World News

Video shows fatal shooting of unarmed man by Carlsbad ranger – The Denver Post

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Recently released body camera video shows the final moments before an unarmed Colorado man was shot and killed by a park ranger at Carlsbad Caverns.

KOB-TV in Albuquerque reported Tuesday that video from the March shooting has 26 seconds missing, leaving local prosecutors unsure whether to rule the use of force was justified.

Authorities say National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell stopped Charles “Gage” Lorentz for erratic driving March 21. The video shows Lorentz outside of his vehicle and initially complying. But then when ordered to turn around, Lorentz starts dancing to music from another car.

Mitchell commands Lorentz to take his hands out of his pockets and — without warning — deployed his Taser. The video then resumes 26 second later showing the ranger on top of Lorentz. Mitchell then fires his service weapon twice.

Lorentz had been traveling from Texas back to his home in Colorado. Authorities say he had stopped in Carlsbad to meet a friend.

Shannon Kennedy, an attorney representing Lorentz’s family, said they intend to sue the U.S. Interior Department and the National Park Service.

The National Park Service, through an email, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Mexico is investigating.

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Dozens of civilians killed in central Mali village attacks

Attackers targeted four villages in Mopti region, where violence has escalated in recent years.

Dozens of civilians have been killed and others wounded in Mali’s volatile centre when unidentified armed men on motorbikes attacked ethnic Dogon farming villages, according to local officials.

The attackers targeted four villages on Wednesday in Mopti region, which has seen dozens of tit-for-tat ethnic massacres as well as raids by fighters of armed groups over the past few years.

Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of the commune of Bankass, released a list of victims on Thursday that put the death toll at 32.

Other reports put the death toll to at least 30.

“Quite a lot of armed men attacked the village [of Gouari], firing at people. Fifteen bodies were buried this morning. There are also wounded,” a local official was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency earlier on Thursday, requesting anonymity for security reasons.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which took place in an area some 30km (19 miles) from the border with Burkina Faso.

A spokesman for the Malian army could not be reached for comment. The army has been criticised by rights groups and residents for failing to protect civilians in central Mali.

Mali is struggling to contain a multilayered and complex conflict that erupted in 2012 when ethnic Taureg separatists, allied with fighters from an al-Qaeda offshoot, launched a rebellion that took control of the country’s north.

Armed group fighters swiftly pushed over the Tuareg rebels and seized key northern cities until they were driven out in early 2013 by French troops, together with Malian forces and soldiers from other African countries.

But the fighters including some with links to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have since regrouped and extended their operations into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger despite the presence of thousands of national and international troops, including French and United Nations forces.

Attacks have grown fivefold between 2016 and 2020, with 4,000 people killed in 2019, up from about 770 killed in 2016, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, the number of people forced to leave their homes due to the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the region has surged from about 600,000 internally displaced people recorded in May 2010 to 1.5 million by April 2020. 

Last week, the UN said the unrest in central Mali, including armed group attacks and intercommunity violence, has killed at least 580 civilians since the beginning of the year.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a consultancy that tracks political violence, says it recorded nearly 300 civilian deaths in Mali in the first three months of 2020, a 90 percent jump over the previous quarter.

The human rights monitor of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali has documented 119 extrajudicial killings in the first three months of 2020 committed by Malian security forces in the central Mopti and Segou regions, including some by local forces operating under the auspices of the G5 Sahel Joint Force.

Last month, a Fulani association accused the Malian army of massacring dozens of civilians in a village in the Mopti region. 

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Woman accused of mutilating missing Texas soldier

A woman has been charged in the case of a missing Texas soldier whose body she is accused of helping to dismember and bury, prosecutors say.

Cecily Aguilar, 22, faces one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence in the disappearance of Private First Class Vanessa Guillen.

Ms Guillen, 20, was last seen on 22 April at the Fort Hood military base where she worked.

Human remains believed to be hers were found in Bell County earlier this week.

Fort Hood officials named 20-year-old Aaron David Robinson as the main suspect in Ms Guillen’s disappearance on Thursday.

Investigators said the suspect, a junior soldier at Fort Hood, killed himself as police closed in on him after fleeing his post on Tuesday.

