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Allies balk at Trump administration bid to block Chinese firm from cutting-edge telecom markets

By David S. Cloud

Britain and Germany are balking at the Trump administration’s call for a ban on equipment from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, threatening a global U.S. campaign to thwart China’s involvement in future mobile networks.

Both countries are expected to limit Huawei and other Chinese companies from providing core components including routers. But other types of Chinese equipment for next-generation, high-speed communications could still be installed on British and German networks, officials and analysts say.

The U.S. push to ban Huawei has provoked a global dispute in recent weeks, with senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, publicly urging NATO allies in Europe to exclude the company and warning that the United States might limit its military presence in countries that did not do so.

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Confucius Institutes: Do they improve U.S.-China ties or harbor spies?

By Don Lee

Hanging red lanterns welcome visitors to the University of Maryland’s Confucius Institute, the oldest of about 100 Chinese language and cultural centers that have popped up over the last 15 years on American campuses, subsidized by millions of dollars from China’s central government.

But last fall, when four U.S. Senate investigators walked into the Confucius offices in Maryland and spent hours questioning staff, they weren’t looking for an educational exchange. The committee has been seeking detailed information from the university about the program, including contracts, email exchanges and financial arrangements that school administrators have kept under wraps since it started in 2004.

American colleges once viewed these jointly funded institutes as an economical way to expand their language offerings — one that could also bring warmer ties with China and, importantly, an influx of Chinese international students paying full tuition.

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Watch Live: White House holds surprise news briefing amid government shutdown

U.S. policy toward China shifts from engagement to confrontation

By David S. Cloud

For decades, China had no closer American friend than Dianne Feinstein.

As San Francisco mayor in the 1970s, she forged a sister-city relationship with Shanghai, the first between American and Chinese communities. As U.S. senator, she dined with Chinese leaders at Mao Tse-tung’s old Beijing residence. And in the 1990s, she championed a trade policy change that opened a floodgate of Western investment into China.

Today the Democratic senator sees China as a growing threat, joining a broad array of Trump administration officials, national security strategists and business executives who once favored engagement with Beijing and now advocate a confrontational approach instead.

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Mnuchin’s attempt to calm markets backfires as Trump takes another shot at the Federal Reserve

By Jim Puzzanghera

An attempt by Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin to calm plunging financial markets backfired Monday, further rattling investors with new fears about whether major U.S. banks have enough cash on top of worries about interest rates, political instability in Washington and a slowing global economy.

Adding to the volatile mix was a fresh attack on the Federal Reserve by President Trump, who declared that the central bank was the U.S. economy’s “only problem” and that it didn’t “have a feel for the market.”

“The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch — he can’t putt!” Trump said on Twitter.

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He speaks to Democratic hearts. But is Beto O’Rourke a serious White House contender?

By Mark Z. Barabak

He’s a failed U.S. Senate candidate with an undistinguished congressional record who, for the moment, is a blazing-hot 2020 presidential prospect — despite the fact that he may not run and faces long odds if he does.

Beto O’Rourke suggests the will-he-or-won’t-he speculation is something he himself can’t quite fathom.

“I think that’s a great question,” he responded in a Dallas Morning News interview when asked whether his unsuccessful November Senate bid merited a promotion to the White House. “I ask that question myself.”

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Russian disinformation teams targeted Robert S. Mueller III, says report prepared for Senate

By Craig Timberg, Tony Romm, Elizabeth Dwoskin

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

(Associated Press)

Months after President Trump took office, Russia’s disinformation teams trained their sites on a new target: special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Having worked to help get Trump into the White House, they now worked to neutralize the biggest threat to his staying there.

The Russian operatives unloaded on Mueller through fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and beyond, falsely claiming that the former FBI director was corrupt and that the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election were crackpot conspiracies. One post on Instagram — which emerged as an especially potent weapon in the Russian social media arsenal — claimed that Mueller had worked in the past with “radical Islamic groups.”

Such tactics exemplified how Russian teams ranged nimbly across social media platforms in a shrewd online influence operation aimed squarely at American voters. The effort started earlier than commonly understood and lasted longer while relying on the strengths of different sites to manipulate distinct slices of the electorate, according to a pair of comprehensive new reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee and released Monday.

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Timberg, Romm and Dwoskin report for the Washington Post.

President Trump announces Mick Mulvaney as acting White House chief of staff

By Associated Press

President Trump says budget director Mick Mulvaney will serve as acting chief of staff, replacing John F. Kelly in the new year.

It ain’t over when it’s over: In Michigan, Wisconsin and elsewhere, losers seek to undermine election results

By Mark Z. Barabak

Democrat Gavin Newsom has yet to become California governor, but already a candidate for state Republican Party chairman is promoting a recall effort.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, GOP lawmakers have rushed through legislation to thwart their incoming Democratic governors and hamper others in the opposing party from doing the jobs voters chose them to do.

In Congress, GOP leaders have echoed President Trump and sought to undermine the legitimacy of Democrats’ strong midterm performance, raising unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and political malfeasance.

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New CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger says she won’t be a puppet of Mick Mulvaney

By Jim Puzzanghera

On her first full day leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Kathy Kraninger said she won’t be a puppet of Mick Mulvaney, the controversial acting director whom she replaced in the powerful regulatory position.

To underscore that point, the former White House aide said she would even reconsider a Mulvaney action that critics saw as a gratuitous jab at Democrats who championed the agency’s creation: changing its name to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Kraninger’s declaration during a meeting with reporters Tuesday addressed one of the main criticisms of her selection. She is considered a protege of Mulvaney, her boss at the White House Office of Management and Budget who has executed a dramatic, industry-friendly shift at the watchdog agency.

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Trump’s pick for chief of staff, Nick Ayers, out of running

By Associated Press

Nick Ayers, right, with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, at the funeral service for George H.W. Bush on Dec. 3.

Nick Ayers, right, with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, at the funeral service for George H.W. Bush on Dec. 3.

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Associated Press)

President Trump’s top pick to replace John F. Kelly as chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is no longer expected to fill that role.

That’s according to a White House official who is not authorized to discuss the personnel issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ayers is Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff.

The official says that Trump and Ayers could not agree on Ayers’ length of service. The father of young children, Ayers had agreed to serve in an interim capacity though the spring, but Trump wanted a two-year commitment.

The official says that Ayers will instead assist the president from outside the administration.

Trump announced Saturday that Kelly would be departing the White House around the end of the year.

California’s outdated election scoreboard fuels baseless suspicion as vote count ends

By Michael Finnegan

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

(Dylan Stewart / HS Insider)

The morning after the Nov. 6 congressional midterm election in California, state, county and media websites reported that 100% of precincts had turned in their results.

It was highly misleading: The final tally, released Friday, showed that a staggering 5.2 million of the 12.1 million ballots cast — 43% — remained uncounted that morning. Most of the outstanding votes were from mail ballots.

The website charts listing results from “100 percent” of the precincts feed public mistrust in the counting despite California’s stringent protections of ballot integrity, said Mindy Romero, the director of USC’s California Civic Engagement Project, a nonpartisan research center in Sacramento.

Precinct results are just for ballots cast in person on election day — a shrinking share of California’s vote.

“It doesn’t really match the reality,” Romero said.

Alex Padilla, a Democrat just reelected as secretary of state, acknowledged that the description of the early results might lead the public to wonder why the vote count continues for weeks, with a gaggle of second-place candidates then pulling into the lead.

“Can the terminology be modernized a little bit there? Yeah, I’m open to that,” he said.

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U.S. hiring slows to 155,000 jobs, unemployment rate holds at 3.7%

By Jim Puzzanghera

Job growth slowed significantly in November but still was solid, indicating the economy remains in good shape but not expanding so quickly that it will lead to sharply higher interest rates.

U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs last month, well below analyst expectations and a steep decline from October’s strong 237,000 figure, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Still, monthly job gains are averaging 206,000 this year, the best since 2015. Even the slower pace of 170,000 over the last three months is close to last year’s average of 182,000 and well above the amount needed to keep up with population growth.

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Trump is expected to pick State Department spokeswoman for U.N. ambassador

By Associated Press

Heather Nauert at a briefing at the State Department on Aug. 9, 2017.

Heather Nauert at a briefing at the State Department on Aug. 9, 2017.

(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

President Trump is expected to nominate State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Two administration officials confirmed Trump’s plans. A Republican congressional aide said the president was expected to announce his decision by tweet on Friday morning. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly before Trump’s announcement.

Trump has previously said Nauert was under serious consideration to replace Nikki Haley, who announced in October that she would step down at the end of this year.

Trump has been known to change course on staffing decisions in the past.

Nauert was a reporter for Fox News Channel before she became State Department spokeswoman under former Secretary Rex Tillerson.

Senate confirms new consumer financial protection chief: Kathy Kraninger, protege of industry-friendly Mick Mulvaney

By Jim Puzzanghera

The Senate, in a party-line vote Thursday, confirmed White House aide Kathy Kraninger to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and experts predicted a continuation of the industry-friendly shift it has taken since President Trump installed an acting director last year.

Kraninger is a protege of acting director and White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, an outspoken critic of the agency that was created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to prevent predatory lending and other abuses that led to it.

Democrats and consumer advocates have denounced him for sharply departing from the aggressive watchdog role the bureau had pursued under its first director, Obama-appointee Richard Cordray, including scaling back enforcement and moving to reassess tough new rules on payday loans and narrow the definition of abusive practices by banks and other firms.

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Shutdown postponed by two weeks under plan approved by Congress

By Erik Wasson

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), shown at the Capitol on Tuesday, says President Trump's border wall is a waste of money.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), shown at the Capitol on Tuesday, says President Trump’s border wall is a waste of money.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Congress passed a two-week stopgap spending bill that will delay the chance of a partial government shutdown until Dec. 22 as lawmakers and President Donald Trump negotiate over his demands to pay for a wall on the southern border.

The House and Senate passed the measure Thursday without dissent, and Trump has indicated he’ll sign the bill before the current shutdown deadline of midnight Friday. Negotiations were delayed by memorial services this week for former President George H.W. Bush.

The temporary measure gives Democrats and Republicans more time to find a resolution to their biggest hurdle: funding a wall on the U.S. Mexico border wall.

Trump says he wants $5 billion for parts of a concrete wall on the southern border and is willing to shut down the government if he doesn’t get it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has said Democrats will provide no more than $1.6 billion for “border security,” because the wall is a waste of money.

The president’s demands for wall funding from Congress come after he said during the campaign that Mexico would pay for it. This week he said on Twitter that a $25 billion border wall would pay for itself in two months, without providing evidence.

Most of the U.S. government’s $1.2 trillion discretionary budget has been appropriated already by Congress for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. Departments at a risk of a partial shutdown late this month include the departments of State, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Treasury and Homeland Security.

Talks to resolve the differences have been on hold since a meeting among Trump, Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California originally slated for Dec. 4 was postponed due to Bush memorial events. The three are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama told reporters the rest of the seven-bill spending package being negotiated is “basically done.”

Shelby in recent weeks had tried to broker a compromise in which Trump’s $5 billion request would be split over two years, but Schumer has rejected that.

Some Democrats have been willing to trade border wall funding for deportation protections for young undocumented immigrants. Pelosi ruled out such a deal in remarks to reporters Thursday.

The stopgap government funding measure also would extend the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides subsidized coverage for homes in flood-prone areas, to Dec. 21.

Bipartisan Senate group wants to formally blame Saudi crown prince for journalist’s killing

By Karoun Demirjian

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

(Associated Press)

A bipartisan group of senators filed a resolution Wednesday condemning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, directly challenging President Trump to do the same.

“This resolution — without equivocation — definitively states that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was complicit in the murder of Mr. [Jamal] Khashoggi and has been a wrecking ball to the region jeopardizing our national security interests on multiple fronts,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement accompanying the release of the resolution. “It will be up to Saudi Arabia as to how to deal with this matter. But it is up to the United States to firmly stand for who we are and what we believe.”

The resolution put forward by Graham and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who are expected to lead the Judiciary Committee together next year, comes just one day after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed leading senators about the details of the agency’s assessment that Mohammed ordered and monitored the killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Senators emerged from that closed-door briefing furious not only with Saudi Arabia, but Trump as well for dismissing the heft of the CIA’s findings.

“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” Graham said following the briefing, referring to Mohammed by his initials. He added that Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, who briefed senators last week, were at best being “good soldiers” and at worst were “in the pocket of Saudi Arabia” for presenting the evidence of Mohammed’s involvement as inconclusive.

The release of the resolution condemning Mohammed also comes as the Senate is preparing to move ahead with debate on a resolution to curtail U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Though the Yemen resolution does not directly address Khashoggi’s murder, its popularity is a sign of how strained the United States’ patience with Saudi Arabia is on multiple fronts, including its role in worsening the civilian cost of the war in Yemen, cited by the United Nations as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Last week, the Senate voted 63 to 37 to advance the Yemen resolution past an opening procedural hurdle. But Graham and Feinstein’s resolution on the crown prince has the potential of drawing broader support, especially from Republicans, who are deeply divided about how fiercely to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s killing.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been an outspoken advocate for human rights and is seen as one of the more influential foreign policy voices in the GOP, did not vote for the Yemen resolution last week or sign on to a bipartisan measure last month to sanction Saudi officials and cease weapons transfers to the kingdom. But he is an original co-sponsor of the resolution condemning Mohammed over Khashoggi’s death.

So is Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who represents the other end of the GOP spectrum in terms of recent Saudi-related votes and endorsements. Young was an initial co-sponsor of the bill Graham wrote with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to sanction Saudi officials deemed responsible for Khashoggi’s killing and stop the sale of anything but exclusively defensive weapons to the kingdom until it ceased hostilities in Yemen. Young also voted to advance the Yemen resolution — something Graham did as well, though Graham has signaled he will not be lending any similar support to the measure, fearing it may establish a precedent of invoking the War Powers Act too broadly.

Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) are listed as original co-sponsors of the resolution condemning Mohammed, which also urges Saudi Arabia to negotiate with Houthi rebels to end the Yemen war, work out a political solution to its standoff with Qatar and release political prisoners.

But how much sway the resolution has probably comes down to how forcefully the administration decides to heed it — and thus far, Trump has not shown any interest in condemning the crown prince the way the senators hope he will.

Demirjian reports for the Washington Post.

Los Angeles County offices and U.S. Postal Service closed Wednesday in honor of George H.W. Bush

By Brian Park

The Honor Guard carries the casket of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush following his funeral on Dec. 5 in Washington, DC.

The Honor Guard carries the casket of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush following his funeral on Dec. 5 in Washington, DC.

(Doug Mills – Pool/Getty Images)

The U.S. Postal Service will suspend regular mail delivery Wednesday, which President Trump has declared a national day of mourning in honor of former President George H.W. Bush.

All retail postal outlets will be closed, and package delivery will be limited.

In Los Angeles, all nonessential county departments, offices and libraries will be closed for the day, L.A. County officials said. The Los Angeles County Library said no overdue fines will be assessed for books, and due dates will be moved forward one week.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health offices also are closed Wednesday. The Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department, clinics and hospitals will continue to operate, the county said. The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health clinics are being operated with reduced staffing, and the department asked patients to confirm or reschedule any appointments.

All county courts and the disaster recovery centers for the Woolsey fire in Malibu and Agoura Hills will remain open.

Larger federal government operations will be closed Wednesday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to skip 2020 White House race, sources say

By Associated Press

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks during an interview in Boston on Dec. 15, 2014.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks during an interview in Boston on Dec. 15, 2014.

(Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts will soon announce he won’t launch a 2020 presidential campaign, according to three sources familiar with his plans. They did not say why the Democrat decided against a run.

A formal announcement was delayed as the country observed a day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush, one source said. News of Patrick’s plans was first reported by Politico.

Patrick, 62, served two terms as governor, from 2007 to 2015, was assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration and since leaving the governor’s office has been a managing director for Bain Capital. Patrick traveled the country in support of Democratic candidates in the recent midterm election.

Earlier this year, some of Patrick’s supporters and close advisors started the Reason to Believe political action committee, “a grassroots organization dedicated to advancing a positive, progressive vision for our nation in 2018 and 2020.” Reason to Believe PAC had been holding meetups across the country, including in early presidential primary states.

While Patrick is opting against a 2020 run, dozens of Democrats are considering jumping in, including nearly a half-dozen members of the Senate, several House members, and other Massachusetts politicians. On Tuesday, Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels and a vocal critic of President Trump, said in a statement that he would run.

Patrick had previously expressed some concerns about breaking through if he sought the nomination, telling David Axelrod, a former advisor to President Obama, that he wasn’t sure he could stand out in such a large field.

“It’s hard to see how you even get noticed in such a big, broad field without being shrill, sensational or a celebrity, and I’m none of those things and I’m never going to be any of those things,” Patrick said in a September interview with Axelrod.

Former Trump adviser Roger Stone invokes 5th Amendment right and won’t testify before Senate Judiciary Committee

By Associated Press

Roger Stone in 2017.

Roger Stone in 2017.

(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Roger Stone, an associate of President Trump, says he won’t provide testimony or documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

An attorney for Stone said in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, that Stone was invoking his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to produce documents or appear for an interview.

Stone has been entangled in investigations by Congress and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about whether Trump aides had advance knowledge of Democratic emails published by WikiLeaks during the 2016 election.

Stone has not been charged and has said he had no knowledge of the timing or specifics of WikiLeaks’ plans.

In the letter to Feinstein, Stone said the committee’s requests were “far too overbroad, far too overreaching” and “far too wide-ranging.”

Michael Avenatti announces he will not run for president in 2020

Watch live: Vice President Pence and lawmakers honor George H.W. Bush at the U.S. Capitol before he lies in state

Rebuilding crumbling infrastructure has bipartisan support. But who gets to pay for it?

By Jim Puzzanghera

The grades for major U.S. infrastructure would give any parent indigestion if they were on a child’s report card.

Roads: D; bridges: C+; dams: D; ports: C+: railways: B; airports: D; schools: D+; public transit: D-.

The nation’s overall grade: D+, which translates to being “in fair to poor condition and mostly below standards” with “significant deterioration” and a “strong risk of failure,” according to an evaluation last year by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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Trump calls former lawyer Michael Cohen a ‘weak person’ who is ‘lying’

By Associated Press

President Trump says his former lawyer Michael Cohen is “lying” to get a reduced sentence.

The president is reacting to Cohen’s guilty plea Thursday to lying to Congress about work he did on a Trump real estate project in Russia.

During a surprise court hearing, Cohen admitted to lying in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen in his guilty plea said he made the false statements to be consistent with Trump’s “political message.”

Cohen’s lawyer says he continues to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with Trump associates.

As California Republicans confront a congressional wipeout, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy faces a reckoning

By Mark Z. Barabak

When the House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Kevin McCarthy trooped with other Republican lawmakers to a splashy Rose Garden celebration, smiling alongside President Trump as they celebrated the moment.

As majority leader, McCarthy had helped round up the votes to narrowly pass the hard-fought legislation, convincing 13 other California Republicans to go along, even though several faced tough reelection fights.

Fewer than half will be returning in January.

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As California Republicans confront a congressional wipeout, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy faces a reckoning

By Sarah D. Wire

When the House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Kevin McCarthy trooped with other Republican lawmakers to a splashy Rose Garden celebration, smiling alongside President Trump as they celebrated the moment.

As majority leader, McCarthy had helped round up the votes to narrowly pass the hard-fought legislation, convincing 13 other California Republicans to go along, even though several faced tough reelection fights.

Fewer than half will be returning in January.

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Michael Cohen, President Trump’s ex-lawyer, pleads guilty to lying to Congress about Trump real estate project in Russia

By Associated Press

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, pursued a Russian real estate project on candidate Trump’s behalf well into the 2016 campaign, he said Thursday while pleading guilty to lying to Congress.

Cohen had previously said that the project was abandoned in January 2016, but he now admits he continued to pursue a deal and says he updated Trump and members of his family about the negotiations, according to a new court document.

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James Comey says acting Atty. Gen. Whitaker ‘may not be the sharpest knife in our drawer’

By John Wagner

Acting Atty. Gen. Matthew Whitaker speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on Nov. 14.

Acting Atty. Gen. Matthew Whitaker speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on Nov. 14.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

Former FBI Director James B. Comey apparently isn’t too impressed with the mental prowess of President Trump’s acting attorney general.

Matthew Whitaker “may not be the sharpest knife in our drawer,” Comey said during a radio interview on Monday night in which he sized up the man Trump installed this month to replace ousted Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions.

Comey was asked by WGBH News in Boston if he thinks Whitaker could derail the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Whitaker has spoken critically of the probe, and Trump — as recently as Tuesday — continues to call it a “witch hunt.”

“I think it’s a worry, but to my mind not a serious worry,” Comey said. “The institution is too strong, and [Whitaker], frankly, is not strong enough to have that kind of impact.”

“He may not be the sharpest knife in our drawer, but he can see his future and knows that if he acted in an extralegal way, he would go down in history for the wrong reasons, and I’m sure he doesn’t want that,” added Comey, who was fired by Trump last year and later wrote a book that portrays the president as an ego-driven congenital liar.

Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa, was Sessions’ chief of staff before being picked by Trump to lead the Justice Department.

Trump has called Whitaker “a very smart man.” Earlier this year, Trump called Comey “an untruthful slime ball.”

Wagner writes for the Washington Post.

Interior Department watchdog clears Zinke in investigation of Utah national monument

By Juliet Eilperin

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, third from the left, and Gov. Jerry Brown tour fire damage in Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 14.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, third from the left, and Gov. Jerry Brown tour fire damage in Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 14.

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General has cleared Secretary Ryan Zinke in a probe of whether he redrew boundaries of a national monument in Utah to aid the financial interests of a Republican state lawmaker and stalwart supporter of President Trump.

In a Nov. 21 letter to Zinke’s deputy, David Bernhardt, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall wrote that her office “found no evidence” that the secretary or his aides changed the boundaries of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in an effort to help former Utah state representative Mike Noel, who serves as executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District. Last December, Trump shrank the monument, first established by President Clinton in 1996, by 46% based on Zinke’s recommendation.

Noel owns 40 acres that had been surrounded by the monument, but now lies outside its boundaries. The new boundaries also would make it easier to construct the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, which would deliver water to sites in Kane County that include Noel’s property. Earlier this year, the Interior Department had proposed selling off 120 acres of federal land from the former monument that lay adjacent to some of Noel’s land holdings, but later reversed the plan.

“We found no evidence that Noel influenced the DOI’s proposed revisions to the [monument’s] boundaries, that Zinke or other DOI staff involved in the project were aware of Noel’s financial interest in the revised boundaries, or that they gave Noel any preferential treatment in the resulting proposed boundaries,” Kendall wrote.

Neither the Interior Department nor the inspector general’s office would release the actual investigative report. In the letter, Kendall writes that her office will provide the report to Congress “no sooner than 31 days” from Nov. 21, when it is provided it to Zinke’s office.

The Associated Press first reported the inspector general’s conclusions Monday night, but did not provide details from the report itself.

Noel emailed Zinke about the effort to alter Grand Staircase-Escalante, according to emails released by Interior under the Freedom of Informational Act. But those emails do not make references to Noel’s land holdings. Noel also pushed to rename a Utah highway in honor of Trump, but abandoned that effort in March after some of his fellow Republicans objected to the idea.

Noel did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The inspector general’s office still has at least two ongoing probes of the secretary, including one focused on his real estate dealings in Whitefish, Mont., and another regarding his decision to deny a permit to two Connecticut tribes who were hoping to jointly run a casino after MGM Resorts International lobbied against it.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift welcomed the watchdog’s conclusions.

“The report shows exactly what the secretary’s office has known all along — that the monument boundaries were adjusted in accordance with all rules, regulations and laws,” she said in an email. “This report is also the latest example of opponents and special interest groups ginning up fake and misleading stories, only to be proven false after expensive and time consuming inquiries by the IG’s office.”

But Kendall’s spokeswoman, Nancy DiPaolo, defended the inquiry, even though she said the report has not been publicly released “and we will not be speaking specifically about the matter at this time.”

“The OIG opens investigations based on credible allegations and reports our findings objectively and independently,” DiPaolo added. “Any time or resources spent investigating conduct or activity that may be a violation of law, regulation or policy is a service to the public, Congress and the Department.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement that he still intended to investigate the way Zinke and his colleague redrew the boundaries for Grand Staircase-Escalante and another Utah national monument, Bears Ears, next year.

“I have great respect for the inspector general, and I accept these findings, but Secretary Zinke should have known the people he listened to while destroying our national monuments had disqualifying conflicts of interest,” he said. “Should I chair the Natural Resources Committee in the next Congress, the process he and President Trump used to destroy Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will be front and center in our oversight and investigations efforts. We need to know why they ignored overwhelming public expressions of support for both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, why they ignored Native American tribes throughout their decision-making, and why they removed protections on parcels of land with known mineral deposits.”

Eilperin and Rein report for the Washington Post.

Trump advisor Larry Kudlow says China ‘must do more’ to end trade war

By Jim Puzzanghera

Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s top economic advisor, said Tuesday that China’s response to U.S. efforts to rework the two economic superpowers’ trade relationship has been “extremely disappointing” but the planned meeting this weekend between the nations’ leaders is an opportunity for a breakthrough.

“They have to do more. They must do more,” Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, told reporters ahead of a Saturday dinner between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 Summit in Argentina.

“I think the president is exactly right … to show strong backbone when prior administrations did not, to break through these Chinese walls,” Kudlow said. “They’re so resistant to change. We have to protect the country. We have to protect our technology, our inventiveness, our innovation.”

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Watch live: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a media briefing amid tensions at the border

By Los Angeles Times Staff

Democrat TJ Cox grabs lead over Republican David Valadao in nation’s last remaining undecided House race

By Maya Sweedler

Democrat TJ Cox slipped past Republican incumbent David Valadao on Monday to take the lead in the country’s sole remaining undecided congressional race, positioning Democrats to pick up their seventh House seat in California and 40th nationwide.

Cox, who trailed by nearly 4,400 votes on election night, has steadily gained as ballot counting continues nearly three weeks after the Nov. 6 election, a pattern consistent with the state’s recent voting history.

On Monday, he pulled ahead by 438 votes after Kern County updated its results.

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Former CIA director Michael Hayden hospitalized after suffering a stroke

By Deanna Paul

Then-CIA Director Michael Hayden testifies before a Senate committee in 2008.

Then-CIA Director Michael Hayden testifies before a Senate committee in 2008.

(Saul Loeb / Getty Images)

Former CIA Director and retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke, his family said Friday.

“He is receiving expert medical care for which the family is grateful,” according to a statement issued by his namesake organization. “The General and his family greatly appreciate the warm wishes and prayers of his friends, colleagues, and supporters.”

Hayden, 73, served as director of the CIA and National Security Agency during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. He retired from the CIA in 2009.

Hayden has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency. Earlier this year, after Trump decided to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, Hayden was one of several former intelligence leaders who signed a statement in opposition. Criticizing the president for crossing a line, he quickly became one of the individuals whose security clearance Trump threatened to review.

Deanna Paul writes for the Washington Post.

Trump tells troops he’s thankful for what he’s done for the U.S. and rails against courts and migrants

By Associated Press

President Trump talks with troops via teleconference from his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on Thanksgiving.

President Trump talks with troops via teleconference from his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on Thanksgiving.

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

President Trump used his Thanksgiving Day call to troops deployed overseas to pat himself on the back and air grievances about the courts, trade and migrants heading to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump’s call, made from his opulent private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., struck an unusually political tone as he spoke with members of all five branches of the military to wish them happy holidays.

“It’s a disgrace,” Trump said of judges who have blocked his attempts to overhaul U.S. immigration law, as he linked his efforts to secure the border with military missions overseas.

Trump later threatened to close the U.S. border with Mexico for an undisclosed period of time if his administration determines Mexico has lost “control” on its side.

The call was a uniquely Trump blend of boasting, peppered questions and off-the-cuff observations as his comments veered from venting about slights to praising troops — “You really are our heroes,” he said — as club waiters worked to set Thanksgiving dinner tables on the outdoor terrace behind him.

It was yet another show of how Trump has dramatically transformed the presidency, erasing the traditional divisions between domestic policy and military matters and efforts to keep the troops clear of politics.

“You probably see over the news what’s happening on our southern border,” Trump told one Air Force brigadier general stationed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, adding: “I don’t have to even ask you. I know what you want to do, you want to make sure that you know who we’re letting in.”

Later, Trump asked a U.S. Coast Guard commander about trade, which he noted was “a very big subject” for him personally.

“We’ve been taken advantage of for many, many years by bad trade deals,” Trump told the commander, who sheepishly replied, “Mr. President, from our perspective on the water … we don’t see any issues in terms of trade right now.”

And throughout, Trump congratulated himself, telling the officers that the country is doing exceptionally well on his watch.

“I hope that you’ll take solace in knowing that all of the American families you hold so close to your heart are all doing well,” he said. “The nation’s doing well economically, better than anybody in the world.” He later told reporters, “Nobody’s done more for the military than me.”

Indeed, asked what he was thankful for this Thanksgiving, Trump cited his “great family” as well as himself.

“I made a tremendous difference in this country,” he said.

Trump starts Thanksgiving Day with tweets about Chief Justice Roberts and a call to U.S. troops

By Associated Press

President Trump makes a Thanksgiving Day call to U.S. troops.

President Trump delivered a Thanksgiving message to American service members on duty around the world, telling them by telephone, “Your courage truly inspires us.”

Trump told members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard that he and First Lady Melania Trump wanted to express their “profound gratitude.”

Trump is spending the holiday in Palm Beach, Fla., at his private Mar-a-Lago Club again this year.

He started Thursday morning tweeting as part of his extraordinary public dispute with Chief Justice John Roberts. Trump is warning of “bedlam, chaos, injury and death” if the courts block his efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.

RELATED: Chief Justice John Roberts denounces Trump’s criticism of a federal jurist as an ‘Obama judge’ »

Trump contradicts CIA assessment that Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi killing

By Josh Dawsey | Washington Post

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

President Trump on Thursday contradicted the CIA’s assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, insisting that the agency “had feelings” but did not firmly place blame for the death.

Trump, in defiant remarks to reporters from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, defended his continued support for Mohammed in the face of a CIA assessment that the crown prince had ordered the killing.

“He denies it vehemently,” Trump said. He said his own conclusion was that “maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.”

“I hate the crime …. I hate the cover-up. I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do,” Trump said.

Asked who should be held accountable for the death of Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, Trump refused to place blame.

“Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a very, very vicious place,” the president said.

He also seemed to suggest that all U.S. allies were guilty of the same behavior, declaring that if the others were held to the standard that critics have held Saudi Arabia to in recent days, “we wouldn’t be able to have anyone for an ally.”

Trump’s remarks came after he held a conference call with U.S. military officers overseas, during which he repeatedly praised his administration and sought to draw the officers into discussions of domestic policy.

Former FBI Director James Comey gets subpoena from House Republicans

By Bloomberg

Former FBI Director James B. Comey said he has received a subpoena from House Republicans, according to a Twitter post on Thursday.

Bloomberg News reported last week that Comey would be receiving a subpoena alongside former Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch as part of continuing probes into their handling of investigations into Hillary Clinton and Russian election meddling, according to a top House Democrat.

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Republican David Valadao’s lead slips to 447 votes over Democrat TJ Cox in still-undecided Central Valley House race

By Mark Z. Barabak

Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), right, finds himself in an increasingly harrowing cliffhanger against Democrat TJ Cox.

Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), right, finds himself in an increasingly harrowing cliffhanger against Democrat TJ Cox.

(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

On election night, it looked like Rep. David Valadao had survived a close shave and was destined to return to Washington for his fourth term.

But on Wednesday, when Fresno County announced its latest vote totals, the Hanford Republican found himself in an increasingly harrowing cliffhanger against Democrat TJ Cox, with his lead in the Central Valley district shrunken to 447 votes. Thousands remain to be counted.

Valadao, a repeated Democratic target, finished election night with a lead of nearly 4,440 votes. Cox, an engineer and a business owner who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2006, has steadily gained ground in the 21st Congressional District ever since.

The trend is consistent with historic patterns showing Republicans in California tend to vote early and Democrats later, meaning their mail ballots continue to stream in past election day. Under California law, ballots postmarked up to midnight on Nov. 6 will be counted.

Democrats have already picked up six House seats in California. They ousted Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, Mimi Walters, Steve Knight and Jeff Denham and won the seats of retiring Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa.

All six represented districts that backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

Valadao was the seventh California Republican in a district Clinton won, though his previous successes – he last won reelection by a 14-point margin – suggested his ouster was a longer shot for Democrats.

If Cox prevails, it would give Democrats a 40-seat gain nationwide, far more than the 23 seats needed to take control when Congress reconvenes in January.

Trump says no new punishments against Saudi Arabia in Jamal Khashoggi murder

By Eli Stokols

In this Oct. 25 photo, candles are lit in front of a photo of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In this Oct. 25 photo, candles are lit in front of a photo of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

(Lefteris Pitarakis)

President Trump made it clear on Tuesday that he does not intend to punish Saudi Arabia or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident killed by Saudi officials in Turkey in October.

In a remarkable statement replete with exclamation points, Trump cast doubt on the CIA’s reported conclusions that it has a high degree of confidence that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder and sent his closest allies to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul to carry it out.

Read MoreThis article has been updated with staff.

GOP Rep. Valadao clinging to slim lead over Democrat T.J. Cox in updated vote tally

By Michael Finnegan

Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), left, remains ahead of Democratic challenger T.J. Cox in updated vote tallies.

Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), left, remains ahead of Democratic challenger T.J. Cox in updated vote tallies.

(Associated Press)

The election-night lead that GOP Rep. David Valadao of Hanford established over his Democratic challenger T.J. Cox has shrunk to 968 votes, stoking Republican fears that the party could lose a seventh California congressional seat.

The alarming news for the GOP came Monday as Kern and Tulare counties released updated results from their ongoing ballot counting.

On election night, when Valadao had a 4,389-vote lead, the Associated Press projected the Republican incumbent would win, but that victory now appears uncertain.

California’s 21st Congressional District, mainly farmland along Interstate 5 between Bakersfield and Fresno, is split among four counties. Cox holds a lopsided lead in Kern County, but Valadao remains ahead in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties.

It is unclear how many thousands of ballots remain uncounted. The four counties have told the state that they still have nearly 70,000 ballots to tally. Many of them came from voters living outside the 21st District, so it’s difficult to estimate Valadao’s prospects for survival.

The Nov. 6 midterm election results have been dismal for Republicans in California. The party has lost six of its 14 House seats in the state, leaving it with a tiny minority of the 53-seat delegation.

