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Trump lies his way through a visit to the border with Mexico as he escalates his ‘emergency’ threat

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WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump lied his way through a visit to the Mexican border on Thursday, returning again and again to false claims as he attempted to promote his proposed wall project.

He unleashed the dishonesty barrage, which included at least 10 false or misleading claims, as he escalated his threat to declare a “national emergency” if he cannot convince Democrats to agree to spend $5.7 billion on the border wall.

He said he would “probably” declare an emergency, if there was no deal to end the 20-day-long government shutdown he initiated because of the wall dispute, and he added, “I would almost say definitely.”

Declaring an emergency would possibly allow Trump to build and fund a wall without Congress’s approval.

But it would be certain to be challenged in court and prompt abuse-of-power accusations, and several senior congressional Republicans have already said they would not support such a drastic measure.

NBC and The New York Times reported Thursday that the White House was looking at the idea of funding part of the wall using billions in unspent money that was allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers budget. NBC and the Times said the funding pool includes money intended for projects in areas hit by natural disasters, including Puerto Rico and California.

Trump has previously threatened to deny federal assistance to hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico and to fire-damaged California, whose officials have criticized him.

The shutdown will be the longest in U.S. history if it continues until Saturday, as appears likely.

Pressure has mounted on Trump as it has dragged on.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are scheduled to miss their first paychecks on Friday. The organization representing FBI agents issued a Thursday letter demanding an end to the shutdown, arguing that “financial security is a matter of national security.”

Trump’s Thursday dishonesty began even before he left Washington. He told reporters that, when he had promised during his campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, he had never said this would be a direct payment.

“Obviously, I never said this, and I never meant, ‘they’re going to write out a cheque,’ ” he said, adding: “When I said ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously they’re not going to write a cheque. They are paying for the wall indirectly.”

He had not promised a “cheque” during the campaign, although he explicitly said “they may even write us a cheque,” but he had, in fact, made clear he was talking about a direct payment; a document still on his campaign website promised he would threaten Mexico with financial harm until it made an “easy” decision: “make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion.”

Trump claimed that the indirect payment he is now talking about would effectively be made by Mexico through the new North American trade agreement he has negotiated with Canada and Mexico.

But even if the agreement is eventually approved — Congress might take years before voting on it — it will never create a funding stream that can be allocated to an infrastructure project.

When he arrived in McAllen, Texas for an immigration roundtable at a Border Patrol station, Trump derided critics who dismiss walls as outdated and ineffective.

He said some old technology, such as the wheel, is timeless.

“A wheel is older than a wall,” he said.

He repeated it a few seconds later: “The wheel is older than the wall.

“Do you know that?”

Defensive walls predate wheels by thousands of years. (Jericho’s famous wall existed around 8,000 BC; the wheel is thought to have been invented around 3,500 BC.)

Seeking to portray Democrats as divided on the shutdown, Trump described a “big article” in which he said newly elected Democrats broke with party leadership and described the party’s “no wall” position as “indefensible.”

That did not happen.

An article in Politico merely included two Democrats expressing mild concern about how voters would respond to the extended shutdown.

Both of them continue to oppose the wall.

Trump again sought to use past presidents to bolster his case for the wall, suggesting that they, too, had wanted to build a wall: “They were going to build this wall in 2003, in 2006. They were going to build it 20 years ago. They were going to build it forever.”

While George W. Bush approved 700 miles of border fencing in 2006 — not the kind of giant concrete wall Trump campaigned on. Democrat Bill Clinton was president 20 years ago, and he made no effort to build a wall. Nor did Republican predecessors George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan; indeed, Reagan explicitly opposed the idea.

As he did in his Tuesday prime-time address, Trump offered a misleading description of Democrats’ position on the wall: This time, he said, “They said, ‘We don’t want a concrete wall.’ I said, ‘That’s OK, we’ll call it a steel barrier.’ ”

Democrats have objected to the project on the whole, not to Trump’s choice of material.

Trump left the Border Patrol station and went to the border, itself, at the Rio Grande. There, he told reporters, “The nice part about the wall or the barrier is I can have that worked out in 15 minutes. We can start construction.”

The construction process, which involves planning, study, contracting, and contentious property acquisition, would not begin nearly that fast.

Trying to exaggerate the problem of illegal immigration, Trump said of the Border Patrol: “They have done a fantastic job. Never so many apprehensions, ever, in our history.”

In reality, the number of apprehensions on the Mexican border in 2018, about 400,000, was not even a quarter of the total in 2000.

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8



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Personal Injury firm to pay an estimated $4 million to settle class-action with former clients

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A personal injury law firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle claims that the firm double-dipped from the settlements of nearly 1,800 accident victims it represented.

The settlement between Neinstein & Associates LLP, a prominent personal injury law firm, and its clients was approved Wednesday by Justice Paul Perell.

Cassie Hodge, one of nearly 1,800 accident victims who joined a class-action lawsuit against Neinstein & Associates LLP. The firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle the claims.
Cassie Hodge, one of nearly 1,800 accident victims who joined a class-action lawsuit against Neinstein & Associates LLP. The firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle the claims.  (Andrew Lahodynskyj / Toronto Star)

Perell’s sign-off on the settlement effectively ends a class-action lawsuit that was certified in June 2017 but never made it to trial.

At the time the class-action commenced, lawyers working on contingency — “you don’t pay unless we win” — were not allowed to take a sum of money called “costs” in addition to a percentage of the settlement, according to the Solicitor’s Act governing lawyers.

In 2012, the roughly 1,800 class members alleged that Gary Neinstein and the law firm breached provincial law and their “fiduciary duties because they charged an amount for costs” in addition to the fee spelled out in their contingency fee agreement, according to Perell’s settlement approval decision. The firm denied the allegations.

