California joins Guard border mission, shuns Trump's message
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown accepted President Donald Trump's call to send the National Guard to the Mexican border, but rejected the White House's portrait of a burgeoning border crisis and insisted that his troops will have nothing to do with immigration enforcement.
The Democratic governor broke a week of silence Wednesday by agreeing to contribute 400 troops, though not all will be on the border. Brown's commitment brought pledges from the four states that border Mexico just shy of the low end of the president's target to marshal 2,000 to 4,000 troops.
Brown cast his decision as a welcome infusion of federal support to fight transnational criminal gangs and drug and firearms smugglers.
"Combating these criminal threats are priorities for all Americans - Republicans and Democrats," Brown wrote in a letter to Defence Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Federal law, notably the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, sharply limits military involvement in civilian law enforcement, creating a supporting role for the Guard. The Pentagon said last week that troops won't perform law enforcement functions or interact with people detained by border authorities without its approval.
Speaker Ryan to retire, leaving big election-year GOP vacuum
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan abruptly announced Wednesday he will retire rather than seek another term in Congress as the steady if reluctant wingman for President Donald Trump, sending new ripples of uncertainty through a Washington already on edge and a Republican Party bracing for a rough election year.
The Wisconsin Republican cast the decision to end his 20-year career as a personal one — he doesn't want his children growing up with a "weekend dad" — but it will create a vacuum at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. It will leave congressional Republicans without a measured voice to talk Trump away from what some see as damaging impulses, and it will rob Trump of an influential steward to shepherd his more ambitious ideas into legislation.
It's unusual for a House speaker, third in line to succeed the president, to turn himself into a lame duck, especially so for Ryan, a once-rising GOP star who is only 48 and was the party's vice-presidential candidate in 2012. His decision fueled fresh doubts about the party's ability to fend off a Democratic wave, fed by opposition to Trump, in November. And it threw the House into a leadership battle that could end up pushing Ryan aside sooner than he intended and crush any hopes for significant legislation before the election.
Ryan, though, said he had no regrets after having accomplished "a heckuva lot" during his time in a job he never really wanted. He said fellow Republicans have plenty of achievements to run on this fall, including the tax cuts Congress delivered, which have been his personal cause and the centerpiece of his small-government agenda, even though they helped skyrocket projected annual deficits toward $1 trillion.
"I have given this job everything I have," Ryan said.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
1. PAUL RYAN WON'T SEEK RE-ELECTION
The decision by the House Speaker injects another layer of uncertainty as Republicans face worries over losing their majority in the fall.
2. TRUMP PROMISES MILITARY STRIKE
Defying Russian warnings, the president says missiles "will be coming" in response to Syria's suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people.
Zuckerberg says regulation inevitable. Is Congress up to it?
WASHINGTON (AP) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged Wednesday that regulation of social media companies is "inevitable" and disclosed that his own personal information has been compromised by malicious outsiders. But after two days of congressional testimony, what seemed clear was how little Congress seems to know about Facebook, much less what to do about it.
House lawmakers aggressively questioned Zuckerberg Wednesday on user data, privacy settings and whether the company is biased against conservatives. As they did in the Senate a day earlier, both Republicans and Democrats suggested that regulation might be needed, but there was no consensus and few specifics about what that might look like — or even what the biggest problems are.
New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the panel and a 30-year veteran of the House, said at the beginning of the hearing that he plans to work on legislation but is pessimistic that Congress will pass anything.
"I've just seen it over and over again — that we have the hearings, and nothing happens," he said.
For Zuckerberg, who often found himself explaining what his company does in rudimentary terms to lawmakers twice his age, the hearings could be considered a win: Facebook shares rose more than 1 per cent after climbing 4.5 per cent on Monday. And his company regained more than $25 billion in market value that is had lost since it was revealed in March that Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm affiliated with Donald Trump's presidential campaign, gathered personal information from 87 million users to try to influence elections.
Report: Missouri Gov. Greitens initiated unwanted sex acts
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens initiated a physically aggressive unwanted sexual encounter with his hairdresser and threatened to distribute a partially nude photo of her if she spoke about it, according to testimony from the woman released Wednesday by a House investigatory committee.
The graphic report details multiple instances in which the woman said Greitens spanked, slapped, grabbed, shoved and called her derogatory names during a series of sexual encounters as he was preparing to run for office in 2015. The testimony contradicts Greitens' previous assertions that "there was no violence" and "no threat of violence" in what he has described as a consensual extramarital affair.
The report, signed by all five Republicans and two Democrats on the committee, describes the woman's testimony as credible and notes that Greitens has so far declined to testify or provide documents to the panel. But it outlines some of the Republican governor's public comments that appear to run counter to her allegations.
Flanked by other top Republican legislative leaders, House Speaker Todd Richardson announced that the special committee will expand its mission and make recommendations after the May 18 end of the regular legislative session on whether to pursue impeachment proceedings seeking to remove Greitens from office.
The special House investigation was initiated shortly after Greitens was indicted in February on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge for taking a nonconsensual photo of the partially nude woman and transmitting it in a way that could be accessed by a computer. The woman told the committee that Greitens took the photo after manipulating her into a compromising position during an unwanted sexual encounter and that he told her "everyone will know what a little whore you are" if she told anyone about him.