Democrats unseated Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, Mimi Walters of Laguna Beach, Steve Knight of Palmdale and Jeff Denham of Turlock. Democrats also won the seats of retiring GOP Reps. Ed Royce of Fullerton and Darrell Issa of Vista.

All six of those seats are in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Valadao’s is the only other California district that favored Clinton but is represented by a Republican in the House.

Sixteen House Democrats vow to oppose Nancy Pelosi as next speaker

By Mike DeBonis | Washington Post

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Sixteen House Democrats said Monday that they will vote to deny Rep. Nancy Pelosi another stint as House speaker, a show of defiance that puts her opponents on the cusp of forcing a seismic leadership shake-up as their party prepares to take the majority.

Their pledge to oppose Pelosi (D-San Francisco), both in an internal caucus election and a Jan. 3 floor vote, delivered in a letter sent to Democratic colleagues, comes as Pelosi has marshaled a legion of supporters on and off Capitol Hill to make her case.

But her opponents said Monday they are convinced it is time to select a new leader.

“We are thankful to Leader Pelosi for her years of service to our Country and to our Caucus,” they wrote. “However, we also recognize that in this recent election, Democrats ran on and won on a message of change.”

Pelosi has expressed complete confidence that she will retake the speaker’s gavel in January — eight years after she lost it following massive Republican gains in the 2010 midterms and 16 years after she was first elevated to the top Democratic leadership post in the House.

“Come on in, the water’s fine,” she said Friday about a potential leadership challenge.

The signers might not be able to force Pelosi out themselves. The size of the Democratic majority remains in flux, but Democrats have already won 232 seats, according to the Associated Press, with five races still undecided.

All those races have Republican incumbents, but the Democratic challenger is ahead in only one of them. If the leads hold in the uncalled races, Democrats would have won 233 seats, a 16-seat majority.

That means Pelosi could lose as many as 15 Democratic votes when she stands for election as speaker on Jan. 3.

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Democratic senators sue over Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general

By Associated Press

Acting U.S. Atty. Gen. Matthew Whitaker

Acting U.S. Atty. Gen. Matthew Whitaker

(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

Three Senate Democrats filed a lawsuit Monday arguing that Acting Atty. Gen. Matthew Whitaker’s appointment is unconstitutional and asking a federal judge to remove him.

The suit, filed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, argues that Whitaker’s appointment violates the Constitution because he has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Whitaker was chief of staff to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and was elevated to the top job after Sessions was ousted by President Trump on Nov. 7.

The Constitution’s Appointments Clause requires that the Senate confirm all principal officials before they can serve in their office.

The Justice Department released a legal opinion last week that said Whitaker’s appointment would not violate the clause because he is serving in an acting capacity. The opinion concluded that Whitaker, even without Senate confirmation, may serve in an acting capacity because he has been at the department for more than a year at a “sufficiently senior pay level.”

“President Trump is denying senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test. In selecting a so-called ‘constitutional nobody’ and thwarting every senator’s constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts.”

The lawsuit comes days after a Washington lawyer challenged Whitaker’s appointment in a pending Supreme Court case dealing with gun rights. The attorney, Thomas Goldstein, asked the high court to find that Whitaker’s appointment is unconstitutional and replace him with Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein, the second-ranking Justice Department official, has been confirmed by the Senate and had been overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Whitaker is now overseeing the investigation.

The Justice Department issued a statement Monday defending Whitaker’s appointment as “lawful” and said it comports with the Appointments Clause, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and legal precedent.

“There are over 160 instances in American history in which non-Senate confirmed persons performed, on a temporary basis, the duties of a Senate-confirmed position,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. “To suggest otherwise is to ignore centuries of practice and precedent.”

Gov. Rick Scott says Sen. Bill Nelson concedes Florida Senate race

By Associated Press

Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott speaks with his wife, Ann, by his side at an election watch party in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 7.

Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott speaks with his wife, Ann, by his side at an election watch party in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 7.

(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott says incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson called him to concede defeat in their extremely tight race.

Scott issued a statement Sunday saying Nelson “graciously conceded” their Senate race shortly after the state’s recount ended. The final results show Scott defeated Nelson by just over 10,000 votes out of 8 million cast. Nelson is scheduled to release a videotaped statement later Sunday.

The defeat ends Nelson’s lengthy political career. The three-term incumbent was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. Before that he served six terms in the U.S. House and as state treasurer and insurance commissioner for six years.

Scott spent more than $60 million of his own money on ads that portrayed Nelson as out-of-touch and ineffective. Nelson responded by questioning Scott’s ethics and saying he would be under the sway of President Trump.

Orange County goes blue, as Democrats complete historic sweep of its seven congressional seats

By Michael Finnegan

Gil Cisneros defeated Republican Young Kim on Saturday in the last of Orange County’s undecided House races, giving Democrats a clean sweep of the state’s six most fiercely fought congressional contests and marking an epochal shift in a region long synonymous with political conservatism.

With Cisneros’ victory, Democrats will constitute the entirety of Orange County’s seven-member congressional delegation, the first time since the 1930s that the birthplace of Richard Nixon, home of John Wayne and spiritual center of the Republican Party will have no GOP representative in the House.

“Sitting back in the 1960s, I would never have believed this would happen,” said Stuart K. Spencer, a party strategist who spent more than half a century ushering Republicans, including President Reagan, into office.

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Going, going … with midterm wipeout, California Republican Party drifts closer to irrelevance

By Michael Finnegan

For a party in freefall the last two decades, California Republicans learned that it’s possible to plunge even further.

The GOP not only lost every statewide office in the midterm election — again, in blowout fashion — but Democrats reestablished their supermajority in Sacramento, allowing them to legislate however they see fit

After major defeats in Orange County and the Central Valley, two longtime strongholds, Republicans will have a significantly smaller footprint on Capitol Hill. (Democrats hold both Senate seats.) When the vote-counting is finished, the GOP may not even have enough lawmakers in California’s 53-member House delegation to field a nine-person softball team.

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Congresswoman-elect Katie Porter says she will support Rep. Nancy Pelosi for speaker

By Maya Sweedler

Democratic Rep.-elect Katie Porter is congratulated by volunteers at her campaign headquarters in Irvine.

Democratic Rep.-elect Katie Porter is congratulated by volunteers at her campaign headquarters in Irvine.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Congresswoman-elect Katie Porter said she plans to support Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s bid for speaker of the House and will make campaign finance reform her top priority when she enters the chamber in January.

“I’m going to continue to have conversations, but so far I feel like Leader Pelosi is definitely making the things that were a priority to the families that elected me her priorities, including announcing her support for campaign finance reform and anti-corruption as HR1,” Porter said in her first public appearance since being declared the winner in California’s 45th Congressional District on Thursday evening.

“It means a lot to me that she is a Californian. She understands our state,” Porter added. “When we talk about environmental protections, this is a person who understands as a Californian how fragile our environment is and what’s at risk in things like drilling off our coasts.”

Porter, a law professor at UC Irvine, defeated two-term Republican Rep. Mimi Walters. The 45th District, covering inland Orange County, has never been represented by a Democrat.

Porter became the third Democrat to claim a Republican-held seat in Orange County, following the victories of Harley Rouda in the 48th District and Mike Levin in the 49th. A fourth, Gil Cisneros, is running slightly ahead of his Republican opponent in the race for the open seat in the 39th District, which extends into Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Porter attributed the massive political shift in the county, for decades a conservative stronghold, to increased levels of political engagement.

“Folks here care about education, they care about the environment, they believe climate change is real, they want healthcare that protects preexisting conditions, they want a tax system that doesn’t punish California, they want our schools and places of worship to be safe from gun violence,” she said.

“Those are the issues we campaigned on, and to the extent that Donald Trump and Mimi Walters were on the wrong side of those issues, the voters have made clear what direction they want us to go.”

Porter was flying back from the East Coast when her race was called, she said. She turned on her phone to find 167 text messages from friends and supporters.

Among them was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who was one of Porter’s teachers in law school and with whom she has remained close. The pair spoke via FaceTime this morning, she said.

Bitter battle for Senate seat in Florida goes to hand recount

By Associated Press

Employees look through damaged ballots during a recount Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Employees look through damaged ballots during a recount Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla.

(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

Florida’s acrimonious battle for the U.S. Senate headed Thursday to a legally required hand recount after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by less than 13,000 votes.

But the highly watched contest for governor between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum appeared to be over, with a machine recount showing DeSantis with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race.

Gillum, who conceded the contest on election night only to retract his concession later, said in a statement that “it is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”

The recount so far has been fraught with problems. One large Democratic stronghold in South Florida was unable to finish its machine recount by the Thursday deadline due to machines breaking down. A federal judge rejected a request to extend the recount deadline.

“We gave a heroic effort,” said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. If the county had three or four more hours, it would have made the deadline to recount ballots in the Senate race, she said.

Meanwhile, election officials in another urban county in the Tampa Bay area decided against turning in the results of their machine recount, which came up with 846 fewer votes than originally counted. Media in South Florida reported that Broward County finished its machine recount but missed the deadline by a few minutes.

Counties were ordered last weekend to do a machine recount of three statewide races because the margins were so tight. The next stage is a manual review of ballots that were not counted by machines to see whether there is a way to figure out voter intent.

Scott called on Nelson to end the recount battle.

It’s time for Nelson “to respect the will of the voters and graciously bring this process to an end rather than proceed with yet another count of the votes — which will yield the same result and bring more embarrassment to the state that we both love and have served,” the governor said in a statement.

The recount has triggered multiple lawsuits, many of them filed by Nelson and Democrats. The legal battles drew the ire of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker, who slammed the state for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems. He also said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000.

“We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this,” Walker said during a morning hearing.

Walker vented his anger at state lawmakers and Palm Beach County officials, saying they should have made sure they had enough equipment in place to handle this kind of a recount. But he said he could not extend the recount deadline because he did not know when Palm Beach County would finish its work.

“This court must be able to craft a remedy with knowledge that it will not prove futile,” Walker wrote in his ruling turning down the request from Democrats. “It cannot do so on this record. This court does not and will not fashion a remedy in the dark.”

The overarching problem was created by the Florida Legislature, which Walker said passed a recount law that appears to run afoul of the 2000 Bush vs. Gore decision by locking in procedures that do not allow for potential problems.

A total of six election-related lawsuits are pending in federal court in Tallahassee as well at least one lawsuit filed in state court.

Walker also ordered that voters be given until 5 p.m. Saturday to show a valid identification and fix their ballots if they have not been counted due to mismatched signatures. Republicans appealed the ruling, but an appeals court turned down the request.

State officials testified that nearly 4,000 mailed-in ballots were set aside because local officials decided the signatures on the envelopes did not match the signatures on file. If those voters can prove their identity, their votes will be counted and included in final official returns due from each county by noon Sunday.

Walker was asked by Democrats to require local officials to provide a list of people whose ballots were rejected. But the judge appointed by President Obama refused the request, calling it “inappropriate.”

Under state law, a hand review is required with races that have a margin of 0.25 percentage points or less. A state website put the unofficial results showing Scott ahead of Nelson by 0.15 percentage points. The margin between DeSantis and Gillum was at 0.41 points.

The margin between Scott and Nelson had not changed much in the last few days, conceded Marc Elias, an attorney working for Nelson’s campaign. But he said that he expected the vote tally to shrink due to the hand recount and the ruling on signatures.

The developments fueled frustrations among Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats want state officials to do whatever it takes to make sure every eligible vote is counted. Republicans, including President Trump, have argued without evidence that voter fraud threatens to steal races from the GOP.

Democrat Gil Cisneros pulls ahead of Republican Young Kim as more votes are tallied in Orange and San Bernardino counties

By Michael Finnegan

Congressional candidate Gil Cisneros

Congressional candidate Gil Cisneros

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Democrat Gil Cisneros pulled ahead of Republican Young Kim in one of California’s undecided congressional races Thursday, an ominous sign for a GOP already reeling from its loss of four House seats in the state.

In updated vote counts released by the registrars for Orange and San Bernardino counties, Kim fell 941 votes behind Cisneros in the contest to succeed Republican Rep. Ed Royce in California’s 39th Congressional District. The 39th straddles Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

In another unresolved House race, Democrat Katie Porter pulled further ahead of Republican incumbent Mimi Walters in the 45th District, which includes Mission Viejo, Tustin, Irvine, Rancho Santa Margarita and Laguna Hills.

Porter, a consumer attorney and UC Irvine law professor, is now 6,203 votes ahead.

The Nov. 6 midterm election has been devastating to Republicans in California. If Cisneros and Porter win, the party will have lost six of its 14 House seats in the state, essentially a wipeout in every contest that both parties spent heavily to win.

The three Republicans already bounced from Congress are Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, Steve Knight of Palmdale and Jeff Denham of Turlock in the San Joaquin Valley. Democrat Mike Levin won the seat of retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista in the fourth district flipped so far.

Florida Senate race likely headed to second recount

By Associated Press

A Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy walks past boxes of ballots before a recount on Nov. 15 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy walks past boxes of ballots before a recount on Nov. 15 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

(Wilfredo Lee)

Unofficial Florida election results show that the governor’s race seems to be settled after a machine recount but the U.S. Senate race is likely headed to a hand recount.

Republican Ron DeSantis is virtually assured of winning the nationally watched governor’s race over Democrat Andrew Gillum. Florida finished a machine recount Thursday that showed Gillum without enough votes to force a manual recount.

Unofficial results posted on a state website show the margin between U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott is still thin enough to trigger a second review. State law requires a hand recount of races with a margin of 0.25 percentage point or less.

Counties have until Sunday to inspect the ballots that did not record a vote when put through the machines. Those ballots are re-examined to see whether the voter skipped the race or marked the ballot in a way that the machines cannot read but can be deciphered.

The election will be certified Tuesday.

Read More

Pelosi says she has the votes to become the next House speaker

By John Wagner

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference in Washington on Nov. 14.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference in Washington on Nov. 14.

(Susan Walsh)

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi insisted Thursday that she has the votes to become the chamber’s speaker despite solid opposition from more than a dozen Democrats who want fresh leadership when the party takes control next year.

“I have overwhelming support in my caucus to be speaker of the House,” the San Francisco lawmaker told reporters. “I happen to think at this point, I’m the best person for that.”

A vote within the Democratic caucus is scheduled for Nov. 28. The full House votes on Jan. 3 to elect a new speaker.

During her remarks, Pelosi touted the size of the Democratic victory in the midterms, which she called “almost a tsunami.” With a few races still to be decided, Democrats are poised to pick up close to 40 seats in the chamber.

Pelosi called that “the biggest victory for the Democrats since 1974, when the Watergate babies came in.”

Pelosi’s comments come as she faces solid opposition from at least 17 Democrats, setting the stage for a battle over who will ascend to one of the most powerful positions in Washington.

After a campaign in which some Democrats prevailed in competitive districts by promising to oppose her, a coalition of incumbents and newly elected members has denied her a smooth path to the speakership.

The defections, if they stand, would leave Pelosi, who has led the Democrats for more than 15 years, several votes short of the 218 she would need when the full House votes for speaker Jan. 3. However, no Democrat has stepped forward to run against her for a job she held from 2007 through 2010.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) told reporters Wednesday that she’s being encouraged to stand for speaker if Pelosi doesn’t have the votes.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday, she said she has been “overwhelmed” by the support from many of her colleagues for her possible entry into the race for House speaker.

“Over the last 12 hours, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received,” Fudge said, adding that there are “probably closer to 30″ Democrats who have privately signaled that they are willing to oppose Pelosi.

“Things could change rapidly,” Fudge said.

Fudge, 66, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said she is building a diverse coalition as she mulls a speaker run, talking with allies in the caucus, moderate Democrats and newly elected members.

To this point, Pelosi has enjoyed the strong backing of the Congressional Black Caucus.

On Thursday, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), one of its members, wrote a letter to colleagues praising her “insight, fortitude and strategic thinking” and urging support for her speakership bid.

Former Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., an African American who is contemplating a 2020 presidential bid, also voiced support for Pelosi, praising her in a tweet as “an architect of the recent midterm success.”

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), a leader of the resistance to Pelosi, said during an interview on CNN on Thursday that Fudge is “the kind of new leader that we need in this party.”

“She’s in touch with middle America. She understands what the American people want. She’s a next-generation leader that people will look to and say, ‘That’s the future of our party, that’s the future of our country, and that’s exactly the kind of leader that I want to see as our next speaker.”

Wagner reports for the Washington Post. The Post’s Robert Costa, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane and Elise Viebeck contributed to this report.

GOP Rep. Jeff Denham concedes to Democrat Josh Harder in Central Valley race

By Maya Sweedler

Rep. Jeff Denham

Rep. Jeff Denham

(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham has conceded to Democrat Josh Harder in the race to represent California’s 10th Congressional District in the San Joaquin Valley.

“It has been an absolute honor to serve our community and represent the Central Valley in Congress over the past eight years,” the 51-year-old congressman said. “The enormity of the responsibility was never lost on me. My wife Sonia and I look forward to starting the next chapter of our lives.”

Harder said he had spoken with Denham and the two were committed to a productive transition.

Denham, an Air Force veteran, previously represented the region in the state Senate for eight years and founded a company specializing in plastic packaging used in agriculture. While a member of Congress, he sat on the Transportation and Infrastructure, Veterans’ Affairs and Agriculture committees.

First-time candidate Harder was born and raised in the district. After graduating from Stanford University, he served as vice president of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Since moving back, he has been teaching at Modesto Junior College.

Denham’s House seat is one of four in California that Republicans lost in the Nov. 6 election, with two contests in Orange County still undecided as of Thursday morning.

Democrat Katie Porter now nearly 3,800 votes ahead of GOP Rep. Mimi Walters

By Maya Sweedler

Rep. Mimi Walters thanks all of her supporters as she watches election results in Irvine on Nov. 7, 2018.

Rep. Mimi Walters thanks all of her supporters as she watches election results in Irvine on Nov. 7, 2018.

(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Democrat Katie Porter opened a 3,797-vote lead Wednesday over Republican Rep. Mimi Walters in Orange County’s 45th Congressional District.

In the neighboring 39th, Democrat Gil Cisneros has nearly tied the race against Republican Young Kim. Cisneros now trails Kim by a razor-thin margin of 122 votes.

The 39th District straddles Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties; Wednesday’s updated ballot counts came from the latter two.

There are more than 202,000 ballots left to count in Orange County, which includes parts of seven congressional districts. The 45th is entirely in inland Orange County.

In California, the ballots counted first tend to lean Republican and those tallied later skew Democratic.

In the Central Valley’s 21st Congressional District, Democratic challenger TJ Cox has pulled within 2 percentage points of Rep. David Valadao, who is serving his third term. The Associated Press had projected a win for Valadao on election night, but his 4,839-vote advantage has shrunk to 2,090.

A spokesman for Valadao told the Fresno Bee that the changes were expected and that “[s]tatistically, David Valadao has won this race.”

Democrats in California have already flipped four House seats, defeating three Republican incumbents and claiming an open seat previously held by the GOP.

Reps. Steve Knight of Palmdale, Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa and Jeff Denham of Turlock have already lost their races, and retiring Rep. Darrell Issa’s San Diego County seat was claimed by Democrat Mike Levin.

Trump aide departs West Wing after rebuke from Melania Trump

By Associated Press

First Lady Melania Trump.

First Lady Melania Trump.

(Alain Jocard / AFP-Getty Images)

Deputy national security advisor Mira Ricardel is leaving the White House, one day after First Lady Melania Trump’s office issued an extraordinary statement calling for her dismissal.

No replacement was named. Aides said Ricardel clashed with the first lady’s staff over her visit to Africa last month. Yet it is highly unusual for a first lady or her office to weigh in on personnel matters, especially the president’s national security staff.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Ricardel would have a new role in the administration.

On Tuesday, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman, released a statement saying, “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”

President Trump’s White House has set records for administration turnover. Ricardel was the third person to hold the post under Trump.

An ally of national security advisor John Bolton, Ricardel began her service in the Trump administration as associate director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, then moved to the Commerce Department last year.

Bolton brought her into the West Wing shortly after taking the job in April. He is traveling in Asia this week alongside Vice President Mike Pence.

Race for House Minority Leader is Kevin McCarthy’s to lose

By Associated Press

(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is running to take over next year’s shrunken caucus in closed-door elections that will set the tone for the new Congress.

The race for minority leader is McCarthy’s to lose Wednesday. But the California Republican, who is an ally of President Trump, must fend off a challenge from conservative Jim Jordan of Ohio. Jordan is a leader of the House Freedom Caucus.

The two encountered questions and finger-pointing during a private meeting with lawmakers Tuesday night as the GOP sorted through the midterm defeat that put Democrats in the majority next year.

Elections Wednesday will also determine party leadership in the Senate.

Voting for the biggest race, Nancy Pelosi’s bid to return as the Democrats’ nominee for speaker, is later this month.

Read More

Melania Trump calls for the firing of deputy national security advisor

By Justin Sink

First Lady Melania Trump arrives at the Chateau de Versailles outside Paris on Nov. 11.

First Lady Melania Trump arrives at the Chateau de Versailles outside Paris on Nov. 11.

(Alain Jocard / AFP/Getty Images )

First Lady Melania Trump’s office said she wants Mira Ricardel, the deputy national security advisor, ousted from the White House.

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement in response to a question about reports the first lady had sought Ricardel’s removal.

Ricardel is the top deputy to national security advisor John Bolton. She drew the first lady’s wrath after threatening to withhold National Security Council resources during Melania Trump’s trip to Africa last month unless Ricardel was included in her entourage, one person familiar with the matter said.

Grisham’s statement comes as several media outlets have reported that President Trump is considering a broader shakeup of his administration, including ousting Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Sink and Jacobs report for Bloomberg.

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CNN sues Trump over the suspension of Jim Acosta’s White House press credentials

By Jim Puzzanghera

CNN said Tuesday that it is suing President Trump and other administration officials over the decision to suspend the White House press credentials of correspondent Jim Acosta after a conflict at a news conference last week.

The suit, to be filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, escalates an ongoing battle between Trump and the cable news outlet that he frequently accuses of disseminating “fake news” for its aggressive coverage of him and his administration.

“The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s 1st Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their 5th Amendment rights to due process,” CNN said in a written statement. “If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.”

Read More

CNN sues Trump and top aides for banning reporter Jim Acosta

By Los Angeles Times Staff

Maxine Waters to take aim at Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank as new head of House Financial Services Committee

By Jim Puzzanghera

Rep. Maxine Waters plans to zero in on two big banks — Wells Fargo & Co. and Deutsche Bank — when she becomes head of the powerful House Financial Services Committee.

The Los Angeles congresswoman, now the committee’s top Democrat, is widely expected to gain the gavel after her party won control of the House in last week’s elections. While Waters has outlined a wide-ranging agenda, she said her focus on bank oversight will target two large institutions she has been tangling with for a while — including one, Deutsche Bank, that spills into her bitter feud with President Trump.

“With Trump in the White House, I know that our fight for America’s consumers and investors will continue to be challenging. But I am more than up to that fight,” Waters wrote in a letter last week to her Democratic colleagues on the committee that was obtained by The Times.

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Here’s how a controversial voting system will decide a congressional race in Maine

By Kurtis Lee

For the first time in U.S. history, a controversial voting system known as “ranked choice” is being used to decide a federal election.

It’s happening in Maine, which adopted the system in 2016.

Rather than marking a single candidate, each voter ranks them all, assigning a first-place vote, a second-place vote and so on down the ballot.

Read More

ACLU files suit to stop Trump’s new asylum limits

By Associated Press

A group of Central American migrants march to the office of the U.N.'s humans rights body in Mexico City on Nov. 8.

A group of Central American migrants march to the office of the U.N.’s humans rights body in Mexico City on Nov. 8.

(Rebecca Blackwell / Associated Press)

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a legal challenge to President Trump’s order denying asylum to migrants if they cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco and argues the new rules are against the law. Attorney Lee Gelernt said the regulations will put families in danger.

The suit seeks to declare the regulations invalid and wants a judge to stop the rules from going into effect while the litigation is pending.

The new rules were spurred in part by caravans of Central American migrants slowly moving north on foot, but officials say they will apply to anyone caught crossing illegally. Officials say about 70,000 people who enter the country illegally claim asylum.

The order invoked the same national security powers Trump used to push through his travel ban.

Read More

Trump on new acting AG: ‘I don’t know Matt Whitaker’

By Associated Press

President Trump talks with reporters before departing for France on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 9.

President Trump talks with reporters before departing for France on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 9.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump is moving to distance himself from Matthew Whitaker as he faces criticism over his choice for acting attorney general.

Trump told reporters Friday that “I don’t know Matt Whitaker” and said he didn’t speak with Whitaker about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Whitaker has made public comments critical of Mueller’s investigation, and critics have called on Whitaker to recuse himself from oversight of the inquiry. Under former Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, the investigation was overseen by Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein.

Of the scrutiny Whitaker is facing, Trump said: “It’s a shame that no matter who I put in they go after.”

He also called Whitaker “a very highly respected man.” Whitaker was Sessions’ chief of staff before Trump made him Sessions’ interim replacement.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg out of hospital after fall

By Associated Press

The Supreme Court says 85-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is home after being released from the hospital. She had been admitted for treatment and observation after fracturing three ribs in a fall.

The court said Ginsburg was released Friday. Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg says she is “doing well” and working from home.

The court had previously said the justice fell in her office at the court on Wednesday evening and went to George Washington University Hospital in Washington early Thursday after experiencing discomfort overnight.

Ginsburg broke two ribs in a fall in 2012. She had two prior bouts with cancer and had a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014.

Gun-control activist Lucy McBath defeats GOP Rep. Karen Handel in Georgia

By Associated Press

Lucy McBath speaks during a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Nov. 2 at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Lucy McBath speaks during a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Nov. 2 at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

(Alyssa Pointer / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Democratic gun-control activist Lucy McBath has defeated Republican Rep. Karen Handel of Georgia in a suburban congressional district long considered safe for the GOP.

Handel had to seek reelection after winning her seat last year in a close special election race against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

McBath became an advocate for stricter gun laws after her son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot at a Florida gas station in 2012 by a man angry over loud music the teenager and his friends were playing in a car.

McBath’s margin of victory was narrow enough for Handel to have requested a recount. The Associated Press declared McBath the winner Thursday after Handel conceded.

Handel conceded in a statement Thursday morning, stating that after reviewing all of the election data, it’s clear she “came up a bit short” in Tuesday’s vote.

Handel congratulated McBath, offering “good thoughts and much prayer for the journey that lies ahead for her.”

McBath, who is African American, declared victory Wednesday.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized after fracturing 3 ribs in fall

By Associated Press

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

The Supreme Court says 85-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fractured three ribs in a fall in her office at the court and is in the hospital.

The court says the justice went to George Washington University Hospital in Washington early Thursday after experiencing discomfort overnight. The court says the fall occurred Wednesday evening.

Ginsburg was admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation after tests showed she fractured three ribs.

Ginsburg broke two ribs in a fall in 2012. She has had two prior bouts with cancer and had a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014.

White House suspends press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta after heated exchange with Trump

By Associated Press

The White House on Wednesday suspended the press pass of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta after he and President Trump had a heated confrontation during a news conference.

They began sparring after Acosta asked Trump about the caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern U.S. border. When Acosta tried to follow up with another question, Trump said, “That’s enough!” and a female White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from Acosta.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement accusing Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,” calling it “absolutely unacceptable.”

The interaction between Acosta and the intern was brief, and Acosta appeared to brush her arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told her.

Acosta tweeted that Sanders’ statement that he put his hands on the aide was “a lie.”

CNN said in a statement that the White House revoked Acosta’s press pass in “retaliation for his challenging questions” Wednesday, and the network accused Sanders of lying about Acosta’s actions.

Sanders “provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better,” CNN said. “Jim Acosta has our full support.”

Journalists assigned to cover the White House apply for passes that allow them daily access to press areas in the West Wing. White House staffers decide whether journalists are eligible, though the Secret Service determines whether their applications are approved.

Trump spars with reporters at post-election news briefing, ordering several to sit down

By Associated Press

President Trump assails CNN’s Jim Acosta at a White House news conference.

President Trump sparred with reporters at his post-election news conference, ordering several to sit down and telling another he’s a “rude, terrible” person.

He told another reporter he’s “not a fan of yours, either.”

The president’s mood turned sour Wednesday after reporters pressed him on why he referred to a migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. on foot through Mexico as an “invasion.” Trump ramped up his anti-immigrant rhetoric against the caravan in the final days of the midterm elections.

Trump was also pressed on why his campaign aired an ad featuring a Mexican immigrant convicted of killing American police officers and linking the man’s actions to the caravan.

Several television networks pulled the ad after airing it or declined to air it at all.

An In-N-Out thanks to volunteers

Photos: California candidates make final push ahead of midterm election

Ione Kauser of La Habra campaigns for Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox.

Ione Kauser of La Habra campaigns for Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

SEE THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY>>

‘I’m living one hour at a time at this point’

By Christine Mai-Duc

Republican congressional candidate Young Kim and gubernatorial candidate John Cox campaign in Rowland Heights.

Republican congressional candidate Young Kim and gubernatorial candidate John Cox campaign in Rowland Heights.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Republican congressional candidate Young Kim greeted gubernatorial candidate John Cox’s giant campaign bus, the words “HELP IS ON THE WAY” emblazoned across it, as it rolled into the parking lot outside her Rowland Heights field office.

Standing beside Cox on Saturday, Kim predicted that a string of GOP victories Tuesday would start with voters repealing the gas tax hike.

“Can you imagine Gavin Newsom being our governor? Can you imagine Gil Cisneros being your representative?” Kim asked the crowd, to loud boos and cries of “Nooo!”

The former state assemblywoman who worked for retiring Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) is vying for his seat with Democrat Gil Cisneros.

She led the crowd in chants of “Enough is enough!” and, though short-lived, “Drain the swamp!”

“I’ve served you in Sacramento and I’ve seen dysfunction personally,” Kim continued. “We cannot continue that route.”

She urged her supporters to stay and help make phone calls or walk neighborhoods. “Let’s get out there — the 72 hours is really critical. It’s all going to come down to a few votes, it could be your vote,” she said pointing to her left, then pivoting right, “it could be your vote. So don’t sit back and do nothing.”

“Every night I go to sleep thinking, OK, how many more votes can I get or how many more people can I call tomorrow?” Kim said. “It can be physically exhausting but I’m mentally, emotionally very energized.

She listed off her events so far that day — and the next one she was heading to.

“That’s just what I can remember,” she said. “I’m living one hour at a time at this point.”

Kim’s campaign invited press to two of her events on Saturday.

After she was whisked away to her next event — a high tea fundraiser in Walnut, a couple dozen volunteers remained.

John Freeman, a statewide field manager for the state Republican Party, tried to pump them up.

“This is the Super Bowl. We’re not in an NFL stadium, we’re not getting paid millions of dollars, but you know what?” Freeman said. “We’re walking on the field right now. This is that high-stakes-level game.”

‘It’s going to be tough out there’

Democratic candidate Katie Porter speaks to volunteers in Mission Viejo. Jon Bauman, Bowzer from the band Sha Na Na, is in the background.

Democratic candidate Katie Porter speaks to volunteers in Mission Viejo. Jon Bauman, Bowzer from the band Sha Na Na, is in the background.

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times )

Judging from the cheers in the crowd, about half those assembled at Katie Porter’s campaign headquarters in Mission Viejo Sunday morning were old enough to remember ’70s rock ’n’ roll star Bowzer from the band Sha Na Na.

Jon Bauman, as “Bowzer” is known off stage, said it was her position on senior issues including retirement and social security that has him out supporting Porter over her opponent, incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters.

“I want you to make sure every phone is called and every door is knocked,” he told the crowd of about 80 volunteers. “There has never been a more important election.”

Both Bauman and his nephew, California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman, were interrupted by yells from Trump supporters coming from an adjoining hillside.

“We love Trump,” the voice cried out.

“We love him too, he makes great fodder,” the younger Bauman retorted, before introducing Porter.

Porter, a UC Irvine law professor and first-time candidate, acknowledged the uphill battle some of her canvassers might face in this more conservative end of the long-red Orange County district.

“I know it’s going to be tough out there,” she said, motioning to the hillside. But she said the attacks meant the other side viewed her campaign as a significant threat.

“This election is going to be close,” she said. “If we don’t fight all the way to the finish line, until 8 o’clock on Tuesday, this could slip away.”

Bowzer then took to a keyboard piano to lead the crowd in a reworded rendition of the song “Good Night Sweetheart”: “Good night, Mimi Walters,” he crooned.

A woman in a black tank top, jeans and flip flops holding a cup of coffee later joined the crowd with her two sons, 17 and 14, the younger one wearing a Trump 2016 T-shirt.

She declined to give her name, saying she was concerned about being attacked, but said she lived up the hill and said she had been the one yelling. She said she was encouraging her sons to talk to people on both sides and make up their own minds.

“We need to have a government that runs the way government teachers are telling kids it’s supposed to be run,” said the woman, a retired registered dental assistant who voted early for Mimi Walters. Referring to Democrats, she said: “They’ve had control over all these years and California’s gone to crap.”

Among those canvassing was Stacie Campbell, 37, who was at the launch with her husband Jerome and three children, the youngest of whom was 2 months old.

Campbell, a Mission Viejo resident who runs a business, had never canvassed or volunteered for campaigns before, and her husband is a French citizen and unable to vote. She said they had been talking to their children — the older ones are 5 and 2 — about the presidency and the government since Trump’s election. Together, they worked on homemade Katie Porter lawn signs and put them up around town.

“This is the first time it’s felt like a big deal and there isn’t a president up for election,” she said.

Because her city is a mix of conservatives and liberals — her next-door neighbor is an NRA-supporting Republican — she the race felt more urgent here.

“It makes the election really cutthroat,” said Campbell, an independent who doesn’t vote along party lines — in fact, she thought she may have voted for Walters in the past. “When it’s so close and so much is at stake, we figured it was finally time to bite the bullet,” she said about coming out to volunteer for Porter.

In a bid to turn out infrequent voters, Gil Cisneros tries house visits in Buena Park

By Christine Mai-Duc

Gil Cisneros canvasses for votes Sunday in Buena Park.

Gil Cisneros canvasses for votes Sunday in Buena Park.

(Christine Mai-Duc / Los Angeles Times)

Gil Cisneros got on stage with comedian Chelsea Handler on Sunday afternoon, urging his supporters to help him reach as many voters as possible to get out the vote in the 39th Congressional District, where he’s hoping to snag a seat held by retiring Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton).

“This election really is going to come down to the wire,” he said.

Within the hour, Cisneros was knocking on doors in a nearby Buena Park neighborhood full of tidy ranch-style homes with neatly trimmed lawns and within earshot of roller-coaster screams emanating from Knott’s Berry Farm.

