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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

April 12, 2018 - 8:04 PM

In new book, Comey blasts untruthful, 'ego-driven' Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former FBI Director James Comey blasts President Donald Trump as unethical and "untethered to truth" in a sharply critical new book that describes Trump as fixated in the early days of his administration on having the FBI debunk salacious rumours he insisted were untrue but could distress his wife.

In the forthcoming book, Comey compares Trump to a mafia don and calls his leadership of the country "ego driven and about personal loyalty."

He also reveals new details about his interactions with Trump and his own decision-making in handling the Hillary Clinton email investigation before the 2016 election. He casts Trump as a mobster-like figure who sought to blur the line between law enforcement and politics and tried to pressure him personally regarding his investigation into Russian election interference.

The book adheres closely to Comey's public testimony and written statements about his contacts with Trump and his growing concern about Trump's integrity. It also includes strikingly personal jabs at Trump that appear sure to irritate the president.

The 6-foot-8 Comey describes Trump as shorter than he expected with a "too long" tie and "bright white half-moons" under his eyes that he suggests came from tanning goggles. He also says he made a conscious effort to check the president's hand size, saying it was "smaller than mine but did not seem unusually so."

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Ryan's departure sparks unrest, GOP fears losing House

WASHINGTON (AP) — When House Speaker Paul Ryan announced his retirement decision, he did so on his own terms. The political fallout may not be so easy to control.

Ryan's relinquishing of one of the most powerful positions in Washington left Republicans reeling Thursday over not just who will replace him but whether Ryan's lame-duck status will jeopardize the GOP's pitch to voters and donors, and worsen their chance of keeping the majority.

Control of the House was already at risk in a tough midterm election. Voters are fired up amid rising opposition to President Donald Trump and sagging GOP accomplishments. Now some wonder aloud if the GOP grip on the House majority is already lost.

"It's like Eisenhower resigning right before D-Day," said Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia who once headed the House GOP's campaign committee.

"Paul Ryan was the franchise," Davis said. "With Paul, this was a Republican Party they could still give to. He's a great brand for the party. He's gone."

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. COMEY UNLOADS ON TRUMP

In a new book, the former FBI director blasts the president as "unethical" and "untethered to truth."

2. WHICH ISSUE PRESIDENT WANTS TO REVISIT

Trump asks trade officials to explore the possibility of the United States rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

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Model says Cosby raped her; chief accuser to testify Friday

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The day before Bill Cosby's chief accuser was to take the witness stand at his sexual assault retrial, a former model and TV personality on Thursday gave jurors her own harrowing account of being drugged and raped by the comedy star in 1982.

Janice Dickinson, one of five other accusers who testified against Cosby, told jurors that the comedian gave her a pill he claimed would ease her menstrual cramps but instead left her immobilized and unable to stop an assault she called "gross."

"I didn't consent to this. Here was 'America's Dad,' on top of me. A married man, father of five kids, on top of me," Dickinson said. "I was thinking how wrong it was. How very wrong it was."

Dickinson's testimony helped prosecutors tee up a climactic courtroom appearance by Andrea Constand, the former Temple University women's basketball administrator whom Cosby is charged with drugging and molesting at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004. Constand was expected to testify Friday — the second time she will face a jury after Cosby's first trial ended without a verdict.

Cosby says his sexual encounter with Constand was consensual, asserting through his lawyers that she set him up to score a big payday. Cosby settled her civil suit for $3.4 million in 2006.

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Trump flips on trade pact, weighs rejoining Pacific-Rim deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a striking reversal, President Donald Trump has asked trade officials to explore the possibility of the United States rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a free trade deal he pulled out of during his first days in office as part of his "America first" agenda.

Trump's request comes as he faces pressure from farm-state Republicans anxious that his protectionist trade policies could spiral into a trade war with China that would hit rural America. Trump spent the 2016 presidential campaign ripping into the multi-national pact, saying he could get a better deal for U.S. businesses by negotiating one-on-one with countries in the Pacific Rim. Now, faced with political consequences of the action, Trump appears to be reconsidering.

"Last year, the president kept his promise to end the TPP deal negotiated by the Obama Administration because it was unfair to American workers and farmers," the White House said in a statement. The president assigned his top trade advisers, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his new chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, "to take another look at whether or not a better deal could be negotiated."

Trump first disclosed his request Thursday to a group of lawmakers at a White House meeting on trade. Lawmakers have been pressing Trump to shift course after escalating trade threats, including China's plan to slap tariffs on soybeans and other U.S. crops.

The apparent decision comes after the 11 other TPP countries went ahead last month and signed the pact in Santiago, Chile — without the United States. The agreement is meant to establish freer trade in the Asia-Pacific region and put pressure on China to open its markets to compete with and perhaps eventually join the bloc.

