantee you there’s going to be many more people we’re looking for to prosecute,” Homan said.

Mexican Consul General in San Antonio Reyna Torres said Mexican nationals were among the survivors and those who died on the rig.

The Mexican government also released a statement Sunday night expressing its condolences to the relatives of those who died and called for an “exhaustive investigation”

A Guatemalan official said two natives of Central American country were among those hospitalized. Consul Cristy Andrino in McAllen said the two told her they had crossed into the U.S. on foot and were later picked up by the rig.

Guatemala was seeking to obtain witness status for the two survivors so they wouldn’t be deported, Andrino said.

Federal prosecutors said James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, was taken into custody and would be charged on Monday in federal court. The local U.S. Attorney’s Office wouldn’t say whether Bradley was the alleged driver of the truck who was arrested. It was not immediately known whether Bradley had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

The U.S. Homeland Security Department stepped in to take the lead in the investigation from San Antonio police. Department Secretary John Kelly said the incident demonstrates the brutality of smuggling organizations that “have no regard for human life and seek only profits.”

The truck had an Iowa license plate and was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa. A company official did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

San Antonio is about a 150-mile drive from the Mexican border. The temperature in San Antonio reached 101 degrees Saturday and didn’t dip below 90 degrees until after 10 p.m.

The tragedy came to light after a person from the truck approached a Walmart employee and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, said McManus, the local police chief.

The employee gave the person water and then called police, who found the dead and the desperate inside the rig. Some of those in the truck ran into the woods, McManus said.

Investigators checked store surveillance video, which showed vehicles arriving and picking up people from the truck, authorities said. Walmart released a brief statement Sunday saying it was doing what it could to help investigators.

Vigils and prayer services for the victims were held throughout San Antonio Sunday evening.

At one, college student Diandra Borrero said, “I just can’t imagine them being stuck in there dying when they thought they were coming here for a better life. This is really sad. It shakes me.”

Rey Saldana remarked, “You see eight bodies in body bags and the backstory is more gruesome then what you’re seeing the fact that these people went to a torturous experience.”

Immigrants’ rights activists and church officials held up handmade signs reading “Who here is not an immigrant” and “No human is legal.”

Those gathered at one vigil held a moment of silence, then gave speeches blaming federal and Texas authorities’ embrace of harsher immigration policies for contributing to the deaths.

Jonathan Ryan, executive director of a nonprofit called Raices, said it’s “an unfortunate example” of what happens when such polices are enacted.

A new law approved by the Texas Legislature lets police inquire about peoples’ immigration status during routine interactions like traffic stops.

Bob Libal is executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based nonprofit that supports more liberal immigration policies.

“These tragedies are compounded when it’s incredibly dangerous and incredibly expensive and we push migration into the hands of illicit actors,” Libal told The AP in a phone interview. “Everyone’s thoughts today should be not in politicizing it but in making sure that everyone who survived this ordeal is treated with respect and get the protection they need.”

A group of immigration lawyers and advocates sued Homeland Security Secretary Kelly and other U.S. officials this month alleging that guards on the U.S. border with Mexico have illegally turned away asylum-seekers.

In the May 2003 case, the immigrants were being taken from South Texas to Houston. Prosecutors said the driver heard them begging and screaming for their lives but refused to free them. The driver was sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison.

“These criminal organizations, they’re all about making money. They have no regard for human life,” Homan said.

The Border Patrol has reported at least four truck seizures this month in and around Laredo, Texas. On July 7, agents found 72 people crammed into a truck with no means of escape, the agency said. They were from Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Authorities in Mexico have also made a number of such discoveries over the years.

Last December, they found 110 migrants trapped and suffocating inside a truck after it crashed while speeding in the state of Veracruz. Most were from Central America, and 48 were minors. Some were injured in the crash.

Last October, also in Veracruz state, four migrants suffocated in a truck carrying 55 people.

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