Luther Strange calls Superfund bribe report ‘fake news’
U.S. Senator Luther Strange speaks at the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce Washington Update Luncheon at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala. Wednesday May 31st. (Bob Gathany / bgathany@AL.com)
Sen. Luther Strange dismissed a report Thursday as "fake news" that alleged he was in the room when a Democratic state representative was offered a bribe in exchange for fighting back against the 35th Avenue Superfund site in Birmingham, and called on one of his Republican challengers who repeated the report at a news conference to "hit the confession booth" for spreading "salacious gossip against their brother in Christ."
The Alabama Political Reporter, citing an anonymous source, reported Rep. John Rogers of Birmingham was offered control of a super PAC that Drummond Company would form on his behalf if he spoke out against the superfund designation in north Birmingham. Josh Moon, the reporter who wrote the story, later said on Twitter that at least six people corroborated the unidentified source’s account.
The first half came from an impeccable source and was corroborated by at least six people, including a Sen candidate & a legislator /2
— Josh Moon (@Josh_Moon) June 29, 2017
Drummond Company was eventually named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as being among the "potentially responsible parties" that could be liable for damages at the site. Rogers did not confirm the report to the Alabama Political Reporter, but said he did not accept a bribe.
BREAKING GOP Candidate Randy Brinson said Rogers told him Strange was present at failed bribe Rogers says no Strange pic.twitter.com/cxwu1ifYRz
— Alan Collins (@fox6alancollins) June 29, 2017
Rogers later told a reporter that he was not in the room during the alleged bribe.
Strange’s campaign said the senator has been the victim of "fake news" reports that they said have also plagued President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Strange is running on the premise that he is the candidate best aligned with Trump’s values.
"As Alabama’s attorney general, Sen. Strange led the national fight against the over-reaching Obama EPA in order to protect jobs in Alabama and across the country," his campaign said. "The allegations in Josh Moon’s article are simply not true and smack of the same fake news that President Trump and Jeff Sessions are dealing with. As shown by the recent Veritas videos exposing CNN, too many in the media are unaccountable and have dropped all pretense of having standards, abusing and using the First Amendment as a cover for lying about their political enemies and boosting their ratings. "
The allegations were reiterated by Republican challenger and Christian Coalition of Alabama President Randy Brinson during a news conference Thursday in Birmingham in an attempt to tie the senator to corruption. The Strange campaign hit back, accusing Brinson of spreading unfounded rumors.
"Anyone who desperately spreads salacious gossip against their brother in Christ needs to hit the confession booth," Strange’s campaign said in response.
Strange, then Alabama attorney general, was against the Superfund designation, arguing in 2015 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was overstepping its bounds. He said the agency ruled arbitrarily and without consultation from the state, and did not take into account that Alabama would not use state funds to help clean up the site.
The Alabama Political Reporter story claimed that Strange’s opposition to the EPA was "odd," pointing out that his campaign accounts benefited from thousands of dollars from Drummond Corporation.
Other than categorically denying the allegations, the statement from Strange’s campaign did not explain the donations.
Mobile shipping terminal still in ‘manual mode’ after international cyberattack
The APM Terminals facility in Mobile, Ala., is shown on the afternoon of Thursday, June 29, 2017. The terminal has been operating in "manual mode" after a global cyberattack crippled some of APM’s data systems. (Lawrence Specker/LSpecker@AL.com)
International shipping company Maersk said midafternoon Thursday that some of its operations, including the APM container terminal in Mobile, are still working through issues caused by a cyberattack earlier in the week.
The "Petya" ransomware attack was first detected in the Ukraine but also affected scattered corporate systems in western Europe and the U.S. Shipping terminal operator APM, a part of Maersk, was affected in numerous ports, including Mobile. The Mobile container terminal run by the company was shut down on Tuesday and reopened Wednesday in what a port official described as "manual mode." Other port operations weren’t affected.
Late Thursday morning, a long line of container trucks could be seen near the APM Terminals facility, backed up over a bridge leading to the site and even lined up along the I-10 off-ramp to Virginia Street nearby. By late afternoon the backlog had cleared.
Maersk’s afternoon update included a chart showing that the terminal’s rail connection wasn’t operational, but other portions of the yard were. Most of the affected terminals were in Africa and Europe, but a few other North American sites were affected. The update indicated that terminals in Port Elizabeth, N.J., and south Florida were partly out of commission, partly in manual mode and partly in normal operation. But a terminal in Los Angeles was shown as being entirely shut down.
A company statement issued shortly before 9 p.m. Central European Time said that A.P. Moller-Maersk was "cautiously progressing toward technical recovery" but that it as "too early to give a timeline for normal state of business to be restored."
The company said that handling of cargo in transit was "close to normal" and that the situation for APM Terminals was improving.
The situation did not affect the arrival of two new container cranes in Mobile. The towering cranes were successfully unloaded on Wednesday.