AP News in Brief at 11:09 p.m. EDT - InfoNews

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AP News in Brief at 11:09 p.m. EDT

September 05, 2020 - 8:09 PM

Cohen memoir casts him as 'star witness' against Trump

NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cohen's tell-all memoir makes the case that President Donald Trump is “guilty of the same crimes” that landed his former fixer in federal prison, offering a blow-by-blow account of Trump's alleged role in a hush money scandal that once overshadowed his presidency.

Of all the crises Cohen confronted working for Trump, none proved as vexing as the porn actress Stormy Daniels and her claims of an extramarital affair with Trump, Cohen writes in “Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump.”

Trump, despite his later protestations, green-lighted the $130,000 payment to silence Daniels ahead of the 2016 election, reasoning he would “have to pay” his wife a far greater sum if the affair ever became known, Cohen writes, adding the president later reimbursed him with “fake legal fees.”

“It never pays to settle these things, but many, many friends have advised me to pay,” Trump said, according to Cohen. "If it comes out, I’m not sure how it would play with my supporters. But I bet they’d think it’s cool that I slept with a porn star.”

The White House called Cohen's memoir “fan fiction."

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Trump out to build 'permission structure' to win back voters

NEW YORK (AP) — Showcasing Black Americans at the Republican National Convention to allay white voters' fears that President Donald Trump is a racist. Sharing touching stories about the president's concern for the military. Painting Democrat Joe Biden as an unacceptable alternative who threatens the American way of life.

It's all part of the Trump campaign's effort to construct a “permission structure” — a clunky catchphrase for creating an emotional and psychological gateway to help disenchanted voters feel comfortable voting for the president again despite their reservations about him personally.

Both the GOP convention and the president’s recent “law and order” mantra have been aimed squarely at former Trump supporters who’ve grown unhappy with his inflammatory rhetoric and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The goal is to humanize Trump and demonize Biden so that these voters, particularly women and suburbanites, feel that they can vote for Trump again anyway.

“Their new theme is that it’s OK to support Trump even if you don’t care for him,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who advised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid four years ago. “People don’t like him because they think he is racist, sexist or doesn’t care about average people. But their message now is ‘Don’t look at what he said, look at what he does.’”

The phrase “permission structure” got a political cameo in 2013 when President Barack Obama advanced his theory that many congressional Republicans agreed with his proposals but withheld their support because of political considerations and the fear they would face challenges in GOP primaries.

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Ex-FBI agent: Attacks from Trump 'outrageous' and 'cruel'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Peter Strzok spent his FBI career hunting Russian and Chinese spies, but after news broke of derogatory text messages he had sent about President Donald Trump, he came to feel like he was the one being hunted.

There were menacing phone calls and messages from strangers, and anxious peeks out window shades before his family would leave the house. FBI security experts advised him of best practices — walk around your car before entering, watch for unfamiliar vehicles in your neighbourhood — more commonly associated with mob targets looking to elude detection.

“Being subjected to outrageous attacks up to and including by the president himself, which are full of lies and mischaracterizations and just crude and cruel, is horrible," Strzok told The Associated Press in an interview. “There's no way around it.”

A new book by Strzok traces his arc from veteran counterintelligence agent to the man who came to embody Trump's public scorn of FBI and his characterization of its Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.” The texts cost Strzok his job and drew vitriol from Trump. But even among Trump critics, Strzok isn't a hero. His anti-Trump texts on a government phone to an FBI lawyer gave Trump and his supporters a major opening to undercut the bureau's credibility right as it was conducting one of the most consequential investigations in its history.

Trump's attacks have continued even as two inspector general reports found no evidence Strzok’s work in the investigations were tainted by political bias and multiple probes have affirmed the Russia probe's validity.

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Unions threaten work stoppages amid calls for racial justice

NEW YORK (AP) — Ahead of Labor Day, unions representing millions across several working-class sectors are threatening to authorize work stoppages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement amid calls for concrete measures that address racial injustice.

In a statement first shared with The Associated Press, labour leaders who represent teachers, autoworkers, truck drivers and clerical staff, among others, signalled a willingness Friday to escalate protest tactics to force local and federal lawmakers to take action on policing reform and systemic racism. They said the walkouts, if they were to move forward with them, would last for as long as needed.

“The status quo — of police killing Black people, of armed white nationalists killing demonstrators, of millions sick and increasingly desperate — is clearly unjust, and it cannot continue,” the statement says. It was signed by several branches of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and affiliates of the National Education Association.

The broader labour movement has been vocal since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes during an arrest over counterfeit money. The death of Floyd in Minneapolis set off an unprecedented surge of protests and unrest from coast to coast this summer. In July, organized labour staged a daylong strike with workers from the service industry, fast-food chains and the gig economy to call out the lack of coronavirus pandemic protections for essential workers, who are disproportionately Black and Hispanic.

Now, in the wake of the August shooting of Jacob Blake, who was critically wounded by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the union leaders say they are following the lead of professional athletes who last week staged walkouts over the shooting. Basketball, baseball and tennis league games had to be postponed. Some athletes resumed game play only after having talks with league officials over ways to support the push for policing reforms and to honour victims of police and vigilante violence.