At one, he introduced himself to Nicolas Cervantes, a 64-year-old Democrat who’s voted in only two of the last five elections.

“I’ve already sent in my vote, and my daughter and son, too,” Cervantes said in Spanish as he took a break from yard work to hang over his chain link fence. His wife, Julia, said she’ll go to the polls Tuesday.

“Do we have your vote?” asked Cisneros in English.

“Oh, cien por ciento,” Cervantes responded in Spanish, “100%.”

“Every vote is going to count in this election,” Cisneros staffer Tom Rivera replied in Spanish.

One street over, Laura Cabaruvias and Max Molina, both 27, greeted Cisneros with two small dogs underfoot. Both said they were supporting Cisneros, but neither had voted yet. Molina was waiting to turn in his mail ballot, which was already filled out.

“If you’ve got it done, we can take it now,” Cisneros said. (Under a fairly new state law, campaigns and other organizations — not just family members — can collect ballots and turn them in for voters.)

“Thank you, that will save me a trip. I knew I was going to be pretty busy the next couple days,” said Molina, as he licked the envelope, sealed and signed it.

Nick Delvillar, 28, took a break from watching the Rams lose to the New Orleans Saints to speak with Cisneros, whom he instantly recognized from the campaign’s TV commercials.

“I’ve gotten like 10 calls from you guys,” Delvillar said, “I told them I’m voting for you.”

Cisneros peeked in and pointed at another young man there.

“What about him?” he asked.

“He’s voting for you, too.”

Delvillar shut the screen door, and Cisneros walked on to the next door.

Young Kim’s campaign did not give her detailed schedule of Sunday events to The Times despite requests.

Knocking on 97 doors per minute

Vote for Our Lives rally at UC Irvine

Central Valley Republicans say they want candidates who focus on water

Water for farmers and support for local businesses were among the top issues for Republicans gathered in Modesto on Sunday at a campaign rally for Congressman Jeff Denham and gubernatorial candidate John Cox.

In this Central Valley district, candidates don’t mention Trump or his wall. Instead, it’s ‘build water storage!’

By Jazmine Ulloa

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) meets with supporters in Modesto.

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) meets with supporters in Modesto.

(Jazmine Ulloa/Los Angeles Times)

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham and California gubernatorial candidate John Cox on Sunday called for a repeal of the state’s gas tax increase and underscored the need to expand roads and add jobs.

Stumping in Modesto, where Cox’s bus made a stop at Denham’s campaign headquarters, the two made little mention of President Trump in an area where Democrats hold a slight edge in registered voters. Their most passionate pleas were to bring water to Central Valley farmers and to build not a wall along the border with Mexico but greater storage capacity.

“We need to have our water, and we need to make sure that we have a candidate that will fight for the Valley,” Denham said.

Denham, 51, is facing a tight race against Democrat Josh Harder, 32, in a district targeted by national Democrats. Harder supporters have flooded into the Valley over the weekend from across the state to knock on doors and hand out fliers in hopes of flipping the House.

Harder, a former venture capitalist who was born and raised in the district, has stressed healthcare, citing Denham’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act as the reason for his return home and his first run for Congress.

But on Sunday, the two Republicans seized on his outside support to cast the 2018 election as a battle between the liberal values of the Bay Area and the conservative way of life of rural California. Cox, 63, is facing his own opponent with ties to the Bay, Democrat Gavin Newsom, the state’s two-term lieutenant governor and a former San Francisco mayor.

“Who are we fighting? The San Francisco values,” Cox said, as dozens booed at the city’s mention. “Take a look at that city. It used to be a wonderful city. It was run by my opponent – I would say run into the ground.”

The battle cry was not enough for some supporters who wanted them to rally behind Trump. “I would love to hear somebody say something positive about the president,” yelled out a woman as they wrapped up. “Build the wall,” another shouted.

Mixed messages in the 48th Congressional District

Getting an early start in politics

Chelsea Handler and Gil Cisneros pump up the canvassers

Democrat Katie Hill stumps with Kristen Bell as GOP Rep. Steve Knight keeps a low profile

By Michael Finnegan

Kristen Bell speaks to volunteers for Katie Hill in Simi Valley

Kristen Bell speaks to volunteers for Katie Hill in Simi Valley

(Michael Finnegan)

Katie Hill, the Democrat trying to oust Republican Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale, drafted “Veronica Mars” and “The Good Place” star Kristen Bell to campaign with her Sunday in Simi Valley.

Bell’s appearance at a strip-mall rally of about 150 canvassers for Hill was the highlight of a whirlwind day of campaigning in one of America’s most competitive House races in Tuesday’s midterm elections — at least on the Democratic side (Knight had no public schedule).

Bell told the crowd of volunteers that she’d known Hill for more than a decade through her support for PATH, a Los Angeles nonprofit that provides services to the homeless. Hill, 31, was one of PATH’s top executives when she left to run for Congress.

“I actually said to myself at one point, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, is she the real-life Veronica Mars?’” Bell told the crowd from a platform outside a bustling Hill campaign office. “Because truly she’s always fought for the underdog.”

Hill said she expected nearly 3,000 volunteers to walk door-to-door Sunday across the state’s 25th Congressional District, which covers Simi Valley, Porter Ranch, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and southern Lancaster.

“We’re knocking on doors that have never been knocked on before,” Hill told the group.

Hill, who also campaigned Sunday with filmmaker Rory Kennedy, was headed later to a Chatsworth house party, then a picnic and two rallies in the Antelope Valley.

Knight’s only public event over the weekend was a sunrise visit Saturday to the starting line of the Santa Clarita Marathon.

Knight, 51, said he would have a busy weekend schedule, including a Day of the Dead celebration and a veterans ball, but his campaign declined to release locations for any events except the marathon.

Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) at the start of the Santa Clarita Marathon.

Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) at the start of the Santa Clarita Marathon.

(Michael Finnegan / Los Angeles Times)

Brian Kemp’s office orders ‘hacking’ probe of Georgia Democrats on eve of election he’s competing in

By Washington Post

Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp greets the crowd during a rally Nov. 1 in Dalton, Ga.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp greets the crowd during a rally Nov. 1 in Dalton, Ga.

(C.B. Schmelter / Chattanooga Times Free Press via Associated Press)

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Sunday announced an “investigation into the Democratic Party of Georgia” over a “failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system” — two days before an election in which he is competing against Democrat Stacey Abrams to become governor.

The announcement, which contained no details on the alleged “cyber crimes” that it suggests state Democrats were involved in, was immediately condemned as a political ploy by Democrats and some commentators, who believe Kemp should not oversee an election in which he is competing.

“Brian Kemp’s scurrilous claims are 100 percent false, and this so-called investigation was unknown to the Democratic Party of Georgia until a campaign operative in Kemp’s official office released a statement this morning,” Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the state Democratic Party, wrote in a statement to reporters. “This is yet another example of abuse of power by an unethical Secretary of State.”

Kemp’s office has not said when the alleged voter registration hack attempt occurred or revealed any details about the nature of the attack. The deadline to register to vote in Tuesday’s election passed early last month. The investigation was launched Saturday evening, according to Kemp’s office, and was made public early Sunday.

By mid-morning, the headline “After Failed Hacking Attempt, SOS Launches Investigation Into Georgia Democratic Party” sat front and center on the secretary of state’s government website – directly beneath a voter’s guide to polling locations.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, I can confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cyber crimes,” Kemp’s press secretary, Candice Broce, was quoted saying in the statement. “We can also confirm that no personal data was breached and our system remains secure.”

The office said it had contacted the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security about the hacking attempt. The FBI could not be immediately reached for information. A DHS spokeswoman said in an emailed statement, “The State of Georgia has notified us of this issue. We defer to the State for further details.”

Abrams, who is polling almost neck-and-neck with Kemp, told CNN on Sunday that she had been unaware of her opponent’s investigation into her party.

“He is desperate to turn the conversation away from his failures, from his refusal to honor his commitments, and from the fact that he’s part of a nationwide system of voter suppression,” she said.

Voting rights has become a major issue in the campaign, which has drawn national attention because Abrams, 44, if elected, would become the nation’s first black female governor.

Abrams, who four years ago started a nonprofit group whose goal was to sign up hundreds of thousands of unregistered people of color, has clashed repeatedly with Kemp, whom she calls “the architect of voter suppression.” Kemp investigated the group, which Abrams is no longer affiliated with, for fraud but found no wrongdoing.

Kemp, 55, who has argued that the policies are aimed at preventing voter fraud, also has been criticized for having purged more than a million voters from the rolls during the past year. He has rejected calls, including one from former President Jimmy Carter, that he should step down as the state’s top elections official while he is running for governor.

Although lawmakers and elections officials in Republican-controlled states have cited concerns about cheating to enact strict voter registration and identification laws, there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the United States.

Kemp’s office came under intense scrutiny last month, when the Associated Press reported that more than 53,000 voter registration applications – 70% of them from African Americans – had been held up because the identification information was not an “exact match” to other state records, because of discrepancies such as a dropped hyphen in a person’s name.

On Friday a federal judge ordered the state to immediately stop using the rule, saying it would likely lead to violating the voting rights of a large number of people. Less than two weeks ago, in a separate case, a federal ordered elections officials to stop automatically rejecting absentee ballots after advocates filed suit against Gwinnett County, which threw out hundreds of ballots because of discrepancies in signature or missing addresses.

Neither Kemp’s campaign nor his secretary of state office immediately responded to requests for comment on the investigation.

President Trump is scheduled to host a campaign rally for Kemp on Sunday in Macon.

‘If we can turn out to vote we can win this’; Mike Levin gets a boost from Schiff and Sanchez

‘He’s throwing a rock that really should hit him on his own head’

‘Global warming is nonsense’ and the ‘tax scam is a massive middle finger’ to families: What House candidates say

By Maya Sweedler

Healthcare is one of the issues that voters in most of the 10 congressional districts in California told pollsters they cared about.

Healthcare is one of the issues that voters in most of the 10 congressional districts in California told pollsters they cared about.

(Dreamstime )

The candidates in the 10 House races in California that will help decide whether Republicans or Democrats control Congress vary wildly on the issues: whether climate change is a threat or a joke; whether teachers should be armed; whether President Trump or immigrants are to blame for family separations at the border. Here’s a look at where all 20 candidates stand on the issues their constituents say they care about.

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Kristen Bell heads to Simi Valley to campaign for Katie Hill

At Katie Porter event in Mission Viejo, music is met by hecklers in the hills

By Victoria Kim

Decline of white Republicans on L.A.’s northern outskirts puts GOP at risk in midterm election

By Michael Finnegan

California’s sorely diminished Republican Party has few footholds left in Los Angeles County, and it risks losing its biggest one in the midterm election on Tuesday: the House seat of Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale.

Rapidly expanding racial and ethnic diversity on the northern edge of L.A.’s suburban sprawl has opened a path for Knight’s Democratic rival, Katie Hill, to seize this once-solid Republican turf.

The state’s 25th Congressional District — it covers the Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita and Simi Valley — is a lot less white and less Republican than it used to be. The white share of the population has dropped to 40%.

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Love or hate Trump, he’s made California a hive of midterm election activity

By Jazmine Ulloa

For many Californians, Saturday was a sunny gift of a fall day, a chance to stroll the beach, rake leaves, visit a park or take in a child’s soccer game.

For Cristina Escobedo, it was a time to save her daughter from possible deportation. For Marylee Sanders, an opportunity to stand up for Brett Kavanaugh. For Paul Samuels, a chance to learn some newfangled technology and feel as though he was making a difference.

California, which is key to control of the House in Tuesday’s midterm election, was a hive of political activity in the final weekend of the long campaign, a rarity for a state that is more accustomed to watching voters elsewhere hold sway over Washington and its policymakers.

Read More

With Democrats well-positioned to take the House, Republicans scurry to save the Senate

By Mark Z. Barabak

Swamped by a tidal wave of Democratic cash, Republicans entered the final 72 hours of the midterm campaign scrambling to preserve their slim Senate majority as a bulwark against the increasing prospect of a Democrat-run House.

Needing to gain 23 House seats for control, Democrats were burrowing deep into once-safe Republican territory, from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Houston to California’s historically conservative bastions of Orange County and the Central Valley. The most optimistic GOP scenarios had the party hanging on to its majority in the 435-member chamber by a whisper-thin margin.

In the battle for the Senate, it was Democrats who were on the defensive, fighting to protect besieged incumbents in half a dozen states — Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia — that Donald Trump carried in 2016, in some cases by commanding double-digit margins. Republicans hold a 51-49 Senate majority; 35 of the seats are on Tuesday’s ballot.

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President Trump boasts he’s turned around American industry. With the election at hand, here are the facts

By Jim Puzzanghera

President Trump prefers sweeping superlatives when he talks about his record on the economy.

The Republican tax law has “the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history” (they’re not). The new trade pact with Mexico and Canada is “the most important trade deal we’ve ever made by far” (the changes are more modest). And the unemployment rate has fallen “to the lowest level in more than 50 years” (it’s 49 and the continuation of a nine-year trend).

Then there’s Trump’s most grandiose claim: His administration has produced “the greatest economy in the history of our country” (it hasn’t; the combination of fast growth and low unemployment was better in at least three other periods since World War II).

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The pitched election battle over healthcare is personal for many Southland voters

By Victoria Kim

A few short years ago, Kim Adams couldn’t have told you the name of her representative in Congress.

That changed last year, when Republican Rep. Mimi Walters voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act as Adams watched live on C-Span from her home in Tustin. News cameras showed a smiling Walters taking a celebratory selfie in the White House rose garden after the vote on the Obama-era healthcare law.

That, Adams said, made things personal. After she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, Adams lost her small business as her health deterioratedand she eventually got to a point where she could no longer afford her health insurance premiums. For three years, the single mother was uninsured and unable to get treated for her MS — until the Affordable Care Act kicked in. And her congresswoman had voted to take it away.

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Undecided in Irvine: She’ll have to read up to decide how to vote

By Victoria Kim

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times )

Jane Shi, a 50-year-old banker and independent voter who lives in Irvine, said volunteers for both Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Beach) and Democratic challenger Katie Porter had come to her door. Even so, she had yet to make up her mind about who she was voting for.

Federal policies and candidates, Shi said, matter little in her life. Her priority has been state ballot propositions, and particularly Proposition 10, on rent control. She has a personal stake because she owns rental property.

“That’s more applicable for me locally,” she said. “I’m definitely against it; it’s bad for everybody,” she said.

Shi said she has remained an independent because both parties seem too extreme. She is uncomfortable with how President Trump talks about race, but also dislikes what she calls the political correctness of people on the left.

She said she didn’t think one party should have control of the presidency, Senate and House — which candidates to vote for to change that, she said, she’ll have to read up on this weekend.

Pizza delivery for Cisneros campaign volunteers — from Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris

Democrat Josh Harder emphasizes his opponent’s GOP healthcare vote

By Jazmine Ulloa

Josh Harder, 32, poses for a photo with supporters at canvass kickoff in Modesto.

Josh Harder, 32, poses for a photo with supporters at canvass kickoff in Modesto.

(Jazmine Ulloa/ Los Angeles Times)

To large and rambunctious crowds of volunteers on the final stretch of his campaign, Democrat Josh Harder on Saturday stressed the issue that started it all for him: healthcare.

The former investor and venture capitalist spent most of the last decade outside his Central Valley district for school and work. But he has said he made his return to the place where he was born and raised to run for Congress — his first bid for elected office — because of Republican Rep. Jeff Denham’s vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act.

“Every person you will be talking to today has a loved one who would be affected and hurt by that vote,” he told a group of more than two dozen people gathered at a Turlock home for a canvass kickoff. “For me, it would be my younger brother, David. He was born 10 weeks premature.”

David was in and out of hospitals for two years before he recovered with the help of his family’s health insurance, and on Saturday he was among hundreds of volunteers who made their way across the state to knock on doors for the Harder campaign.

Healthcare, immigration and jobs are among the top issues Harder has sought to underscore in the 10th Congressional District, where nearly 18% of people live below the poverty level, roughly 5% have no health insurance and more than 40% are Latino.

Polls show Harder, 32, in a virtual tie with the three-term incumbent. The district is one that has been heavily targeted by Democrats in an effort to flip the house. His campaign staffers called their canvassing efforts on Saturday the largest in any congressional district nationwide.

At a packed warehouse in Modesto, cars lined the streets and businesses put up makeshift “no parking” signs. At a home in Turlock, morning canvassers formed a crowd that filled a spacious backyard and stretched onto the street.

Many came in from the Bay Area, a factor that Denham has seized on as he has sought to portray Harder as an outsider. But Harder sought to dispel that notion, referring to his great-great grandfather, who he said settled in the area after arriving on a wagon five generations ago.

“I love this district,” he said to cheers from the crowd. The antidote to the political violence and the hate the nation seen the last few weeks, he said, “is what we’re doing right here, talking to our friends, neighbors and the people we love about the issues and how much is at stake here in the next four days.”

It was a message that has resonated with volunteers like Jessica Gunderson, who handles government relations for a cannabis company in Oakland and visited the district for the first time on Saturday.

“Changing the power dynamic in Washington and protecting Californians” were why she made the trip, she said. A lot of her conversations revolved around President Trump and the need to provide a check on his power, she said.

But, she said, “I also learned a lot today from getting outside my bubble.”

He wouldn’t vote Tuesday anyway, but the country’s polarization is turning him off more

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times )

Jason Gates doesn’t have a TV at home, but it’s still been difficult for him to avoid what seems to be wall-to-wall political campaigning ahead of next week’s midterm election.

His mailbox has been stuffed daily with campaign mailers — his three young kids sometimes draw on them before they all go into the trash — and he’s barraged by ads on social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Nextdoor.

No matter. This election, like all the others in his 40-year life, Gates is not voting.

He’s never paid much attention, and the tenor of conversations lately turns him off even more, he said as he walked out of an Irvine hardware store with painter’s tape.

“It seems really polarized lately. It used to be a bit more of a pleasant discourse,” said Gates, who works in IT. “It now seems to be my side versus your side.”

He says he is a little more interested as he gets older and starts thinking about his children, ages 8, 5 and 1 — but as of yet, not interested enough to register to vote after moving to Orange County from Colorado. He moved three years ago.

Besides, he had more pressing tasks — like painting the playroom before his son’s birthday party.

In this California House race, water is ‘lifeblood.’ Will an edge on the issue give Republican Rep. Denham a boost?

By Jazmine Ulloa

Jake Wenger grows walnuts on land where early settlers arrived in search of gold and instead found rich soil. His orchards just west of Modesto stretch 700 acres and supply a nut company that has remained in his family for four generations.

Like other farmers in this congressional district at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley, Wenger, 34, said he fears his livelihood is under siege by a state plan to reduce the waters diverted from Northern California rivers for irrigation.

He and other farmers agree that water is the region’s lifeblood and that there isn’t enough of it. But as the race between Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock and Democrat Josh Harder near its conclusion, the farmers are mixed on who will do a better job of fighting for greater access to the scarce resource. Polls show the candidates in a virtual tie in one of the most heated races in California.

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A vote against Trump in Santa Clarita

Ammar Campa-Najjar gets a hand from Eric Garcetti in the 50th District

By Maya Sweedler

Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar fires up volunteers with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in Escondido on Saturday.

Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar fires up volunteers with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in Escondido on Saturday.

(Maya Sweedler / Los Angeles Times )

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti stopped by Escondido to help Democratic congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar kick off his get-out-the-vote push Saturday. Campa-Najjar is challenging Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) for his seat in the conservative 50th Congressional District.

Recent polls have showed the gap narrowing between the 29-year-old first-time candidate and the five-term incumbent, who was indicted in August on charges of campaign finance violations. Hunter still holds a narrow lead, but it is within the margin of error.

In his remarks to the volunteers, who filled the cramped campaign headquarters, Garcetti spoke about the importance of electing someone who values unity over self-preservation.

“You want someone who understands how Washington works but brings an outsider’s perspective and his own hardships that he’s overcome,” Garcetti said in an interview after his speech. “I think that that’s really compelling to Americans who are sick and tired of entitled congressmen like Duncan Hunter.”

Given how close the race is, Campa-Najjar stressed that the next three days could be the difference, saying that he wanted to knock on 70,000 doors in that time.

His campaign has benefited from an influx of youthful canvassers from outside the district, as representatives of both California Young Democrats and UCLA’s Bruin Democrats set out alongside retired nurses, teachers and campaign workers.

After working phone banks across congressional districts closer to home, such as the 48th and 25th, the college organization wanted to make a big canvassing push, said N.J. Omorogieva, 21, a fourth-year student at UCLA and president of the Bruin Democrats.

Eleven students made the trip down to San Diego County to canvass for the candidate.

“Students … want to be part of something bigger than their campus,” Omorogieva said. “We have a lot of people who are not from California who are here today, and they’re like, ‘We want to make an impact.’ ”

For two Democrats, a vote to protect healthcare and Social Security

By Christine Mai-Duc

Patricia Hayes, 58, and Michael Hayes, 63, of Buena Park. Both cast ballots for Gil Cisneros in the 39th District.

Patricia Hayes, 58, and Michael Hayes, 63, of Buena Park. Both cast ballots for Gil Cisneros in the 39th District.

(Christine Mai-Duc / Los Angeles Times)

Patricia and Michael Hayes came to a Sears parking lot in Buena Park to vote in person Saturday afternoon, their grandson Terrence in tow. Michael said the most important issues driving his congressional vote as a retiree were protecting Social Security, Healthcare, and Medicare.

“There is a movement, I think, on the Republican side to do away with it,” he said.

“Especially for people with preexisting injuries,” his wife, Patricia Hayes, chimed in.

The Hayes are registered Democrats but, says Michael, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to vote Democrat.”

This year, however, he felt it was important to support a Democrat for Congress.

“I vote every year, but I think this is one of the more important midterm elections, because of what’s at stake for working people,” said Michael Hayes, 63. “I know that Donald Trump is not on the ballot, but he is. … He is on the ballot because the people that are supporting him in the Congress are going to vote for his agenda,”

Hayes says he likes the job Trump is doing on the economy but on social issues, he says, “I just don’t feel too good about that.”

He’s voted for Ed Royce in the past, but both he and Patricia cast ballots for Gil Cisneros today.

“Once again, we’re looking at checks and balances, you want to be able to check this president because the trajectory the country is on, the division and all that sort of thing is what bothers me the most.”

Hayes has always been the political junkie of the family. But this year, Patricia says, she’s paying more attention to national politics as well.

“I just think that the stakes are higher now.”

Katie Porter’s volunteers aim to send a Democrat to Congress from the district for the first time

By Victoria Kim

Luka, who just turned 1, was ready to help mom Raisa Orleans knock on doors for candidate Katie Porter in the 45th Congressional District.

Luka, who just turned 1, was ready to help mom Raisa Orleans knock on doors for candidate Katie Porter in the 45th Congressional District.

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times)

Saturday morning at the Tustin corporate office park headquarters of Katie Porter, volunteers ready to knock on doors ranged in age from a 1-year-old strapped to his mother, to a woman who said she was “old enough that I remember World War II.”

Britta Lindgren, who did not want to give her exact age other than to say she was in the last quadrant of her life, had driven an hour and half from her home in West L.A. to volunteer for Porter, a first-time Democrat challenging Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Beach) in a district that has never sent a Democrat to Congress.

“I remember Hitler and Mussolini. I don’t want to be alarmist but it feels the same,” she said.

She said she was particularly affected by last Saturday’s mass shooting that left 11 dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“This caricature of a president hasn’t taken proper notice of this tragedy,” she said. “I’m alarmed at what we’ve become.”

Luka, who just turned 1, was riding in a cloth carrier worn by his mother, Raisa Orleans, 32. Orleans, who has always been a registered Democrat, said she has canvassed dozens of times over the last decade, but the enthusiasm for this campaign season felt different.

“This is incredible energy, I’ve never seen this before,” she said. “The stakes feel more important.”

It was the first time canvassing for 49-year-old Landon Hall and for Neko Hall, 7, and her plush hamster, Neon.

It was the first time canvassing for 49-year-old Landon Hall and for Neko Hall, 7, and her plush hamster, Neon.

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times)

Also getting ready to knock on doors was 7-year-old Neko Hall and her trusty colorful stuffed animal, a hamster named Neon. It was the first time canvassing for both Neko and her father, 49-year-old Landon Hall, but she had plenty of experience going door to door and talking to strangers selling Girl Scout cookies.

Landon Hall said it was the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that compelled him to get actively engaged, especially as a father with two young daughters. After nearly a decade of living in Lake Forest, which is conservative even for a district that has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, this election feels different, said Hall, who works for an alternative energy nonprofit.

“It feels like it’s within reach,” he said. “It should send a message if a Democrat wins in a district like this.”

Paul Samuels, 66, said he'd last knocked on doors in 1964 for Lyndon B. Johnson as a precocious 13-year-old.

Paul Samuels, 66, said he’d last knocked on doors in 1964 for Lyndon B. Johnson as a precocious 13-year-old.

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times)

Paul Samuels, 66, said he’d last knocked on doors in 1964 for Lyndon B. Johnson as a precocious 13-year-old in Winnetka, Ill., influenced by his Republican father. As an adult, he’s always been a Democrat but never got personally involved other than voting and donating small amounts, he said.

“This election is different, it really matters,” Samuels, a semi-retired business litigator, said. “I get sick watching the news; I’m sick of the lies.”

Things had changed, he discovered, in the five decades since he last canvassed — he was struggling to figure out the app that would tell him which doors to knock on. He had to head back to the campaign headquarters twice for help with the app. Once he got that figured out, talking to voters won’t be a problem, he said — he’s good with juries.

‘We are tired of being attacked’: Farmworkers and immigrant rights activists make a final push to flip the House

By Jazmine Ulloa

Cristina Escobedo, 41, and Cristal Reyes, 16, make a final push for Democrat Josh Harder by knocking on doors in the town of Ceres, Calif.

Cristina Escobedo, 41, and Cristal Reyes, 16, make a final push for Democrat Josh Harder by knocking on doors in the town of Ceres, Calif.

Immigrant rights advocates and farmworkers hit the streets early Saturday to get out the vote in the 10th Congressional District, where Republican Rep. Jeff Denham and Democrat Josh Harder are locked in one of the most intense races in California.

Denham, 51, has strong support from farmers who depend on farmworkers to pick their crops; the Turlock congressman has tried to toe the middle line on immigration. But members of the United Farm Workers union and United We Dream Action, a national immigrant rights group, are making a final push for Harder, contending that Denham mostly sides with his party on strict immigration policies that hurt their communities.

Out in Ceres, south of Modesto, Cristina Escobedo, 41, and Cristal Reyes, 16, had talked to nearly 20 people before noon. A volunteer with United Farm Workers, Escobedo has harvested almonds and grapes for two decades and fought for farmworkers’ rights for five.

This year, she said, her efforts are all in the name of her 23-year-old daughter, Fabiola, whose fate she says hangs in the balance with President Trump’s attacks on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects from deportation young people who were brought to the country illegally as children and meet other requirements. She urged voters to head to the polls even as she can’t cast a vote herself, telling anyone who would open the door about Fabiola.

“We’re tired of being attacked,” she told residents.

Their final pleas could make a difference in a race in which polls show Denham and Harder, 32, in a virtual tie. The race is also one of several across the state that reflect the long-running tension among Republicans over immigration in California.

The 10th District, which stretches across Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County, has a slight edge on Democratic voters, and Latinos — who lean Democratic — make up more than 40% of the population. But their low voter turnout has helped keep the seat in Republican hands.

“There are still lots of undecided voters, and people are getting flooded and confused by ads,” Escobedo said.

Not everyone wanted to hear the message. Hanging out in the garage with his wife, Ethan Lopez, 22, took their fliers but said he had already voted by mail. Lopez said he was against tighter gun control restrictions and has long leaned Republican in a blue state where he doesn’t always feel heard.

“I don’t really like Jeff Denham, but I want Republicans to remain in control of the House,” he said.

He hadn’t worked a campaign since handing out ‘I Like Ike’ signs, but he’s here for Rep. Mimi Walters

By Victoria Kim

Marylee and Grayson Sanders made hundreds of calls to voters in an effort to reelect Rep. Mimi Walters and keep GOP control of the House.

Marylee and Grayson Sanders made hundreds of calls to voters in an effort to reelect Rep. Mimi Walters and keep GOP control of the House.

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times )

It’s been a few years since Marylee and Grayson Sanders have volunteered for political campaigns — her last was for the younger Bush, his for Eisenhower, passing out “I like Ike” signs in the 1950s.

Saturday morning, they spent hours making hundreds of calls at the Irvine campaign headquarters of Rep. Mimi Walters, trying to get voters out to the polls to keep her in office and hold on to Republican control of the House.

Marylee, 74, said she was motivated to get involved after the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings because she felt the then-nominee to the Supreme Court was treated unfairly. She said she wasn’t a fan of President Trump’s way of expressing himself but supported his policies, including scaling back business regulations and restricting immigration.

“I appreciate quite a few of his policies and would like to see it continue,” she said. “It’s important for Republicans to retain power.”

Her husband, Grayson, said he liked Trump’s “policy rather than his personality.” A lifelong Republican since Barry Goldwater days, he said he felt the stakes were high enough to get him to volunteer for the first time in half a century.

“What made this society great is enterprise, federalism and individual freedom,” said Grayson, who runs a real estate investment fund. “We have a lot really great momentum going on from the last two years.

Also volunteering at Walters’ office Saturday was George Lee, 50, a Lake Forest financial analyst who said he had been working on various Republican campaigns since February.

Lee, who immigrated from China about 20 years ago, said he was formerly registered as a Democrat but became a Republican in 2016 because felt the party had moved too far left.

Read about where Walters and Democratic challenger Katie Porter stand on the issues in the race for the 45th Congressional District.

And keep current on the election at Decision California.

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Beach) grabs some pizza in between phone calls to constituents at her Irvine campaign headquarters.

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Beach) grabs some pizza in between phone calls to constituents at her Irvine campaign headquarters.

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times )

He said he felt strongly about ending race-based admissions in education and liked Trump’s policies cracking down on illegal immigration, as someone who came to the U.S. through legal means.

“The competition is pretty tight,” he said. “It’s very important for the Republicans to maintain House majority to be able to carry out the agenda for a great America.”

Walters was making call after call Saturday at the head of a table in a conference room, surrounded by dozens of voters.

“The message is: the economy is growing, wages highest they’ve been and unemployment down,” she said in between calls, before grabbing a slice of pepperoni and sausage from a stack of Domino’s pizza boxes. “The Republicans are enthused, the Democrats are enthused, we have to get the independents.”

‘America First without apology’

Harkey soldiers on in her reelection bid despite a lack of support from her party

(Dakota Smith / Los Angeles Times)

Addressing supporters who gathered in her campaign office parking lot Friday in Carlsbad, Republican candidate Diane Harkey bemoaned the state of the race for California’s 49th Congressional District. She told the crowd that she’d gotten no financial support from the national Republican Party in her race against Democrat Mike Levin to replace the retiring Darrell Issa.

“If the seat goes, so goes Orange County,” Harkey told the small crowd, urging them to vote.

“Turnout is crucial. Turnout is crucial because we are neck in neck. Shouldn’t be, but we are.”

Harkey told The Times that she is “complaining very loudly” about the lack of funding for her race from the Republican Party, saying she’d gotten “zip” from a political action committee run by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) or from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“If you really thought it was a important seat, don’t you think you’d be here?” Harkey said, questioning the party’s strategy.

Turnout is crucial because we are neck in neck. Shouldn’t be, but we are.

Diane Harkey

Harkey appeared at the gathering with John Cox, the Republican candidate for California governor. About 50 people milled in the parking lot, posing for selfies with the candidates and chatting them up.

“Let me shake your hand, and God bless you next Tuesday,” Oceanside resident Robert Stack told Harkey.

Stack told The Times that he appreciates Harkey’s conservative agenda.”She speaks for me,” he said.

Wearing a red-white-and-blue football jersey that read “USA Trump,” Harkey fan and Oceanside resident Katie Taylor also praised the candidate’s “conservative voice.” By contrast, she called Levin “a typical liberal progressive left socialist Democrat.”

“She will try and put a cap on taxes,” Taylor, 71, said of Harkey.

Knocking on the wrong door

Hitting the streets in the Central Valley

Voters are already streaming to polls in record numbers, with both sides seeking clues on outcome

By Maya Sweedler

Voters across the country have been crowding into polling places and mailing in ballots in numbers rarely seen in an off-year election, pointing toward a possible record turnout for Tuesday’s contest and leaving operatives from across the political spectrum trying to read tea leaves to figure out what it means.

In some states, more people are on track to cast ballots in early voting than in the entire election in 2014. In Texas, one such state, hundreds of thousands of new voters have already participated. Democrats hope that surge indicates that their Senate candidate, Beto O’Rourke, may be succeeding in mobilizing a crucial demographic.

But Republicans are also energized, turning out in larger numbers than Democrats so far in Florida, for example, where a cliffhanger of a race for governor features a Trump acolyte competing against an unabashed progressive who would be the state’s first African American governor.

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Weekend campaign kickoff at Katie Porter’s Tustin headquarters

By Victoria Kim

Democrat Katie Porter takes a photo with a volunteer at her campaign’s Tustin corporate office park headquarters Saturday.

Democrat Katie Porter takes a photo with a volunteer at her campaign’s Tustin corporate office park headquarters Saturday.

(Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times)

Democratic House candidate Katie Porter rallied with volunteers Saturday during a canvassing kickoff at her campaign’s Tustin headquarters. Porter, a UC Irvine law professor and consumer protection attorney is challenging two-term incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Beach).

The race in the 45th Congressional District is one of several in California that are key in the battle over which party will control the House after the midterm election.

Rep. Steve Knight and challenger Katie Hill talk about Trump moving troops to the border

Eric Garcetti stumps for House candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar in San Diego County

By Maya Sweedler

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti visited Escondido on Saturday to help Democratic congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar kick off his get-out-the-vote push on Saturday. Campa-Najjar is challenging Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) for his seat in the conservative 50th Congressional District.

The rush to get out the vote

By Christine Mai-Duc

Democratic House candidate Gil Cisneros kicked off what is sure to be a weekend of intense campaigning by participating in a 5k run put on by a local nonprofit in Fullerton. Cisneros, 47, is in a tight race with Republican Young Kim, 56, for the 39th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Ed Royce, who is retiring.

Sprinting toward the midterm finish

By Christine Mai-Duc

In a highly partisan era, those who dislike both sides could have the deciding votes

By David Lauter

In this and every election, both sides devote huge resources to getting their partisans to turn out and vote — “motivating the base,” in the jargon of politics.

But in many close races in California and around the country, a different group, those who don’t like either party or its leaders, could hold the decisive votes.