“While law enforcement agencies attempted to make contact with the suspect in Killeen, Texas, Specialist Robinson displayed a weapon and took his own life,” Damon Phelps, of the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, said at a news conference on Thursday.

Ms Guillen’s family has called for a congressional investigation into the Fort Hood base.

They allege that Ms Guillen had been harassed by someone within her unit, but officials have said they have no report to indicate she was sexually harassed or assaulted.

A Texas state legislator who has been working with Ms Guillen’s family told reporters last week Army officials suspected “foul play” in the case.

Why has Ms Aguilar been charged?

A criminal complaint against Ms Aguilar says Mr Robinson told her he had killed a female soldier at Fort Hood.

He admitted to bludgeoning Ms Guillen to death with a hammer in the armoury of the base before moving her body to a remote site, prosecutors said.

After her disappearance, around noon on 22 April, Ms Guillen’s car and barracks keys, ID card and wallet were found in the armoury room.

Mr Robinson allegedly attempted to dispose of Ms Guillen’s body, enlisting the help of Ms Aguilar, who is the estranged wife of a former soldier at the base.

When Mr Robinson showed Ms Aguilar the body, she recognised it to be that of Ms Guillen, the criminal complaint says.

Prosecutors said the pair attempted to dismember the body with a “machete-type knife” before burying the remains in three holes. They returned later to fill the holes with concrete, prosecutors said.

Ms Aguilar is being held in custody while the criminal investigation continues. If convicted, Aguilar could face up to a 20-year prison sentence.

The remains have not yet been positively identified as Ms Guillen’s.

Agents from the US Army Criminal Investigation Command, Texas Rangers, FBI and local police found the remains near the Leon River, about 30 miles (48km) from Fort Hood, after receiving a tip off.

Ms Guillen, a small-arms repairer with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, is originally from Houston, Texas – about 200 miles (320km) from Fort Hood.

She was promoted to specialist on Wednesday due to her time in the military, Fort Hood officials said.

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Epstein friend accused of recruiting girls for sex arrested – The Denver Post

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested Thursday on charges she helped recruit three girls — one as young as 14 — to have sex with financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of sexually assaulting dozens of girls and women over many years.

According to the indictment, Maxwell, who lived for years with Epstein and was his frequent companion on trips around the world, facilitated his crimes by “helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse” girls.

Epstein, 66, killed himself in a federal detention center in New York last summer while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell has, for years, been accused by many women of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex. Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges. The 58-year-old was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, where the FBI said it had been keeping tabs on her.

“More recently we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago,” William Sweeney, head of the FBI’s New York office, told a news conference Thursday.

The indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, included counts of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and perjury.

“Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said.

She called the charges against Maxwell a “prequel” to charges prosecutors brought against Epstein a year ago.

Messages were sent Thursday to several of Maxwell’s attorneys seeking comment. She has previously repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some claims against her “absolute rubbish.”

Among the most sensational accusations was a claim by Virginia Roberts Giuffre that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew at her London townhouse. Giuffre bolstered her allegations with a picture of her, Andrew and Maxwell that she said was taken at the time.

Andrew denied her story and Maxwell said in a deposition that Giuffre was “totally lying.”

He was not mentioned by name in the indictment, and the charges covered Maxwell’s dealings with Epstein only from 1994 through 1997, a period well before his alleged encounters with Giuffre in 2001.

Strauss said she would “welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us,” but did not answer further questions pertaining to these charges and Andrew.

Brad Edwards, an attorney representing Giuffre and several other Epstein victims said his clients were relieved by the charges. “Today is a very good day,” he said.

The indictment focused on Epstein’s alleged abuse of three specific girls at his Manhattan mansion and other residences in Palm Beach, Florida; Santa Fe, New Mexico, and London. Their names were not revealed in court filings.

The allegations in the indictment mirrored many claims from civil lawsuits against Maxwell, saying she would “entice and groom” minor girls by asking them about their lives, their schools and their families.

“Through this process, Maxwell and Epstein enticed victims to engage in sexual activity with Epstein. In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims,” according to the indictment.

Maxwell repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct, it went on. She was accused of committing perjury in 2016 in a deposition in a civil lawsuit, in part by denying knowledge of Epstein’s scheme to recruit underage girls.

