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

December 01, 2017 - 8:04 PM

Flynn pleads guilty, is co-operating in Trump-Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michael Flynn, the retired general who vigorously campaigned at Donald Trump's side and then served as his first national security adviser, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about reaching out to the Russians on Trump's behalf and said members of the president's inner circle were intimately involved with — and at times directing — his contacts.

His plea to a single felony count of false statements made him the first official of the Trump White House to be charged so far in the criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. And his action could be an ominous sign for a White House shadowed for the past year by investigations, turning Flynn into a potentially key government co-operator as prosecutors examine whether the Trump campaign and Russia worked together to influence the 2016 presidential election in Trump's favour.

Friday's developments don't resolve the paramount question of possible Trump-Russia co-ordination in the campaign, but they do show that Flynn lied to the FBI about multiple conversations last December with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Court papers make clear that senior Trump transition officials were fully aware of Flynn's outreach to Russian officials in the weeks before the inauguration.

The officials were not named in court papers, but people familiar with the case identified two of them to The Associated Press as Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and former Deputy National Security Adviser KT McFarland, now up for an ambassadorship.

That revelation moves the Russia investigation deeper into the White House. And, given the direct involvement of the transition team in Flynn's calls with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the plea also raises questions about the accuracy of repeated assertions by the administration that Flynn had misled Mike Pence and other officials when he denied having discussed sanctions with the diplomat.

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GOP nears Senate OK of tax bill after flurry of final deals

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans used a burst of eleventh-hour horse-trading to edge a $1.4 trillion tax bill to the brink of Senate passage Friday, as a party starved all year for a major legislative triumph took a step toward giving President Donald Trump one of his top priorities by Christmas.

"We have the votes," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declared after leaders swayed holdout senators by agreeing to fatten tax breaks for millions of businesses and let people deduct local property taxes.

The Senate was on track to give near party-line approval to the measure by late Friday, setting up negotiations with the House for a final package. The measure focuses the bulk of its tax reductions on businesses and higher-earning individuals, gives more modest breaks to others and would be the boldest rewrite of the nation's tax system since 1986.

Republicans touted the package as one that would benefit people of all incomes and ignite the economy. Even an official projection of a $1 trillion, 10-year flood of deeper budget deficits couldn't dissuade nearly all GOP senators from rallying behind the bill.

"Obviously I'm kind of a dinosaur on the fiscal issues," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the only announced GOP opponent, who battled to keep the measure from worsening the government's accumulated $20 trillion in IOUs.

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NBC source: No payout for Lauer on rest of his contract

LOS ANGELES (AP) — NBC is standing firm against giving fired "Today" host Matt Lauer a payout on the multimillion-dollar salary he's leaving behind, according to a person at the network.

Lauer, said to have earned around $25 million a year, reportedly is negotiating to receive the remainder of his salary for the current contract that runs through 2018 and made him one of TV's highest-paid journalists.

But NBC won't agree, said the person, who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because a personnel matter was involved.

Some NBC News employees who raised the question of Lauer's compensation at a staff meeting were told that he was fired "for cause" and wouldn't be paid beyond his last day worked, according to a Variety report Friday.

A representative for Lauer didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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San Francisco defends sanctuary status as backlash mounts

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The attacks on San Francisco and other cities with similar immigration policies began moments after a jury acquitted a Mexican man of killing a woman on a popular pier, some calling for a boycott of the city that fiercely defends its reputation as a refuge for all.

President Donald Trump called the verdict a "complete travesty of justice," and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanded cities like San Francisco scrap immigration policies that bar co-operation with federal deportation efforts.

Twitter users turned to the hashtags #BoycottSanFrancisco and #kateswall to demand construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall that Trump has called for. Conservative politicians and celebrities such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and actor James Woods lambasted the city as unsafe.

City officials vowed to stand behind their "sanctuary city" policy. It's what led Jose Ines Garcia Zarate to be released from San Francisco's jail despite a federal request to detain him for deportation several weeks before Kate Steinle was fatally shot in the back in 2015. He had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth.

"San Francisco is and always will be a sanctuary city," said Ellen Canale, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Lee.

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Analysis: Face-to-face with Rohingya, pope ditches diplomacy

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Pope Francis has gotten into trouble before for ditching diplomatic protocol and calling a spade a spade, most famously when he labeled the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians a "genocide" from the altar of St. Peter's Basilica.

Francis took the hit — Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican in protest — for the sake of standing up for an oppressed people who were nearly wiped off the map a century ago.

Given the opportunity to do the same in Myanmar, where the military has launched what the U.N. says is a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority, Francis opted instead for diplomatic expediency. He not only avoided the contested term "Rohingya" in his public remarks, he ignored Asia's worst refugee crisis in decades entirely and didn't call out his hosts for launching it.