The “hold your nose and vote” brigade makes up a sizable chunk of the electorate, according to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. With election day just over a week away, the poll indicates they lean toward the Democrats. That’s one reason Democrats remain favored to win back control of the House.

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‘We are pro people not dying.’ Parkland students captivated the nation, but will their message resonate on election day?

By Kurtis Lee

They’ve held hundreds of rallies including a massive gathering on the National Mall, appeared with Trevor Noah and other late-night television hosts, and challenged elected officials to face-to-face debate.

But nine months after the teenage students from Parkland, Fla., were thrust to the fore of America’s daily political discourse following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, their calls for gun control, and for registering and turning out young voters, have been largely overtaken by the nation’s daily crush of controversies.

While the effort they ignited was viewed early on as a possible tipping point, even the slaying of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend with weapons that included an assault rifle triggered a muted response concerning gun control.

Read More

Early voting is blowing the doors off this midterm election, but it’s unclear what that means for Tuesday

By Mark Z. Barabak

Voters cast ballots early in Atlanta.

Voters cast ballots early in Atlanta.

(Jessica McGowan / Getty Images)

Election day is less than a week away, but more than 27 million Americans are apparently so psyched or angry or frightened or inspired or whatever drives people to the polls that they have already cast their ballots.

Early voting has become an increasingly regular part of campaigns, a way for some to avoid last-minute hassles at their polling place or, perhaps, knowing they have hip surgery scheduled for election day, to ensure they make their voice heard by voting absentee.

Turnout for the midterm vote, at the halfway point of a president’s four-year term, typically falls off drastically from a presidential election. But early turnout is running unusually high this fall, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the heated sentiments on both sides. Eighteen states have already surpassed their early-vote totals from 2014, the last midterm election; a handful — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Texas — could surpass the total votes cast in 2014 even before Tuesday rolls around.

“Something special is going on right now,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist and leading expert on early voting. “The numbers we’re seeing are unprecedented.”

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Scandal, demographics and political machinations affect the race to fill Darrell Issa’s House seat

By Ralph Vartabedian

Two years ago, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa kept his seat by 1,621 votes, making the race in his sprawling coastal 49th District in Orange and San Diego counties the closet congressional tally in the nation that year.

Now the district, covering 54 miles of coastline and mansion enclaves, that has long been controlled by the GOP looks as if it could flip to Democrats, with scant funds and few ad buys going to support the Republican trying to succeed the retiring Issa.

Diane Harkey is polling double digits behind Democrat Mike Levin in a race crucial to which party controls the House and whether President Trump can continue advancing his agenda.

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Job growth beats expectations. That could boost Republicans but also trigger higher interest rates

By Jim Puzzanghera

A stronger-than-expected labor market report Friday — highlighted by a quarter of a million new jobs and the best year-over-year wage growth in nine years — could provide a boost to Republican candidates at the polls next week but also could trigger higher interest rates.

The 250,000 net jobs created in October were well above expectations, although the figure likely included a lot of catch-up hiring after a sub-par September in which payrolls expanded by a downwardly revised 118,000 positions. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%, the lowest since 1969.

The more significant news in the report released by the Labor Department was that wages hit a post-recession milestone. Average hourly earnings increased 3.1% for the 12-month period that ended Oct. 31. That was the best since April 2009, two months before the end of the Great Recession.

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To Trump’s trade czar, the key to boosting U.S. industry is playing hardball with China

By Don Lee

During heated trade talks with Japan in the 1980s, Robert Lighthizer, then a top negotiator under President Reagan, earned the nickname “missile man” after he took one of Japan’s written offers, folded it into a paper airplane and flung it at the opposing side.

More than 30 years on, Lighthizer is now leading the charge for President Trump in a much bigger and more consequential trade fight with China, which overtook Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in 2010.

The United States and China have exchanged several volleys of massive tariffs this year and are currently at an impasse. Where the two sides go from here, and how much more pain the administration is willing to exact and absorb, will depend in good part on Lighthizer’s judgment.

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Veteran featured in GOP congressman’s midterm election ad posted racist rants and violent threats on Facebook

By Maya Sweedler

On the home page of his campaign website, Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale has posted a television ad showing a veteran praising the Republican congressman for helping him get a lung transplant.

It turns out that veteran, David Brayton of Santa Clarita, has posted dozens of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook.

Brayton, 64, has also promoted violence against journalists he sees as hostile to President Trump and called on citizen militias to turn their weapons on left-wing protesters.

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Hunter and Campa-Najjar look to veterans to help portray each other as unfit to serve

By Maya Sweedler

The men and their campaigns could not be more different.

One, a conservative, white former Marine who was elected to Congress in the same inland San Diego County area his father represented for 28 years, is fighting federal charges that he misspent $250,000 in campaign contributions.

The other, a progressive Mexican Palestinian American who served in the Obama White House, has had to disavow the actions of his grandfather, a man who took part in the terrorist attack that killed 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

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William Rehnquist once proposed to Sandra Day O’Connor, biographer says

By Associated Press

William Rehnquist, left, and Sandra Day O'Connor.

William Rehnquist, left, and Sandra Day O’Connor.

(Hillery Smith Garrison / Associated Press; Harry Cabluck / Associated Press)

A biographer has discovered the future chief justice of the United States once proposed marriage to the person who would become the first woman to serve on the court.

NPR’s “Morning Edition” reports author Evan Thomas found William Rehnquist’s letter to Sandra Day O’Connor while researching his upcoming book about her, “First.” The two dated while students at Stanford Law School in the early 1950s. They had broken up but remained friends.

Rehnquist graduated and in a March 29 letter, wrote: “To be specific, Sandy, will you marry me this summer?” She said no.

She was dating another student, John O’Connor. They married in 1952.

O’Connor’s son Jay says he and his siblings were “surprised,” although they knew the two had dated. He says they enjoyed a wonderful working relationship and friendship.

Oprah Winfrey to campaign in Georgia for Stacey Abrams

By Associated Press

Stacey Abrams, left, and Oprah Winfrey.

Stacey Abrams, left, and Oprah Winfrey.

(Michael Holahan / The Augusta Chronicle via Associated Press; Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey will campaign on Thursday for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

Abrams’ campaign confirmed that the billionaire media mogul will appear with Abrams, who is vying to become the country’s first black female governor. The Atlanta Voice and BuzzFeed News first reported Winfrey’s plans.

Winfrey is part of a parade of high-profile figures weighing in during the final days of Abrams’ tight race with Republican Brian Kemp.

Vice President Mike Pence has multiple stops scheduled with Kemp on Thursday.

Former President Obama will campaign for Abrams on Friday, and President Trump is slated to be in Georgia on Sunday to stump for Kemp.

Early voting is blowing the doors off this midterm election, but it’s unclear what that means for Tuesday

By Mark Z. Barabak

Election day is less than a week away, but more than 23 million Americans are apparently so psyched or angry or frightened or inspired or whatever drives people to the polls that they have already cast their ballots.

Early voting has become an increasingly regular part of campaigns, a way for some to avoid last-minute hassles at their polling place or, perhaps, knowing they have hip surgery scheduled for election day, to ensure they make their voice heard by voting absentee.

Turnout for the midterm vote, at the halfway point of a president’s four-year term, typically falls off drastically from a presidential election. But early turnout is running unusually high this fall, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the heated sentiments on both sides. Nearly a dozen states have already surpassed their early-vote totals from 2014, the last midterm election; a handful — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Texas — could surpass the total votes cast in 2014 even before Tuesday rolls around.

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President Trump will visit Pittsburgh to mourn synagogue massacre, White House says

By Associated Press

Thousands of mourners attended a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting on Sunday in Squirrel Hill.

Thousands of mourners attended a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting on Sunday in Squirrel Hill.

(Michael M. Santiago / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via Associated Press)

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will visit Pennsylvania on Tuesday to mourn a synagogue massacre that left 11 people dead.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Trump will go “to express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community.”

There have been mixed responses to Trump’s plan to visit.

Leaders of a liberal Jewish group in Pittsburgh penned an open letter to the president, saying he was not welcome until he denounced white nationalism.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers with the Tree of Life Synagogue made clear he would be welcome, telling NBC that “it would be my honor to always meet a president of the United States.”

Watch live: Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds first White House press briefing after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Suspicious package addressed to CNN’s Atlanta headquarters intercepted

By Associated Press

CNN President Jeff Zucker says another suspicious package addressed to CNN was intercepted Monday at an Atlanta post office.

Zucker announced that there is no imminent danger to the CNN Center.

Atlanta police have confirmed they responded to a report of a suspicious package at a post office Monday morning.

He says all mail to CNN has been screened off-site since last week, when a series of package bombs began appearing around the country. One of those bombs was mailed to CNN offices in New York.

An initial hearing is set for Monday afternoon in federal court in Florida for 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc, who faces five federal charges. Sayoc was arrested Friday in Florida after investigators said they linked him to the packages through fingerprint and DNA evidence.

Sen. Bernie Sanders stumps for Mike Levin

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stopped in Oceanside on Friday to stump for Mike Levin, a Democrat running to flip retiring Rep. Darrell Issa’s seat from the Republican column.

The senator hit familiar notes from the outset, calling for the overturn of the Supreme Court’s “disastrous” Citizens United decision and the raising of the national minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“Today, we tell corporate America that we, Mike and I and others, are going to stop this corporate greed and create an economy that’s going to work for the middle class,” he said.

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Suspicious package intended for Sen. Kamala Harris discovered in Sacramento

By Richard Winton

Federal and local authorities on Friday were examining a suspicious package that was addressed to U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and discovered at a mail facility in Sacramento.

But a source cautioned it has not been confirmed the package is similar to the dozen other devices containing explosives that have been delivered nationwide.

This article will be updated.

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Bomb scare rattles those touched by past political violence

By Associated Press

Alfred Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City

Alfred Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City

(Associated Press)

No one has been hurt or killed — at least, not yet. But the wave of mail bombs targeting prominent Democrats this week has angered and dismayed some of the people affected personally by past acts of political violence in the United States.

In the past 60 years alone, there have been scores of deadly incidents motivated by ideology. The perpetrators range from Ku Klux Klan racists to members of the far-left Weather Underground to antiabortion extremists who killed abortion-providing doctors.

The mail-bomb scare has reopened old wounds for Lisa McNair, whose life was shaped by a deadly blast that occurred a year before she was born: the Klan bombing that killed four black girls at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sept. 15, 1963. Her sister, Denise, just 11 years old, was the youngest victim.

“It’s like, ‘Ugh, again.’ When are we going to get this right?” McNair said. “It’s been 55 years since Denise was killed. Why do we keep going there in America? Why do we keep going there as a world and human beings?”

The United States, founded in a war that began as a political rebellion, likes to pride itself on a political system that discourages violence and emphasizes dialogue — no matter how loud and contentious. But in times of deep division throughout American history, angry words have occasionally turned to angry acts and left devastated citizens in their wake.

Some of those directly affected by political violence say they struggle to remain optimistic in this contentious era. Others say their perspectives have evolved over time, and they believe they have insights to share.

The Rev. Rob Schenck was a fiery leader in the antiabortion movement 20 years ago when an extremist’s bullet killed abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian as he heated soup in the kitchen of his home outside Buffalo, New York.

The killing changed Schenck. He concluded that the language of his cause — “innocent, deliberately hyperbolic rhetoric meant to drive home a point”— produced deadly consequences.

Schenck said he’d thought in recent weeks about sending a memo to President Trump, to convey the lesson he’d learned firsthand and recommend a toning down of vitriolic oratory.

“The president may honestly believe that no one who supports him is capable of acting with lethal violence, but the sad fact is he can never know that,” Schenck said.

Hearing about the pipe bombs “sickened” him.

“My first thought was, ‘Here we go again.’ In the worst possible way,” he said.

Another abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, was shot dead by an abortion opponent in Wichita, Kan., in 2009.

One of Tiller’s colleagues, Julie Burkhart, operates abortion clinics in Wichita, Oklahoma City and Seattle. She says the mail-bomb scare has prompted her to double check security measures.

“I’m scared to death for this country,” Burkhart said in a telephone interview.

“The gulf between Republicans and Democrats, pro-choice and anti-choice — it’s a huge canyon now,” she said. “There’s all this pent-up anger and frustration, and we’re going to be taking it out on each other even more.”

Similar concerns came from U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican wounded last year by a gunman who attacked a GOP baseball practice. He lamented “the disturbing frequency of politically motivated threats and violence.”

“Too many Americans are becoming isolated and obsessed by what divides us,” Scalise wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News. “If we are to stem the tide of violence and violent rhetoric, then it is crucial we all do our part to break down the divisions in our country and reach out to those with different beliefs than our own.”

Optimism is elusive for Andrea Chamblee, the widow of sports writer John McNamara. He was one of five employees of The Capital newspaper in Annapolis, Md., who were killed in June by a gunman with a history of harassing the paper’s journalists.

“We allow ourselves to be misrepresented by politicians who are too divided and blinded by hatred, greed and self-interest to work together,” she said. “We’re making it harder for people in the middle to be heard, not easier, and I don’t see how it can get any better.”

The mail-bomb scare felt unnervingly familiar to Mohamed Omar. He is executive director of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, a mosque in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington that was attacked by a pipe bomb in August 2017.

The center was bombed just before morning prayers when the attackers broke a window to the imam’s office and threw a pipe bomb containing black powder inside, sparking a fire that caused extensive damage. Three men from Illinois were charged in the attack; according to charges, one of them said the purpose was to “scare” Muslims out of the United States.

Omar said the new mail-bomb case and the attack on his mosque were both intended to “create fear and terrorize people.”

“It’s very difficult for us to go through what we went through — and now it’s more difficult. It’s becoming the norm,” he said. “Nobody died. But the hope died and the sense of security died.”

Cleve Jones’ close encounter with political violence came in 1978. Working as a student intern, he returned from lunch to find the bloody body of his boss, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, on the floor, shot several times by former Supervisor Dan White in a double assassination that also killed Mayor George Moscone. Milk was a prominent gay-rights activist, and Jones saw him as a father figure.

“I had never seen a dead person before,” Jones, 64, said in a phone interview Thursday. “The sheer horror of seeing up close what bullets do to flesh and bone and brain … I think I was in shock for months.”

Jones says news of the pipe bombs — coming after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the constant calls by Trump to discredit the media, and deadly clashes last year at a white nationalists’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — serves as another reminder of the violence he experienced.

“It’s just very real to me, and it just makes me want to take people by the shoulders and shake them and scream at them, ‘Don’t you see where this is going?’” Jones said.

Pam Simon also experienced traumatic violence firsthand . She’s a survivor of the 2011 rampage outside an Arizona grocery store where a gunman killed six people and wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.

Simon, a Giffords staffer who was shot in the wrist and chest, remembers the political atmosphere growing sour in the years preceding the shooting. She recalled Giffords getting booed at public meetings, and her office being vandalized after she voted for President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

“I remember a sinking feeling in my stomach, thinking, ‘What’s happening in this country?’” Simon said.

There was a brief call for more political civility immediately after the Arizona attack.

“After that moment of self-reflection, it seems to have gotten worse,” Simon said.

While some incidents of political violence quickly fade from public awareness, others have been memorialized.

In Oklahoma City, for example, there’s an outdoor memorial and a museum commemorating the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people.

In Birmingham, the 16th Street Baptist Church is a somber tourist attraction now, and just one of the convicted bombers remains alive in prison. But echoes of the crime still follow the McNair family.

“That will be something we will always carry, and it will be in our family,” said Lisa McNair “It will never leave us.”

Watch live: President Trump to address bomb package investigation at Young Black Leadership Summit

Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper says suspicious packages ‘definitely domestic terrorism’

By Associated Press

(Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images)

Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper says he is not surprised he has been targeted with a suspicious package.

Clapper told CNN Friday morning that the devices sent to prominent critics of President Trump in recent days were “definitely domestic terrorism.”

Two officials told the Associated Press that a package was discovered at a postal facility in Midtown Manhattan. One official said it was addressed to Clapper. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Clapper described the situation as “serious,” but said it is “not going to silence the administration’s critics.”

Clapper emphsaized that he did not want to suggest any direct link between Trump’s past rhetoric and the packages. But he said Trump should bear responsibility for the “coarseness and uncivility of the dialogue in this country.”

Putin invited to visit Washington next year, Bolton says

By Associated Press

John Bolton at a news briefing in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Oct. 26.

John Bolton at a news briefing in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Oct. 26.

(Shakh Aivazov / Associated Press)

National security advisor John Bolton said Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been invited to visit Washington next year.

Bolton said in the ex-Soviet nation of Georgia: “We have invited President Putin to Washington after the first of the year for, basically, a full day of consultations.”

He said no date has been set.

Bolton noted that Putin and President Trump are set to meet in Paris when they attend Nov. 11 events marking 100 years since Armistice Day.

Putin and Trump held a summit in Helsinki, Finland, in July amid sharp differences over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Michael Bloomberg drops $9.5 million on ads targeting GOP Reps. Rohrabacher and Knight in midterm election

By Michael Finnegan

Michael Bloomberg’s political action committee has launched a major ad campaign aimed at unseating Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa and Steve Knight of Palmdale.

The intervention by the former New York City mayor has further tilted California ad spending in Democrats’ favor in the final two weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm election.

Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC reported spending $4.4 million on advertising against Rohrabacher and $5.1 million to promote Knight’s Democratic challenger, Katie Hill.

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17-day cash deluge boosts House candidates in Democrats’ final push to seize control of the House

By Christine Mai-Duc

Democrat Harley Rouda, who is challenging Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), raised more than $1 million in 17 days.

Democrat Harley Rouda, who is challenging Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), raised more than $1 million in 17 days.

(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

A lot can happen in 17 days.

Take the latest federal campaign finance reporting period, which ran from Oct. 1 to 17, the last snapshot we’ll get of California congressional candidates’ financial positions before election day.

In that time, Democrat Katie Hill spent just under $2 million on her campaign in the 25th Congressional District, about as much as Republican incumbent Steve Knight of Palmdale has spent in the entire two-year cycle.

Over the course of that two weeks and change, Harley Rouda, the Democrat challenging Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), raised more than $1 million, a sum six figures larger than what the incumbent amassed during the entire 2016 election.

And over those 17 days, Mike Levin, hoping to capture a coastal Southern California seat left open by retiring Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), wrote checks totaling more than his Republican opponent, Diane Harkey, has spent all year and still managed to have nearly six times as much cash in the bank as her.

Five congressional candidates in California raised more than $1 million in that short period; only one, Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare, is a Republican.

Eleven of the 14 Republicans running for GOP-held seats in California, nine of them incumbents, were out-raised by their opponents. And half of the 14 reported having less in the bank than their competitors as of Oct. 17.

Although Democrats nationally have broken one fundraising record after another this midterm election, the ongoing deluge of cash also has practical implications for candidates as they enter the home stretch in their campaign to flip GOP-held seats and take back control of Congress.

With that level of resources, candidates can blanket TV and radio airwaves with ads, paper neighborhoods with mailers and launch robust get-out-the-vote efforts to boost turnout in key areas.

That doesn’t mean GOP candidates won’t have other resources to count on. Conservative groups such as the Congressional Leadership Fund have already spent millions of dollars to boost Republicans in California races.

But there are some indications that some big Democratic funders are ready to blunt their impact. On Thursday, as campaign finance reports continued to trickle in, a PAC created by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported dropping more than $9.5 million on an eleventh-hour ad campaign to promote Hill and attack Rohrabacher.

They say terrible things about Nancy Pelosi. Her response: Just win, Democrats

By Mark Z. Barabak

The crowd outside campaign headquarters was boiling, the angry mood matching south Florida’s tropical heat, as Nancy Pelosi arrived to a shower of obscenities and crude insults in English and Spanish.

With the doors locked and police standing guard, the Democratic congressional leader delivered her exhortation to dozens of volunteers — Make those phone calls, walk those precincts, the future of America’s at stake this midterm election! — as crisp and unruffled as her white pantsuit.

Pelosi doesn’t care about the invective hurled her way, in whatever language. She doesn’t care that her face has appeared, menacing and twisted, in thousands of Republican attack ads. She doesn’t care that life is a full-time residency in travel hell — a blur of meals on the run, flight delays, a different hotel each night.

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Mattis expected to send hundreds of troops to U.S.-Mexico border

By David S. Cloud

Border Patrol agents guard the gate of the border fence between Sunland Park, N.M., and Juarez, Mexico, on Oct. 13, 2018.

Border Patrol agents guard the gate of the border fence between Sunland Park, N.M., and Juarez, Mexico, on Oct. 13, 2018.

(Herika Martinez / AFP)

The Pentagon is sending 800 or more additional troops to the Southwest border in response to President Trump’s vow to use the military to block a caravan of Central American immigrants from from entering the United States, a U.S. official said.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis is expected to sign an order Thursday dispatching the troops. They will be limited to providing logistical support to the Border Patrol, which will remain responsible for apprehending anyone crossing the border illegally, the official said.

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CNN President Jeff Zucker slams White House after suspicious package scare

Secret Service says it did not intercept a suspicious package addressed to White House

By Associated Press

The U.S. Secret Service said Wednesday that media reports it had intercepted a suspicious package bound for the White House “are incorrect.”

The law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the president and other dignitaries said it had intercepted two packages in Washington and New York. The packages were respectively addressed to the residences of former President Obama in Washington and Hillary Clinton in Chappaqua, N.Y.

The Secret Service said neither was at risk of receiving the packages.

Saudi crown prince calls Khashoggi killing a ‘heinous crime’

By Associated Press

(Giuseppe Cacace / AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince on Wednesday called the killing of Jamal Khashoggi a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman separately said that the killing of the Washington Post columnist will not “drive a wedge” between the kingdom and Turkey.

His comments came at a major summit known as the Future Investment Initiative, which has been overshadowed by the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi. Turkish officials say a 15-man Saudi team killed the writer at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. A member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage was allegedly at the consulate at the time.

International business leaders have pulled out from attending the summit over the killing.

Hillary Clinton wasn’t home when suspicious package was intercepted by Secret Service

By Associated Press

Hillary Clinton was campaigning for Democrats in Florida and wasn’t at the family’s suburban New York residence when a suspicious package addressed to her was seized by the Secret Service, a source said Wednesday.

Former President Clinton was at the family’s Chappaqua, N.Y., home when the package was intercepted at a Westchester County, N.Y., facility. That’s according to a person familiar with his schedule who spoke on condition of anonymity and wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

The person said the device was screened at the Westchester facility and never reached the Clintons’ home.

The Secret Service said the package was identified during routine mail screening procedures and that the Clintons weren’t at risk of receiving it.

Hillary Clinton is headlining a fundraiser Wednesday for Florida congressional candidate Donna Shalala.

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CNN’s New York office evacuated after ‘suspicious package’ is discovered in mail room

By Associated Press

The Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

The Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

CNN says its offices in Manhattan have been evacuated because of a suspicious package.

The news network reported Wednesday morning that a police bomb squad was at its offices.

The U.S. Secret Service said agents had intercepted packages containing “possible explosive devices” addressed to President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Law enforcement officials said the CNN package was discovered in the mailroom. It wasn’t yet clear whether it was related to the other packages.

The White House condemned attempted attacks made against President Obama, President Clinton and Hillary Clinton.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Wednesday: “These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

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White House condemns suspicious packages sent to Obama and Clintons as ‘despicable’

By Associated Press

(Associated Press)

The White House is condemning attempted attacks made against President Obama, President Clinton and Hillary Clinton.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Wednesday: “These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.” She adds: “The United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards.”

The U.S. Secret Service said Wednesday that agents have intercepted packages containing “possible explosive devices” addressed to Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The agency says neither the Clintons nor Obama received the packages, and neither were at risk of receiving them because of screening procedures.

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U.S. revokes visas of Saudis implicated in Khashoggi killing

By Associated Press

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to members of the media in the briefing room of the State Department on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to members of the media in the briefing room of the State Department on Tuesday.

(Alex Wong / AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration is revoking the visas of some Saudi officials implicated in the death of writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Pompeo announced the step at a State Department news conference Tuesday. Vice President Mike Pence said earlier that Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, “will not go without an American response.”

The visa revocations are the first punitive measures taken by the administration against the Saudis since Khashoggi disappeared after entering the consulate on Oct. 2.

Visa records are considered confidential and Pompeo did not say which or how many Saudi officials would have their visas revoked. Saudi authorities have detained 18 people in connection with Khashoggi’s death, which officials say was accidental despite Turkish allegations that Khashoggi was intentionally killed.

Before Pompeo announced the revoked visas, President Trump criticized the Saudi operation that killed Khashoggi, calling it one of the “worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups.”

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he’s expecting a full report on the killing soon.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s son

By Associated Press

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, shakes hands with Salah Khashoggi, son of Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, shakes hands with Salah Khashoggi, son of Jamal Khashoggi.

(Saudi Press Agency)

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have received the family of killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi and expressed their condolences.

The royals received the journalist’s son, Salah, and his brother, Sahel, at the Yamama Palace in Riyadh on Tuesday. A friend of the Khashoggi family told the Associated Press that Salah has been under a travel ban since last year. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.

Prince Mohammed has come under mounting pressure, with critics suspecting he ordered the high-profile operation or at least knew about it. Saudi authorities say they have arrested 18 suspects and dismissed senior officials.

The prince appeared briefly at an afternoon panel Tuesday alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah II, but made no public remarks.

Trump says he’s reducing Central American aid over migrants

By Associated Press

Migrants in a U.S.-bound caravan, wait to cross the border from Ciudad Tecun Uman in Guatemala, to Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, on Monday.

Migrants in a U.S.-bound caravan, wait to cross the border from Ciudad Tecun Uman in Guatemala, to Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, on Monday.

(Orlando Sierra / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump said Monday the U.S. would begin “cutting off, or substantially reducing” aid to three Central American nations over a migrant caravan heading to the U.S. southern border.

Trump tweeted: “Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S.”

The three countries received a total of more than $500 million in funding from the U.S. in fiscal year 2017, though it was not immediately clear how much Trump is seeking to cut.

The Monday morning tweets marked the latest escalation by the president, who is seeking to re-inject immigration politics into the national conversation in the closing weeks before the midterm election.

On a three-day campaign swing to Western states last week, Trump sought to raise alarm over thousands of migrants traveling through Mexico to the U.S. and threatened to seal off the U.S.-Mexico border if they weren’t stopped.

As the migrants continued their northward march about 900 miles from the U.S. border, Trump tweeted that, “Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan.”

He added: “I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy.” White House officials could not immediately provide details.

A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, said the Pentagon has received no new orders to provide troops for border security.

Nancy Pelosi hints at short-term lease on House speakership

By Mark Z. Barabak

Democrats have yet to win a House majority and Nancy Pelosi’s return as speaker is by no means certain, but already she has one eye on the exits.

“I see myself as a transitional figure,” Pelosi said in an interview in which she professed utmost confidence that, should Democrats take control of the chamber on Nov. 6, she will again assume the top leadership position. “I have things to do. Books to write; places to go; grandchildren, first and foremost, to love.”

She hastened to add she was not imposing a limit on her tenure. “Do you think I would make myself a lame duck right here over this double-espresso?” the San Francisco Democrat said Thursday in a downtown Miami cafe, with a raised eyebrow and a laugh.

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Trump says it looks like Jamal Khashoggi is dead, threatens consequences

By Associated Press

President Trump leaves the White House shadowed by a Secret Service agent on Thursday.

President Trump leaves the White House shadowed by a Secret Service agent on Thursday.

(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

President Trump said Thursday it “certainly looks” as though Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, and he threatened “very severe” consequences if the Saudis are found to have murdered him.

As the U.S. toughened its response to Khashoggi’s disappearance two weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin pulled out of a major Saudi investment conference Thursday amid global pressure. However, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo also said the kingdom should be given more time to investigate before the U.S. lays any blame or considers action.

Trump, who has insisted that more facts must be known before drawing conclusions about Khashoggi, did not say on what he based his statement regarding the writer’s disappearance. He commented as he left Joint Base Andrews for a political trip to Montana.

Asked if Khashoggi was dead, he said, “It certainly looks that way. Very sad.”

While Turkish officials have accused Saudi Arabia of the murder in Istanbul of Khashoggi, a U.S.-based writer who has been critical of Saudi leaders, Trump has cautioned against a rush to judgment against an important Mideast ally. And Pompeo, just back from talks with Saudi and Turkish leaders, said earlier Thursday that the U.S. needed more facts before deciding “how, or if” to respond.

Sparks don’t fly as Feinstein and De León go head to head in San Francisco forum

By Sarah D. Wire

In their only scheduled joint appearance before election day, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her challenger, state Sen. Kevin de León, clashed Wednesday on, well, very little actually.

The two Democrats agreed that the U.S. Senate, if their party takes control, should take another look at the sexual assault allegations made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Neither are fans of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $17-billion twin-tunnels project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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U.S. will await investigation by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Pompeo says

By Associated Press

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks out of the White House to talk to the media after briefing President Trump on Thursday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks out of the White House to talk to the media after briefing President Trump on Thursday.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he told Saudi Arabia’s rulers that the U.S. takes “very seriously” the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and will await the outcome of investigations by the kingdom and Turkey before deciding how the U.S. will respond.

Pompeo addressed reporters Thursday after briefing President Trump at the White House on his talks with leaders in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Pompeo says the Saudis assured him they will conduct a “complete, thorough” investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Khashoggi is feared dead after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul more than two weeks ago.

Turkish authorities say he was killed. The Saudis have denied involvement.

In his comments to reporters, Pompeo said he also stressed the “longstanding strategic relationship” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Related: Trump and Pompeo defend Saudi rulers as White House strategy shifts in Khashoggi case »

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi investment conference amid Khashoggi investigation

By Los Angeles Times Staff

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin talks with reporters about trade with China outside of the White House on May 21.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin talks with reporters about trade with China outside of the White House on May 21.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today that the Trump administration has decided he will not be attending a key investment conference in Saudi Arabia in light of the disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mnuchin is the latest in a string of government leaders and Wall Street executives to drop out of the conference, dubbed “Davos in the Desert.” Turkish investigators believe Khashoggi was killed by Saudi operatives inside a diplomatic compound in Istanbul.

Biden knocks Trump for ‘coddling’ Saudi leaders after Khashoggi’s disappearance

By John Wagner

Joe Biden.

Joe Biden.

(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Former Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview broadcast Thursday that President Trump “seems to have a love affair with autocrats,” criticizing his posture toward Saudi leaders following the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“He’s already making excuses before the facts are known,” Biden said of Trump during an interview with “CBS This Morning.” “It hurts us internationally.”

Trump has continued to press for patience with an inquiry into the suspected torture and murder of Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and stressed denials of involvement by the Saudi king and crown prince.

“I just don’t know why this administration seems to feel the need to coddle autocrats and dictators from Putin to Kim Jong Un to … Duterte,” Biden said, referring to the leaders of Russia, North Korea and the Philippines. “I don’t understand it.”

Asked by co-host Norah O’Donnell to explain Trump’s behavior, Biden said: “I don’t want to speculate on my worst fears. But either he doesn’t know what he is doing or he has an absolutely convoluted notion of what allows America to lead the world.”

Biden, who is weighing a 2020 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, said doubts he has harbored about the leadership of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been confirmed in the past few weeks.

“My doubts are that there’s very little sense of rule of law, respect for human rights, dignity,” Biden said in the interview, which was taped Wednesday. “The allegations that are made so far … are not inconsistent with the way the kingdom would act.”

As the crisis over Khashoggi’s disappearance has deepened, Trump has emphasized positive aspects of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and rebuffed calls to respond by cutting off arms sales to the kingdom.

Wagner writes for the Washington Post.

Trump threatens to use military to halt migrant caravan

By Associated Press

President Trump on Thursday lashed out over a caravan of Central American migrants trying to reach the United States, saying that if Mexico does not stop the effort, he will use the military to “CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER.”

Trump tweeted that he wanted “Mexico to stop this onslaught.” He also appeared to threaten a revamped trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Trump did not detail his military threat. Earlier this year, some National Guard members were deployed to the border on a limited mission that does not include contact with migrants.

More than 2,000 Hondurans are in a migrant caravan trying to reach the United States.

Mexico’s government says migrants with proper documents can enter and that those who don’t either have to apply for refugee status or face deportation.

Related: Mexico sends federal forces to its southern border as migrant caravan heads north »

De León has run against Feinstein from the left, but much of his support comes from Republicans, new poll finds

By Sarah D. Wire

Senate candidate Kevin de León has campaigned as the progressive alternative to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but with the election just weeks away, his strongest support is coming from Republicans, according to a new USC-Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

De León planned his campaign as an insurgency from the left against his fellow Democrat, but a funny thing happened on the way to the revolution: The battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court made Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a high-profile target of President Trump.

On conservative media, commentators have urged California Republicans to cast ballots against Feinstein as retribution.

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As Trump slams Fed, its policymakers are tuning him out — and moving ahead with rate hikes

By Jim Puzzanghera

President Trump has been slamming the Federal Reserve for interest rate hikes, but the central bank’s officials appear to be tuning him out.

There was no mention of Trump or his unusual public criticism at the Fed’s Sept. 25-26 monetary policy meeting, according to an official account released Wednesday with the standard three-week delay.

The meeting’s minutes also indicated that Fed officials are undaunted in pushing ahead with more planned hikes in the central bank’s benchmark short-term rate as the U.S. economy strengthens.

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Trump asks Turkey for Khashoggi video ‘if it exists’

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 8.

President Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 8.

(Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)

President Trump says the U.S. is asking Turkey for audio and video relating to missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi “if it exists.”

The president on Wednesday called Saudi Arabia an important ally, noting it is an important customer for U.S. military exports.

Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudis’ Istanbul consulate, which Saudi officials have denied.

U.S. officials say they are taking Khashoggi’s disappearance seriously, but Trump says he has not sent the FBI, stressing that Khashoggi was not an “American citizen.”

In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Trump warned against a rush to judgment, comparing condemnation of Saudi Arabia to the allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump tops $100 million in fundraising for his own reelection

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee

President Trump has topped $100 million in fundraising for his 2020 reelection bid.

President Trump has topped $100 million in fundraising for his 2020 reelection bid.

(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump has topped $100 million in fundraising for his 2020 reelection bid – an enormous haul for a president barely two years into his first term, according to new figures reported by his 2020 campaign.

Trump pulled in more than $18 million last quarter through his campaign committee and two joint fundraising committees with the Republican National Committee, for a total of at least $106 million since January 2017, according to his campaign and federal filings.

His reelection committee entered October with a stockpile of more than $35 million, the campaign said.

The figures are expected to be reported in new Federal Election Commission records due to be filed Monday night.

No other president dating back to at least Ronald Reagan had raised as much money as Trump at this point in his first term, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, a nonpartisan research group.