At the time the alleged crimes, Maxwell was in an intimate relationship with Epstein and also was paid by him to manage his various properties, according to the indictment, which included a photograph of Epstein with his arm around Maxwell and his head nuzzling hers. Strauss, at the news conference, stood silent, pointing at the picture as film crews and photographers captured the moment.

Strauss promised the investigation was continuing and urged other victims to come forward. She said prosecutors would seek the detention of Maxwell.

Epstein was initially investigated in Florida and pleaded guilty to state charges in 2008 that allowed him to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. He was free a little after a year in prison.

At the time, a federal prosecutor in Florida signed off on an agreement, initially filed in secret, that barred the federal government from charging “any potential co-conspirators of Epstein.” Alexander Acosta, President Donald Trump’s former labor secretary, resigned last year after coming under fire for overseeing that deal when he was U.S. attorney in Miami.

Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan until he was fired last month, argued that federal prosecutors in New York were not bound by that agreement and brought a sweeping indictment against Epstein. Berman vowed to continue seeking justice for Epstein’s victims even after the financier’s death.

Maxwell’s indictment was celebrated by lawyers for some Epstein accusers.

Jennifer Araoz, a woman who says Epstein raped her in his New York mansion in 2002 when she was 15, said she feared the financier’s ring of conspirators for years.

“Now that the ring has been taken down, I know that I can’t be hurt anymore,” Araoz, now 33, said in a statement. “Day after day, I have waited for the news that Maxwell would be arrested and held accountable for her actions. Her arrest is a step in that direction, and it truly means that the justice system didn’t forget about us.”

Spencer T. Kuvin, who represents some of the women, said Maxwell was “hopefully … the first of many co-conspirators to face the consequences of this horrific crimes.”

Maxwell was described in a lawsuit by another Epstein victim, Sarah Ransome, as the “highest-ranking employee” of Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking enterprise. She oversaw and trained recruiters, developed recruiting plans and helped conceal the activity from law enforcement, the lawsuit alleged.


Associated Press writer Curt Anderson contributed to this report from Miami and Danica Kirka contributed from London.

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Mystery as hundreds of elephants found dead

Mystery surrounds the “completely unprecedented” deaths of hundreds of elephants in Botswana over the last two months.

Dr Niall McCann said colleagues in the southern African country had spotted more than 350 elephant carcasses in the Okavango Delta since the start of May.

No one knows why the animals are dying, with lab results on samples still weeks away, according to the government.

Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s declining elephant population.

Warning: Some people may find the following images upsetting

Dr McCann, of the UK-based charity National Park Rescue, told the BBC local conservationists first alerted the government in early May, after they undertook a flight over the delta.

“They spotted 169 in a three-hour flight,” he said. “To be able to see and count that many in a three-hour flight was extraordinary.

“A month later, further investigations identified many more carcasses, bringing the total to over 350.”

“This is totally unprecedented in terms of numbers of elephants dying in a single event unrelated to drought,” he added.

Back in May, Botswana’s government ruled out poaching as a reason – noting the tusks had not been removed, according to

There are other things which point to something other than poaching.

“It is only elephants that are dying and nothing else,” Dr McCann said. “If it was cyanide used by poachers, you would expect to see other deaths.”

Dr McCann has also tentatively ruled out natural anthrax poisoning, which killed at least 100 elephants in Bostwana last year.

But they have been unable to rule out either poisoning or disease. The way the animals appear to be dying – many dropping on their faces – and sightings of other elephants walking in circles points to something potentially attacking their neurological systems, Dr McCann said.

Either way, without knowing the source, it is impossible to rule out the possibility of a disease crossing into the human population – especially if the cause is in either the water sources or the soil. Dr McCann points to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is believed to have started in animals.

“Yes, it is a conservation disaster – but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis,” he said.

Dr Cyril Taolo, acting director for Botswana’s department of wildlife and national parks, told the Guardian they had so far confirmed at least 280 elephants had died, and were in the process of confirming the rest.

However, they did not know what was causing the animals’ deaths.

“We have sent [samples] off for testing and we are expecting the results over the next couple of weeks or so,” he said.

