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

October 16, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Trump dismisses Syria concerns; Dems walk out of WH meeting

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washing his hands of Syria, President Donald Trump declared Wednesday the U.S. has no stake in defending the Kurdish fighters who died by the thousands as America's partners against IS extremists. Hours later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats walked out of a meeting at the White House, accusing him of having a "meltdown," calling her a "third-grade politician" and having no plan to deal with a potentially revived Islamic State group.

Condemnation of Trump's stance on Turkey, Syria and the Kurds was quick and severe during the day, not only from Democrats but from Republicans who have been staunch supporters on virtually all issues.

The House, bitterly divided over the Trump impeachment inquiry, banded together for an overwhelming 354-60 denunciation of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Many lawmakers expressed worry that it may lead to revival of IS as well as Russian presence and influence in the area — in addition to the slaughter of many Kurds.

At the White House, Trump said the U.S. has no business in the region — and not to worry about the Kurdish fighters.

"They know how to fight," he said. "And by the way, they're no angels."

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Former Pompeo aide testifies; Senate talks impeachment trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — The swift-moving impeachment probe pushed onward Wednesday as a former top State Department aide testified that the Trump administration's politicization of foreign policy contributed to his resignation, while the Senate GOP leader briefed colleagues on a possible Christmas impeachment trial.

The day's events, interrupted by an explosive meeting at the White House, churned as longtime State Department officials are speaking out under subpoena — some revealing striking new details — about the actions Trump, and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, took toward Ukraine that have sparked the House impeachment inquiry.

On Wednesday, Michael McKinley, a career foreign service officer and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's de facto chief of staff, told investigators behind closed doors that he could no longer look the other way amid the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine, which were among the reasons he ended his 37-year career last week, according to multiple people familiar with the testimony, who, like others who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, were not authorized to discuss it.

"I was disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents," McKinley testified, according to a former colleague familiar with his remarks.

The impeachment inquiry revolves around a whistleblower's complaint that Trump was pushing Ukraine's leader into opening an investigation of a company connected to the son of Trump's potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden. It is illegal to solicit or receive foreign help in a U.S. election.

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Workers celebrate deal with GM, show union power in industry

DETROIT (AP) — On the picket lines at a General Motors transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, passing cars honked and striking workers celebrated a tentative contract deal by munching on 10 pizzas dropped off by a supporter.

They had carried signs for 31 days and demonstrated the muscle the United Auto Workers union still has over Detroit's three manufacturers.

Details of the four-year pact weren't released, but GM's latest offer to end the monthlong strike included wage increases and lump-sum payments, top-notch health insurance at little cost to workers, promises of new products for many U.S. factories and a path to full-time work for temporary workers.

That's a big difference from what GM wanted going into the talks: to slash total labour costs at its factories, which are about $13 per hour higher than at foreign automakers in the U.S.

Terry Dittes, the UAW's chief bargainer with GM, said the deal offers "major gains" for 49,000 union workers who have been walking picket lines since Sept. 16. They'll stay off work for at least a couple more days while union committees decide if they will bless the deal. Then workers will have to vote on it.

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Chicago teachers to strike in nation's 3rd largest district

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago parents and community groups are scrambling to prepare for a massive teachers' strike set to begin Thursday, prompting the city to preemptively cancel classes in the nation's third-largest school district.

The Chicago Teachers Union confirmed Wednesday night that its 25,000 members would not return to their classrooms Thursday after months of negotiation between the union and Chicago Public Schools failed to resolve disputes over pay and benefits, class size and teacher preparation time.

The strike is Chicago's first major walkout by teachers since 2012 and city officials announced early Wednesday that all classes had been cancelled for Thursday in hopes of giving more planning time to the parents of more than 300,000 students.

"We want this to be a short strike with an agreement that will benefit our schools and our teachers. We have a ways to go," Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said during a union news conference. "We actually want to see improvement on all the issues we are talking about here."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was disappointed by the union's decision to strike.

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'See you at the polls': Trump and Pelosi have it out

WASHINGTON (AP) — He said she's a "third-grade" politician. She said he's having a meltdown.

And with that President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chalked up the latest explosive meeting that ended abruptly with a walkout at the White House.

It's a familiar ritual, with Trump and congressional leaders meeting on official business, only to see the session devolve into colorful, name-calling commentary that's a new kind of addition to the history books. But this time, against the backdrop of the fast-moving impeachment inquiry, Pelosi arrived not just as the leader of the opposing party, but as the speaker who could determine Trump's political future.

The administration called in congressional leadership to discuss the situation in Syria. The House had just voted, 354-60, to overwhelmingly oppose the president's announced U.S. troop withdrawal, a rare bipartisan rebuke. Trump's action has opened the door for a Turkish military attack on Syrian Kurds who have been aligned with the U.S. in fighting the country's long-running war.