Unlike his predecessors, Trump began fundraising for his reelection shortly after his 2016 win.

Trump continues to be buoyed by an avid small donor base. According to his campaign, 98% of the total raised last quarter came from donations of $200 or less.

Despite his haul, Trump was not the biggest fundraiser last quarter. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger to GOP incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, reportedly raised more than twice as much, pulling in $38.1 million — a new quarterly fundraising record for a Senate campaign.

Lara Trump, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, said in a statement that the campaign hopes to see its grass-roots supporters “and millions more like them to get out and vote in the midterms so President Trump can continue to build on his agenda with even greater success for the forgotten men and women of this great country.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy write for the Washington Post.

It’s no secret that Rep. Adam Schiff has higher ambitions. What’s his next political move?

By Sarah D. Wire

In a glittering ballroom in rural New Hampshire, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) riffed about President Trump to the Portsmouth Democratic Club recently, and then with a laugh, accepted their thank-you gift: a guide book on how to compete in the New Hampshire presidential primary.

Schiff dodged the bigger question as he stepped off the stage: Is he running for president?

“I’m only running for the House, but I’m honored to be asked the question,” Schiff said.

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Pompeo meets with Saudi prince over disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

By Associated Press

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met Tuesday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Mohammed said during the meeting: “We are strong and old allies. We face our challenges together — the past, the day of, tomorrow.”

Pompeo thanked the prince for hosting him.

The meeting came two weeks after the disappearance of Khashoggi, who went into a self-imposed exile in the United States amid Mohammed’s rise.

Turkish officials fear Saudi officials killed and dismembered the writer at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia previously called the allegation “baseless,” but reports suggest the kingdom may acknowledge Khashoggi was killed there.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia hadn’t offered any confession to Turkey over its alleged involvement in the disappearance and feared slaying of Khashoggi.

Asked about a New York Times report that Saudi Arabia might say Khashoggi was killed in an interrogation gone wrong, the minister said: “We have not received such information.”

He added: “Consulates aren’t places to hold interrogations. Interrogations should take place in courts, [by] judiciary authorities.”

The minister also confirmed that Turkish authorities would search the Saudi consul’s residence in Istanbul and vehicles belonging to the consulate. He offered no timeframe for those searches.

Turkish forensic teams finished a search of the Saudi Consulate early Tuesday, two weeks after Khashoggi vanished. It was not clear if any significant evidence has been found.

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Trump lashes out at Elizabeth Warren over DNA test, calls her ‘phony!’

By Associated Press

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

President Trump lashed out at Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday over DNA test results she released that indicate she has some Native American heritage, saying she is “getting slammed” over the assertion and branding it a “scam and a lie.”

Trump called on his potential 2020 Democratic challenger to apologize. He claimed that even the Cherokee Nation “denies her.”

Warren released the test results Monday in part to push back against Trump’s longstanding taunts about her ancestry claims. The results provide some evidence of a Native American in her lineage, though the ancestor probably lived six to 10 generations ago, according to the analysis.

An ancestor six generations removed would make Warren 1/64th Native American while an ancestor as much as 10 generations removed would render the Massachusetts Democrat only 1/1024th Native American, according to Blaine Bettinger, a genealogist and author who specializes in DNA evidence.

Trump, who belittles Warren by calling her “Pocahontas,” seized on the conclusion in a series of tweets early Tuesday.

“Pocahontas (the bad version), sometimes referred to as Elizabeth Warren, is getting slammed,” he wrote. “She took a bogus DNA test and it showed that she may be 1/1024, far less than the average American. Now Cherokee Nation denies her, ‘DNA test is useless.’ Even they don’t want her. Phony!”

Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Monday that DNA tests are useless in determining tribal citizenship, which is determined by tribal nations. Hoskin accused Warren of “undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

Warren acknowledged in a tweet Monday that DNA and family history have nothing to do with tribal affiliation or citizenship, which is determined by tribal nations. “I respect the distinction, & don’t list myself as Native in the Senate,” she said.

“Now that her claims of being of Indian heritage have turned out to be a scam and a lie, Elizabeth Warren should apologize for perpetrating this fraud against the American Public,” Trump wrote in another tweet.

He thanked the Cherokee Nation “for revealing that Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, is a complete and total Fraud!”

Trump has offered over the summer to donate $1 million to Warren’s favorite charity if a DNA test proved her Native American bloodline. On Monday, Trump first denied ever making such a promise. He later upped the ante by saying “I’ll only do it if I can test her personally.”

“That will not be something I enjoy doing either,” he added.

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Trump talks to Saudi king and dispatches Pompeo to discuss fate of missing journalist

By Associated Press

Saudi King Salman speaks on Sept. 25.

Saudi King Salman speaks on Sept. 25.

(Bandar Jaloud / AFP)

President Trump said Monday he has spoken to the king of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge of what happened to a Saudi journalist who visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and then disappeared and is feared dead.

Trump tweeted Monday morning, “Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened ‘to our Saudi Arabian citizen.’”

Trump said he’s dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the king to try to find out what happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Pompeo is expected to go to Riyadh and later visit Turkey.

Trump said Monday the Saudis told him they are working closely with Turkey to find an answer.

Trump’s approval rating is in the dumps, even though the economy is soaring. One reason is Trump himself

By Mark Z. Barabak

When the Great Recession hit, it walloped Nevada like no other state, claiming Corry Castaneda among its many victims.

His work remodeling homes practically dried up — “the joke was we were all burning furniture to keep warm”— and there were times he and his wife and two kids were just a paycheck away from desperation.

Things changed dramatically as the economy roared back to life. There’s money in the bank now, Castaneda said, and his career, managing commercial real estate, is thriving as Reno and its neighbors experience a tech-driven boom.

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Top GOP funding group snubs incumbents Rohrabacher and Walters 3 weeks before midterm election

By Mark Z. Barabak

In a worrisome sign for two endangered Orange County lawmakers, a major Republican Party funding group has passed over the pair in its opening round of broadcast television advertising across Southern California.

The omission of Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Mimi Walters by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee closely aligned with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), comes at a crucial inflection point in the midterm election when the two parties begin assessing their likely winners and losers.

The decisions are particularly acute for the GOP, which is facing a tsunami of Democratic campaign cash ahead of a feared blue wave on Nov. 6.

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California senators will try to block White House judicial nominees for the 9th Circuit

By Sarah D. Wire

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris complained Thursday that they did not sign off on three White House nominees for open California seats on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and said they would oppose their confirmation in the Senate.

President Trump announced Wednesday evening he had nominated Assistant U.S. Atty. for the Southern District of California Patrick J. Bumatay, Los Angeles appellate attorney Daniel P. Collins and Los Angeles litigator Kenneth Kiyul Lee for California-based vacancies.

Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she and the administration were still trying to reach a consensus on nominees when the White House abruptly announced them.

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Trump raises economic concerns over halting Saudi arms sales

By Associated Press

A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington on Monday.8.

A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington on Monday.8.

(Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump says the U.S. is looking into the fate of a Saudi writer missing and feared murdered but expressed reservations over calls to withhold further U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, warning that such a move “would be hurting us.”

Decades of close U.S.-Saudi relations, which have only intensified under Trump, appeared in jeopardy by the suggestion of a carefully plotted murder of a government critic, Jamal Khashoggi, 59, who disappeared a week ago after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey. The wealthy former government insider had been living in the United States in self-imposed exile.

In an interview Wednesday with “Fox News @ Night,” Trump said he wanted to find out what happened to Khashoggi but appeared reluctant to consider blocking arms sales, citing economic reasons.

“I think that would be hurting us,” Trump said. “We have jobs, we have a lot of things happening in this country. We have a country that’s doing probably better economically than it’s ever done before.”

He continued: “Part of that is what we’re doing with our defense systems and everybody’s wanting them. And frankly I think that that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country. I mean, you’re affecting us and, you know, they’re always quick to jump that way.”

On his first international trip as president, Trump visited Saudi Arabia and announced $110 billion in proposed arms sales. The administration also relies on Saudi support for its Middle East agenda to counter Iranian influence, fight extremism and support an expected peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Earlier Wednesday, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has reviewed U.S. intelligence on the case, said it was likely that Khashoggi was killed the day he walked into the consulate. Whatever took place, Corker said, “there was Saudi involvement” and “everything points to them.”

More than 20 Republican and Democratic senators instructed Trump to order an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance under legislation that authorizes imposition of sanctions for perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross human rights violations.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a longtime critic of the Saudi government, has said he’ll try to force a vote in the Senate blocking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said it would be time for the U.S. to rethink its relationship with Saudi Arabia if it turned out Khashoggi was lured to his death by the Saudis.

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to get paperwork he needed for his upcoming marriage while his Turkish fiancee waited outside. Turkish authorities have said he was killed by members of an elite Saudi “assassination squad,” an allegation the Saudi government has dismissed.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that U.S. intelligence intercepts outlined a Saudi plan to detain Khashoggi. The Post, citing anonymous U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence, said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered an operation to lure Khashoggi from his home in Virginia to Saudi Arabia and then detain him.

Melania Trump says she might be ‘the most bullied person’

By Associated Press

First Lady Melania Trump says she thinks she’s among the most bullied people in the world.

First Lady Melania Trump says she thinks she’s among the most bullied people in the world.

(Carolyn Kaster / AP)

First Lady Melania Trump said she could be “the most bullied person” in the world.

She made the remark during a television interview in which she promoted her Be Best initiatives, which tackles online bullying. Critics have pointed out that her husband, President Trump, routinely rips people for their looks, and what he says is a lack of talent or intelligence.

“I could say I’m the most bullied person in the world,” Melania Trump said in the ABC News interview, broadcast Thursday on “Good Morning America.”

Trump said her Be Best campaign is focusing on social media and online behavior in part because of “what people are saying about me.”

“We need to educate the children of social emotional behavior so when they grow up they know how to deal with those issues,” she said.

The first lady also revealed that there are people in the White House whom she and the president can’t trust.

She didn’t name names but said she let her husband know about them.

“Well,” she said, “some people, they don’t work there anymore.”

But asked if some untrustworthy people still work in the White House, she said, “Yes.”

The Trump administration has dealt with an anonymous senior official’s newspaper op-ed critical of the Republican president and with numerous staff departures. This week, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley announced she’s leaving at the end of the year.

The president, speaking by phone on Fox’s “Fox & Friends,” was asked about why people he and his wife don’t trust are still in his administration.

“I didn’t know people in Washington, and now I know everybody,” he said. “I know some that I wish I didn’t know.”

Her full interview, conducted on her recent trip to Africa, airs Friday night in an ABC News special, “Being Melania — The First Lady.”

Learn about California’s U.S. Senate candidates through our questionnaires

By Sarah D. Wire

Early voting began this week, and Californians will again choose between two Democrats to represent them in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is seeking a fifth full term in the Senate. State Sen. Kevin de León is challenging her from the left.

Interest in the race has been low. No debate has been held, though a discussion moderated by the Public Policy Institute of California is scheduled for midday Wednesday. It may be the only time Feinstein and De León appear on stage together before the election.

To help educate voters before they vote, The Times asked each candidate to answer— in their own words— where they stand on a variety of state and local issues.

The candidates were also asked to answer several questions specific to their experiences and goals.

California’s Kamala Harris is a big draw on the midterm campaign trail, bolstering a national profile

By Sarah D. Wire

Michelle Garrett craned to snap a photo of Sen. Kamala Harris amid the sea of cellphones and campaign signs at a get-out-the-vote rally for Ohio Democrats, sliding her “Sherrod Brown for Senate” lawn sign under a chair to protect it from jostling feet.

“I can’t believe she’s here. For us, it’s like a rock star,” Garrett, 52, of Worthington, Ohio, said. “I’ve gone to things for Sherrod before, but … having her is like the cherry on top.”

Rookie senators aren’t usually in such high demand to speak and raise money on behalf of colleagues in other parts of the country. But Harris’ packed travel schedule is another sign of the freshman California senator’s rising profile in the Democratic Party.

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Trump’s hardball tactics may win trade battles while losing the loyalty of allies

By Don Lee

Shortly after Canada agreed to new terms for the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Trump administration held up the deal as vindication of the president’s bare-knuckles negotiating style.

And the administration was certainly right about the tactics: During 13 months of talks, Trump imposed hefty tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel, threatened new taxes on the two nations’ automotive exports, repeatedly warned of blowing up NAFTA and made disparaging personal remarks about Canada’s prime minister.

“To me, the fact that we got a good agreement is all the evidence you need that the president’s approach is a good approach; it’s the right approach,” Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s chief negotiator, said when the new NAFTA, renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, was announced last week.

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Trump says he’s ‘demanding’ answers from Saudi Arabia about missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi

By Associated Press

President Trump at the White House on Wednesday.

President Trump at the White House on Wednesday.

(Tasos Katopodis / EPA/Rex-Shutterstock)

President Donald Trump says the U.S. is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and wants to bring his fiancee to the White House.

Turkish officials have said they believe the Saudi writer and government critic, a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul when he went there to obtain documentation required to marry his Turkish fiancee. Saudi Arabia has denied the allegations.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that he has a call in to Kashoggie’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

Trump said nobody knows exactly what happened and expressed hope that Khashoggi is not dead.

He said he had spoken with the Saudis about what he called a “bad situation,” but he did not disclose details of his conversations.

Bloomberg becomes a Democrat again, looks at presidential run

By Associated Press

Michael Bloomberg said he has registered as a Democrat.

Michael Bloomberg said he has registered as a Democrat.

(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is officially a Democrat again.

The global media company founder on Wednesday said he has changed his voter registration to Democrat, which would be especially significant if he decides to challenge President Trump in 2020. Bloomberg said on social media he did so “because we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs.”

Bloomberg did not say when he might make a decision on running for president. He served three terms as New York City mayor and has variously been a Democrat, a Republican and an independent. He twice flirted with running for president as an independent candidate.

Bloomberg has thrown money and support behind Democrats and is attacking Republicans on abortion rights and gun policies.

After meeting delay, Rosenstein to fly with Trump to Florida conference

By Associated Press

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein in May.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein in May.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein is flying Monday with President Trump on Air Force One to a police chiefs’ conference in Florida.

The flight provides an opportunity for their most extensive conversation since news reports last month that Rosenstein had discussed possibly secretly recording Trump to expose chaos in the White House and invoking constitutional provisions to get him removed from office.

The reports, which Rosenstein denied, fueled speculation that Rosenstein might be fired or resign. Rosenstein told officials that he would be willing to resign and met at the White House with Chief of Staff John Kelly during a chaotic day two weeks ago that ended with him still in his Justice Department job.

Rosenstein and Trump had been expected to meet at the White House days later, but that meeting was put off so that the president could focus on a confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It was not immediately clear if the flight would substitute for the pre-planned White House meeting.

Trump has said publicly that he would prefer not to fire the Justice Department’s No. 2 official and that Rosenstein has told him he did not say the remarks attributed to him. Advisors had also cautioned Trump against doing anything dramatic in the weeks before the midterm elections next month, suggesting that Rosenstein’s job is safe at least for now.

Trump is scheduled to speak Monday at the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police conference in Orlando.

Any termination or resignation of Rosenstein has the potential to affect the special counsel’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign since Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to the job of special counsel and closely oversees his work.

Although Trump has at times criticized his deputy attorney general, he has reserved his sharpest verbal attacks at Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who recused from the Russia investigation in March 2017 because of his involvement with the Trump campaign.

Besides the meeting with Trump, Rosenstein has also agreed to a private meeting with House Republicans who want to question him about his reported statements on the president.

Minnesota TV reporter fired for wearing Trump hat at rally

By Associated Press

Former KTTC-TV multimedia journalist James Bunner.

Former KTTC-TV multimedia journalist James Bunner.

(Mark Vancleave / Star Tribune)

A southern Minnesota television reporter who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat to a Trump rally that he was covering has been fired.

James Bunner was a multimedia journalist for KTTC-TV in Austin. He wore the hat Thursday while covering President Donald Trump’s appearance in Rochester and images of him wearing the hat began appearing on Twitter.

News director Noel Sederstrom says the station does not allow staff members to cover stories while wearing apparel from political campaigns. Sederstrom says Bunner was fired Friday.

Bunner doesn’t have a listed phone number and didn’t immediately return a social media message seeking comment Friday.

Ahead of Kavanaugh vote, Sen. Gillibrand asks, ‘Do we, as a country, value women?’

By Associated Press

Democrats don’t seem to have the votes to keep Brett Kavanaugh from joining the Supreme Court, but that’s not stopping them from taking to the Senate floor in a parade of speeches into the early morning against the conservative jurist.

Hours before the expected roll call vote that would elevate the appeals court judge to the nation’s highest court, Democrats are making clear their strong opposition.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York says there’s one fundamental question for senators when they decide Kavanaugh’s fate: “Do we, as a country, value women?”

Gillibrand says women who’ve experienced sexual trauma are “tired of the same old scenario where the men are believed and the women are not.”

Melania Trump calls Brett Kavanaugh ‘highly qualified for the Supreme Court’

By Associated Press

First Lady Melania Trump.

First Lady Melania Trump.

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Melania Trump is offering some supportive words for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Here’s what she tells reporters traveling with her in Egypt: “I think he’s highly qualified for the Supreme Court.”

The first lady is wrapping up a four-country tour of Africa.

Speaking to reporters near the Great Sphinx, she says she’s glad that both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, were heard.

Without weighing in on the sexual assault allegations that Ford leveled against Kavanaugh, which he has denied, Trump says victims of “any kind of abuse or violence” must be helped.

Sen. Susan Collins says she will vote yes on Brett Kavanaugh

By Los Angeles Times Staff

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Friday she will support Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, likely securing his confirmation over the weekend.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted against moving forward with the nomination and later said she would oppose Kavanaugh in the final vote. She was the first Republican to break with the party and join most Democrats in opposing Kavanaugh.

Another potential swing vote, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), voted yes on Friday’s motion to end the debate over Kavanaugh. He later said he would vote for confirmation barring some sudden, unexpected development. He was instrumental in delaying the vote to allow for a renewed FBI probe this week.

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Brett Kavanaugh’s fate largely rests in the hands of Sen. Susan Collins

By Los Angeles Times Staff

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) walks to the Senate floor on Friday.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) walks to the Senate floor on Friday.

(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh advanced Friday in a narrow 51-49 vote, but there are no guarantees the final vote, expected as early as Saturday, will have the same outcome.

The final result is largely in the hands of a single person, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted against moving forward with the nomination and later said she would oppose Kavanaugh in the final vote. She was the first Republican to break with the party and join most Democrats in opposing Kavanaugh.

Of the other two senators who entered the day with their intentions undeclared, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) voted yes on Friday’s motion to end the debate over Kavanaugh. He later said he would vote for confirmation barring some sudden, unexpected development. He was instrumental in delaying the vote to allow for a renewed FBI probe this week.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D- W-Va.) was the only Democrat to join Republicans to vote in favor of advancing the nomination. He has not said how he would vote on final confirmation. Democrats on Capitol Hill, however, have said they do not expect Manchin to become cast the deciding vote as the 50th senator to back Kavanaugh. If the prediction is correct, he’d follow Collins’ lead, meaning that Kavanaugh would either pass or fail on a 51-49 vote. If Manchin and Collins split and the Senate ends up equally divided, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote in Kavanaugh’s favor.

Collins, who had lunch Friday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said she would announce her final decision at 3 p.m.

UPDATES

10:40 a.m.: This article was updated with the announcement of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s decision.

10:13 a.m.: This article was updated after Sen. Jeff Flake said he would vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over the weekend.

This article was originally published at 8:55 a.m.

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Arizona’s Jeff Flake says he will vote for Kavanaugh

By Chris Megerian

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) walks to the Senate floor for a cloture vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) walks to the Senate floor for a cloture vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told reporters Friday he would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, “unless something big changes.”

Flake’s decision leaves two senators — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) — who have not announced how they will vote this weekend. On Friday morning, Flake, Collins and Manchin voted yes on advancing the controversial nomination.

Collins is expected to disclose her final decision in a floor speech at 3 p.m. EDT Friday; Manchin has not indicated when or if he plans to announce his vote in advance.

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President Trump tweets praise for Senate vote to advance Kavanaugh nomination

By Associated Press

President Trump is praising the Senate for pushing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh past a key procedural hurdle.

Trump tweeted Friday: “Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting “YES” to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!”

The chamber voted 51-49 to move forward with Trump’s nominee. A final vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination could occur over the weekend.

White House aides and allies expressed cautious optimism Friday.

Trump, who framed the nomination as a rallying issue for Republican voters at a Thursday night rally, has been keeping in close contact with staff and Republican allies in the Senate, the White House indicated.

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Biden slams GOP’s ‘cultish devotion’ to Trump as he stumps for California Democrats

By Maya Sweedler

Former Vice President Joe Biden accused President Trump’s Republican allies in Congress of choosing “party over country” as he campaigned in Orange County for Democrats running for the U.S. House.

“The truth itself is being thrown aside in favor of a cultish devotion to the whims of one man,” Biden told hundreds of campaign volunteers Thursday at a Cal State Fullerton rally, citing the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“Look at the behavior of Republican senators during the recent testimony of Judge Kavanaugh. Look at the behavior of this president every day,” he said. “Lies have never been more brazen. Blind rage and brute partisanship has never been more palpable.”

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Pence ramps up charges of Chinese meddling in the U.S., the latest sign of deteriorating ties

By Don Lee

In a speech highly critical of China’s behavior around the world, Vice President Mike Pence laid out an increasingly confrontational approach to Beijing, signaling tougher actions to come to combat what President Trump sees as a threat to the American economy and his political authority.

Pence ripped into China for what he described as military aggression in the region, “debt diplomacy” abroad and religious oppression at home. Speaking at the conservative think tank Hudson Institute, he repeated the president’s recent accusation that Beijing is attempting to influence the U.S. midterm election to undermine Trump’s leadership and American democracy.

“China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections,” Pence asserted.

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Watch live: Senate set to vote on Kavanaugh nomination

Police arrest Kavanaugh protesters staging sit-in in Senate building

By Associated Press

Demonstrators protest Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Demonstrators protest Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

(Nicholas Kamm)

Capitol Police have begun arresting about 300 demonstrators protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination as they stage a sit-in on the floor of a Senate office building’s atrium.

At a signal from organizers, the group began holding up signs and chanting. Others who were watching on upper floors unfurled banners that said: “We believe Christine Ford.”

Ford is the California college professor who testified last week at a Senate hearing that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh also testified and denied the allegations.

As police started to empty the Senate office building’s atrium, some protesters who were willing to be arrested sat down and began loudly chanting. Police have surrounded the protesters and are leading them off a few at a time in plastic cuffs.

Joe Biden to rally California Democrats at campus event in Orange County

(Butch Comegys / Scranton Times-Tribune)

Former Vice President Joe Biden plans to campaign Thursday in Orange County for five of the California Democrats who are battling to capture U.S. House seats now held by Republicans.

Biden, one of the top potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, was also holding a private fundraiser Thursday in Los Angeles for American Possibilities, his political action committee.

His afternoon rally at Cal State Fullerton follows a similar event last month in Anaheim, where former President Obama campaigned for six California Democrats in fiercely contested House races.

Thursday’s rally is restricted to invited students and campaign staff. It comes in a year when California, primarily Orange County, is one of the main battlegrounds in Democrats’ campaign to seize control of the House.

President Trump’s unpopularity among suburban voters has jeopardized Republicans’ hold on at least half a dozen House districts in California.

Biden is part of a large group of high-profile Democrats whose campaigning for candidates nationwide overlaps their networking for a possible 2020 presidential bid. Others include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

Last week, Biden raised money in Philadelphia for House candidates in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. On Wednesday, he was the main attraction at a Los Angeles lunch to raise money for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat up for reelection on Nov. 6.

Sens. Flake, Collins say they’re satisfied with FBI investigation into Kavanaugh

By Sarah D. Wire

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.)

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Two key Republican senators today expressed confidence in a confidential FBI report into sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“It appears to be a very thorough investigation,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the GOP lawmakers who has been on the fence concerning the controversial nomination.

Another wavering Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, agreed, telling reporters that he saw no additional corroboration of the allegations against Kavanaugh in the report.

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Democrats say FBI’s Kavanaugh report ‘very limited’

By Associated Press

Senate Democrats are criticizing the White House for what they say is a limited FBI investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the most notable part of report into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh “is what’s not in it.”

Kavanaugh denies the accusations.

The California Democrat says the report made available to senators on Thursday is “very limited” and she says “it looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation.”

Feinstein says the White House may have limited the probe.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says he disagrees with a statement by the committee’s GOP chairman that the report found “no hint of misconduct” by Kavanaugh.

Schumer is calling for the report to be made public as well the directive the White House gave the FBI ordering the investigation.

Watch live: White House holds press briefing

Trump mocks Ford’s claims about Kavanaugh at Mississippi rally

By Jackie Calmes

(Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

President Trump stoked what has become a searingly divisive debate on Tuesday night when, before a political rally of thousands in Mississippi, he went beyond defending Brett Kavanaugh to mocking the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. Just days ago, he had praised her as “a very credible witness.”

For an extended time, to his audience’s laughter and applause, Trump feigned the voices of Ford and a senator interrogating her. Mimicking Ford, he said, “I had one beer!” Playing the senator, he then asked how she got home, how she got to the house where she was allegedly attacked, where is it? To each question, Trump-as-Ford answered, “I don’t remember!” and finally “she” objects, “But I had one beer! That’s the only thing I remember!”

In fact, Ford has testified in detail to what she alleges was Kavanaugh’s attempt to rape her and her fear that he would suffocate her before she was able to escape.

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Pompeo to return to North Korea in bid to revive stalled nuclear talks

By Tracy Wilkinson

In a bid to revive efforts to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo is scheduled to return to Pyongyang on Sunday for meetings with the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

The State Department said Pompeo will also make stops in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing in a three-day trip to northeast Asia that starts Saturday.

Japan, South Korea and China are the other major players in diplomatic efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear infrastructure and weapons.

President Trump canceled Pompeo’s last scheduled trip to Pyongyang — his fourth this year — in late August after a senior North Korean official sent a letter indicating another visit would not be successful.

U.S. officials have not reported any substantive actions by North Korea to stop production of fissile material since then, but Trump said he was encouraged by another letter from Kim.

On Saturday, Trump told a rally in West Virginia that he and Kim “fell in love,” citing the North Korean leader’s “beautiful letters” after their June summit in Singapore.

“I was really tough and so was he, and we went back and forth,” Trump said. “And then we fell in love, OK? No, really, he wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

Ted Cruz’s office in Houston evacuated after exposure to ‘white powdery substance’

By Associated Press

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Washington on Sept. 5.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Washington on Sept. 5.

(Cliff Owen / Associated Press)

A package addressed to Sen. Ted Cruz’s Houston campaign headquarters caused a lockdown, a spokeswoman for the Republican said. Authorities later lifted an evacuation order after saying two people were apparently exposed to a “white powdery substance.”

The Houston Fire Department tweeted Tuesday that tests for hazardous substances were negative after the building floor where Cruz’s office is located was evacuated.

Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier says no one from the campaign staff was taken to the hospital.

Frazier said the package was opened in the lobby. She said authorities locked down the lobby and elevator for a couple hours.

It comes on the same day that authorities at the Pentagon say they found at least two packages believed to contain ricin, a deadly white powdery poison made from castor beans.

Trump calls revamped NAFTA a new model of U.S. trade relations

By Jim Puzzanghera

President Trump on Monday lauded the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico as the most important ever for the U.S. and “a historic win” for American farmers, manufacturers and auto workers.

“Once approved by Congress, this new deal will be the most modern, up-to-date and balanced trade agreement in the history of our country, with the most advanced protections for workers ever developed,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House, flanked by top administration officials.

U.S. negotiators and their Canadian counterparts came to terms on a deal late Sunday, beating a midnight procedural deadline to try to save the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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President Trump orders new FBI inquiry of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

House votes to make individual tax cuts and cap on state and local tax deductions permanent

By Jim Puzzanghera

The House voted Friday to make permanent the temporary individual tax cuts that took effect in January, a move that also locks in a new limit on state and local tax deductions that hits many residents hard in California and several other Democratic states.

But despite the 220-191 vote, largely on party lines, the Senate is unlikely to pass it because of solid Democratic opposition there.

House Republican leaders pushed for the vote anyway in the weeks before the November elections in hopes of forcing Democrats to vote against permanently extending the temporary tax cuts for individuals and so-called pass-through businesses that took effect Jan. 1.

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Republican Sen. Jeff Flake calls for FBI investigation and Senate floor vote delay

Sen. Jeff Flake asks for a delay in the Senate floor vote to allow for an FBI investigation of accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

In a surprise turnaround, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) joined Democrats in calling for a one-week delay in final voting on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, to allow for an FBI probe into the sexual assault allegations against him.

“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but no more than one week,” Flake said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, after huddling with Democrats. Murkowski, who had previously called for an FBI probe, quickly joined him.

The concerns of the two key Republicans likely ends hopes by GOP leaders to confirm Kavanaugh by next week.

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Two sexual assault survivors confront Sen. Flake over Kavanaugh vote

By Associated Press

Moments after Sen. Jeff Flake announced he would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, two women confronted him in an elevator.

Moments after Sen. Jeff Flake announced his support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, he was confronted with some of the consequences.

Two women cornered him as he got on an elevator Friday, pleading for him to reconsider his support for Kavanaugh, who is accused of sexual assault. The raw, emotional moment was caught on television, capturing the charged atmosphere in the Capitol as senators prepare to vote.

“Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me,” said 23-year-old Maria Gallagher.

A day earlier, the senators heard hours of testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who told them Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were teenagers. Kavanaugh strongly denied the allegation in hours of bombastic testimony.

Flake had lobbied Republican leaders to give Ford the chance to speak. He was viewed as a possible no vote, until the announcement Friday morning.

The senator was on his way to the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting room as the two women, who are both affiliated with advocacy groups, told him they were sexual assault survivors.

“On Monday, I stood in front of your office,” Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy Action, told Flake. “I told the story of my sexual assault. I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford’s story that she is telling the truth. What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court.”

Archila, 39, appeared to block the elevator door from closing with the senator inside.

Then Gallagher said: “I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them.”

“That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you are telling all women in America, that they don’t matter,” she said through tears.

She begged Flake to look her in the eye. She said: “Don’t look away from me.”

Flake, cornered in the elevator, shifted between looking at them and looking down. He said, “Thank you,” but didn’t respond to questions on whether he believed Ford’s testimony.

When a reporter asked whether he wanted to respond to the women’s questions, he said no.

“I need to go to the hearing. I just issued a statement. I’ll be saying more as well,” he said.

The elevator doors closed.

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Rosenstein to meet privately with lawmakers after reports about him discussing recording Trump

By Associated Press

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein in June.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein in June.

(Alex Edelman / CNP/Zuma Press)

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has agreed to speak privately with lawmakers following reports he’d discussed secretly recording President Trump.

A person familiar with the situation says Rosenstein agreed to the meeting during a call Thursday evening with the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

GOP Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who leads the conservative House Freedom Caucus, tweeted Friday that Republican leaders agreed to ask Rosenstein for a private meeting and said lawmakers would subpoena Rosenstein if he refused to answer questions.

But the person familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, says Rosenstein had agreed to the meeting before that tweet.

Trump is to meet next week with Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel investigation into Russian election-meddling.

Watch live: Senate Judiciary Committee votes on Kavanaugh nomination

President Trump says Rod Rosenstein should stay in his Justice Department job

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein leaves the White House on Monday.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein leaves the White House on Monday.

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Two days after Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein appeared to be on the verge of getting fired, President Trump said he would like to keep him as the Justice Department’s second-in-command.

“My preference would be to keep him and let him finish up,” Trump said during a news conference on Wednesday in New York.

Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, has been at the center of controversy over news reports that he suggested secretly recording the president or removing him from office under the 25th Amendment. He has denied the reports.

After numerous reports on Monday said Rosenstein was about to resign or get sacked, the White House announced that Trump would meet with Rosenstein on Thursday at the White House.

However, Trump said he may delay the meeting so he could focus on a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh will defend himself against allegations of sexual assault when he was in high school and college.

Fed hikes its key interest rate again and signals more are coming despite Trump’s criticism

By Jim Puzzanghera

Despite President Trump’s unusual public criticism of their monetary policy, Federal Reserve officials inched up their key interest rate again on Wednesday — and indicated they would be undaunted to do so again in the face of strong economic growth.

The latest 0.25 percentage point increase, approved by a unanimous vote, brings the target of the central bank’s benchmark federal funds rate to between 2% and 2.25%.

In their announcement after a two-day meeting, Fed officials no longer called their monetary policy “accommodative.” That means the short-term interest rate is approaching a more normal level after years of staying low to fight the Great Recession and its aftermath.

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Key passages from Julie Swetnick’s declaration alleging sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh was present at a 1982 house party where a Washington woman said that she was gang raped, according to an explosive statement that her lawyer released Wednesday.

The woman, Julie Swetnick, 55, did not accuse Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge of participating in the assault, which would have occurred when they were in high school.

But she said she witnessed efforts by Kavanaugh, Judge and others to get girls “inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped.’”

Read Julie Swetnick’s full declaration >>

Trump slams Avenatti as ‘third rate lawyer’ after release of Julie Swetnick allegation

Michael Avenatti reveals client Julie Swetnick as third woman to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was present at a 1982 house party where a Washington woman said that she was gang raped, according to an explosive statement that her lawyer released Wednesday.

The woman, Julie Swetnick, did not accuse Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge of participating in the assault, which would have occurred when they were in high school.

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Watch live: Lawmakers grill tech executives, including Google, Apple and Amazon

Trump’s boasts in his address to the U.N. prompt laughter — and then a wary silence

By Tracy Wilkinson

President Trump had barely begun his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday when he declared his tenure had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the kind of over-the-top boast he often makes at his campaign rallies.

Around the cavernous hall, diplomats and world leaders broke into what even the official White House transcript described as laughter.

“Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” Trump said, momentarily startled. That prompted more guffaws and applause.

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Maxine Waters is one of Trump’s fiercest critics. She’ll get a powerful, new platform if Democrats take the House

By Jim Puzzanghera

Rep. Maxine Waters has tried for months to get a House committee chairman to subpoena documents from Deutsche Bank about Russian money laundering and the finances of President Trump and his family.

If Democrats win the House majority in November, the 14-term Los Angeles lawmaker is almost certain to gain the committee’s gavel. That would give Waters, one of Trump’s fiercest critics, the power to issue those subpoenas along with something more — a high-profile platform to battle the administration.

She’s indicated she’ll do just that. But Waters, whom Trump has publicly derided as “crazy” and “low IQ,” said her priorities if she becomes chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee would extend beyond the occupant of the Oval Office.