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Why people are scared of Hong Kong’s new law

China has introduced a new national security law for Hong Kong. The BBC’s Michael Bristow takes a closer look at the detail, and what it will mean in practice.

Lawyers and legal experts have said China’s national security law for Hong Kong will fundamentally change the territory’s legal system.

It introduces new crimes with severe penalties – up to life in prison – and allows mainland security personnel to legally operate in Hong Kong with impunity.

The legislation gives Beijing extensive powers it has never had before to shape life in the territory far beyond the legal system.

Analysis of the law by NPC Observer, a team of legal experts from the United States and Hong Kong, identified what they consider a number of worrying aspects.

“Its criminal provisions are worded in such a broad manner as to encompass a swath of what has so far been considered protected speech,” said a posting on its website.

Article 29 is perhaps an example of this broad wording.

It states that anyone who conspires with foreigners to provoke “hatred” of the Chinese government, or the authorities in Hong Kong, could have committed a criminal offence.

Does that include criticism of China’s governing Communist Party?

On Wednesday at a media briefing, Hong Kong’s Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng was asked to define exactly what the provision means. She was unable to give a clear answer.

Article 55 also contains vague language.

It gives Chinese mainland security operatives the right to investigate some national security cases that are “complex”, “serious” or “difficult”.

As the NPC Observer team note, these words are “highly subjective and malleable”.

Human rights organisations have pointed out how the law seems to undermine protections previously offered to defendants.

Trials can be held in secret (Article 41) and without a jury (Article 46). Judges can be handpicked (Article 44) by Hong Kong’s chief executive, who is answerable directly to Beijing.

The law also reverses a presumption that suspects will be granted bail (Article 42).

That same provision also appears to suggest there is no time limit on how long suspects can be held. It says only that cases should be handled in a “timely manner”.

Hong Kong’s new security law

Entire cases – from investigation to judgement to punishment – can be simply handed over to the mainland authorities (Article 56).

Foreign nationals outside of Hong Kong face prosecution under the law (Article 38).

Donald Clarke, writing for the China Collection, a blog focusing on Chinese issues, wrote that a US newspaper columnist advocating Tibetan independence might fall foul of the law.

“If you’ve ever said anything that might offend the PRC (People’s Republic of China) or Hong Kong authorities, stay out of Hong Kong,” he wrote.

Mr Clarke, of the George Washington University Law School, said the biggest worry was the institutions and processes that the law has established.

The legislation allows China to set up the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong – a mainland Chinese body to be staffed by mainland Chinese personnel.

Article 60 makes it clear that anyone who works there does not have to abide by Hong Kong’s laws. They shall not be subject to “inspection, search or detention”.

As Mr Clarke wrote: “They are untouchable.”

Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker in Hong Kong, said the aim of China’s national security legislation was to “stun Hong Kong into nothingness”.

“People will be so petrified, so frightened and intimidated, that they wouldn’t dare say anything or do anything in opposition,” she said.

Of course, that is not the view in Beijing.

Zhang Xiaoming, of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said on Wednesday that the law would help return stability to the territory.

It will bring Hong Kong more in line with the laws, procedures and practices of mainland China.

Whether or not you think the legislation was necessary, it is impossible to deny its significance. As Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam put it: this is a turning point.

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World News

The human cost of India’s coronavirus fake news

Fake or misleading news can have a real impact on those who find themselves the targets. This has been a particular problem in India during the coronavirus pandemic, where reliable sources of news are frequently drowned out by unverified information online.

False information has had serious consequences for minority communities as well as some business sectors such as the meat industry.

The Reality Check team has looked at the extent of this misinformation and some of those directly affected.

Religious tensions exposed

India’s religious fault lines are an important theme across false stories spreading online, something that has been further highlighted by the coronavirus outbreak.

We’ve looked back at claims debunked by five Indian fact-checking websites between January and June this year.

They fall under four broad headings:

Of the 1,447 fact-checks on five Indian websites, claims around coronavirus dominated, making up 58% of them.

This was largely related to false cures, lockdown rumours and conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus.

In the period between January and early March (before the coronavirus outbreak took hold), fake news was dominated by the Citizenship Amendment Act, a new law that offers citizenship to people from three neighbouring countries, but only if they are not Muslim.

The law led to protests across the country by those who said it would marginalise Muslims.