Drug testing plan considered for some food stamp recipients
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is considering a plan that would allow states to require certain food stamp recipients to undergo drug testing, handing a win to conservatives who've long sought ways to curb the safety net program.
The proposal under review would be narrowly targeted, applying mostly to people who are able-bodied, without dependents and applying for some specialized jobs, according to an administration official briefed on the plan. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said roughly 5 per cent of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could be affected.
The drug testing proposal is another step in the Trump administration's push to allow states more flexibility in how they implement federal programs that serve the poor, unemployed or uninsured. It also wants to allow states to tighten work requirements for food stamp recipients and has found support among GOP governors who argue greater state control saves money and reduces dependency.
Internal emails obtained by The Associated Press indicated that Agriculture Department officials in February were awaiting word from the White House about the timing of a possible drug testing announcement.
"I think we just have to be ready because my guess is we may get an hour's notice instead of a day's notice," wrote Jessica Shahin, associate administrator of SNAP.
Sessions takes fight on border enforcement to New Mexico
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — As thousands of National Guard troops deploy to the Mexico border, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions brought his tough stance on immigration enforcement to New Mexico on Wednesday, telling border sheriffs that cracking down on illegal crossings and drug smuggling is necessary to build a lawful immigration system.
Sessions ticked off stories about smugglers being caught with opioids and cocaine at the U.S.-Mexico border and legal loopholes that have encouraged more immigrants to make the journey.
"This is not acceptable. It cannot continue," he said. "No one can defend the way the system is working today."
Outside the meeting, dozens of immigrant rights activists protested, once again rejecting Sessions' previous characterization of the border region as "ground zero" in the Trump administration's fight against cartels and human traffickers.
They chanted in Spanish, saying the region is not a "war zone," and hoisted signs that protested the proposed border wall and the deployment of National Guard troops to the region.
Zuckerberg faces 'Grandpa' questions from lawmakers
NEW YORK (AP) — Mark Zuckerberg faced two days of grilling before House and Senate committees Tuesday and Wednesday to address Facebook's privacy issues and the need for more regulation for the social media site.
Yet the hearings in Washington managed to showcase the normally press-shy Zuckerberg's ability to perform as an able and well-rehearsed, if a bit stiff, CEO of one of the world's biggest companies — and the degree to which much of Congress appears befuddled about technology and the relevant issues.
"For the most part, so far, this has been a victory for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg and enormous validation that D.C. is ineffectual," said Scott Galloway, who teaches marketing at New York University.
The hearings were a major test for Zuckerberg. Facebook is confronting its biggest privacy scandal in 14 years after it was revealed that the data firm Cambridge Analytica misused data from up to 87 million users.
Some members of Congress hold computer science degrees or other technical knowledge and were well-versed in the issues, drilling Zuckerberg about how Facebook tracks people who are not on the site and what changes the social media will make to protect user data. Others focused on concerns like censorship and perceived bias on the site as well as children's privacy policies.
Tempests buffeting White House now threaten to engulf Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Russia collusion probe. The Stormy Daniels allegations. The escalating tension with Moscow.
The tempests that have separately buffeted the White House for months merged into a maelstrom this week and threatened to engulf President Donald Trump, who on Wednesday railed against members of the Justice Department by name and took to Twitter to threaten military strikes in Syria and taunt a nuclear-armed power.
While alarmed aides and allies worried that Trump was the angriest he'd ever been, the president saw conspiracies in the challenges facing his administration and hinted at more chaos. And as Trump's party was rocked by upheaval on Capitol Hill, White House staffers explored whether he has the legal authority to fire the men leading the investigation into his administration and, as underscored by the seizure of documents from his private lawyer, his business and personal life.
"Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama," Trump tweeted. "Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!"
That message followed another provocative tweet, in which Trump laced into Russia for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose government is accused of launching an apparent chemical attack Saturday on its own people. Disregarding his own insistence that he would never tip his hand to military strategy, he seemed to suggest that he would launch airstrikes.
Butler, Towns lead T-wolves past Nuggets in OT, to playoffs
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 14 rebounds and the Minnesota Timberwolves ended the NBA's longest-running playoff drought, beating the Denver Nuggets 112-106 in overtime Wednesday night in the first final-day play-in game in the league in 21 years.
When the final horn blew, the capacity and white-towel-waving crowd at Target Center stood to soak in Minnesota's first post-season appearance since 2004. Butler flashed a smile of relief as he hugged his teammates and confetti fluttered above the floor. The fans chanted "MVP! "MVP!" as Butler conducted a postgame interview.
Jokic locked in a classic big man battled with Towns, finishing with 35 points and 10 rebounds, but he missed six of his last eight shots after the third quarter as Denver's late push fell a few points short.
Now it's the Timberwolves who are moving on to play, gulp, the NBA-best Houston Rockets in the first round.
Will Barton, who had 24 points, made a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock for Denver's first lead, 104-103, since midway through the first quarter. After Taj Gibson hounded Jokic to force an air-balled 3-point try, Jeff Teague swished a floater with 1:19 left in overtime to put the Wolves back in front for good.