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Trump dismisses second Brett Kavanaugh accuser as ‘totally inebriated’ and ‘messed up’

By Associated Press

President Donald Trump answers a reporter's question about Brett Kavanaugh during at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump answers a reporter’s question about Brett Kavanaugh during at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

(Evan Vucci / AP Photo)

President Trump says Democrats are playing a “con game” against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump is seeking to cast doubt on sexual misconduct allegations lodged against Kavanaugh by a Yale classmate, Deborah Ramirez, who made her claims in an article published in the New Yorker magazine.

Trump says Ramirez says it might not have been Kavanaugh and there were gaps in her memory. He says she says “she was totally inebriated and all messed up.”

Trump says: “This is a con game being played by the Democrats.”

Kavanaugh is set to testify Thursday at a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, is also expected to testify.

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In Fox News interview, Kavanaugh says he won’t let ‘false accusations’ push him out

By Associated Press

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh declared in a televised interview Monday that he never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or at any other time in his life.

Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley, sat down for an interview with Fox News Channel’s “The Story with Martha MacCallum” after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct.

Christine Blasey Ford has accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a party when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh denied he was “at any such party.” He said he did not question that perhaps Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted, “but what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”

Kavanaugh said it was possible he may have met Ford at some time, but he said they were not friends and did not travel in the same social circles. He said he did not remember being at a party with her.

“I was not at the party described,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh was asked whether there was any chance Ford misunderstood an exchange between them.

“I have never had any sexual or physical activity with Dr. Ford,” Kavanaugh said. “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone, in high school or otherwise.”

The second woman, Deborah Ramirez, has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a Yale University dormitory party, putting his penis in her face and causing her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.

Kavanaugh said Monday, “I never did any such thing.”

“If such a thing had happened, it would have been the talk of campus,” Kavanaugh said.

It’s rare for nominees to the Supreme Court to give interviews. Russell Wheeler, an expert on the judicial selection process at the Brookings Institution, said he is unaware of a similar media interview by a Supreme Court nominee in the last 100 years.

But there’s nothing ordinary about the stakes and circumstances of Kavanaugh’s nomination, with Republicans fighting to get him on the court by the end of September and cement a conservative-leaning court for years to come.

President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say they are determined to get Kavanaugh on the court, calling the allegations against him false and politically motivated. Kavanaugh was defiant as well.

“I’m not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process,” Kavanaugh said.

Democrats have accused Republicans of not conducting a thorough review in their rush to get Kavanaugh confirmed. They want the FBI to reopen its background investigation of Kavanaugh and look into the allegations against him.

Ford and Kavanaugh are set to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In the Fox interview, Kavanaugh got a taste of the personal questions he’ll face from senators. MacCallum asked him how long he was a virgin in college, after he volunteered that he never had sex in high school.

“Many years after. I’ll leave it at that,” Kavanaugh said.

Ashley Kavanaugh was asked whether she wondered if her husband was telling the truth about the allegations against him. “No, I know Brett. I’ve known him for 17 years,” she said, adding: “I know his heart. This is not consistent with Brett.”

Kavanaugh appeared to get emotional at the end of the interview. He said Trump called him in the afternoon to show his support.

“I know he’s going to stand by me,” Kavanaugh said.

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Rod Rosenstein, Justice Department official overseeing Russia investigation, will stay — at least for now

By Del Quentin Wilber

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, the senior Justice Department official supervising the Russia investigation, will meet Thursday with President Trump, an announcement that stanched, at least for now, a flurry of reports that Rosenstein would be leaving his post.

Rosenstein headed to the White House early Monday “expecting to be fired,” according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment on the record. It was unclear whether he had previously offered to resign.

Rosenstein spoke with President Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, but no decision was announced afterward. Following the conversation, Rosenstein remained at the White House for a previously scheduled meeting with other administration officials, a sign that he had retained his position.

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GOP troubles with women get worse after Trump defends Kavanaugh on sexual assault accusation

By Michael Finnegan

The video Katie Hill posted Friday on social media opens with a striking declaration for a congressional candidate: “I have experienced sexual assault multiple times, different ways.”

The 31-year-old Democrat, who is trying to unseat Republican Steve Knight of Palmdale, tells viewers she knows how hard it is for women to report an attack. If Americans look the other way, she says, “we are showing to boys and men across the country that it’s OK.”

Hill’s video highlights the threat Republicans face as they defend President Trump and his troubled Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh.

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Trump says Kavanaugh allegations are political: ‘I am with him all the way’

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, in Springfield, Mo.

President Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, in Springfield, Mo.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump is pledging his support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying the sexual misconduct allegations against his choice are “totally political.”

Trump, at the United Nations in New York, declared that Kavanaugh is “outstanding,” and added, “I am with him all the way.”

He spoke as Kavanaugh’s nomination appeared in peril after the New Yorker published the account of a second woman who says he exposed himself to her while they were students at Yale. The woman said Kavanaugh forced her to come in contact with his penis while both were inebriated at a party.

The first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, has said Kavanaugh assaulted her in high school. She says he covered her mouth and tried to remove her clothing. Ford and Kavanaugh are expected to testify on Thursday.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

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Second woman claims sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh

By Associated Press

Senate Democrats are investigating a second woman’s accusation of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from his teenage years, according to a new report from the New Yorker magazine.

In a story published Sunday night on its website, the New Yorker reported that the claim dates to the 1983-84 academic year, Kavanaugh’s freshman year at Yale University.

The New Yorker identified the woman as Deborah Ramirez, 53, and said she described the incident in an interview after being contacted by a reporter.

According to the magazine, Ramirez remembers that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.

In a statement provided by the White House, Kavanaugh denied the event ever happened.

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Trump asked why Kavanaugh’s accuser didn’t report him. History provides some answers

By Jaweed Kaleem

Christine Blasey Ford, the Stanford University professor accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape when they were high schoolers, says she never called police and did not speak about the incident to anyone for decades after the alleged attack in 1982.

Trying to discredit her story, President Trump tweeted Friday that he had “no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”

But according to decades of social science, surveys of sexual assault victims and crime reporting data from federal government agencies, there is a lot of room for doubt.

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Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, her attorneys say

By Sarah D. Wire

Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, her attorneys said in a letter Saturday.

Ford, a research psychologist at Palo Alto University, is still hoping the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet several conditions. The letter, which says the attorneys are “disappointed with the leaks and the bullying that have tainted the process,” asked for further negotiations for conditions at the expected hearing.

The back and forth about when Ford would speak with the committee, and under what conditions, has dragged on for several days, blocking what had appeared a likely party-line vote for the Supreme Court nominee.

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Rod Rosenstein denies that he proposed secretly taping Trump or invoking 25th Amendment

By Associated Press

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein.

(Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein denied a New York Times report Friday that he suggested that he secretly record President Trump last year to expose chaos in the administration and that he floated the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

The Times cited several people, who were not named, who described episodes that came in the spring of 2017 after FBI Director James Comey was fired. The newspaper said its sources also included people who were briefed on memos written by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Rosenstein took issue with the story.

“The New York Times’ story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution spells out that a president can be declared “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” upon a majority vote of the vice president and the Cabinet.

A person who was in the room at the time, and provided a statement through the Justice Department, said Rosenstein’s comment was “sarcastic” and that he “never discussed any intention of recording a conversation with the president.”

The newspaper reported that Rosenstein, frustrated with the hiring process for a new FBI director after Comey’s firing, offered to wear a “wire” and secretly record the president when he visited the White House. He also suggested that McCabe could also perhaps record Trump, the newspaper said.

McCabe’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich, said in a statement that his client had drafted memos to “memorialize significant discussions he had with high level officials and preserved them so he would have an accurate, contemporaneous record of those discussions.”

McCabe’s memos, which were later turned over to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office, had remained at the FBI until McCabe was ousted in January and McCabe doesn’t know how any reporters might have obtained them, Bromwich said.

Update, 12:15 p.m.: This article was updated with Rosenstein’s response and other details.

This article was originally published at 11:49 a.m.

Kellyanne Conway says don’t mix #MeToo with sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh

By Associated Press

Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway says the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct should not be conflated with the assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his denial.

Conway told CNN on Friday, “Let’s not conflate the larger #MeToo movement with whatever did nor did not happen in the summer of 1982.”

Conway was a GOP political consultant for decades before working for President Trump. She says she can relate to women who say they’ve been mistreated by men and understands why it might take years to come forward with such allegations. But she says California college professor Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh tried to rape her when they were teenagers should not be lumped in with the movement that has toppled men from the pinnacles of their careers.

Conway says Ford and Kavanaugh should testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

GOP midterm strategy: Forget Trump and paint the Democrat as ‘too far left’

By Mark Z. Barabak

To hear Katie Porter tell it, she’s just your average Orange County mom, clipping coupons, shopping specials at the supermarket and puttering about with three kids in a Toyota minivan that’s pushing 120,000 miles.

But turn on the TV and you’re likely to see a more ominous portrait, etched in shades of black and gray. “Liberal Katie Porter,” the advertisement intones, in a voice aquiver with indignation. “Higher taxes. Open borders.”

Saddled with an unpopular president and getting little or no traction from a robust economy, Republicans have settled on a blunt-force strategy as they struggle to hang onto the House in November: Paint the opposition as wild-eyed and dangerous.

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GOP pushes Kavanaugh accuser to testify about sexual assault allegation, but risks a #MeToo backlash

By Jennifer Haberkorn

Republicans hardened their position and closed ranks Wednesday in the handling of sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, ramping up their rhetoric and unifying around the idea that his accuser should testify — publicly or privately — by Monday.

It’s a big political gamble. Republicans may be able to leverage their slim 51-seat Senate majority to quickly push ahead with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, despite Democrats’ objections and before any more public pressure has a chance to build.

But amid the #MeToo backlash over sexual misconduct, GOP leaders risk angering voters — particularly suburban women — if they seem to be dismissing the allegation of California professor Christine Blasey Ford or mistreating a woman who says she was a victim of attempted rape.

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Anita Hill urges senators to ‘push the pause button’ on Kavanaugh hearing and says FBI should investigate

By John Wagner | Washington Post

Anita Hill

Anita Hill

(Willy Sanjuan / Invision )

Anita Hill urged senators Wednesday to “push the pause button” on plans to hold a hearing next week on allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago. She said the FBI should be allowed to investigate, as his accuser has requested.

Hill, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 that now-Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her, said senators should avoid a “sham” proceeding.

“The American public really is expecting something more,” Hill said during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “They want to know that the Senate takes this seriously.”

Hill’s comments came a day after lawyers for Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, said she wants the FBI to investigate her allegation before she testifies at a Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Monday.

Hill, a law professor at Brandeis University, criticized what she characterized as an unnecessary rush by Republican leaders.

“Either they don’t take this seriously,” she said, “or … they just want to get it over.”

“I’m not sure which is in play,” Hill said. “Maybe they’re not concerned, or maybe they don’t know how to handle this kind of situation.”

In a statement late Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) disputed the idea that the FBI needs to investigate before Ford testifies at the committee hearing. “The invitation for Monday still stands,” he said.

“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” Grassley said. “Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”

Ford has alleged that while she and Kavanaugh were at a house party in the early 1980s, when the two were in high school, Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her to a bed, groped her and put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams as he attempted to take her clothes off.

Trump rips Sessions: ‘I don’t have an attorney general’

By Associated Press

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, shown this month in Missouri, has repeatedly explained why he had to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, shown this month in Missouri, has repeatedly explained why he had to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

President Trump is renewing his attacks on Jeff Sessions, saying, “I don’t have an attorney general.”

Trump says in a Hill.TV interview released Wednesday he’s “so sad over Jeff Sessions,” whom he has repeatedly denounced for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

The president claims in the interview that Sessions did not need to do so. But Department of Justice guidelines recommended the attorney general step away because of his own contacts with Russian officials during his time with the 2016 Trump campaign.

Trump escalated his attacks beyond the recusal, saying he’s unhappy with Sessions’ performance on several issues, including “the border.”

Trump says “we’ll see what happens” with Sessions’ future. Trump allies have suggested Sessions is safe through the midterm elections.

Sessions has said his recusal was necessary.

He has pointed to Justice Department regulations to explain that, as one of Trump’s earliest and most active supporters, he shouldn’t participate in the investigation of the Trump campaign. He announced the decision in March 2017 after controversy over his own undisclosed contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign and the post-election transition.

Last month, Trump tweeted for Sessions to “stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now.”

California professor wants FBI inquiry before testifying about sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh

By Jennifer Haberkorn

Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they both were in high school, signaled late Tuesday that she would not testify about the allegation until after the FBI investigated the matter.

A letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee from Ford’s attorneys threw into doubt plans for a high-stakes Senate hearing on Monday and capped a day in which Republicans and Democrats bitterly debated how to handle the allegation.

“An FBI investigation of the incident should be the first step in addressing her allegations,” read the letter from Ford’s attorneys, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks. “A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions.”

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Trump says he feels ‘terribly’ for Kavanaugh

By Associated Press

President Trump at the White House on Tuesday.

President Trump at the White House on Tuesday.

(Michael Reynolds /EPA/Shutterstock)

President Trump says he feels “terribly” for Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh as he faces a decades-old accusation of sexual assault. Trump says the judge “is not a man that deserves this.”

Trump made the comments Tuesday at a joint news conference with the president of Poland. He praised Kavanaugh, saying he was “at a level that we rarely see,” but said he supported a review process in the Senate.

Kavanaugh’s nomination has been threatened by a woman’s allegation that when they were both in high school, he groped her, tried to take off her clothes and held his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. He has denied the accusation.

Kavanaugh and his accuser, college professor Christine Blasey Ford, have both been asked to testify Monday, but it is not clear if Ford will appear. Democrats want the FBI to investigate and for other witnesses to be called to testify.

Trump says he feels “terribly” for Kavanaugh, his wife “and for his beautiful young daughters.”

Trump says FBI shouldn’t investigate Kavanaugh allegation

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, President Trump reiterated his support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault, and said he did not see a need to involve the FBI.

“I don’t think the FBI should be involved because they don’t want to be involved,” Trump said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill plan to hear testimony Monday from Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, but will call no other witnesses, drawing rebuke from Democrats who say more witnesses and experts are needed.

“Compare that to the 22 witnesses at the 1991 Anita Hill hearing and it’s impossible to take this process seriously,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.

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Trump on Kavanaugh: ‘We want to go through a full process … and hear everybody out’

By Noah Bierman

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is sworn in during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 4.

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is sworn in during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 4.

(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump said Monday he is open to a delay in Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, which was suddenly called into question this weekend with allegations of a sexual assault during Kavanaugh’s high school years.

“We want to go through a full process…and hear everybody out,” Trump told reporters.

“If it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay,” Trump added.

Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, alleges that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a pool party in Maryland when both were attending separate high schools.

Republicans had been hoping to hold a preliminary vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation this week. Trump, who has refrained from commenting on the allegation on Twitter, maintained his strong support for Kavanaugh during a White House event Monday.

He said the nominee “never even had a little blemish on his record” and that “I’m sure it will work out very well.” He called speculation about withdrawing the nomination “ridiculous.”

“He is somebody very special,” Trump said. “I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner.”

Kellyanne Conway says Kavanaugh’s accuser ‘should testify under oath’

By Associated Press

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says a woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school “should testify under oath and she should do it on Capitol Hill.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says a woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school “should testify under oath and she should do it on Capitol Hill.”

She says that’s up to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Conway told reporters Monday accuser Christine Blasey Ford should “not be ignored or insulted.” Conway says Kavanaugh also should testify to the allegations, noting he has already provided testimony and has undergone FBI background checks.

Ford, now a college professor, told the Washington Post that a drunken Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when they were teenagers in the 1980s and that he put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Kavanaugh has “categorically” denied the allegations.

The White House says “Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement.”

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Sen. Susan Collins, a key Supreme Court nomination vote, says Kavanaugh and his accuser should testify

Feinstein asks FBI to review letter involving Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh

By Jennifer Haberkorn

A letter reportedly alleging a decades-old incident involving Brett Kavanaugh has been referred to the FBI for review — the latest blow in the partisan and bitter battle over President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

The letter originally was given to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She declined to release it publicly, and its details remain unclear.

“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” Feinstein said in a statement. “That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

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Landmark Violence Against Women Act may expire while Congress tends to other business

By Sarah D. Wire

A landmark federal law enacted 24 years ago to govern investigations and prosecutions of violent crimes against women is set to expire at the end of this month and Congress has little time to rush to its rescue.

The House plans to be in session only four days more before the Violence Against Women Act expires after Sept. 30, and lawmakers still have to pass a complex series of funding measures to avert a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Republican leaders are aware of the political risks of letting the popular act lapse weeks before the midterm elections. AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, said negotiations are underway between the House and Senate, and she was optimistic they would reach a resolution.

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GOP’s latest tax-cut bill won’t pass, but it could roil midterms in high-tax states like California

By Jim Puzzanghera

Congressional Republicans are launching another tax-cut push this week, but it’s more about your November election ballot than your 1040 form.

And in California and other high-tax states, it could further inflame debate about the controversial new $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local tax payments that hits many residents hard.

Analysts said the legislation, which would make individual tax cuts and the deduction limit permanent, has no chance of passing the Senate this year. Republicans are pushing ahead anyway to force House Democrats — who unanimously opposed last year’s tax-cut bill — to take another tax vote ahead of the midterm elections.

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Trump states without evidence that Puerto Rico hurricane death count is plot by Democrats

By Associated Press

President Trump stated without evidence Thursday morning that a study on the death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is a plot by Democrats to make him look bad.

An estimated 2,975 people died in the six months after Hurricane Maria as a result of the storm, with the elderly and impoverished most affected, according to the independent study ordered by the U.S. territory’s government that was released Tuesday.

The findings contrast sharply with the official death toll of 64 and are about double the government’s previous interim estimate of 1,400 deaths.

Researchers with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University said the official death count from the Category 4 storm that hit on Sept. 20, 2017, was low in part because physicians were not trained on how to certify deaths after a disaster.

There was a 22% overall increase in the number of deaths from September 2017 to February 2018 compared with previous years in the same time period, according to the institute.

The study said mortality in Puerto Rico had been slowly decreasing since 2010, but spiked after the hurricane. More than half of Puerto Rico’s municipalities saw a significantly higher number of deaths in the six months after the storm compared with the previous two years, researchers said.

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It’s not just Trump — California voters can thank themselves for the state’s relevancy in this November’s midterm election

By Mark Z. Barabak

Hey, California voter, way to go! People may say you’re sun-baked, a bit too laid back and, when it comes to picking presidents, largely irrelevant.

But thanks to you, the state is sitting dead center in the November fight for control of Congress.

Sure, President Trump deserves a lot of credit for putting a half dozen or more House seats in play, fully a quarter of the number Democrats need to seize control.

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Congress races to avert government shutdown — and may actually do it

By Jennifer Haberkorn

Congress is scrambling to fund much of the federal government before the fiscal year ends, anxious to avoid an unpopular government shutdown or a bitter battle over President Trump’s demands for a border wall less than two months before the midterm elections.

Republicans and Democrats hope to complete legislation that would appropriate $1.24 trillion before the government runs out of money on Oct. 1, potentially forcing all but vital services and agencies to shut down or trim operations.

Lawmakers are expected to pass many but not all of the 12 funding bills by the end of September.

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What do a porn star, a combative lawyer and a reality-TV contestant all have in common? Trump

By Michael Finnegan

The constellation of personalities orbiting Donald Trump is unlike any known to previous presidents.

Jimmy Carter had Billy, his colorful, beer-loving brother. Bill Clinton had Roger, a sibling who chased fame as an aspiring actor and rock musician.

But the habitues of Trump’s overlapping legal and political worlds are of a whole other order. A porn star. A pair of Playboy Playmates. A lawyer and fixer with a New York swagger and wiseguy vernacular suggesting he’s seen a few too many Martin Scorsese films.

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Trump waives millions in claims against Stormy Daniels in new fallout from illegal payoff

By Michael Finnegan

President Trump has agreed to give up his right to pursue millions of dollars in damages against Stormy Daniels in a move to kill litigation over an illegal payoff to the adult-film star.

The maneuver marks a sharp reversal for Trump. His legal team sought earlier to pull Daniels into an arbitration that could have forced her to pay the president more than $20 million for breaking a nondisclosure agreement over her claim of a sexual liaison with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied the affair.

The switch in tactics, disclosed late Saturday by a Trump attorney, highlights the legal trouble faced by the president and his private business, the Trump Organization, as federal prosecutors continue to investigate the $130,000 in hush money that Daniels received 12 days before the November 2016 election.

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A decade after the financial crisis, many Americans are still struggling to recover

By Jim Puzzanghera

Edmund F. Biro working at his home in Chatsworth.

Edmund F. Biro working at his home in Chatsworth.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Edmund F. Biro still remembers how good his life was before the financial crisis that nearly destroyed the economy 10 years ago.

The software engineer was earning about $85,000 a year doing consulting work. He, his fiancee and her teenage son lived in a three-bedroom Chatsworth condo that had jumped to about $500,000 in value. And, just in case of emergencies, his bank had set him up with a home equity line of credit.

“As far as I was concerned, things were going really well,” he said, “except I wasn’t aware of all the things that could go wrong.”

There were a lot of them.

The housing market crashed. The economy fell into recession. Then the collapse of Wall Street investment bank Lehman Bros. on Sept. 15, 2008 — 10 years ago this week — plunged the nation into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Like many average Americans, Biro, now 61, is still struggling to get his life back in order.

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Obama fires up crowd of Democratic activists with campaign stump speech

By Christine Mai-Duc

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A day after delivering a long and scathing speech targeting his successor, former President Obama switched into campaign mode Saturday morning, rallying an army of die-hard Democratic activists who gathered to hear him speak in Orange County.

“We have the chance to flip the House of Representatives and make sure that we have checks and balances in Washington,” Obama said, as roars of applause filled a small room packed with hundreds of supporters and House campaign volunteers. “I cannot tell you, across the country, you can feel the energy, you can feel people saying, ‘Enough is enough!’”

As he did Friday at the University of Illinois, Obama warned against politicians who seek to exploit fear in times of uncertainty to maintain power.

“The only way we reverse that cycle of anger and division is when each of us as citizens step up and say we’re going to take it upon ourselves to do things differently, we’re going to fight for the things that we believe in,” he said as audience members yelled back his signature campaign refrain, “Yes, we can!”

Encouraging the crowd to start “taking some clipboards out … knocking on some doors,” Obama cautioned that the biggest threat to democracy is apathy and indifference.

“It’s us not doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

Obama’s speech was met with raucous applause and nostalgia-laced chants of “Four more years!” and “We love you, Obama!”

He highlighted each of the seven Democrats running in GOP-held districts in Southern California that were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“What they understood is the stakes are high in this election,” Obama said. “Fact is that if we don’t step up, things can get worse.”

Party-like atmosphere as activists wait for Obama to speak in Anaheim

By Christine Mai-Duc

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A couple of pro-Donald Trump protesters armed with bullhorns showed up outside the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday morning, but it didn’t seem to dampen spirits of Democratic activists gathered to hear former President Obama speak.

They attempted to drown out the other side’s comments with chants of “Take it back!” as they waited in a snaking line to enter the convention hall.

Inside, the celebratory mood continued as hundreds of fans gathered to wait for the former president’s speech. After a series of speakers, including a former and current Republican who say they’ve become disenchanted with the GOP and are now committed to electing Democrats to the House, the crowd started chanting again to pass the time.

After several rounds of “Take it back!” the supporters, decked out in orange, blue and white campaign T-shirts for various Democratic campaigns, borrowed an old Obama campaign trail chant: “Fired up, ready to go!”

Watch live: Former President Barack Obama speaks at Democratic campaign rally in Orange County

Michael Cohen asks Stormy Daniels to give back $130,000 in Trump hush money

(Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of President Trump, has asked porn actress Stormy Daniels to return the $130,000 payoff she received in exchange for keeping quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

A lawyer for Cohen and Essential Consultants LLC, the shell company that he used to pay Daniels, demanded the money in a letter Friday to her attorney, Michael Avenatti.

The lawyer, Brent Blakely, said Cohen would agree to void the nondisclosure agreement that he and Daniels signed just before the November 2016 presidential election.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, offered months ago to return the $130,000 if Cohen and Trump would cancel the confidentiality pact.

But Avenatti, who is exploring a run for president, said Saturday that she first wants to take the depositions of Cohen and Trump.

“This is nothing more than a stunt designed to avoid Cohen and Trump from answering questions under oath,” Avenatti said by email.

When Cohen pleaded guilty last month to eight felonies, he admitted that the payoff to Daniels was an illegal donation to Trump’s campaign. He said Trump directed him to buy her silence.

Trump has denied having the 2006 affair and said he had no advance knowledge of the payment. His lawyer, Charles Harder, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In court papers filed when Cohen pleaded guilty, federal prosecutors said the Trump Organization had already reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels.

Blakely, whose letter to Avenatti was first reported by CNN, declined to comment on whether Cohen would return any money that his company might get from Daniels to the Trump Organization.

Orange County Democrats come out to hear Obama speech

By Christine Mai-Duc

Obama supporters Lee Rice and Rossean Hunter came to hear former President Obama's speech.

Obama supporters Lee Rice and Rossean Hunter came to hear former President Obama’s speech.

(Christine Mai-Duc)

Among the hundreds of Democratic hopefuls who came to hear former President Obama give his first speech after lashing out at President Trump on Friday was a Trump supporter who came with bullhorns to protest.

“This is Orange County, this isn’t Rainbow County!” he shouted.

Obama supporters, who came out for the rally in support of California’s Democratic congressional candidates tried to drown him out, yelling, “Take it back!”

“You need to get back to the kitchen!” he retorted. “They should not even allow women to vote!”

Obama supporters Lee Rice, 73, and Rossean Hunter, 65, looked on as the two sides shouted back and forth outside the Anaheim Convention Center

Rice and Hunter, supporters of Democratic House candidate Josh Harder, drove through the night from Oakdale in the Central Valley to be here. They caught a couple hours of sleep at a motel in downtown Los Angeles.

“I think he will fire up our base,” Rice said. “Make it feel real,” Hunter added.

Obama was scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. only a day after breaking calling Republicans “radical” and accusing Trump and his allies of trading in fear and division, Obama urged young people to turn out and vote “because our democracy depends on it.”

FOR THE RECORD

Sept. 10, 10:30 a.m.: An earlier version of this post identified Rice and Hunter as supporters of President Trump. They are supporters of former President Obama.

Obama to take the stage in Anaheim after calling out Trump in scathing speech

By Christine Mai-Duc

Former President Obama speaks to students Friday at the University of Illinois.

Former President Obama speaks to students Friday at the University of Illinois.

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Former President Obama will address hundreds of supporters Saturday in Orange County, a day after he delivered a strong indictment of President Trump and House Republicans.

Obama’s stop at the Anaheim Convention Center is being billed as his first stump speech of the midterm election, and he’s expected to appear on stage with several Democrats running in California’s most competitive House races.

Doors will open at 10 a.m., with the program expected to get underway around 10:30. Obama is expected to take the stage sometime after 11:30 a.m.

It will be one of only a handful of explicitly political events he’s attended since leaving the White House.

But his speech Friday, to college students in Illinois was seen as a preview to themes he will touch on in Southern California. He made clear he doesn’t intend to sit on the sidelines in the lead-up to November’s election.

Calling Republicans “radical” and accusing Trump and his allies of trading in fear and division, Obama urged young people to turn out and vote “because our democracy depends on it.”

“I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us, as citizens of the United States, need to determine just who it is that we are, just what it is that we stand for,” Obama said, acknowledging his departure from a long-held norm of ex-presidents retiring quietly.

“Just a glance at recent headlines,” he said, “should tell you that this moment really is different.”

Some small business owners could avoid cap on state and local tax deduction after IRS clarifies new rules

By Jim Puzzanghera

Small business owners could avoid a new federal limit on state and local tax deductions after the Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday that rules it released last month to prevent efforts in California and other states to circumvent the cap apply only to individuals.

Businesses will be allowed to claim a full federal tax deduction for contributions to charities or government programs — particularly those offering school choice scholarships — that offer state tax credits, the IRS said.

The IRS’ Aug. 23 rules cracked down on that option for individual filers after some high-tax states moved to turn state and local tax payments into deductible charitable contributions so residents could avoid the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions in the Republican tax law that took effect Jan. 1.

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Trump’s first midterm pits a booming economy against one of history’s most unpopular presidents

By Mark Z. Barabak

The midterm election now just over eight weeks away is shaping up as a seismic collision between two powerful and competing forces, a rip-roaring national economy and a deeply polarizing and unpopular president.

At stake on Nov. 6 is not just control of Congress but the fate of President Trump as he faces a special counsel investigation and a series of scandals that Democrats, given the power on Capitol Hill, would eagerly exploit.

Polling and turnout in a raft of primaries and other elections suggest Democrats are highly motivated — more so than Republicans — and the party seems poised to gain strength in Washington as well as capitals across the country.

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Anonymous official cites Trump ‘amorality’ in New York Times op-ed

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Aug. 29.

President Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Aug. 29.

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

A senior administration official is sounding an alarm about President Trump’s “amorality” and “impetuous” leadership style in an unsigned opinion piece published in the New York Times.

The newspaper describes the author of the unsigned column only as “a senior official in the Trump administration.” The White House is not immediately responding to a request for comment.

The writer says Trump aides are aware of the president’s faults and “we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

The writer alleges “there were early whispers within the Cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” because of the “instability” witnessed in the president.

The writer adds: “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.”

Read the New York Times op-ed>>

Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ for Middle East peace meets resistance, throwing rollout into question

By Tracy Wilkinson

Two months ago, the long-awaited release of the Trump administration’s ambitious plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, what the president has called the “ultimate deal,” seemed imminent.

President Trump’s two top envoys to the peace process — Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and advisor, and Jason Greenblatt, a former senior Trump Organization lawyer — had prepared and begun to circulate a 40-page draft.

But the proposal hit a wall. Persian Gulf Arab states, which have courted and been courted by Trump, flatly rejected terms they saw as radical, pro-Israel and out of line with traditional U.S. policy and international law, according to officials familiar with the peace-seeking process.

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Watch live: Twitter and Facebook executives testify on Russian meddling

Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing gets off to a combative start as Democrats protest the process

By Sarah D. Wire

Democrats made clear Tuesday that the confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, will not go quickly or smoothly, though the chances of blocking his appointment in the GOP-led Senate remain slim.

The session started as confirmation hearings usually do, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) trying to introduce the nominee and his family. But almost immediately, California Sen. Kamala Harris led other Democratic members in launching an unprecedented protest for a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, repeatedly interrupting Grassley with requests to suspend or adjourn.

Grassley eventually got the hearing back on track, albeit 80 minutes late. And by the end of the day, Kavanaugh was able to be sworn in to make his opening statement, where he spoke emotionally about his family, friends, volunteer work and commitment to the law.

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Trump suggests Woodward book bombshells ‘could be just made up’

By Eli Stokols

President Trump sought to blunt the impact of a forthcoming book by longtime Washington journalist Bob Woodward, calling it possibly “made up” or the product of embittered aides, after a number of sensational excerpts emerged on Tuesday.

Among those published by the Washington Post were reports that his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, called Trump “an idiot” and “unhinged,” that Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told associates Trump acts like “a fifth- or sixth-grader,” and that the president mocked Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ Southern accent and called him “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner.”

In an interview with the conservative website the Daily Caller, Trump speculated that the revelations and harsh criticism in the book from some of his most senior aides and Cabinet officials could have come from “disgruntled employees.” Or, he said, “it could be just made up by the author.”

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10 things to watch for in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing Wednesday

By Jennifer Haberkorn

The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh started off contentiously Tuesday and will probably continue to gain steam Wednesday, with the first bout of public questioning of President Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

Democrats have at least two days — and 50 minutes each — to ask Kavanaugh about abortion, gun rights, presidential power, healthcare or whatever else they choose. Republicans will have the same time to draw out Kavanaugh’s credentials and strengths.

Here’s a look at what we’ll be watching for Wednesday:

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Large majorities of Americans want to preserve Obamacare’s consumer protections, new poll finds

By Noam N. Levey

Three-quarters of Americans want to preserve key protections in the Affordable Care Act that bar health insurers from turning away sick customers, according to a new poll that highlights the political pitfalls of current Republican efforts to roll back the safeguards.

The consumer protections are most popular with Democrats and independents, but even 58% of Republican respondents said a provision in the healthcare law prohibiting insurers from denying coverage because of person’s medical history is “very important.”

Similarly large majorities said a second provision in the law that prohibits insurers from charging sick people more money is also “very important,” the nationwide survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found.

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Former Arizona Senator Kyl expected to take vacant seat of John McCain

By Mark Z. Barabak

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey scheduled a Tuesday news conference where he was expected to appoint former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl to fill the seat of the late John McCain.

Moments before Ducey was scheduled to make his announcement, McCain’s window, Cindy, revealed Ducey’s likely choice.

The death of McCain at age 81 presented Ducey, a fellow Republican, with both an opportunity and a dilemma.

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Watch live: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing

By Los Angeles Times Staff

Follow along with live analysis and commentary from The Times’ political experts.

New Yorker drops plans to interview Stephen Bannon at festival

By Associated Press

Stephen K. Bannon

Stephen K. Bannon

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Facing widespread outrage, the New Yorker has dropped plans to interview Stephen K. Bannon during its festival next month.

New Yorker editor David Remnick told the Associated Press in a statement Monday that should he interview Bannon in the future it would be in “a more traditionally journalistic setting.” The former aide to President Trump and former Breitbart News chairman was supposed to be a featured guest during a prestigious gathering that over the years has drawn some of the world’s most prominent artists.

The announcement that Bannon would be featured had been made earlier Monday and denounced by Roxane Gay, Jessica Valenti and many others. Filmmaker Judd Apatow had tweeted he would not attend if Bannon was interviewed. Kathryn Schultz was among the New Yorker staff writers who tweeted that they had informed Remnick directly about their objections.

Trump attacks union leader on Labor Day

By Associated Press

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka appears at the National Press Club in Washington on April 4, 2017.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka appears at the National Press Club in Washington on April 4, 2017.

(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

President Trump started his Labor Day with an attack on a top union leader, lashing out after criticism from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Trump tweeted Monday that Trumka “represented his union poorly on television this weekend.” He added: “it is easy to see why unions are doing so poorly. A Dem!”

The president’s attack came after Trumka appeared on “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend, saying efforts to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement should include Canada. Trumka, whose organization is an umbrella group for most unions, said the economies of the United States, Canada and Mexico are “integrated” and “it’s pretty hard to see how that would work without having Canada in the deal.”

