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

November 02, 2017 - 8:06 PM

Big GOP tax bill would cut rates _ but also popular breaks

WASHINGTON (AP) — With fanfare and a White House kickoff, House Republicans unfurled a broad tax-overhaul plan Thursday that would touch virtually all Americans and the economy's every corner, mingling sharply lower rates for corporations and reduced personal taxes for many with fewer deductions for home-buyers and families with steep medical bills.

The measure, which would be the most extensive rewrite of the nation's tax code in three decades, is the product of a party that faces increasing pressure to produce a marquee legislative victory of some sort before next year's elections. GOP leaders touted the plan as a sparkplug for the economy and a boon to the middle class and christened it the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

"We are working to give the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas," President Donald Trump said in the Oval Office. The measure, he said, "will also be tax reform, and it will create jobs."

It would also increase the national debt, a problem for some Republicans. And Democrats attacked the proposal as the GOP's latest bonanza for the rich, with a phase-out of the inheritance tax and repeal of the alternative minimum tax on the highest earners — certain to help Trump and members of his family and Cabinet, among others.

"If you're the wealthiest 1 per cent, Republicans will give you the sun, the moon and the stars, all of that at the expense of the great middle class," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

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Trump's tweets seen as unlikely to slow New York terror case

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump's tweets calling for the death penalty for the man charged in the New York truck rampage could give defence attorneys grounds to argue that Trump has poisoned the minds of potential jurors. But some legal experts doubt that argument will slow the case.

In a highly unusual instance of a president weighing in on the fate of a defendant awaiting trial, Trump said on Twitter that 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!" in the attack that left eight people dead. In another tweet, Trump said prosecutors "Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!"

Some legal experts Thursday said judges in Manhattan's federal courts will not let the president's remarks slow the case or throw it off track, especially in a courthouse with a quarter-century record of swift terrorism prosecutions with mostly airtight outcomes.

"Nothing slows down the train," said James Cohen, a professor at Fordham Law School. He said the yet-to-be-assigned judge will question prospective jurors to ensure they can be fair despite anything they might have heard or read.

Lawyers differed over whether Trump was out of bounds.

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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. HOUSE REPUBLICANS UNFURL TAX OVERHAUL

The blueprint mingles lower personal and corporate rates with fewer deductions for home buyers and families with steep medical bills.

2. LEGAL EXPERTS WEIGH IN ON TRUMP'S TWEETS

They say the president's call for the death penalty for the man charged in the New York truck attack is unlikely to give defence attorneys grounds to argue that Trump has ruined the jury pool.

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Despite tough talk, Trump follows Obama on terror suspects

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump promised he would fill the military prison at Guantanamo Bay with "bad dudes" and slammed the Obama administration for prosecuting terrorists in U.S. courts. But so far, Trump has treated terror suspects just as President Barack Obama did, passing on Guantanamo in favour of having his own Justice Department lawyers try them in federal court.

The strongest sign yet that he is retreating from his earlier promise came Thursday, when Trump conceded that the civilian courts offer a swifter way to bring terror suspects to justice in the communities they attacked.

A day after he assailed the U.S. criminal justice system as a "joke" and a "laughingstock," Trump backed off his threat to send the suspect in Tuesday's New York bike path rampage to the troubled military commission system at Guantanamo.

"Statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system," Trump said in an early morning tweet, adding that there is "also something appropriate" about keeping him "in the home of the horrible crime he committed."

It was legally questionable whether the Trump administration could have sent 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov to Guantanamo, in part because the courts have not ruled whether the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force — which permits the government to detain enemy combatants for the duration of a military conflict — applies to the Islamic State and its followers. And no one held within the U.S. has been sent to Guantanamo since the detention centre opened in January 2002 to hold suspected members of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

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Cuba official accuses US of lying about sonic attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cuba's foreign minister on Thursday accused the United States of lying about mysterious sonic attacks that U.S. diplomats in Havana say left them with ailments including headaches, hearing problems and concussions.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said the U.S. was "deliberately lying" about the attacks, which Cuba's government has denied any knowledge of.

Speaking at a news conference, Rodriguez alleged the issue has been used "as a political pretext for damaging bilateral relations and eliminating the progress made" under U.S. President Barrack Obama.

Rodriguez said the dispute has caused delays in proposed public health co-operation and technical meetings on agriculture as well as cultural, sporting and student events.

The Trump administration has said that 24 U.S. officials or their relatives were subjected to deliberate attacks by a still-undetermined culprit. Many officials reported being subjected to loud, grating noises before falling ill.

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Mueller grand jury investigating top DC lobbyists

WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury is investigating a prominent Democratic lobbyist and a former GOP congressman for their involvement in an influence campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests tied to Paul Manafort, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation.

