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

March 28, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Trump turns Mueller probe's findings into political weapon

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Presenting himself as both vindicated and vindictive, a fired-up President Donald Trump on Thursday turned the findings of the Russia investigation into a political weapon at a Michigan rally that was part victory lap, part 2020 campaign push.

Trump unleashed a fervent diatribe about the inquiry, which he deemed "the greatest hoax in the history of our country." He warned that those behind the probe "would be held accountable," aired his grievances about the "unfair" media coverage and seethed that the matter was an attempt "to tear up the fabric of our great democracy."

"After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is dead," said Trump. "This was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people."

The rollicking 82-minute speech unfolded before a boisterous crowd in a key state that Trump swiped from Democrats in 2016. It marked his first political event since Attorney General William Barr released a summary that said special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that his campaign "conspired or co-ordinated" with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. With the cloud of the probe largely lifted, Trump is hoping to win re-election by keeping Michigan and several other Rust Belt states in his column.

"It's going to be so much easier the second time: We're one for one," Trump boasted.


Dems mock 'scaredy-cat' GOP, demand Mueller's full 300 pages

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats intensified their demands for Robert Mueller's full report Thursday after learning the special counsel's findings from his Trump-Russia investigation run to more than 300 pages, while President Donald Trump boasted of total exoneration based on a four-page summary by his attorney general.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler was told by Attorney General William Barr that there's no intention of giving the confidential report to Congress immediately as he redacts grand jury testimony and other elements.

Democrats say they may subpoena the report if it's not forthcoming by their Tuesday deadline, which Barr has said will not be met.

Through the day, tempers were rising on Capitol Hill.

Shaking her fist for emphasis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr's summary, which cleared Trump of campaign collusion with Russia and criminal obstruction of Mueller's federal probe, was "condescending" and "arrogant."


Trump backs off proposal to cut Special Olympics funds

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he was backing off his budget request to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics, reversing course on a proposal that was unlikely to be approved by Congress after days of bipartisan criticism.

Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for a rally in Michigan, Trump said he had authorized funding for the organization. "I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics."

Trump's announcement came after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent days defending the proposal, which drew widespread condemnation from lawmakers, as well as advocates and celebrities. The president's sudden reversal reflected a political desire to move away from a plan that was not expected to pass Congress, but also underscored Trump's comfort with undercutting top officials.

Said Trump: "I've been to the Special Olympics. I think it's incredible."

Walking back her defence of the proposal, DeVos issued a statement, saying: "I am pleased and grateful the President and I see eye to eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant. This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years."


S. Korean leader to meet with Trump in US on nuke diplomacy

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in will travel to the United States in two weeks for a summit with President Donald Trump on stalemated North Korean nuclear diplomacy.

It would be their first meeting since Trump's second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam last month. Their talks collapsed due to disputes on U.S.-led sanctions on the North, and North Korea recently threatened to quit the nuclear diplomacy.

Moon, a liberal who favours greater ties with North Korea and a negotiated solution to the nuclear crisis, shuttled between Washington and Pyongyang to facilitate the nuclear diplomacy. The breakdown of the Hanoi summit subsequently put Moon in a difficult position on how to further engage North Korea and promote the nuclear diplomacy.

The White House and Moon's office said Moon and his wife will visit the United States on April 10-11 and Moon will meet with Trump at the White House to discuss developments on North Korea and bilateral issues.

The two leaders will discuss how to strengthen their countries' alliance and achieve North Korea's complete denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula, senior South Korean presidential official Yoon Do-han told a televised conference.


AP FACT CHECK: Trump's fabrications on autos, health care

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rallying in Michigan, President Donald Trump bragged Thursday night about a surging auto industry that isn't surging, a Republican rescue for health care that has yet to take shape, a "total" exoneration in the Russia investigation that was not offered.

And Trump, as he routinely does, took credit for a veterans health care initiative that his predecessor achieved and ignored the reality when veterans seek treatment — waiting times that still last for weeks.

Here's a look at rhetoric from his Grand Rapids rally, as well as his remarks leading up to it:


TRUMP, on electoral votes: "We won 306 to 223." — rally.


Border Patrol orders quick releases of families

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of migrant families and children entering the U.S. from Mexico is so high that Border Patrol is immediately releasing them instead of transferring them to the agency responsible for their release, forcing local governments to help co-ordinate their housing, meals and travel.