Riots in mainly Muslim neighbourhoods in north-east Delhi in February also fuelled a lot of misleading claims around that time.

This included doctored videos, fake images, the reusing of old videos and images in a different context, fake messages, and messages with fake attributions.

What happened when coronavirus hit India?

Our analysis found that misinformation targeting Muslims spiked in the first week of April.

This was after several members of an Islamic group called the Tablighi Jamaat, who had attended a religious gathering in Delhi, tested positive.

As more members of the group tested positive, false claims about Muslims deliberately spreading the virus became viral.

In several parts of the country, there were calls for an economic boycott of Muslim businesses.

Vegetable seller Imran – who didn’t want to use his real name – told the BBC that when a fake video on WhatsApp said to show a Muslim man spitting on bread went viral, calls for a boycott of Muslims grew.

“We were scared to enter villages where we would usually go to sell vegetables,” said Imran, who lives in Uttar Pradesh state.

Imran and other vegetable vendors from his community now only sell their produce at a city market.

In the capital Delhi, the Minorities Commission, which works to safeguard the rights of minority communities, formally notified the police of the need to act against people stopping Muslims from entering residential areas or carrying on with their business.

“Not only people who were associated with the Tablighi Jamaat [were attacked], there were attacks on Muslims in all parts of India,” Zafarul Islam, the chairman of the commission, told the BBC.

Meat traders targeted

False claims were also widely spread in India that eating vegetarian food and eliminating meat from your diet could prevent you getting coronavirus.

The government launched campaigns to stop the spread of such misinformation.

These false WhatsApp messages and social media posts had an impact on both Muslim and non-Muslim groups alike who were involved in the meat industry.

The Indian authorities made an assessment that by April, misinformation about meat-eating generally had contributed to losses of up to 130bn rupees (£1.43bn) in the poultry industry.

Poultry is one of the main forms of meat consumed in India.

“We were giving away chicken for free because we didn’t know what to do with the stock,” said Sujit Prabhavle, a meat trader in the western state of Maharashtra.

“Our sales fell by 80%,” he said.

“I saw a message on WhatsApp that said eating chicken would spread coronavirus, so people stopped buying meat,” said Touhid Baraskar, another meat seller from Maharashtra.

Some of the most viral false information has included fake claims that former top Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar had asked for meat shops to be shut.

“When misinformation comes from sources they trust, people will believe whatever comes their way without fact-checking it,” said Pratik Sinha, founder of Alt-News, a fact-checking website.

The meat industry was not the only victim of fake news.

The fall in sales in the poultry industry had a major knock-on effect on the sale of eggs, and of maize – which goes into much of the feed for chickens.

The sale of eggs fell by 30% in Delhi, 21% in Mumbai and by 52% in Hyderabad in Telangana state between January and June, according to official data.

Maize farmers are now selling their produce up to 35% lower than the minimum support price offered by the Indian government as a result of the fall in demand.

Additional research by Shadab Nazmi in Delhi

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‘So far, so V’: Bank of England’s chief economist sees sharp bounce-back

The UK economy is on course for a V-shaped recovery from the coronavirus crisis though the risk of a prolonged period of unemployment remains, according to the Bank of England’s chief economist.

Britain is widely expected to have entered a steep recession as a result of the lockdown – but it appears to be bouncing back more quickly than previously expected, Andy Haldane said in a webinar speech.

He said the economy was benefiting from a rebound in consumer confidence since restrictions began to ease.

Referring to the question of whether the downturn would be U-shaped – indicating a prolonged downturn – or V-shaped with a sharp bounce-back, Mr Haldane said: “It is early days, but my reading of the evidence is so far, so V.”

The remarks came as official figures showed the economy had performed even worse than initially estimated in the first quarter of the year, shrinking by 2.2% in the January-March period.

Data for April – the first full month of lockdown – shows GDP then plummeted by an unprecedented 20.4%.

But Mr Haldane said the recovery for both UK and global economies had come “sooner and faster” than the Bank of England had expected in May.

However he added that risks “remain considerable”.

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Wildfire burning southeast of Chatfield State Park; mandatory evacuations underway

Firefighters are battling a 267-acre wildfire southeast of Chatfield State Park where high winds and dry vegetation are creating “dangerous firefighting conditions.”