Jeff Neinstein, managing partner of Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers, told the Star in an email his firm is “pleased that this issue has been resolved.”

“We appreciate the trust and confidence that our clients have continued to place in us and we remain dedicated to providing compassionate legal representation for all victims across Ontario.”

During a brief hearing in a second-floor courtroom at downtown Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, Perell additionally approved $1 million in legal fees and assorted charges incurred during the litigation for plaintiff lawyers Peter Waldmann and Andrew Stein, plus a $10,000 honorarium to accident victim Cassie Hodge, the 46-year-old mother of two at the heart of the case.

Waldmann, who represented Hodge and the other class members, said the settlement is “a compromise,” but he is pleased the accident victims are getting some remedy.

A Star investigation that began in 2016 found personal injury lawyers in Ontario had routinely taken their fees then also taken the “costs,” which a Divisional Court judge had called “double dipping.” As a result, the Star story said, many Ontario residents had been overcharged thousands of dollars and likely did not know it.

On the heels of the Star’s findings, the Law Society of Ontario decided to make changes to the way personal injury lawyers can advertise their services, bill their clients and charge and collect referral fees.

“When this issue was first raised, it became clear that there was confusion regarding the interpretation of the Solicitors Act,” Jeff Neinstein said Wednesday. “We took these concerns very seriously. We worked collaboratively to ensure that these issues were responsibly addressed. We are proud of the work that we do and continue to promote access to justice.”

In his settlement approval order, Justice Perell said negotiations between both sides were “intensive.” He said the settlement is “a good result for the class particularly having regard to the litigation risks and the long litigation road that would await them.”

As part of the settlement, a class member could get 30 per cent of what Neinstein referred to on his accounts as costs, the court said, provided she or he signed or amended a contingency fee agreement with the firm after October 1, 2004 and paid their fees before December 9, 2015.

Their cases must also have settled for at least $40,000 and their bills included at least $15,000 for an amount the firm called “party and party costs,” “partial indemnity costs” or another term using equivalent language.

Perell said that he awarded Hodge the honorarium to pay her personal expenses during the case and “to acknowledge her extraordinary contribution.”

Hodge’s battle against Neinstein began in 2010 after the law firm settled her car accident case for $150,000, sending her a final account that included charges for “legal fees” of $30,326 and “costs” of $30,000. She was also charged for $48,924 of “disbursements,” charges incurred by the lawyer in the course of litigation, which included $4,008 for photocopies, $2,791 for “laser copies,” and $1,372 for “interest recovery,” according to an earlier appeal court ruling that upheld the certification of the class.

Hodge alleges she was left with a fraction of her settlement.

Hodge had retained the Neinstein firm after a 2002 accident that left her with a concussion, whiplash, a retinal tear, soft tissue injures and chronic pain.

“Justice is served,” Hodge said outside the courtroom after the hearing. “Now people are aware of what was happening at law firms, and they know that they do have recourse.”

Michele Henry is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @michelehenry

Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca



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Westmount Park Elementary School students to be temporarily relocated to 2 separate buildings – Montreal

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A contentious plan to split Westmount Park Elementary School students up during a two-year renovation blitz is officially moving forward.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) announced at a special meeting on Wednesday that students will be temporarily transferred to two different buildings for the duration of the project.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board parents weigh in on disputed school moves

Students will be relocated to Marymount Academy in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and the former St. John Bosco Elementary School in Ville Émard for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.

Both locations will house kindergarten to Grade 6 students in order not to split up siblings, according to the school board.

The $12.5-million overhaul of the elementary school, which was built in 1913, will fix major structural issues.

READ MORE: Parents voice concerns over relocation of students at Westmount Park School

The plan has been met with both praise and concern from parents at school board meetings. Some said they were worried about where their kids will be transferred and separated from their friends.

At a consultation meeting last week, parents of Marymount students also voiced concerns over taking in hundreds of Westmount Park students.

WATCH: Westmount Park Elementary School students will have to move out of their school for two years






New French immersion school delayed

After announcing last October it would open a new French immersion school in NDG in September 2019, the school board says those plans have now been pushed back.

The elementary school was slated to open at 4850 Coronation Ave. — but now that building could instead house students from three other EMSB schools that are currently overcrowded.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board plans to open new French immersion school in NDG

The EMSB says it is considering its options and that it will consult with the schools and their committees.

A decision is expected to be made by the school board’s council of commissioners on Feb. 20.

— With files from Global’s Elysia Bryan Baynes

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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RCMP seek help finding Canadian actress and nephew ‘considered missing’ from Kamloops since Sunday

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Kamloops RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance locating a six-year-old boy and his 28-year-old aunt, actress Roseanne Supernault

RCMP say they received a report on Sunday to check on the well-being of Nikaeo Supernault who was being looked after by his aunt.

They say the boy and his aunt have not been in contact with the boy’s mother since Jan. 13, and the pair is « considered missing. »

Police say they believe the boy is with his aunt.

Roseanne Supernault, a Métis/Cree actress, has starred in several TV series, including Blackstone, Strange Empire and The Drive, as well as the independent film, Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

Metis/Cree actress Rosanne Supernault in the film Neither Wolf nor Dog that played in select theatres across Canada in 2017. (InYo Entertainment)

Police describe six-year-old Nikaeo as three feet six inches tall, 45 pounds with light brown hair, brown eyes and wearing a blue jacket, black pants and tan boots.

His aunt, Roseanne, is five feet seven inches tall, 190 pounds, dyed blonde hair, brown eyes, wearing a black jacket with white fur on the hood, jeans and black boots.

The Kamloops RCMP is asking anyone with information on their whereabouts to contact them at 1-250-828-3000 or make an anonymous report to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



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