Human rights groups complained. Rohingya complained. Journalists and pundits asked if Francis' legacy as a fearless crusader for the world's most marginal — the poor, homeless, refugees and prisoners — wasn't now in question.

By Friday, Francis' heart won out.

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Trump denies Tillerson out as secretary of state

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday denied he wants to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, calling reports to that effect "fake news," as his top diplomat brushed off speculation that he has lost the confidence of the White House.

As Tillerson went about his normal schedule of diplomatic activities, including two meetings with Trump, the president said his secretary of state is "not leaving."

"The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon - FAKE NEWS!" Trump tweeted. "He's not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!"

The tweet was Trump's strongest endorsement of his top diplomat since senior White House officials on Thursday began telling reporters that a plan had been devised to push Tillerson out and replace him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo. Immediately after reports of the plan emerged, Trump offered only tepid support for Tillerson, noting only that he was at the White House for a previously scheduled meeting.

The halfhearted backing amid the swirl of speculation over Tillerson's imminent demise had threatened to impair his effectiveness, particularly as he prepares for an official trip to Europe next week.

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Hawaii's attack siren barely heard on popular tourist beach

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii officials were checking if sirens intended to alert tourists and residents to a possible nuclear attack from North Korea malfunctioned or were not loud enough Friday after the first test of the warning system since the end of the Cold War was barely heard at one of the state's most popular beaches.

The sirens largely were drowned out by crashing waves and wind along Waikiki, the famous stretch of beach in the shadow of the Diamond Head volcano. Beachgoers hardly noticed the test, which sounded like a distant siren. The warning would give people 20 minutes to take shelter ahead of an imminent missile strike.

"I was out in the ocean playing around, and I heard this siren," said tourist Tom Passmore from Calgary, Canada, adding that he didn't think much of it.

"I think it's a good idea," he said of the test, "but judging by everyone's reaction around here, nobody moved."

Vern Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said early reports indicate the test went well, but officials could get complaints later. They will document any they receive and investigate if there were any glitches — a process they carry out after every monthly test of a siren for natural disasters.

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First baby from a uterus transplant in the US born in Dallas

The first birth as a result of a womb transplant in the United States has occurred in Texas, a milestone for the U.S. but one achieved several years ago in Sweden.

A woman who had been born without a uterus gave birth to the baby at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

Hospital spokesman Craig Civale confirmed Friday that the birth had taken place, but said no other details are available. The hospital did not identify the woman, citing her privacy.

Baylor has had a study underway for several years to enrol up to 10 women for uterus transplants. In October 2016, the hospital said four women had received transplants but that three of the wombs had to be removed because of poor blood flow.

The hospital would give no further information on how many transplants have been performed since then. But Time magazine, which first reported the U.S. baby's birth, says eight have been done in all, and that another woman is currently pregnant as a result.

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Federal regulator gives OK for bitcoin futures to trade

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal regulator gave the go ahead on Friday to the CME Group to start trading bitcoin futures later this month, the first time the digital currency will be traded on a Wall Street exchange and subject to federal oversight.

The CME Group, which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, will start trading bitcoin futures Dec. 18, the company said. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the primary regulator for exchanges like the CME, gave approval for the exchange to create bitcoin futures after six weeks of discussions.

The CME Group is using a process known as "self-certification," which is when an exchange pledges that the new instruments will not break any federal securities laws.

The price of bitcoin futures will be based on the price the digital currency is going for on four major bitcoin exchanges — Bitstamp, GDAX, itBit and Kraken. Due to its volatility, bitcoin futures will be subject higher margin levels and intraday price limits, the CME said.

The move will subject some of the bitcoin market to federal regulation for the first time. It will also open up bitcoin trading to a larger group of investors and traders, who have been reluctant to purchase the virtual currency on the private exchanges.

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AP source: Boone picked by Yankees as next manager

NEW YORK (AP) — The Yankees have picked ESPN broadcaster Aaron Boone to succeed Joe Girardi as manager, a person familiar with New York's decision told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Friday night because the decision had not been announced by the team.

Now 44, Boone has never been a manager or even a coach at any level since retiring as a player after the 2009 season. His 11th-inning home run off Boston's Tim Wakefield won Game 7 of the AL Championship Series for the Yankees against Boston.

Boone was a big league third baseman from 1997-2009 and an All-Star in 2003, when New York acquired him from the Reds at the trade deadline.

Boone was among six people interviewed for the job and won out over Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson, former Cleveland and Seattle manager Eric Wedge, San Francisco bench coach Hensley Meulens, Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward and former Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran, who retired as a player after winning his first World Series this year with Houston.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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