Trump said Saturday on Twitter that there was “no political necessity” to keep Canada in NAFTA. But it’s questionable whether Trump can unilaterally exclude Canada from a deal to replace the three-nation NAFTA agreement, without the approval of Congress. Any such move would likely face lengthy legal and congressional challenges.

Trump administration negotiations to keep Canada in the reimagined trade bloc are to resume this week as Washington and Ottawa try to break a deadlock over issues such as Canada’s dairy market and U.S. efforts to shield drug companies from generic competition.

Trump wants to get a trade deal finalized by Dec. 1.

Trumka also said of Trump: “The things that he’s done to hurt workers outpace what he’s done to help workers,” arguing that Trump has not come through with an infrastructure program and has overturned regulations that “will hurt us on the job.”

Asked about the low unemployment rate and economic growth, Trumka said “those are good, but wages have been down since the first of the year. Gas prices have been up since the first of the year. So, overall, workers aren’t doing as well.”

On Monday, Trump touted the economy, saying “Our country is doing better than ever before with unemployment setting record lows.” He added, “The Worker in America is doing better than ever before. Celebrate Labor Day!”

The unemployment rate of 3.9% is not at the best point ever — it is near the lowest in 18 years.

Watch live: Sen. John McCain eulogized by Obama and Bush at Washington National Cathedral

Under the soaring neo-Gothic arches of the National Cathedral, official Washington was set to gather Saturday to say farewell to Sen. John McCain, capping days of tributes to the war hero and two-time Republican presidential contender who died last week of brain cancer at the age of 81.

Two former presidents who prevented McCain from winning that title, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush, were to deliver eulogies to the sixth-term Arizona senator before 2,500 invited guests. Their keynote role was McCain’s idea — his final, poignant display of the bipartisanship that was his hallmark, and was celebrated at memorial services from Phoenix to the U.S. Capitol over the last three days.

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Watch live: Memorial service for Sen. John McCain as his body lies in state at Capitol

President Trump cancels pay raise due to federal workers in January

By Associated Press

President Trump has told Congress he is canceling a pay raise that most civilian federal employees were due to receive in January, citing budgetary constraints.

Trump informed House and Senate leaders in a letter sent Thursday.

Trump says in the letter that locality pay increases, which are based on the cost of living where an employee works, would cost $25 billion, on top of a 2.1% across-the-board increase for most civilian government employees.

He cites the costs and says: “We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases.” Trump says he’s determined that for 2019 “both across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero.”

Watch live: Sen. John McCain’s memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church

Trump signals he has chosen Don McGahn’s replacement for White House counsel

By Associated Press

President Trump is signaling that he knows who will succeed White House counsel Don McGahn, saying he’s “very excited” about the individual.

Trump did not announce a successor in his tweet Thursday but said: “I am very excited about the person who will be taking the place of Don McGahn as White House Councel! I liked Don, but he was NOT responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions. So much Fake Reporting and Fake News!”

Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter that McGahn will leave his post in the fall, after the expected Senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Emmet Flood — the in-house counsel handling the Trump team’s response to the Mueller’s Russia investigation — has been considered a leading candidate to replace McGahn.

Kavanaugh signals skepticism about the latest GOP lawsuit to overturn Obamacare

By Jennifer Haberkorn

If Republicans are hoping Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh will help them knock down Obamacare in the courts, they might be in for a disappointment.

Kavanaugh has signaled in private meetings with Senate Democrats that he is skeptical of some of the legal claims being asserted in the latest GOP-led effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

The lawsuit, which begins oral arguments next week in Texas, claims that because Congress last year effectively invalidated a key provision of Obamacare – the requirement that all Americans have health insurance – the entire 2010 law should be struck down.

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Florida yields a Bernie vs. Trump fight for governor; 2 congresswomen vie for Senate in Arizona

By Jenny Jarvie

Ron DeSantis, an upstart Republican riding the endorsement of President Trump, surged to win Florida’s gubernatorial primary Tuesday, setting up a starkly ideological fight with a Bernie Sanders acolyte vying to become the first black governor in state history.

The contest in the country’s preeminent battleground state — already the costliest governor’s race in the country — will pit two 39-year-old candidates, U.S. Rep. DeSantis and Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who both started the campaign as considerable long shots.

In Tuesday’s other marquee contest, the U.S. Senate race in Arizona, Rep. Martha McSally easily bested former state lawmaker Kelli Ward and ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to win the GOP nomination for the seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake.

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After criticism, Trump issues statement on John McCain ordering flag return to half-staff

By Los Angeles Times Staff

President Trump released the following statement:

Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment.

I have asked Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address at the ceremony honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday.

At the request of the McCain family, I have also authorized military transportation of Senator McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy.

Finally, I have asked General John Kelly, Secretary James Mattis, and Ambassador John Bolton to represent my Administration at his services.

In a farewell statement, Sen. John McCain praises American ideals and rebukes tribalism

Sen. John McCain in 2007.

Sen. John McCain in 2007.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Rick Davis, Sen. John McCain’s former presidential campaign manager and a family spokesman, read the following farewell statement from the Arizona Republican at a news conference in Phoenix on Monday:

“My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for 60 years, and especially my fellow Arizonans.

“Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

“I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on Earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.

“I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed, but enlarged, by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

“‘Fellow Americans’ — that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

“We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

“Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still.

“Do not despair of our present difficulties, but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

“Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.”

Former Vatican envoy accuses Pope Francis of hiding sexual abuse allegations involving disgraced U.S. cardinal

By Simon Roughneen

In a remarkable and scathing recrimination, the Vatican’s former ambassador to Washington accused Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday of knowingly hiding sexual abuse allegations involving a now-disgraced American cardinal, further convulsing a church in crisis.

The former envoy’s 11-page broadside rocked the Roman Catholic world as Francis finished a two-day visit to Ireland, where he faced demonstrations and begged forgiveness in the once-fervently Catholic country for the “scandal and betrayal” done by decades of clerical sex abuse, and an elaborate cover-up by church authorities.

In his letter, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was papal nuncio, or ambassador, in Washington from 2011 to 2016, accused Francis and Benedict of being aware of and tolerating the transgressions of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop in Washington, for years.

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White House returns flags to full-staff after John McCain’s death

By Associated Press

An American flag above the White House flies at full-staff on Monday.

An American flag above the White House flies at full-staff on Monday.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

The flags at the White House, which were lowered over the weekend to mark the death of Sen. John McCain, are back at full-staff.

The flags at the U.S. Capitol, meanwhile, remained at half-staff on Monday to honor the Arizona Republican, who died Saturday of brain cancer.

President Trump offered his condolences on Twitter to McCain’s family but did not issue a presidential proclamation with an order lowering the flags. The two had a long-running feud.

U.S. Flag Code states that flags be lowered “on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.”

After Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts died in 2009, President Obama ordered flags at the White House be flown at half-staff for five days.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to questions Monday.

Arizona race becomes a Trumpian hugfest. Will it cost the GOP a Senate seat?

By Mark Z. Barabak

When Donald Trump ran for president, he didn’t exactly wow Arizona. He carried the state with less than 50% support, though you’d never know it from Republicans vying in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary.

Kelli Ward calls Trump one of the greatest presidents of all time. Martha McSally flew cross-country for a bill signing and brief presidential shout-out, which she immediately posted on Twitter.

Joe Arpaio boasts of a relationship going back years, to the time the former Maricopa County sheriff and Trump were a tag team peddling the fiction that Barack Obama was born outside the U.S.

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When a voter told John McCain he feared an Obama presidency, McCain replied: ‘He is a decent person’

By Los Angeles Times Staff

While on the campaign trail in October 2008, John McCain — then the Republican presidential nominee — also countered a woman’s belief that Barack Obama was “an Arab,” according to footage from the Associated Press.

White House lowers flags to half-staff, former colleagues pay tribute after McCain’s passing

By Felicia Sonmez

The U.S. flag flies at half-staff in honor of Sen. John McCain at the White House on Sunday.

The U.S. flag flies at half-staff in honor of Sen. John McCain at the White House on Sunday.

(Jim Lo Scalzo /EPA/Shutterstock)

A fighter. A maverick. The conscience of the Senate.

Former colleagues of Sen. John McCain paid tribute to the Arizona Republican’s life and service to the country on Sunday, hailing him as a principled and independent voice that will be sorely missed at a time of bitter division in Washington, D.C.

The White House lowered flags to half-staff in honor of McCain, who died Saturday at the age of 81 after a battle with brain cancer.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and congressional leaders of both parties announced Sunday that McCain will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. McConnell called McCain “a great American patriot, a statesman who put his country first and enriched this institution through many years of service.”

McCain will lie in state at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, on what would have been his 82nd birthday, Gov. Doug Ducey said in a tweet.

McCain’s office has not released a full outline of his memorial services, but friends and advisors have said they expect that there will be services in Phoenix and then Washington, followed by a private burial at the cemetery on the grounds of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

In his book “The Restless Wave,” which was published in May, McCain said he would be buried close to his classmate Charles Larson, the late admiral who commanded the Pacific fleet and later served as superintendent of the Naval Academy.

Sonmez writes for the Washington Post.

Pence tweets condolences: ‘God bless John McCain’

By Associated Press

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, are offering condolences to the family of Arizona Sen. John McCain following the senator’s death.

Pence said on Twitter that “we honor his lifetime of service to this nation in our military and in public life.” Pence tweeted that McCain’s family and friends will be in their prayers, adding, “God bless John McCain.”

Pence tweeted his condolences after President Trump offered his “deepest sympathies and respect” to McCain’s family. Trump has had a strained relationship with the Republican senator since the president questioned whether McCain was a war hero.

A cascade of tributes for John McCain — and a tweet from Trump

(Mark Boster/ Los Angeles Times)

The death of Sen. John McCain brought an outpouring of tributes from Washington. Even the senator’s most bitter political rivals weighed in with gratitude for his service, straight talk and decency.

President Trump, who rarely missed an opportunity to try to tear down the Arizona Republican when he was alive – mocking McCain even for his time as a prisoner of war – offered a respectful note of condolence, as did the first lady. The Trump Twitter messages followed a report in the Washington Post that President Trump had purposefully avoided sending any public well wishes to McCain in his final days, as the bitterness between the two men endured.

Before the Trumps posted their message, President Obama – who ran against McCain in the 2008 election – had posted his tribute.

Others posted their own personal remembrances, detailing how the senator inspired and motivated them. Among those was McCain’s campaign manager Steve Schmidt, who in June quit a Republican Party he called “corrupt” and “immoral” under Trump.

McCain’s death came at a time one of his closest allies in the Senate, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, has aligned with Trump in ways it is hard to imagine McCain ever would, with Graham bolstering the president’s attacks on the special counsel investigation. But the bond of the two men remained strong until the end.

“I’ve lost one of my dearest friends and mentor,” Graham wrote on Twitter.

Democrats offered their own fond memories of a man they tangled with often, but also formed an enduring bond with.

“As you go through life, you meet few truly great people,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer wrote on Twitter. “John McCain was one of them. His dedication to his country and the military were unsurpassed, and maybe most of all, he was a truth teller – never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare.”

Some Democrats could not resist contrasting their respect for McCain with their distaste for Trump. Among them was author Stephen King.

Trump lashes out at Sessions and hints his days as attorney general are numbered

By Don Lee

President Trump has been warring with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, since Sessions recused himself from the FBI investigation into Russian election-meddling, which has led to the mounting legal problems for Trump and his associates as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III investigates potential collusion.

Now, in the wake of this week’s guilty plea from Trump’s one-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen, the tax fraud conviction of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and news that the Trump organization’s longtime chief financial officer may be cooperating with prosecutors, the president is stepping up his attacks against Sessions and appears to be laying the groundwork to fire the nation’s top law enforcement official.

In tweets Saturday morning, Trump again sought to distance himself from the Cohen case and implications that he did anything wrong, and he wrote: “Jeff Sessions said he wouldn’t allow politics to influence him only because he doesn’t understand what is happening underneath his command position. Highly conflicted Bob Mueller and his gang of 17 Angry Dems are having a field day as real corruption goes untouched. No Collusion!”

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Rohrabacher says Sessions should resign if he won’t bend to Trump’s will

By Michael Finnegan

Dana Rohrabacher, the embattled Orange County congressman known for his close ties to the Kremlin, said Friday that Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions should resign after showing disloyalty to President Trump by refusing to shut down the Russia investigation.

For a Republican incumbent already in danger of losing his seat in a district that favored Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, the remarks carried the risk of serious political damage.

In most of the nation’s hotly contested House races, the Russia scandal has not been a big focus. But Rohrabacher’s friendly posture toward Russian President Vladimir Putin has caused trouble in his run for reelection.

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Why Democrats are talking more about missing Kavanaugh documents than abortion in the Supreme Court battle

By Sarah D. Wire

Senate Democrats’ strategy for defeating President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court has so far largely relied on getting the American public to care about a procedural fight over millions of pages of archived documents.

It’s a surprising, somewhat arcane topic to zero in on, particularly given the more high-profile issues many predicted would dominate the fight over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, including abortion, the Affordable Care Act, immigration, executive power and whether a president is subject to a subpoena.

But to the consternation of some Democratic activists, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and ranking Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have focused much of their public attention to date on a paperwork battle over how much of Kavanaugh’s extensive, archived White House records will be made available for senators to review.

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Sen. John McCain has stopped receiving treatment for brain cancer

By Sarah D. Wire

Sen. John McCain in 2017.

Sen. John McCain in 2017.

(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is suspending treatment for brain cancer. He is 81. Here is a statement from his family.

“Last summer, Senator John McCain shared with Americans the news our family already knew: he had been diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma, and the prognosis was serious. In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment. Our family is immensely grateful for the support and kindness of all his caregivers over the last year, and for the continuing outpouring of concern and affection from John’s many friends and associates, and the many thousands of people who are keeping him in their prayers. God bless and thank you all.”

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IRS moves to block California and other states from helping residents avoid new tax-deduction limit

By Jim Puzzanghera

The Trump administration has delivered another blow to California.

The Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department on Thursday moved to block efforts by lawmakers in California and other Democratic-controlled states to help their residents avoid a new limit on state and local tax deductions.

The proposed rule, which is likely to face legal challenges, targets legislation in those states that would allow taxpayers to claim a charitable deduction for state and local tax payments above the $10,000 limit set in the tax cuts passed by Congress last year.

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Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions says his department won’t be ‘improperly influenced by political considerations’

By Associated Press

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions says his Justice Department won’t be “improperly influenced by political considerations.”

His comments — in a statement Thursday — seem to push back against the latest round of criticism by his boss, President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly railed against the department and the FBI.

Trump told “Fox & Friends” in an interview that aired earlier Thursday that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department and it’s a sort of an incredible thing.”

The president was angered when Sessions stepped aside from overseeing the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump has called the special counsel’s probe a “witch hunt.”

Sessions says there’s no other nation with more talented and dedicated law enforcement investigators and prosecutors. Sessions says he’s “proud of the work we have done in successfully advancing the rule of law.”

Read the full statement:

DNC says suspected hack attempt turned out to be a security test

By Ellen Nakashima

What the Democratic National Committee this week thought was an attempted hack of its valuable voter file turned out to be a security test organized by a state party, unbeknownst to the national organization.

The committee on Tuesday alerted the FBI to a fake online portal it thought had been set up as an elaborate attempt to trick DNC staff into giving up their log-in credentials — through a hacker technique known as “phishing” — as a way to gain access to the party’s VoteBuilder database.

On Thursday morning, DNC Chief Security Officer Bob Lord reversed course. “We, along with the partners who reported the [fake] site, now believe it was built by a third party as part of a simulated phishing test on VoteBuilder,” he said in a statement.

“The test, which mimicked several attributes of actual attacks on the Democratic Party’s voter file, was not authorized by the DNC, VoteBuilder nor any of our vendors,” he said.

“The party took the necessary precautions to ensure that sensitive data critical to candidates and state parties across the country was not compromised,” Lord added. “There are constant attempts to hack the DNC and our Democratic infrastructure, and while we are extremely relieved that this wasn’t an attempted intrusion by a foreign adversary, this incident is further proof that we need to continue to be vigilant in light of potential attacks.”

8:14 a.m.: This article was updated with Bob Lord’s statement.

This article was originally published at 6:26 a.m.

Ellen Nakashima writes for the Washington Post.

Senate committee narrowly confirms Kathy Kraninger to head CFPB

By Jim Puzzanghera

Kathy Kraninger is a step closer to becoming the nation’s top consumer financial watchdog: A Senate committee on Thursday narrowly approved the White House aide’s nomination to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau despite strenuous objections from Democrats that she’s not qualified for the job.

Opponents of President Trump’s nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said that she has no experience in consumer protection, financial regulation or the banking industry and questioned her involvement overseeing the budgets of agencies that developed and implemented the child-separation policy at the border and the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Democrats complained that Kraninger would not detail her role in those policies during her confirmation hearing or in written questions.

“She is refusing to describe her role in two very public management failures because she knows it would destroy her case for her nomination,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

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Rep. Duncan Hunter’s indictment opens door for Democrats in Trump country

By Michael Finnegan

Republican Dale Weidenthaler shook his head in disgust Wednesday when the conversation turned to Rep. Duncan Hunter.

The retired police officer has long distrusted the GOP congressman but voted for him anyway. Now that Hunter has been indicted on campaign corruption charges, Weidenthaler, 61, expects to skip the House race rather than vote for his Democratic rival.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and there’s just too much smoke,” said Weidenthaler, who was sipping a Red Bull on a morning visit to a Temecula grocery store.

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Conservative media, even on a dismal news day for Trump, stand by their man

By Kurtis Lee

They stood at his side as he questioned the citizenship of the nation’s first black president, when audio captured him boasting about grabbing women’s genitals and after a pair of chummy summits with dictators.

For President Trump, his core backers are an unflappable network of support.

On Wednesday, a day after his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to fraud and campaign finance crimes and admitted he illegally paid off two women who had threatened to expose sexual affairs with Trump — at Trump’s direction, he alleged — right-wing news outlets and pundits had a similar reaction: silence.

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New York state subpoenas Cohen in Trump Foundation probe

By Associated Press

Michael Cohen exits federal court in New York City on Tuesday.

Michael Cohen exits federal court in New York City on Tuesday.

(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Investigators in New York state have issued a subpoena to Michael Cohen as part of their criminal probe into the Trump Foundation.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax department confirmed the subpoena to the Associated Press on Wednesday.

The subpoena was issued after Cohen’s attorney said the longtime lawyer for President Trump has information that would be of interest to prosecutors at both the state and federal levels.

As a close Trump confidant, Cohen could potentially be a significant source of information for state investigators looking into whether Trump or his charity broke state laws or lied about their tax liability.

Anyone charged with a state crime could not be pardoned by the president.

Messages left with attorneys for Cohen and Trump were not immediately returned Wednesday.

New York state attorneys want to talk to Cohen about Trump’s foundation

Michael Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, has said in recent media interviews that his client may have information about the Trump Foundation that New York officials would be interested in hearing.

White House press secretary: Trump ‘did nothing wrong’ regarding hush money to women during 2016 campaign

By Eli Stokols

A day after his former attorney Michael Cohen implicated President Trump in campaign finance violations for payoffs to women alleging affairs with him, the president’s spokeswoman insisted that “he did nothing wrong.”

“There are no charges against him,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added during a briefing Wednesday.

She repeated those two lines multiple times amid repeated questions from reporters, adding that there “is no collusion.”

Sanders also pushed back against suggestions that the president had lied about not knowing about the preelection payments to the two women. “That’s a ridiculous accusation,” she said.

On Tuesday, Cohen admitted, while pleading guilty to eight charges in a Manhattan federal courtroom, that when he illegally paid off two women who had threatened to expose sexual affairs with Trump in the fall of 2016, he did so “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” — that is, Trump. Cohen added that he acted “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president, which was then just weeks away.

Trump told reporters in April that he had no knowledge of the $130,000 payment to the porn star known as Stormy Daniels. Yet he can be heard discussing the payment on a tape released by Cohen earlier this year. The second payment at issue was to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model.

On Wednesday, Trump told a Fox News Channel reporter that he eventually learned of the payments, and he mistakenly argued that the payment wasn’t criminal because campaign funds were not used.

Sanders says no discussion of a pardon for Manafort

Watch live: Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds news briefing after Trump’s first comments on Cohen and Manafort

Trump now facing legal assault on two fronts as prosecutors in New York and Washington take aim

By David Willman

After 19 tumultuous months in office, President Trump is being squeezed by legal assaults on two fronts, each of which could imperil his White House tenure.

How those cases intersect is at the heart of the high-stakes legal threat, and the answer may rely on one man — Michael Cohen, who was Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and confidante in New York.

A day after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges and directly implicated Trump in campaign finance law violations, his lawyer raised the stakes Wednesday by hinting that Cohen will talk with prosecutors about Trump’s knowledge of Russian hacking of Democratic party computers during the 2016 campaign.

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Fox News releases excerpt from new Trump interview

Democratic National Committee says hackers unsuccessfully targeted voter database

By Ellen Nakashima

Signs direct voters outside the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters on Oct. 24, 2016, in San Jose.

Signs direct voters outside the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters on Oct. 24, 2016, in San Jose.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Democratic National Committee alerted the FBI on Tuesday to an attempted hack of its voter database — two years after Russian spies compromised its computers and released thousands of emails online, throwing the party into disarray in the midst of the presidential election.

The latest effort failed, DNC officials said.

But it showed that adversaries are still determined to try to interfere in the election process, despite warnings from senior government officials, they said.

“This attempt is further proof that there are constant threats as we head into midterm elections and we must remain vigilant in order to prevent future attacks,” DNC Chief Security Officer Bob Lord said. “While it’s clear that the actors were going after the party’s most sensitive information — the voter file — the DNC was able to prevent a hack by working with the cyber ecosystem to identify it and take steps to stop it.”

Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg write for the Washington Post.

Conservative scholar suggests Trump reflect on his oath of office after Manafort tweet

President Trump’s Wednesday morning tweet praising Paul Manafort for refusing to “break” under pressure from federal prosecutors brought criticism, and not just from the left.

Adam White is a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution and also is the director of the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School.

Reactions to the Paul Manafort guilty verdicts

A federal jury convicted Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman for Donald Trump, of eight charges Tuesday, drawing reactions from across the political landscape.

“It’s a witch hunt. It’s a disgrace.”

MORE: Trump responds to Manafort guilty verdicts »

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Manafort convictions show Mueller’s probe is no ‘witch hunt.’ But Cohen’s plea is what Trump should fear

By The Times Editorial Board

In finding former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort guilty of serious financial crimes, a federal jury on Tuesday not only ratified much of the case offered by prosecutors in a complicated trial; it also made it harder for President Trump to discredit the larger investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. This was no “witch hunt.”

After being presented with voluminous evidence and testimony about the tens of millions of dollars Manafort made working for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and his efforts to conceal his income from the U.S. government, the jury convicted the veteran political consultant of five counts of filing false tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.

That the jury failed to reach a verdict on 10 other counts, causing the judge to declare a mistrial on those charges, is undeniably a disappointment for the prosecution. But it doesn’t alter the seriousness of the crimes of which Manafort was found guilty. If anything, it shows that the jurors approached their responsibility with care and deliberation.

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Cohen and Manafort are guilty. And Trump faces a reckoning

By Eli Stokols

In nearly simultaneous proceedings in two courtrooms 240 miles apart Tuesday, all eyes turned to the man who wasn’t there.

President Trump’s name was not mentioned directly in either court, but his presence was inescapable, and the day’s head-snapping events seemed certain to mark a milestone in an already tumultuous presidency.

On a single day, indeed within a single hour, Trump’s former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, and his former campaign chairman became a convicted felon.

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Democrats say Trump’s legal problems justify postponing Supreme Court confirmation

By Sarah D. Wire

On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said the nomination of Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh should be put on hold because justices might be asked to hear a case involving Trump, including whether the president is subject to a subpoena.

“At the very least, the very least, it is unseemly for the president of the United States to be picking a Supreme Court Justice who could soon be, effectively, a juror in a case involving the president himself. In light of these facts, I believe Chairman [Chuck] Grassley has scheduled the hearing for Judge Kavanaugh too soon, and I’m calling on him to delay the hearing,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

But Republicans show no sign of slowing down. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) pointed out that Justice Stephen Breyer was approved overwhelmingly in the 1990s during the Whitewater investigation.

“You have to take a look at Judge Kavanaugh’s record on the bench. We’re judging based on that. I don’t see necessarily how his being nominated, if you take look at his jurisprudence, would have anything to do with that matter,” Tillis said.

Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis says his client doesn’t want to be ‘dirtied’ by a presidential pardon

By Isaac Stanley-Becker

Lanny Davis, a lawyer for President Trump’s former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, said Wednesday that Trump’s alleged direction of hush payments to two women amounts to impeachable offenses and that Cohen has no interest in being “dirtied” by a presidential pardon of his crimes.

Davis’ comments came during a whirlwind media tour the morning after Cohen admitted in federal court in Manhattan that he violated campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women at what he said was Trump’s behest.

In a string of radio and television interviews — including two that aired simultaneously on TV — Davis delivered an array of stinging assessments of Trump that served to further distance Cohen from a president for whom he once said he would take a bullet.

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Cohen has ‘knowledge’ of Russia campaign conspiracy, lawyer says

By Terrence Dopp

President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has “knowledge” about computer hacking and collusion that may interest Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Cohen’s lawyer said.

One day after Cohen pleaded guilty to illegal campaign finance charges over hush money paid to a porn actress and a former Playboy model — all but naming Trump as having ordered him to do it — Cohen’s lawyer said Wednesday he would be happy to share the information with the special counsel or Congress.

“It’s my observation that Mr. Cohen has knowledge that would be of interest to the special counsel about the issue of whether Donald Trump, ahead of time, knew about the hacking of emails, which is a computer crime,” attorney Lanny Davis told CNN in an interview Wednesday.

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Here’s Trump first response to Cohen’s guilty plea, which implicated the president

San Diego County Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife are indicted on campaign finance violations

By Christine Mai-Duc

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) and his wife, Margaret, were indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges they used $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use and filed false campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission to mask their actions.

The 48-page indictment details lavish spending from 2009 to 2016, including family vacations to Italy and Hawaii, home utilities, school tuition for their children, video games and even dental work. The San Diego Union-Tribune first identified the improper spending, triggering a federal investigation by the Justice Department.

To conceal the personal expenditures, family dental bills were listed as a charitable contribution to “Smiles for Life,” the government alleges. Tickets for the family to see Riverdance at the San Diego Civic Theatre became “San Diego Civic Center for Republican Women Federated/Fundraising,” according to the indictment. Clothing purchases at a golf course were falsely reported as golf “balls for the wounded warriors.” SeaWorld tickets worth more $250 were called an “educational tour.”

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Brett Kavanaugh tells Sen. Susan Collins that Roe vs. Wade is ‘settled law.’ Does that mean she’ll confirm him?

By Sarah D. Wire

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, has told Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that he considers the landmark abortion ruling Roe vs. Wade to be settled law, the moderate Republican senator said after meeting with him Tuesday.

But the exchange may reveal less about how Kavanaugh could rule on the issue of abortion than it does about how Collins might vote on his confirmation.

“We talked about whether he considers Roe to be settled law,” Collins said. “He said that he agreed with what [Chief] Justice [John G.] Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said that it was settled law.”

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Trump responds to Manafort guilty verdicts: ‘It’s a disgrace’

It’s a very sad thing that happened. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. … It’s a witch hunt. It’s a disgrace. I feel very badly for Paul Manafort.

President Trump

Michael Cohen says he paid hush money to Stormy Daniels in coordination with Trump to influence election

By Associated Press

Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud stemming from hush-money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The 51-year-old Cohen said in federal court in New York on Tuesday that he made the payments in coordination with Trump, who wasn’t named, to influence the election. Both women claimed Trump had affairs with them, which he denies.

The other charges Cohen pleaded guilty to involve bank fraud and income tax evasion.

As part of his plea agreement, Cohen agreed not to challenge any sentence from 46 to 63 months.

Cohen’s plea follows months of federal scrutiny and a falling out with the president, whom he previously said he’d “take a bullet” for.

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Sen. Mark Warner: ‘This verdict makes it absolutely clear that the Mueller probe is not a “witch hunt” ’

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) at a hearing in July.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) at a hearing in July.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) is the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He released this statement about the guilty verdict on eight counts in the trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager:

“This verdict makes it absolutely clear that the Mueller probe is not a ‘witch hunt’ — it is a serious investigation that is rooting out corruption and Russian influence on our political system at the highest levels. The President’s campaign manager was just convicted of serious federal crimes by a jury of his peers, despite the President’s continued attempts to undermine the investigation which has brought Mr. Manafort to justice. Any attempt by the President to pardon Mr. Manafort or interfere in the investigation into his campaign would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress.”

“Any attempt by the President to pardon Mr. Manafort … would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress.”

Sen. Warner

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Manafort found guilty on 8 counts in fraud case

By Los Angeles Times Staff

Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort.

(AFP-Getty Images)

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, was found guilty today on eight counts in the bank and tax fraud case against him. The jury remained undecided on the remaining 10 counts.

The verdicts come after prosecutors laid out what they said was Manafort’s scheme to illegally hide tens of millions of dollars he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine. They said he also committed fraud to obtain millions more in bank loans and mortgages. Manafort did not testify in his own defense.

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Jury in Paul Manafort trial asks a question: What if we can’t agree on one count?

By Associated Press

The jury in the financial fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort asked the judge Tuesday what it should do if it cannot reach a consensus for a single count in the case.

Jurors posed the question to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III on their fourth day of deliberations, asking how they should fill in the verdict form if they are unable to agree on one of the charges.

The jury in Alexandria, Va., is weighing 18 counts against Manafort, who is accused of hiding millions of dollars in foreign income from Ukraine and of lying on loan applications to maintain a lavish lifestyle.

Manafort’s attorneys called no witnesses in his defense, arguing prosecutors failed to meet their burden of proof.

The question was the first word from the jury since Thursday when they asked for clarity in several areas, including for a definition of the legal concept of reasonable doubt.

In response to Tuesday’s question, the judge said he would not yet ask the jurors where they stood on the indictment.

The trial is the first courtroom test of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, though the case doesn’t involve allegations of Russian election interference.

Trump administration rewrites coal emissions rules in a boon for heavily polluting facilities

By staff and wire

The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyo., in July.

The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyo., in July.

(J. David Ake / Associated Press)

The Trump administration on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping rewrite of emissions rules for power plants in a boon to the coal industry, laying the groundwork for a revival of the most polluting facilities and abandoning Obama-era mandates for reorienting the electricity sector toward clean energy.

The Environmental Protection Agency called the regulations on coal power plants “overly prescriptive and burdensome.”

The replacement for the federal Clean Power Plan reflects a dramatic about-face on national climate action. It is President Trump’s second major move in less than a month reflecting a retreat in the fight against global warming, following the administration’s plan to freeze fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks.

The new power plan will relieve the electricity industry — the second-largest producer of potent greenhouse gases nationwide — from aggressive goals for reducing its carbon footprint. Heavily polluting coal plants that would have been forced into retirement under the Obama-era guidelines get a new lease on life under the Trump blueprint, which allows them to continue operating with modest modification.

In some cases, states may be permitted to ignore federal guidelines for certain plants altogether and pursue their own strategy. Trump is expected to tout the plan at an event Tuesday in the coal stronghold of West Virginia.

The Natural Resources Defense Council called the replacement proposal Trump’s “Dirty Power Plan.”

Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey cited this summer’s wildfires and increasing droughts and coastal flooding as evidence that man-made climate change from burning coal and other fossil fuels is already well upon the United States. “Once again, this administration is choosing polluters’ profits over public health and safety,” he said.

Scientists say that without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to climate change but that it is responsible for increased intensity and frequency of extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and wildfires.

In a statement, Republican Sen. John Barrasso from the coal state of Wyoming welcomed the overhaul of the 2015 regulations.

Climate-conscious states like California already are mobilizing to fight, arguing the administration’s approach violates the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the law requires the federal government to take steps to combat air pollutants that are warming the global climate.

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Trump notes border agent’s ‘perfect English’ at tribute for immigration officials

By Associated Press

President Trump greets Border Patrol Agent Adrian Anzaldua.

President Trump greets Border Patrol Agent Adrian Anzaldua.

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

President Trump invited a U.S. Border Patrol agent to the podium during a White House event to pay tribute to federal immigration officials and joked that the agent could speak “perfect English.”

Trump asked the agent, Adrian Anzaldua, to discuss his apprehension of a smuggler accused of locking 78 migrants inside a truck near Laredo, Texas, about a week ago.

Trump also appeared to refer to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, as CBC during Monday’s event. CBC stands for Congressional Black Caucus, among other things.

Trump says immigration agents are doing important, necessary work. He criticized Democrats who have called for the elimination of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He said: “Most importantly, let me extend my gratitude to every law enforcement professional representing ICE and CBC.”

Watch live: President Trump commends ICE and border patrol

Donald Trump redefined what’s possible in presidential politics. Enter Michael Avenatti

By Michael Finnegan

The hamburgers and hot dogs were all consumed by the time Michael Avenatti arrived and delivered what the Donald Trump-loathing crowd was hungering to hear.

“When you are the party of Davids, you cannot afford to show up without a slingshot,” he told several hundred picnickers on a pleasantly breezy Sunday in rural southwestern New Hampshire.

“I believe we cannot be the party of turning the other cheek,” Avenatti went on, pointedly differing with those — including, most prominently, former First Lady Michelle Obama — who counsel grace in the face of enmity. “I say when they go low, we hit harder.”

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Manafort jury sent home for the weekend

By Associated Press

Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chief.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chief.

(Mandel Ngan /AFP-Getty Images)

The jury in the fraud trial of Paul Manafort, President’s Trump former campaign chairman, has been sent home for the weekend after concluding a second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.

Federal Judge T.S. Ellis III sent jurors home around 5 p.m. Friday. That was about a half-hour earlier than normal, at the request of a juror who had an unspecified event to attend.

The Alexandria, Va., jury is weighing hundreds of pieces of evidence and an 18-count indictment accusing Manafort of tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. Prosecutors say Manafort hid from the IRS tens of millions of dollars he earned advising Ukrainian politicians. When the Ukrainian money dried up, prosecutors say he lied to obtain millions in bank loans to maintain his lifestyle.

The defense says prosecutors failed to prove their case.

Trump expects to revoke security clearance of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks to the media outside the White House before departing for New York on Aug. 17.

President Trump speaks to the media outside the White House before departing for New York on Aug. 17.

(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

President Trump said Friday he expects to “quickly” revoke the security clearance of the Justice Department official whose wife worked for the firm involved in producing the dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia.

Trump said the official, Bruce Ohr, is a “disgrace.”

