Week in review: Comey talks Trump, Addison Russell allegations, 'American Gothic' returns

Here are some of the top stories of the week from Chicago and beyond (Sunday, June 4 through Friday, June 9).

Comey testifies about Trump's 'lies,' attempts to interfere in investigation

Former FBI Director James Comey gave his highly anticipated testimony before the Senate intelligence committee Thursday, accusing the White House of spreading "lies, plain and simple," about him.

Comey said President Donald Trump fired him in order to interfere with his investigation into Russia's ties to the Trump campaign and said he asked a friend to release details about his private talks with Trump to ensure a special counsel would be appointed, saying he needed "to get that out in the public square."

Comey said he interpreted Trump's request to back off the investigation into then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as a directive.

"I mean, this is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying, 'I hope' this," he said. "I took it as, this is what he wants me to do."

Trump was surprisingly silent on Twitter during the hearing but appeared at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's annual gathering, telling supporters "we're under siege," though he didn't mention Comey directly.

But he broke his silence a day later, tweeting that the hearing was "total and complete vindication," saying "WOW, Comey is a leaker!"

At a news conference on Friday, Trump said he was "100 percent" willing to testify under oath about his conversations with Comey, but he refused to say whether those talks were taped.

Illinois Democrats in Congress expressed outrage after the hearing, with one bringing up possible impeachment, reports Katherine Skiba.

Tribune voices weighed in on the hearing. Dahleen Glanton writes that it showed that Trump is more deviously clever than she thought. John Kass writes that there was plenty of red meat for partisans on either side, but neither Trump nor Comey came out looking good. Eric Zorn writes that Comey didn't show much bravery by not standing up to Trump while he was still director.

On Wednesday, Trump named Christopher Wray, a lawyer who represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal, as his pick to replace Comey as FBI director. Wray was also a high-ranking official in the Justice Department during George W. Bush's administration.

British prime minister's election gamble backfires

British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to stay in office amid calls for her resignation after her high-stakes election gamble cost her Conservative party the majority in Parliament.

May had called for early elections in order to strengthen her majority and ease negotiations to exit from the European Union. Instead, the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, increased its seats, forcing May to align with a small party in Northern Ireland just to stay in power.

In other nation and world news:

Orlando shooting: Police say a disgruntled former employee returned to an awning factory in Orlando, Fla., and methodically killed five people before turning the gun on himself.

London attackers identified: British authorities named the three men who attacked London on Saturday, running a van into pedestrians on the London Bridge, then slashing people in a nearby market before being killed by police.

Trump feuds with London mayor: President Donald Trump, in the wake of the London terrorist attacks, criticized Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, mischaracterizing remarks by Khan and suggesting the mayor said there was "no reason to be alarmed" about the attacks. The mayor, in reality, told London residents not to be concerned about an increased police presence.

Earliest humans: A team of researchers says 22 human fossils from northwest Morocco are about 300,000 years old, the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens ever discovered, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Cook County's property tax system harms the poor, helps the rich

An analysis of property tax records in Cook County found that the system created an unequal burden on residents, giving breaks to well-off homeowners and harming poor or less well-off residents, reports Jason Grotto.

The Tribune analyzed more than 100 million property tax records from 2003 through 2015, vetting the findings with top experts in a process that took more than a year.

The analysis concludes that residential assessments were so wrong for so many years, that the credibility of the entire system is in doubt, Grotto wrote.

You can read the entire three-part series here.

Pritzker gets big labor endorsement

The Illinois AFL-CIO, the state's largest labor organization, gave an unusually early endorsement to J.B. Pritzker, providing the billionaire with a political boost in his bid for the 2018 Democratic governor nomination, report Rick Pearson and Monique Garcia.

Pritzker appeared "very at ease, very comfortable talking to labor, and he was quizzed pretty hard on different questions, and he came back with all outstanding good answers and I just think he's been working it and working it hard," Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said.

Records show Pritzker, who is self-funding his campaign, put another $7 million into his campaign fund, bringing his personal investment to $14.2 million so far, Pearson reports.

Grandmother gets life in prison for torture-murder of girl, 8

Before her sentence was handed down, Helen Ford, convicted in March of abusing and killing her 8-year-old granddaughter, Gizzell Ford, tried to tell a Cook County judge that the girl was hurting herself.

But the normally soft-spoken Judge Evelyn Clay was not having it.

"Ms. Ford, enough. Enough!" she said, ordering Ford down from the witness stand and then sentencing her to life in prison, reports Megan Crepeau.

"This was a heinous torture murder which took place slowly, while Gizzell was imprisoned in Helen Ford's apartment," Clay said. "This was a deliberate, excruciating, painful way to die."

Chicago photos in the news:

In other Chicago-area news:

"I'm with my kids": Two teens approached a man talking to his girlfriend and kids in the Brighton Park neighborhood and one asked what gang he was with. "I'm with my kids," the man said. The teen told his friend to shoot the man, who repeated his plea. Then, police say, the second teen shot the man in the forehead, stood over him and fired twice more, report Ariana Figueroa and Peter Nickeas.

Another loss for Blagojevich: A federal appeals court rejected former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's request to rehear his case, meaning his last chance to overturn his corruption and 14-year sentence is with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nice save: A Dixon man was being hailed as a hero after he jumped through the window to stop a moving car whose driver was having a seizure.

No deal yet: The Justice Department on Wednesday said it has not reached a deal with Chicago on oversight of the city's police reform efforts as Mayor Rahm Emanuel had suggested, reports Bill Ruthhart. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said the proposal by the mayor "is a non-starter for anyone committed to real reform," reports Ruthhart.