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Trump puts off Syria strike decision, will talk to allies

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday put off a final decision on possible military strikes against Syria after tweeting earlier that they could happen "very soon or not so soon at all." The White House said he would consult further with allies.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned such an attack carried the risk of spinning out of control, suggesting caution ahead of a decision on how to respond to an attack against civilians last weekend that U.S. officials are increasingly certain involved the use of banned chemical weapons. British officials said up to 75 people were killed.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a brief statement after Trump met with Mattis and other members of his National Security Council: "No final decision has been made. We are continuing to assess intelligence and are engaged in conversations with our partners and allies."

Sanders said Trump would speak later with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Although Mattis noted that military action carried risks, he also emphasized that Syrian use of chemical weapons should not be tolerated. And he insisted it remains U.S. policy not to be involved directly in Syria's civil war.

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Inspectors head to site of suspected gas attack in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A team of inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog was on its way to Syria on Thursday to begin an investigation into a suspected chemical weapons attack near the capital that has brought the war-torn country to the brink of a wider conflict, amid Western threats of retaliation and Russian warnings of the potential for "a dangerous escalation."

The fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was expected to head to Douma, where the suspected attack took place and where Russia said rebels had now capitulated to government control. The Syrian government said it would facilitate the mission's investigation, which was to begin Saturday.

Syria and its ally, Russia, deny any such attack, which activists say killed more than 43 people last weekend.

Speaking at the United Nations on Thursday, Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said the top priority had to be to avert a wider war, and he didn't rule out the possibility of a U.S.-Russia conflict. Speaking to reporters after a closed emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Nebenzia said Russia was very concerned with "the dangerous escalation" of the situation and "aggressive policies" and preparations that some governments were making — a clear reference to the Trump administration and its allies.

"We hope that there will be no point of no return — that the U.S. and their allies will refrain from military action against a sovereign state," Nebenzia said, adding that "the danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria."

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North Korea's construction boom may build more than skyline

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Beachfront, five-star hotels? Skyscrapers just blocks from Kim Il Sung Square?

North Korea is racing forward with major development projects some experts believe are aimed at expanding a market for rented or privately owned real estate to help fortify the finances of Kim Jong Un's regime against the bite of sanctions over its nuclear program.

A swelling market for private property doesn't sound very socialist, and it's not.

But the chronically cash-strapped government appears to be nurturing a fresh source of revenue — sales of property to the newly affluent class of North Koreans who have made their fortunes on the country's growing, but still largely unofficial, market economy that has come into its own since Kim assumed power.

The pressure on Pyongyang is growing as the Chinese investors who traditionally have propped up its economy are retreating amid tougher than ever restrictions imposed by Beijing.

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Arizona governor proposes 20 per cent teacher raises by 2020

PHOENIX (AP) — Caving to demands from teachers who have protested low pay and school funding shortfalls for weeks, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey rolled out a proposal Thursday promising a net 20 per cent raise by 2020 and pledged to push the proposal through the Legislature in the coming weeks.

The Republican governor's announcement came after more than a month of protests at the state capitol and at schools across Arizona that were followed by a strike threat early this week. Teachers were encouraged in part by successful teacher walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma. Those teachers shocked their state's leaders by surrounding their Capitols and demanding funding after years of cuts, setting off similar feelings in other Republican states like Arizona where tax cuts have crimped school funding.

"Today is a good day for teachers in Arizona," Ducey said to open a press briefing.

Teachers who organized a grassroots effort that drew more than 40,000 members were cool to the announcement, saying they wanted details before reacting.

"What he gave us today was just a proposal, it wasn't legislation, and we don't know where the money's coming from and we don't know if he's talking about everybody involved in education or just classroom teachers," Tucson teacher and Arizona Educators United organizer Derek Harris said. "There so many more of us that need it than just classroom teachers."

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$30,000 rumour? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious Trump tip

NEW YORK (AP) — Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she'd had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid's parent made a $30,000 payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman at one of the real estate mogul's New York City buildings.

As it did with the ex-Playmate, the Enquirer signed the ex-doorman to a contract that effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump's campaign for president.

The payout to the former Playmate, Karen McDougal, stayed a secret until The Wall Street Journal published a story about it days before Election Day. Since then curiosity about that deal has spawned intense media coverage and, this week, helped prompt the FBI to raid the hotel room and offices of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The story of the ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin, hasn't been told until now.

The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer's payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, "in perpetuity," to a rumour he'd heard about Trump's sex life — that the president had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumour or the terms of the deal to anyone.

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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