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NY attorney general to form grand jury after Prude death

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s attorney general on Saturday moved to form a grand jury to investigate the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died earlier this year after Rochester police placed a hood over his head and held him down.

“The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement about Prude’s death, which has sparked nightly protests and calls for reform. She said the grand jury would be part of an “exhaustive investigation.”

Prude’s death after his brother called for help for his erratic behaviour in March has roiled New York’s third-largest city since video of the encounter was made public earlier this week, with protesters demanding more accountability for how it happened and legislation to change how authorities respond to mental health emergencies.

“This is just the beginning,” Ashley Gantt, a protest organizer, said by email after James’ announcement. “We will not be stopped in our quest for truth and justice.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered Saturday for a fourth night on the street where Prude, naked and handcuffed, was held face-down as snow fell. Policy body camera video shows officers covering Prude's head with a “spit hood,” designed to protect police from bodily fluids, then pressing his face into the pavement for two minutes.

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Authentic wins Kentucky Derby; Baffert notches 6th victory

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Bob Baffert endured the lowest of lows and highest of highs within minutes in the Kentucky Derby.

He was bummed before the horses left the paddock after Thousand Words reared up and fell on its side, getting disqualified and injuring Baffert's assistant trainer. That emotion was quickly replaced by Authentic's front-running victory that gave Baffert a record-tying sixth Derby win.

Then Baffert found himself down again, literally, getting knocked to the grass by a skittish Authentic in the winner's circle.

“This is the craziest year ever,” he said.

Authentic kicked away from heavy favourite Tiz the Law in the stretch on Saturday, winning the 146th Derby by 1 1/4 lengths without the usual crowd of 150,000 on hand at Churchill Downs for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic. The bay colt ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.61 under John Velazquez, who won his third Derby.

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Refugee families face unique struggles with online school

PHOENIX (AP) — Samuel Lavi knew he'd have to find unique ways to stay connected to refugee families when the coronavirus pandemic shut down Valencia Newcomer School. Parents and students speak more than a dozen languages, and they'd need help navigating the technology around remote learning.

So the gregarious teaching assistant, himself a Congolese refugee, created group chats on the WhatsApp messaging app in Swahili and some of the other six languages he knows. To ensure parents who can't read or write could participate, Lavi taught them to record and share small audio clips.

With remote classes now underway at the K-8 school for refugee children in Phoenix, Lavi helps students connect from home with loaned iPads so they can learn English before transferring to mainstream schools.

“If a student has a problem, I will drive to their home and help them log in,” said Lavi, 27, who began working at the school shortly after being resettled in Phoenix four years ago. “I can't sit if our kids are suffering.”

The struggles connecting with refugee and immigrant families from 19 countries during the pandemic come amid a larger challenge for Valencia.

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BLM rallies, memorial for man killed in Portland shooting

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — People gathered for Black Lives Matter rallies Saturday evening in Portland, Oregon, and a memorial was held for the man fatally shot last weekend after a right-wing caravan went through downtown, as daily demonstrations stretched well past the three-month mark in the city.

Hundreds of people gathered in a park just north of Portland in Vancouver, Washington, for a memorial service for Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a supporter of a right-wing group called Patriot Prayer, who was killed Aug. 29. The suspect was himself shot and killed by police Thursday.

Families showed up at the event with their kids, lining up for the free BBQ and picnicking on the grass at Esther Short Park. As various speakers addressed the audience on stage, attendees waved their flags enthusiastically, occasionally breaking out into chants of “U-S-A!”

Many of the crowd were President Donald Trump supporters, wearing MAGA hats and shirts or holding Trump-Pence flags. Some also waved flags and wore T-shirts showing support for the police.

Some attendees also wore T-shirts with “Justice for J” that were handed out at the event.

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Facebook blocks ailing man's planned end-of-life broadcasts

LE PECQ, France (AP) — Facebook on Saturday blocked live broadcasts from a chronically ill bed-ridden man who appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron for a medically-assisted death and who wanted to show what he expects will be a painful end to his life after he announced that he was stopping all food and drink.

Prostrate on his bed, Alain Cocq posted video of himself Friday after taking what he said would be his last liquid meal.

“I know the days ahead are going to be very difficult,” he said. “But I have taken my decision and I am serene.”

In a letter this week, which Cocq also posted, Macron said that French law forbade him from granting his request for the “right to leave with dignity,” with a medically-assisted death.

“With emotion, I respect your approach because it speaks to the very intimate relationship that each of us builds with the end of our life and our death," Macron said in the letter dated Thursday, sent after one of his aides spoke at length with Cocq by telephone in August.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump on McCain; Biden's stretch on virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said he never called John McCain a loser — he did — and denigrated the record of the late Republican senator on veterans affairs despite routinely appropriating one of McCain’s crowning achievements on that front as his own.

Trump distorted events in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the past week and his own hand in them before a furor over his reported comments on fallen soldiers diverted his rhetoric.

Democratic rival Joe Biden claimed to have been the first person to have called for the use of emergency production powers in the pandemic, when he was not, and he tried to shed light on the history of the incandescent bulb, but was a bit hazy.

A review:

VETERANS and McCAIN

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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