The BackCountry subdivision and the nearby Highlands Ranch Law Enforcement Training Foundation are being evacuated, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The evacuation is mandatory.

South Metro Fire Rescue responded to what’s being called the Chatridge 2 fire around 10 a.m. Monday near the intersection of Chatridge Court and U.S. 85 in unincorporated Douglas County.

By 12:20 p.m., the fire had grown to at least 267 acres and was 60% contained. The fire presents a moderate risk for forward spread, according to firefighters.

Firefighters protected two homes in the area and are using helicopters to dump water on the fire. At least six airplanes also responded to the fire.

People evacuating the Backcountry subdivision can go to ThunderRidge High School, 1991 W. Wildcat Reserve Parkway, in Highlands Ranch, and remain in their cars, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

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Bundle of documents reveal Robert Jenrick’s texts with ex-media mogul in ‘cash for favours’ row

The housing secretary was “insistent” a planning application by a Tory donor be allowed just in time for them to save up to £50m, new government documents reveal.

Papers released amid pressure on Robert Jenrick show an official in his department recorded he wanted approval to be given to the Westferry building sought by newspaper owner Richard Desmond.

A partly-redacted email sent on 9 January said the cabinet minister “was insistent that decision issued this week ie tomorrow – as next week the viability of the scheme is impacted by a change in the London CIL [Community Infrastructure Levy] regime”.

That decision allowed Northern and Shell to avoid paying between £30m and £50m extra to the council and overruled both Tower Hamlets Council and a planning inspector.

Mr Jenrick subsequently reversed the ruling following legal action by the council, admitting that what he did was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias”.

It later emerged that Mr Jenrick had sat next to Mr Desmond at a Conservative Party fundraising dinner in November 2019.

The minister admitted Mr Desmond did “bring out his iPhone and show me some images of the development” at the event.

Two weeks after the housing scheme was approved, Electoral Commission records show that Mr Desmond personally gave £12,000 to the Conservatives.

Mr Jenrick has since been fighting allegations of “cash for favours” but has dismissed any claims of impropriety as “false allegations”.

New texts between the pair also emerged as part of a bundle of documents released by the government in a bid to clear Mr Jenrick’s name.

They show he texted Mr Desmond on 18 November 2019 saying: “Good to spend time with you tonight Richard. See you again soon I hope.”

In another exchange two days later, Mr Desmond tried to arrange a meeting with the housing secretary on 19 December, as well as a site visit to the Westferry Printworks, complaining about having to deal with “Marxists”.

He wrote: “Good news finally the inspectors reports have gone to you today, we appreciate the speed as we don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe for nothing!

“We all want to go with the scheme and the social housing we have proposed and spent a month at the Marxist town hall debating, thanks again, all my best, Richard.”

Mr Jenrick replied declining a meeting until after a decision had been made due to his position because “it is important not to give any appearance of being influenced by applicants of cases that I may have a role in or to have predetermined them”.

He added: “And so I think it is best that we don’t meet until after the matter has been decided, one way of [sic] another ‐ and I can’t provide any advice to you on that, other than to say that I will receive advice from my officials after the general election assuming I remain in office and will consider it carefully in accordance with the rules and guidance.

“I hope that is okay and we can meet to discuss other matters soon, hopefully on the 19th [of December].”

An email on 14 January appears to show Mr Jenrick was keen to get the decision passed quickly, a housing department official writing they needed confirmation “by 5pm” to “avoid any criticism that the decision was not received within office hours”.

Boris Johnson has previously stood by Mr Jenrick.

When asked previously if he had done the right thing, the prime minister replied: “As far as I know, of course he did.”

But he is now facing calls to sack the housing secretary.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said his position was “untenable”.

“The public will be appalled at what looks like a clear abuse of power – Robert Jenrick must go and the Conservative Party must hand back this donation,” she demanded.

In the Commons earlier on Wednesday, Mr Jenrick said: “Transparency matters, openness matters and settling this matter matters because I certainly don’t want to be the subject of the innuendo and the false accusations that the Opposition are choosing to peddle.”

Text exchanges between Robert Jenrick and Richard Desmond, released by the government

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