At the centre of the widening probe are Tony Podesta, a longtime Democratic operative, and Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman and leader of his own high-powered lobbying firm, Mercury LLC. The two men were hired as part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort directed by Manafort and longtime associate Rick Gates.

With the emphasis on the Ukrainian lobbying efforts, Mueller's criminal probe is moving beyond investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and is aggressively pursuing people who worked as foreign agents without registering with the Justice Department. More witnesses are expected before the grand jury in coming weeks.

Representatives for Weber's firm and Podesta said they are co-operating with the special counsel's investigation. Podesta, whose brother was the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign, has resigned from his firm.

FBI agents working for Mueller are asking witnesses about meetings between Gates, Podesta and Weber to discuss the lobbying work in detail and any communication with representatives of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, according to two people familiar with the interviews who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

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Suspect walked off job hours before Colorado Walmart attack

THORNTON, Colo. (AP) — A man accused of opening fire inside a suburban Denver Walmart, killing three people, abruptly walked away from his roofing company job hours before the attack, his former boss said Thursday.

Scott Ostrem's employer and neighbours painted a somewhat dueling portrait of the suspect.

Ostrem worked at a metal fabrication shop for the last three years without any problems, said David Heidt of B&M Roofing. He called Ostrem a quiet worker who was skilled at making metal flashing for roofs. But midmorning Wednesday, he left his work station without explanation.

Two men and a woman were killed at the store that evening.

Though quiet at work, Ostrem's neighbours described him as a hostile loner who cursed at them and often carried a shotgun in and out of his third-floor unit.

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Russia hackers pursued Putin foes, not just US Democrats

WASHINGTON (AP) — It wasn't just Hillary Clinton's emails they went after.

The hackers who disrupted the U.S. presidential election last year had ambitions that stretched across the globe, targeting the emails of Ukrainian officers, Russian opposition figures, U.S. defence contractors and thousands of others of interest to the Kremlin, according to a previously unpublished digital hit list obtained by The Associated Press.

The list provides the most detailed forensic evidence yet of the close alignment between the hackers and the Russian government, exposing an operation that went back years and tried to break into the inboxes of 4,700 Gmail users — from the pope's representative in Kyiv to the punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow. The targets were spread among 116 countries.

"It's a wish list of who you'd want to target to further Russian interests," said Keir Giles, director of the Conflict Studies Research Center in Cambridge, England, and one of five outside experts who reviewed the AP's findings. He said the data was "a master list of individuals whom Russia would like to spy on, embarrass, discredit or silence."

The AP findings draw on a database of 19,000 malicious links collected by cybersecurity firm Secureworks, dozens of rogue emails, and interviews with more than 100 hacking targets.

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Harvey Weinstein faces 2 new criminal investigations

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities in Los Angeles and New York said Thursday they had opened new investigations into Harvey Weinstein, the latest in a series of criminal probes into conduct by the disgraced film mogul which has sparked a sexual harassment scandal roiling Hollywood and other industries.

The Manhattan district attorney's office said a senior prosecutor has been assigned to investigate allegations by "Boardwalk Empire" actress Paz de la Huerta, who told CBS News that Weinstein raped her twice in her apartment in 2010. Spokeswoman Joan Vollero said New York police were also involved, but further details could not be provided.

De la Huerta spoke to CBS News by phone and said the first rape occurred in October 2010 after Weinstein gave her a ride home from a party, insisted on having a drink in her apartment and forced himself on her. She said the second rape occurred in December 2010 after Weinstein came to her apartment; she had been drinking and was not in a condition to give consent, CBS reported the actress said.

Los Angeles police are investigating allegations about Weinstein that occurred in 2015, but spokesman Josh Rubenstein said he could not provide any additional details. The department is also investigating a report by an Italian actress and model who said she was raped by Weinstein in 2013.

Weinstein representative Sallie Hofmeister reiterated a statement that Weinstein, 65, denies all allegations of non-consensual sex.

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GOP tax plan may offer little aid for many in middle class

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans have stressed that the tax plan they unveiled Thursday is tailored to benefit America's middle class. Just how much it would remains uncertain based on the details that have been provided so far.

What is clear is that many of the benefits for the middle class could dwindle over time, even while companies and wealthy individuals could enjoy lasting tax advantages.

The plan promises tax savings next year of $1,182 for a typical household of four with gross income of $59,000, leaving their tax bill at $400.

"We are focused on increasing paychecks in a major way," said Rep. Kevin Brady, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

But the proposal's conflicting provisions and phase-outs of certain benefits suggest that taxes could rise for some middle class earners over time. And for many, the income gains being touted by President Donald Trump are unlikely to materialize.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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