Trump kicked off the meeting bragging about his "nasty" letter to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, according to a Democrat familiar with the meeting who was granted anonymity to discuss it. In the letter, Trump warned the Turkish leader, with exclamation points, not to be "slaughtering" the Kurds. The person called Trump's opening a lengthy, bombastic monologue.

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Analysis: Trump impulsiveness a theme in impeachment, Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — A common denominator runs through the impeachment probe and the chaos unfolding in Syria: President Donald Trump's improvisational style of conducting foreign policy.

The president's decision to push Ukraine to investigate a political rival prompted Democrats to launch the House impeachment inquiry, and Trump's critics equate his abrupt decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria with throwing a match on a powder keg.

Both actions reflect an increasingly confident Trump's inclination to listen to his gut over his foreign policy and national security advisers, a proclivity that is rattling U.S. allies and emboldening enemies. Where Trump believes that standing up to the foreign policy establishment holds appeal for voters in next year's election, his critics see him gambling with U.S. national security and making America's word worthless on the global stage.

Trump's response has been to dig in his heels, despite bipartisan criticism on both counts.

The president says he did nothing wrong on the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — a conversation that set off alarm bells throughout his foreign policy apparatus.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump muddles facts on US Syria withdrawal

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump muddled the facts Wednesday on America's withdrawal from Syria and the conditions on the ground there, as he distanced himself and the U.S. from the ongoing Turkish invasion into Syria.

He suggested incorrectly that the Syrian Kurds who fought alongside U.S. forces against the Islamic State group deliberately released IS prisoners and wrongly said Americans have been in the Syria conflict for 10 years.

A look at his claims and the reality:

U.S. INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

TRUMP: "We were supposed to be in Syria for one month. That was 10 years ago."

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Parents of killed teen reject Trump's attempted introduction

WASHINGTON (AP) — The grieving parents of a British teenager who was killed in a car crash involving an American diplomat's wife felt ambushed when President Donald Trump tried to get them to meet with the woman in front of the press, attorneys for the couple said Wednesday.

Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn travelled to Washington on Tuesday seeking to have the woman's diplomatic immunity lifted. Instead, Trump and national security adviser Robert O'Brien surprised the family by inviting Anne Sacoolas to the White House and suggesting Dunn's parents meet with her in front of the White House press corps.

Attorney Mark Stephens told The Associated Press the couple had no idea Sacoolas would be in the building when they were there Tuesday and were stunned by the proposition. He said the couple wants to meet with Sacoolas at some point, but not in a surprise meeting staged for reporters.

"If there's going to be a meeting like that, it should not involve a surprise, a jack-in-the-box, pop-out-of-a-circus-tent meeting seven weeks after the loss," said Radd Seiger, a retired lawyer who is a neighbour of the family and accompanied them to the White House. "For this to happen, you would want some heavy-duty therapy and you want to meet in a neutral environment."

Trump told reporters Wednesday that he thought the family had wanted to meet with Sacoolas, but that "they weren't ready for it" Tuesday.

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APNewsBreak: Skeleton unearthed beneath California peak

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The climbers were closing in on the top of California's second-highest peak when they came upon the grisly discovery of what looked like a bone buried in a boulder field.

Closer inspection revealed a fractured human skull. Tyler Hofer and his climbing partner moved rocks aside and discovered an entire skeleton. It appeared to have been there long enough that all that remained were bones, a pair of leather shoes and a belt.

The discovery a week ago beneath Mount Williamson unearthed a mystery: Who was the unfortunate hiker? How did he or she die? Was the person alone? Were they ever reported injured, dead or missing?

The Inyo County Sheriff's Department doesn't have any of those answers yet. But it retrieved the remains Wednesday in the hopes of finding the identity and what happened. There's no evidence to suggest foul play, spokeswoman Carma Roper said.

"This is a huge mystery for us," Roper said.

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'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely's wife killed; son shot by deputies

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — "Tarzan" actor Ron Ely's wife was stabbed to death in their California home by their 30-year-old son, who was then shot and killed by sheriff's deputies, authorities said Wednesday.

Deputies summoned to the home by a 911 call found Valerie Lundeen Ely, 62, dead with multiple stab wounds shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, a Santa Barbara County sheriff's statement said.

The deputies talked to Ron Ely and identified his son, 30-year-old Cameron Ely, as the suspect, and found him outside the home in Hope Ranch, a suburb of luxury homes outside Santa Barbara, authorities said.

Cameron Ely posed a threat to deputies, four of whom opened fire and killed him, the statement said. It did not say what he had done that was threatening.

Ron Ely, 81, played the title character on the NBC series "Tarzan," which ran from 1966 to 1968.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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