Cubs' Addison Russell denies domestic abuse allegations

Cubs shortstop Addison Russell issued a statement denying allegations made on social media that he abused his wife, calling the allegations "false and hurtful," report Paul Sullivan, David Haugh and Mark Gonzales.

Major League Baseball officials are following up on the allegations made against Russell on social media by a woman who claimed to be a friend of his wife, Melisa.

The Cubs reached out to the league office and vowed to fully cooperate with MLB.

There are no official charges against Russell and Chicago police said there is currently no investigation or official complaints of domestic abuse.

Team President Theo Epstein and the team took the proper wait-and-see approach by neither supporting or abandoning Russell, writes David Haugh.

Russell returned to the team on Friday but was not in the starting lineup.

DePaul's new home brings early excitement

The new DePaul basketball arena next to McCormick Place in the South Loop is taking shape, and men's coach Dave Leitano has been using the team's new home as a recruitment tool, reports Shannon Ryan.

"They all want to dribble the basketball and put the ball in the hoop. I'm more impressed with, when they walk in the first time, what it does to their faces," Leitano said during a media tour of the Wintrust Arena, a $173 million project which will be finished this summer.

The arena features NBA-caliber locker rooms, a players lounge and a weight room triple the size the Blue Demons have now.

In other sports news:

Stooping away: Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops, who has a team-record 190 wins and one national title, is retiring after 18 seasons.

End of an era: Ohio State coach Thad Matta and the school parted ways on Monday after 13 seasons, reports Shannon Ryan.

Cub quibbles: Kris Bryant and his teammates love the upgrades to Wrigley Field, with its giant video boards and new clubhouse. But the dugouts (too small) and bullpen relocation are another story, writes Paul Skrbina.

Long Uber ride: Buffalo Bills cornerback Shareece Wright, apparently in a hurry to get to practice Monday, took a $932.08 Uber ride (including a $300 tip) from Chicago to Buffalo on Sunday night, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Stop talking: Boston Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy apologized for saying that pitchers such as Yankees star Masahiro Tanaka, who is from Japan, shouldn't be allowed to have interpreters on the mound. "Learn baseball language," Remy said. "You know, learn, it's pretty simple."

As craft beer sales slow, taprooms boom in Chicago

Small brewers are using taprooms to build consumer demand locally and drive profits as the craft beer industry is finally seeing a slowing in sales growth, reports Greg Trotter.

Instead of competing for space on crowded shelves or for tap handles in bars, small brewers are choosing to sell their own beer directly to consumers.

Amazon on way to 8,000 employees in Illinois

An Amazon fulfillment center in Romeoville that opened in September handles tens of thousands of online orders each day and employs more than 1,000 workers.

But the site, one of five in Illinois so far, is just the beginning. The company is expected to add four more facilities and should employ more than 8,000 people in the state by the end of 2018, reports Lauren Zumbach.

In other business news:

Advocate wins in court: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Advocate Health Care doesn't have to follow a federal law designed to protect employee pensions, agreeing with the religiously affiliated hospital that it's a "church plan," a ruling that could set precedent for hospitals around the country, reports Lisa Schencker.

Getting friendlier: United Airlines says its "involuntary denied boardings" were down 79 percent year over year in May in the wake of public uproar when a doctor was dragged off a plane in April, report Ally Marotti and Robert Channick. But some would say there is work to be done, particularly this classical violinist, who says the airline wouldn't let her bring her 17th-century instrument on board and then a wrestling match ensued.

Men flock to health care field: A growing number of men are pursuing jobs in the health care sector, a field traditionally dominated by women. Economists say the choice may help slow a troubling exodus of men from the labor force, reports Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz.

Good time to drive: Gas prices in Illinois have fallen to their lowest level for this time of year in more than a decade, just in time for the summer road trip season, reports Ally Marotti.

'American Gothic' back from European vacation

After nine months touring Europe, Grant Wood's iconic painting, "American Gothic," returned to the Art Institute of Chicago this week.

The return, at least until Sunday, unites the work with two other iconic paintings, "Nighthawks" and "Whistler's Mother," under one roof for the first time since 1954, reports Steve Johnson.

In other entertainment, lifestyle and dining news

Keach update: Actor Stacy Keach, who fell ill during the Goodman Theater's opening performance of "Pamplona," forcing the cancellation of the show, suffered a mild heart attack that night, reports Chris Jones. Keach described the incident in an interview with Jones: "like this great fog had come over me. It was the most bizarre moment of my entire career."

Jeff Awards: Broken Nose Theater, a Chicago theater in its firs year of eligibility, took home the most honors Monday at the non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Awards, reports Chris Jones.

Restaurant closings: mk restaurant, a Chicago fine-dining fixture for more than 18 years, is closing after a landlord dispute, reports Phil Vettel. 42 grams, a Michelin two-starred Uptown restaurant, closed on Sunday, reports Louisa Chu.

Notable deaths this week

Former colorful White Sox broadcaster Jimmy Piersall, who was an outfielder for Boston, among other teams, and who was the subject of a book and film chronicling his battles with mental illness, died on Saturday in Wheaton at 87, reports Colleen Kane.

Piersall's penchant for saying whatever he was thinking made him one of the most popular broadcasters in Sox history, even if it got him into trouble now and then, writes Paul Sullivan.

Other notable deaths this week include actress Glenne Headly, an original Steppenwolf Theatre Company member; actor Roger Smith, star of "77 Sunset Strip"; and Peter Sallis, voice actor in "Wallace and Gromit" cartoons.

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