"We need to work toward a clean sweep," Border Patrol Deputy Chief of Operations Richard Hudson said in a letter obtained by The Associated Press sent to sector chiefs Thursday. "This should be our daily battle rhythm."

Agents are still doing medical screenings and criminal checks, but the decision means thousands of families will be released without first going through U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, which manages their deportation cases.

The Del Rio and Rio Grande Valley sectors in Texas and the Yuma, Arizona, sector earlier announced that agents would begin to release families on their own recognizance. A Border Patrol official not authorized to speak on the matter said Wednesday that El Paso and San Diego planned on doing the same. Some sectors were not part of the change, including Tucson, Arizona and El Centro, California.

Families are typically released with notices to appear in immigration court due to legal restrictions on detaining them and lack of holding space. Until now, Customs and Border Protection has detained them briefly before turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, generally within 72 hours, to be released pending the outcome of their immigration cases.


Travellers stranded after Icelandic airline collapses

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Icelandic budget airline WOW Air collapsed under its financial problems on Thursday, leading it to ground planes and leave passengers stranded across two continents.

The airline, a small carrier that specialized in ultra-cheap travel between the United States and Europe, told passengers there would be no further flights and advised them to check with other airlines for ways to reach their destinations.

The airline flew to cities including Washington, New York, Paris, London and its Reykjavik hub.

Its bankruptcy, which highlights how difficult it is for airlines to make money from budget flights across the Atlantic, comes after six months of turbulent negotiations to sell its loss-making business. WOW saw deals fall through to sell to its main rival, the national flag-ship carrier Icelandair, and later to Indigo Partners, an American company operating the airline Wizz.

WOW grounded at least six planes in North America that were set to leave late Wednesday from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, New York and Baltimore.


Chicago seeks $130K from Smollett for cost of investigation

CHICAGO (AP) — City officials on Thursday ordered Jussie Smollett to pay $130,000 to cover the cost of the investigation into his report of a street attack that police say was staged to promote his career.

A letter from the city's legal department to Smollett and his attorneys said that figure covers overtime worked by more than two dozen detectives and officers who spent weeks looking into Smollett's claim, including reviewing video and physical evidence and conducting interviews.

Those resources, the letter said, "could have been used for other investigations."

Hours earlier, President Donald Trump tweeted that the FBI and the Department of Justice would review the "outrageous" case, calling it an "embarrassment" to the country.

Prosecutors infuriated Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police chief this week when they abruptly dropped 16 felony counts that accused Smollett of making a false police report about being the target of a racist, anti-gay attack in January.


Harper, Red Sox draw big cheers, homers fly on opening day

Bryce Harper bowed to his new fans, Mookie Betts and the Boston Red Sox began the defence of their World Series crown and the great Mariano Rivera threw one more strike from the mound at Yankee Stadium.

Then, in ballparks across the land, it was time to begin on a homer-filled opening day.

Lorenzo Cain made the big catch. Javier Baez swung a powerful bat. And Jordan Zimmermann came close to giving Major League Baseball a perfect start Thursday.

A week after Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners swept two games from Oakland at the Tokyo Dome, everyone was in action. In many places, the ball was flying — at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles set an opening day record by hitting eight home runs.

The packed crowd at Citizens Bank Park was especially energized by Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies in a 10-4 win over Atlanta.


'Texas 7' prison-break gang member gets execution reprieve

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A member of the "Texas 7" gang of escaped prisoners won a reprieve Thursday night from execution for the fatal shooting of a suburban Dallas police officer after claiming his religious freedom would be violated if his Buddhist spiritual adviser wasn't allowed to be in the death chamber with him.

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Patrick Murphy's execution about two hours after he could have been executed.

Murphy's attorneys had said that Texas prison officials' efforts to prevent the inmate's spiritual adviser, a Buddhist priest, from being with him when he is put to death violated Murphy's First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Murphy, 57, became a Buddhist almost a decade ago while incarcerated.

Lower courts had rejected Murphy's argument.

But in an opinion Thursday night, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the Texas prison system allows a Christian or Muslim inmate to have a state-employed Christian or Muslim religious adviser present either in the execution room or in the adjacent viewing room. But inmates of other religious denominations who want their religious adviser to be present can have the adviser present only in the viewing room and not in the execution room itself, he said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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