Asked about Ohr’s security clearance, Trump said: “I suspect I’ll be taking it away very quickly. For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace.”

Ohr has come under Republican scrutiny for his contacts to Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS. The opposition research firm hired former British spy Christopher Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign to compile the dossier.

Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS during the campaign — something Trump has tweeted about to highlight his assertions of political bias behind the Russia investigation.

Online trolls are using immigration as a wedge issue for November elections

By Jazmine Ulloa

Clad in military jackets, with bandannas hiding their faces, Eddie Alvarez and other members of the Brown Berets clashed with other protesters in Murrieta in July 2014.

On one side, more than 200 anti-immigration activists waving American flags stopped buses carrying 140 migrant women and children to a nearby Border Patrol center in Riverside County. On the other side, Alvarez and several dozen other counter-protesters rushed out to defend the detainees.

“We knew they might not understand English, but they understood the hate,” Alvarez recalled recently.

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$92 million is new estimate for Trump military parade

By Associated Press

Military units participate in the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017.

Military units participate in the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017.

(Cliff Owen / Associated Press)

A U.S. official says the Veterans Day military parade ordered by President Trump would cost about $92 million — more than three times the maximum initial estimate.

The official — who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans that haven’t been released yet — says about $50 million would cover Pentagon costs for equipment, personnel and other support for the November parade in Washington. The remainder would be borne by other agencies and would include security costs.

Details are not final and haven’t been approved by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

The White House budget office earlier estimated to Congress the parade would cost between $10 million and $30 million.

Trump decided he wanted the parade after he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris last year.

Brennan scorns Trump for ‘hogwash’ in denying Russian collusion

By Terrence Dopp

Former CIA Director John Brennan.

Former CIA Director John Brennan.

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan said President Trump’s claims that no one in his campaign colluded with Russians during the 2016 election are “hogwash” and decried the “politically motivated” decision by Trump to remove his security clearance.

Writing an op-ed in the New York Times on Thursday morning, Brennan listed contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign during the presidential race against Hillary Clinton and chastised Trump for his July 2016 challenge to Russian hackers to dig up his opponent’s missing emails.

“Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash,” Brennan wrote.

“Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him,” Brennan said.

In making the decision Wednesday to curtail Brennan’s access to the most sensitive information, Trump accused him of “erratic conduct and behavior.” Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA before leading it from 2013 to 2017 under President Obama, has been a vocal critic of Trump.

Trump made a direct connection between Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and his decision to pull Brennan’s security clearance and review the clearances of other Obama-era officials, according to an interview the president gave to the Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, Brennan retweeted a Trump tweet attacking his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman and added his own commentary: “It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation.”

He also criticized Trump on MSNBC later Tuesday, calling him “dangerous to our nation.”

In the op-ed, Brennan wrote, “The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of ‘Trump Incorporated’ attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets.”

Trump released a statement Wednesday outlining why he took the step, which was dated July 26 and cited “a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the internet and television — about this Administration.”

“Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the Nation’s most closely held secrets and facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos,” Trump said in the statement.

Terrence Dopp writes for Bloomberg News.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders made a false claim about black employment. She’s issued a rare apology

By Jim Puzzanghera

President Trump and administration officials frequently overstate the strength of the labor market and their role in it, but now, a top White House official has admitted she went too far with the latest claim about black employment.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has issued a rare public apology for saying at Tuesday’s press briefing that Trump already had created three times more jobs for blacks than former President Obama did during his entire eight-year term.

It’s not true. Not even close.

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Hackers targeted Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, report says

By Mark Z. Barabak

Hans Keirstead, who finished third in the 48th Congressional District primary, was reportedly targeted by unknown cyberattackers

Hans Keirstead, who finished third in the 48th Congressional District primary, was reportedly targeted by unknown cyberattackers

(Mark Boster)

The FBI has reportedly investigated a series of cyberattacks against a former Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), one of the most vulnerable Republicans seeking reelection in November due in part to his pro-Russia statements.

Rolling Stone reported Wednesday that unknown hackers successfully targeted Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell scientist who finished third in the 48th Congressional District primary in June, just behind fellow Democrat Harley Rouda.

Kyle Quinn-Quesada, Keirstead’s former campaign manager, told Rolling Stone he did not believe the cyberattacks affected the outcome of the primary and it was unclear who was behind the spying effort.

However, the reported infiltration coincides with evidence that Russians have continued to meddle in U.S. politics after intervening in support of President Trump’s campaign in 2016. Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Claire McCaskill of Missouri both said their congressional offices were targeted by Russian hackers. Last week, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson claimed Russian hackers had also compromised voting systems in his home state of Florida.

Rohrabacher, who has represented coastal Orange County for nearly three decades, has drawn criticism from members of both parties for his pro-Russian sympathies. He received just 30% support in the June 5 primary and Democrats, who need 23 seats to gain control of the House, have made Rohrabacher a top target.

A spokesman for Rohrabacher declined to comment.

Trump is revoking former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance

By Associated Press

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders announces that President Trump is revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, who served in the Obama administration. 

President Trump is revoking the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who served in the Obama administration.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the decision at a briefing Wednesday. The president had recently threatened to revoke the clearance for Brennan, an outspoken Trump critic.

Sanders claimed that the CIA veteran “leveraged his status” to make unfounded allegations.

Brennan has been deeply critical of Trump’s conduct, calling his performance at a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland “nothing short of treasonous.”

And in an appearance Tuesday night on MSNBC, he called Trump “the most divisive president we have ever had in the Oval Office.”

Sanders said other former intelligence officials’ security clearances are also “currently under review.”

She said in July that the president was considering revoking the clearances of at least half a dozen other former national security officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former FBI Director James B. Comey, all of whom have criticized Trump.

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Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer concedes GOP primary to Kris Kobach, a staunch Trump ally

By Kurtis Lee

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has ended his campaign to keep his job, conceding the Republican primary to Kris Kobach, whose forceful condemnations of illegal immigration over the years have catapulted him to the national stage and won him the admiration of President Trump.

“The numbers are just not there,” Colyer said in a news conference Tuesday, after the latest tally of provisional and mail-in ballots increased Kobach’s lead to nearly 300 votes in the election held last week. More than 313,000 votes were cast.

Kobach’s win is sure to set up a battle this fall in which national Democrats pour millions of dollars into the state in an effort to defeat one of the Trump’s closest allies. Kansas is staunchly Republican and hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 2006. But some political analysts believe that Kobach’s win could turn off moderates and drive more Democrats to the polls.

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Is Trump finally ready to turn his sights to remaking the 9th Circuit Court?

By Sarah D. Wire

There’s been a noticeable exception to President Trump’s otherwise successful effort to appoint young, conservative judges to the nation’s appellate courts.

The Senate has confirmed a record 24 new circuit court judges nationwide in 20 months — with two more nominees scheduled for votes this week. But Trump has made far less progress in the jurisdiction he criticizes the most: the liberal-leaning U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, including California and eight other Western states.

Since Trump took office, the Senate has confirmed only one 9th Circuit judge — in Hawaii — leaving seven openings. A nominee in Oregon was abruptly withdrawn last month when it became clear he lacked the votes for Senate approval.

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Trump campaign raises the stakes in Omarosa fight, files for arbitration

By Associated Press

President Trump flanked by Omarosa Manigault Newman and Ben Carson at the White House on Feb. 1, 2017.

President Trump flanked by Omarosa Manigault Newman and Ben Carson at the White House on Feb. 1, 2017.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump’s campaign is filing an arbitration action against former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman alleging breach of a secrecy agreement.

A campaign aide told the Associated Press that the claim was being filed with the America Arbitration Assn. in New York, alleging that Marigault Newman’s explosive new book and media tour breached her 2016 confidentiality agreement with the campaign.

Manigault Newman has acknowledged signing a confidentiality agreement with the campaign in 2016. She wrote in her book that after being fired from the White House in December 2017 she was offered a $15,000 per month position with the Trump reelection effort in exchange for signing a new confidentiality agreement. She says she declined that offer.

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Trump signs defense bill named for McCain but doesn’t mention him

By Associated Press

President Trump signs the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act at Ft. Drum, N.Y., on Aug. 13.

President Trump signs the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act at Ft. Drum, N.Y., on Aug. 13.

(Hans Pennink / Associated Press)

President Trump on Monday signed a $716-billion defense policy bill named for Sen. John McCain after delivering remarks that failed to mention the ailing lawmaker.

The measure Trump signed at New York’s Ft. Drum will boost military pay by 2.6%, the largest hike in nine years.

The bill also weakens a bid to clamp down on Chinese telecom company ZTE and allows Trump to waive sanctions against countries that bought Russian weapons and now want to buy U.S. military equipment. The bill provides no money for Trump’s requested Space Force but authorizes the military parade he wants in Washington in November.

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Trump encourages Harley-Davidson boycott amid steel tariff dispute

By Associated Press

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

President Trump is backing calls for a Harley-Davidson boycott amid an ongoing steel tariff dispute.

Harley-Davidson drew Trump’s wrath in June after the manufacturer announced that it is moving production of motorcycles sold in Europe to facilities outside the U.S. The company blames the decision on tariffs imposed by the European Union to retaliate for tariffs Trump imposed on a host of EU products.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that “many” Harley-Davidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas.

That followed Trump’s meeting on Saturday with about 180 bikers who are part of a “Bikers for Trump” fan group at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J.

Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson declined to comment. In July, Harley-Davidson said it expects new tariffs to cost the company as much as $100 million annually.

The comment from Trump comes just three months before the November election and just ahead of Tuesday’s primary in Wisconsin.

In a statement released Monday, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker said, “I want Harley Davidson to prosper here in the state of Wisconsin. And one of the best ways for that to happen is to do what the president has called for and that is to get to no tariffs.”

Ahead of new book, President Trump bashes ‘wacky Omarosa’ over Twitter

Trump hits Turkey with tariffs after talks to free U.S. minister deadlock

By Don Lee

Following an impasse in high-level negotiations to free an America preacher detained in Turkey, President Trump on Friday said he had ordered heavy tariffs on Ankara’s export of steel and aluminum to the United States, a punitive move that deepened a growing political and economic rift with the NATO ally.

In a tweet, Trump said he had “just authorized a doubling” of tariffs against Turkey, upping those on aluminum to 20% and steel to 50%. The U.S. imports about $1 billion in steel and aluminum from Turkey, so the direct impact is not likely to be substantial.

But the ripple effects were considerable as the Turkish currency, the lira, plummeted on the news, pushing the country closer to a full-blown economic crisis, and dragging the euro down sharply on Friday.

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N.Y. Republican Rep. Chris Collins suspends reelection bid after being charged with insider trading

By Associated Press

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)

(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

In an about-face, U.S. Rep. Chris Collins is ending his reelection bid days after the Republican was charged with insider trading.

Collins released a statement Saturday morning saying he will suspend his campaign and finish the rest of his term. Collins was indicted Wednesday on charges he passed inside information about a biotechnology company to family members so they could profit from illicit trades. He had said later that day he would remain on the ballot despite the indictment and fight the charges.

“I have decided that it is in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party and President Donald Trump’s agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress,” the statement said.

He went on to say he will fill out his term and “continue to fight the meritless charges brought against me.” He has denied any wrongdoing.

Wednesday’s indictment charges Collins and two others, including his son, with conspiracy, wire fraud and other counts.

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A tale of two scandals, with a rich Trump donor, kickbacks and a Playboy playmate

By Michael Finnegan

The motorcade of President George W. Bush curled through the lush streets of Bel-Air one night in October 2006 and slowed to a stop at the Colonial Revival mansion of Elliott Broidy.

It was a big moment for Broidy, certifying his arrival in the upper tier of Los Angeles wealth and power. He’d summoned 250 blue-chip donors to hear Bush speak on the lawn, then gather on the tennis court for dinner. The banquet yielded $1 million for the Republican National Committee.

Broidy was founder and chairman of Markstone Capital Partners, a private equity fund. The firm, it turned out, was built on a foundation of corruption. Broidy got caught in 2009 paying kickbacks and pleaded guilty.

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In Iowa, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, says Democrats must fight

By Associated Press

Michael Avenatti speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Michael Avenatti speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Iowa.

(Associated Press)

Michael Avenatti, the self-styled provocateur taking on the president for porn actress Stormy Daniels, told Iowa Democrats on Friday that the party needs a bare-knuckle fighter to take back the White House — and he’s considering formally casting himself in the role.

In a political scene unthinkable just months ago, Avenatti was the closing speaker at the Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Iowa, a traditional stop for presidential hopefuls. His remarks came after a tour through the early-voting state that included a visit to the state fair and meetings with key Democratic officials.

“What I fear for this Democratic Party that I love is that we have a tendency to bring nail clippers to gunfights,” Avenatti told an enthusiastic crowd in the Surf Ballroom and Museum. “Tonight I want to suggest a different course. I believe that the Democratic Party must be a party that fights fire with fire.”

He added, “When they go low, I say we hit harder.”

It was a reversal of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s declaration at the 2016 Democratic Convention, “When they go low, we go high.”

In an interview, Avenatti said: “At that point in time, for what she was speaking about, I think that was the right message. But as we sit here now, that approach clearly will not work.”

Known for his combative cable news appearances, Avenatti offered a relatively traditional political address that stressed his record as a self-made businessman, an advocate for underdogs and a formidable foe to President Trump. He stressed his support for “Medicare for all” and “sensible gun control.” And he dubbed Trump a “con man” and his presidency a “Dumpster fire.”

Organizers of the Wing Ding — which has drawn heavy hitters like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in past years — said he boosted ticket sales.

Avenatti said his visit to the State Fair included a stop at the butter cow — a cow sculpted in butter — two pork chops on a stick and plenty of conversation with people who recognized him and encouraged him to keep going. He strolled the fairgrounds drinking beer from a plastic cup and traded the gray suit for a blue gingham long-sleeved shirt and jeans, the typical dress code of a visiting politician.

“I’ve learned that the people of Iowa are fairly receptive to me and receptive to my message,” said Avenatti, who plans to visit early-voting New Hampshire in the next few weeks and will return to Iowa.

Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to start Sept. 4

By Associated Press

Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Judge Brett Kavanaugh

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

The Senate is scheduled to begin the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 4.

Sen. Charles E.Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said Friday the committee will launch up to four days of review that Tuesday, beginning with opening remarks from senators.

Kavanaugh will face questions Wednesday, Sept. 5, followed by testimony from legal experts and people who know the judge.

Republicans are eager to confirm President Trump’s nominee ahead of the new court session Oct. 1, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy retired. Democrats have complained that Republicans are rushing the process for the lifetime appointment without proper vetting of Kavanaugh’s record.

Grassley said there’s “plenty of time” to review the documents but added that it’s time for Americans “to hear directly” from Kavanaugh.

For domestic abuse and gang violence survivors, Sessions has narrowed the path to asylum

By Jazmine Ulloa

Candelaria, an asylum seeker, at La Clinica Del Pueblo in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Washington.

Candelaria, an asylum seeker, at La Clinica Del Pueblo in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Washington.

(Al Drago / For The Times)

Xiomara started dating him when she was 17. He was different then, not that yet the man who pushed drugs and ran with a gang. Not the man who she says berated and raped her, who roused her out of bed some mornings only to beat her.

Not the man who choked her with an electrical cord, or put a gun to her head while she screamed, then begged, “‘Please, please don’t kill me — I love you.’”

Fleeing El Salvador with their daughter, then 4, the 23-year-old mother pleaded for help at a port of entry in El Paso on a chilly day in December 2016.

After nearly two years, her petition for asylum remains caught in a backlog of more than 310,000 other claims. But while she has waited for a ruling, her chance of success has plunged.

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Treasury says some banks are not financial-services firms, giving them a new tax break

By Jim Puzzanghera

It’s practically a dictionary definition to say that banks provide financial services. But when it comes to the new tax law, that’s not how the Treasury Department sees it.

Officials there have decided that nearly 2,000 banks are not financial services firms and therefore their owners qualify for a lower tax liability under the $1.5-trillion Republican tax-cut legislation that took effect Jan. 1.

The determination, sought by the banking industry, was one of dozens in 184 pages of proposed regulations issued this week by the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service that will allow high-income owners to claim a new tax deduction as part of an expansive interpretation of who gets the break designed for so-called pass-through businesses.

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Lawyer drops defamation suit against Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti

Keith Davidson, a former lawyer for Stormy Daniels.

Keith Davidson, a former lawyer for Stormy Daniels.

(Heidi Gutman / ABC)

A former lawyer for Stormy Daniels dropped a defamation suit Thursday that he filed in June against the porn actress and her attorney Michael Avenatti.

The lawyer, Keith Davidson, negotiated a $130,000 payment in 2016 for Daniels in return for her silence about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, fired Davidson and replaced him with Avenatti.

Davidson’s suit accused Avenatti of defaming him on Twitter by suggesting that Davidson was once arrested for extortion.

“Mr. Davidson has no issue with Ms. Clifford,” Davidson attorney Paul Berra said Thursday. “He decided to voluntarily dismiss his cross-complaint against her as a show of good faith.”

Davidson filed the suit as a counter-claim to a Daniels lawsuit accusing him of going behind her back to advance President Trump’s interests in the scandal over their alleged affair.

Her suit portrays Davidson as a puppet of Trump and his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Davidson denies the allegation.

Avenatti called Davidson’s dismissed claims “bogus.” “They were frivolous and should have never been filed in the first place,” he wrote Thursday on Twitter.

Avenatti’s claim of extortion apparently referred to an FBI sting operation involving Hulk Hogan. In 2012, Davidson sought $300,000 for a client who had a secretly taped video of the pro wrestler having sex.

FBI agents questioned Davidson after he tried to collect the money at a Florida hotel, but he was not charged with criminal wrongdoing.

Far ahead in the polls, Feinstein is in no hurry to campaign during August recess

By Sarah D. Wire

For senators facing reelection in November, the August recess is typically a frantic dash to squeeze in last-minute campaigning back home. And this year the window is even narrower because the summer break is shorter than usual.

But California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn’t hosting any public campaign events during the 13-day break.

Such is the benefit of being 20 points ahead in the polls. Many of Feinstein’s colleagues don’t have that luxury.

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Nunes says in audio that Republicans need majority to protect Trump

By Sarah D. Wire

Republicans need to keep control of the House to protect President Trump from the Russia investigation, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said at a recent fundraiser, according to an audio recording released Wednesday.

“If Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones. Which is really the danger,” Nunes said, referring to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel heading the investigation into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

“I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away,” Nunes said.

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U.S. orders new sanctions against Russia over chemical attack in Britain

By Tracy Wilkinson

The U.S. on Wednesday cleared the way for a new round of sanctions against Russia after the State Department formally concluded that Moscow violated the international ban on chemical weapons with a nerve agent attack this year against a former Soviet spy and his daughter.

That determination — which Congress had been pushing the Trump administration to make since March — triggers mandatory sanctions under a 1991 U.S. law.

International monitors already had blamed Russia for the attempted assassination in Britain of Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter, Yulia, in March.

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Ohio cliffhanger signals peril for GOP in midterm battle for control of Congress

By Michael Finnegan

Republicans’ brush with defeat in an Ohio congressional district that President Trump easily won fit the nationwide pattern for special elections during his White House tenure: Democrats are faring far better than they did in 2016.

Even if the final vote count confirms that GOP candidate Troy Balderson squeaked out a slim victory Tuesday, the lackluster support spells trouble for Republicans from coast to coast as they fight to keep control of the House in November’s midterm election.

“Whether it’s Montana or Kansas or South Carolina or Arizona, Pennsylvania, now Ohio, Democrats have been overperforming that 2016 baseline, and I think that’s good news for Democrats,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Inside Elections guide.

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Primary win sets up Rashida Tlaib to be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress

By Associated Press

Rashida Tlaib outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich., in 2008.

Rashida Tlaib outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich., in 2008.

(Al Goldis / Associated Press)

Former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib has won the Democratic nomination to run unopposed for the House seat long held by former Rep. John Conyers, setting her up to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

No Republicans or third-party candidates ran in Tuesday’s District 13 primary race, meaning Tlaib is set to win the seat in November’s election and begin serving a full two-year term in January. The special primary race to serve the last two months of Conyers’ term was still too close to call as of early Wednesday morning, with Tlaib and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones neck and neck. The winner of that race also will run unopposed in November’s election.

Tlaib, 42, served in the Michigan House from 2009 until 2014. She defeated five other candidates to win the nomination to run for a full term representing the heavily Democratic district, which covers much of Detroit and some of its suburbs.

The 89-year-old Conyers was first elected to the House in 1964. He stepped down in December citing health reasons, though several former female staffers had accused him of sexual harassment.

“This is a huge victory for the Arab and Muslim American communities — it’s also a huge victory for the city of Detroit,” said Sally Howell, director of the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. “Rashida Tlaib brings forward the legacy of John Conyers in terms of the groundbreaking role he played in Congress and his commitment to civil rights.”

Conyers’ seat was among three open House seats in Michigan heading into the primary, including another that the Democrats expect to keep and a Republican-held seat they hope to flip in their push to take control of the chamber.

In addition to Tlaib and Jones, Westland Mayor Bill Wild and Conyers’ great-nephew, state Sen. Ian Conyers, competed in the special election. Joining them in the race for the full two-year term were former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and current state Sen. Coleman Young, the son of the late Coleman A. Young, who was elected mayor in 1973 and held the position for 20 years.

Federal immigration judges accuse Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions of interfering with their autonomy

By Jazmine Ulloa

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions at an event July 13, 2018, in Portland, Maine.

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions at an event July 13, 2018, in Portland, Maine.

(Robert F. Bukaty / AP)

Federal immigration judges filed a formal grievance Wednesday against Atty. General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice, saying they want to stop federal law enforcement officials from interfering with their autonomy.

The complaint from the National Assn. of Immigration Judges comes after Sessions removed Judge Steven Morley from a high-profile immigration case in July and replaced him with another judge who ordered the immigrant at the center of the proceedings swiftly deported.

The Justice Department has since removed more than 80 cases from Morley, who sits in Philadelphia, through other administrative reassignments or appeal procedures, according to their complaint.

“He is very, very disturbed over this,” Ashley Tabaddor, president of the association, said of Morley, calling the case reassignments the latest example of the Trump administration undermining the independence of immigration judges to advance its political priorities.

“It is a further example of what we have seen as a step-by-step encroachment of a judge’s ability to handle cases,” Tabaddor said.

The judge’s union – which represents 350 federal immigration judges – wants the Justice Department to return the cases to Morley and publicly recognize that taking them away was improper.

It also wants to stop the department from using its authority to reassign cases to get an outcome more favorable to the administration.

The case that first sparked attention was that of Reynaldo Castro-Tum, a Guatemalan teenager who crossed the border illegally when he was 17 and had been fighting deportation for years.

Tabaddor said immigration courts, which are run by the Justice Department, have been used for political messaging, consistent with law enforcement priorities, under past administrations.

But “all of these issues have become more pronounced” with the administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, she said.

The prosecutor who handled the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown lost a primary challenge to a Ferguson councilman

By Associated Press

In this June 30, 2018, photo, Wesley Bell addresses the crowd during a protest in downtown St. Louis.

In this June 30, 2018, photo, Wesley Bell addresses the crowd during a protest in downtown St. Louis.

(David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

A seven-term prosecuting attorney in St. Louis County who gained national attention for his handling of the investigation of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., lost a primary challenge Tuesday to a black Ferguson councilman, according to unofficial results.

With the votes counted from all precincts, the county reported Wesley Bell with a 57% to 43% victory over 67-year-old Bob McCulloch in the Democratic primary. No Republicans were on the ballot, making Bell all but certain to win in November.

Bell, 43, is an attorney and former municipal judge and prosecutor. He was elected councilman in 2015 as protests continued to rage over Brown’s death.

At a raucous election night party, Bell recalled that even close friends told him he had no chance. He called for unity.

“There’s too much divisiveness, too much division in this county, in this region,” Bell said in a video posted on his campaign Facebook page. “We’ve got to start bringing people together.”

McCulloch couldn’t be reached for comment.

MORE COVERAGE FROM TUESDAY NIGHT’S MIDTERM ELECTIONS

The prosecutor’s race put Ferguson back in the spotlight four years after Brown’s death led to months of often-violent protests, prompted significant reforms in the St. Louis suburb and helped fuel the national Black Lives Matter movement.

Many onlookers saw the election as a referendum on what happened in Ferguson. It marked the first time McCulloch had been challenged since Brown’s death.

Brown, a black and unarmed 18-year-old, died Aug. 9, 2014, in a street confrontation with white Officer Darren Wilson. Some witnesses said Brown had his hands up in surrender. Wilson said Brown was moving aggressively toward him and he fired the fatal shots in self-defense.

A St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Wilson, who later resigned. Critics accused McCulloch, who is white, of skewing the investigation in favor of the officer.

The U.S. Department of Justice launched its own investigation. While the Justice Department found no grounds to indict Wilson, a scathing report found racial bias in the way Ferguson police and courts treated black people. A consent agreement requires the city to take several steps to remove that bias, including hiring more minority police officers and court reforms.

Bell campaigned on a platform to “fundamentally change the culture” of the prosecutor’s office, partially by assigning special prosecutors to review allegations of police misconduct. Black residents make up about 23% of St. Louis County’s population.

Bell and McCulloch are both sons of police officers. But McCulloch, an ardent police supporter, became a target of critics who unsuccessfully demanded he recuse himself from the Brown case, citing his family history. Several of his relatives worked for the St. Louis Police Department, including his father, who was fatally shot by a black suspect when McCulloch was 12.

Missouri voters reject Republican ‘right-to-work’ law limiting labor union powers

By Associated Press

Missouri’s bill against compulsory union fees was defeated Tuesday by a 2-to-1 margin.

Missouri’s bill against compulsory union fees was defeated Tuesday by a 2-to-1 margin.

(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

The steady march of new so-called right-to-work laws in Republican-led states hit a wall in Missouri, where voters resoundingly rejected a measure that could have weakened union finances after national and local labor groups poured millions of dollars into the campaign against it.

Missouri’s law against compulsory union fees was defeated Tuesday by a 2-to-1 margin, nearly a year after the measure adopted by the state’s Republican governor and Legislature had been scheduled to take effect. It was put hold after unions successfully petitioned to force a public referendum.

The election results effectively vetoed the Missouri measure and halted a string of stinging losses for organized labor. Since 2012, five other once historically strong union states had adopted laws limiting mandatory union fees as Republicans gained strength in state capitols, raising the total to 27 states with such laws.

The Missouri referendum marked the first chance for voters to weigh in on union powers since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that public sector employees cannot be compelled to pay fees to unions. Missouri’s ballot measure essentially would have extended that to all private sector employees in the state.

“Working people made their voices heard at the ballot box today and overturned right to work. It’s a truly historic moment,” Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis said.

Missouri voters had last rejected such a law in 1978, when national union membership was more than double its current rate of 10.7%.

Business groups and conservative interest groups pledged to try again to enact it in Missouri, potentially as soon as the 2019 legislative session.

“The defeat of Proposition A is merely a minor setback on the road to providing workers with the freedom they deserve,” said Jeremy Cady, the Missouri director of Americans for Prosperity, which is part of the conservative Koch network.

At issue are so-called fair-share fees, which are less than full dues but are intended to cover unions’ nonpolitical costs such as collective bargaining. Unions say it’s fair for workers to pay the fees, because federal law requires them to represent even those employees who don’t join. But supporters of laws against compulsory fees counter that people should have the right to accept a job without being required to pay a union.

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed such a bill in February 2017. It was supposed to take effect as law on Aug. 28. But before that could happen, union organizers submitted enough petition signatures to suspend its implementation pending a statewide referendum.

Supporters of the law had been banking on Greitens to help draw money and attention to their campaign. But Greitens resigned amid scandal on June 1 and disappeared from the public spotlight.

Unions powered an opposition effort that had spent more than $15 million as of late July, well over three times as much as various groups that support laws against the mandatory union fees. Advertisements generally focused on economics, with supporters claiming the law would lead to more jobs and opponents claiming it would drive down wages.

Studies looking at the economic effects of such laws have found mixed and sometimes conflicting results.

The Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, which opposes such laws, found that wages in “right-to-work” states average 3.1% less than elsewhere after accounting for other workforce differences such as educational backgrounds, racial composition, the industrial makeup of employers and the cost of living.

But a case study focused on Oklahoma found different results. Economists Ozkan Eren of Louisiana State University and Serkan Ozbeklik of Claremont McKenna College used data from states with similar characteristics to analyze the effect of Oklahoma’s 2001 union fees law. They found it resulted in a significant reduction in private sector unionization rates but had no short-term effect on either the total unemployment rate or average private sector wages.

Most laws against mandatory union fees laws were enacted in the 1940s and 1950s. But Republicans have led a resurgence of such laws, starting in Indiana in 2012 and following in Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky.

As Saudi Arabia and Canada clash over women’s rights activists, U.S. treading lightly

By Tracy Wilkinson

The Trump administration on Tuesday urged Canada and Saudi Arabia to settle an escalating diplomatic fight but avoided voicing support for the women’s rights activists whose jailing is at the heart of the dispute.

“Both sides need to resolve this diplomatically together; we can’t do it for them,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Nauert said the Trump administration stands for human liberties and due process but she refused to side with Canada or condemn Saudi Arabia’s arrest of the activists.

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Paul Manafort’s business partner Richard Gates testifies that the two committed crimes together

By Chad Day

A courtroom sketch depicts Richard Gates, right, answering questions from prosecutor Greg Andres on Monday.

A courtroom sketch depicts Richard Gates, right, answering questions from prosecutor Greg Andres on Monday.

(Dana Verkouteren / via Associated Press)

The government’s star witness in the financial fraud trial of Paul Manafort testified Monday that he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the former Trump campaign chairman and told jurors he and Manafort committed crimes together.

Richard Gates has been regarded as a crucial witness for the government ever since he pleaded guilty this year to two felony charges and agreed to cooperate in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

In the beginning of a hugely anticipated courtroom showdown, Gates told jurors that he siphoned off the money without Manafort’s knowledge by filing false expense reports. He also admitted to concealing millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts on Manafort’s behalf and to falsifying loan applications and other documents to help Manafort obtain more in bank loans.

Manafort’s defense has sought to blame Gates, described by witnesses as his “right-hand man,” for any illegal conduct and accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.

Gates, who also served in a senior role in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, is expected to face aggressive cross-examination once prosecutors have finished questioning him. Gates pleaded guilty to financial fraud and to lying to investigators as he negotiated a plea agreement, something defense lawyers will no doubt seize on to try to undercut his credibility.

He is awaiting sentencing and his ability to secure leniency from the government depends on him being cooperative and forthcoming with the jury.

The criminal case has nothing to do with either man’s work for the Trump campaign, and there has been no discussion during the trial about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia — the central question Mueller’s team has tried to answer. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort and suggesting that he had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone.

The trial opened last week with a display of Manafort’s opulent lifestyle, then progressed into testimony about what prosecutors say were years of financial deception. In calling Gates, the government will present jurors with the firsthand account of a co-conspirator expected to say Manafort was knee-deep in an alleged scheme to hide millions of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service and defraud several banks.

During the questioning, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III will be both a referee and a wild card. He has played those roles throughout the trial, repeatedly scolding prosecutors to rein in their depictions of Manafort’s lavish lifestyle and demanding that they “move it along.” It is not a crime, he has said several times, to be rich and to spend ostentatiously.

Day and Barakat write for the Associated Press.

Kansas is struggling financially. But for Republican Kris Kobach, the race for governor is all about illegal immigration

By Kurtis Lee

Kris Kobach didn’t mention the persistent budget woes plaguing Kansas. He said nothing about the documents released hours earlier that showed a commission he helped lead for President Trump uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud.

Instead, standing before ranchers huddled inside the muggy entrance hall to the Fort Scott Livestock Market on a recent evening, Kobach quickly got to the core issue of his candidacy for governor: illegal immigration.

“The status quo has become untenable,” Kobach said, his voice rising. “It’s time we stop illegal immigration in Kansas.”

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Trump faces new accusations of racism after mocking LeBron James’ intelligence

By Jim Puzzanghera

President Trump faced renewed accusations of racism Saturday after mocking the intelligence of Lakers superstar LeBron James and broadcaster Don Lemon of CNN.

Trump took to Twitter late Friday night to bash Lemon after his interview on Monday with James, and ended up slandering the celebrity athlete as well. In the interview, James reiterated his criticism of the president as racially insensitive.

“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!” Trump tweeted, apparently referencing former NBA superstar Michael Jordan.

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Judge reaffirms ruling that DACA must resume, but gives government time to appeal

By Associated Press

A federal judge has reaffirmed his ruling that the Trump administration must reinstate the program that has shielded hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

The ruling has no immediate effect because U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington gave the administration 20 days to decide if it wants to appeal.

In April, the judge gave the government 90 days to restate its argument to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In a 25-page ruling on Friday, he said the administration failed to change his mind.

Two nationwide injunctions earlier this year applied only to renewal requests for DACA recipients, commonly referred to as Dreamers. The Washington case also covers first-time applicants.

Job growth remains solid, but workers are still waiting for a real jump in wages

By Jim Puzzanghera

The U.S. labor market remained in solid shape last month, adding 157,000 jobs while the unemployment rate ticked down to 3.9% and wage growth improved — although workers are still waiting for significant gains in their purchasing power because prices are also rising.

The July job creation report issued Friday by the Labor Department fell well short of analyst expectations, but figures for May and June were revised upward by 59,000.

That means the economy is still producing strong payroll gains, averaging 215,000 net new jobs a month, the best since 2015. The unemployment rate is near its lowed point since 2000.

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Ivanka Trump: Migrant family separation a ‘low point’ in White House

By Associated Press

Ivanka Trump walks with her brother Eric Trump to board Air Force One to Tampa, Fla., for a rally with their father on Tuesday.

Ivanka Trump walks with her brother Eric Trump to board Air Force One to Tampa, Fla., for a rally with their father on Tuesday.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Ivanka Trump said Thursday that the low point of her White House tenure surrounded the separation of migrant children from detained family members, saying she was “vehemently against family separation” but immigration was “incredibly complex as a topic.”

The senior White House advisor also said she doesn’t view the news media as “the enemy of the people,” breaking with one of her father’s frequent attacks on the press.

President Trump dropped the immigration policy more than a month ago after widespread condemnation from Democrats and Republicans. Ivanka Trump remained quiet publicly in the early days of the border crisis, but the president said she privately urged him to find a solution. She tweeted her thanks after he signed an executive order designed to keep families together.

During an event Thursday hosted by Axios, Ivanka Trump was asked about the high point and low point of her time in the White House. When the moderator asked if the separation of migrant children from detained families was a low, she agreed.

Noting that her mother was an immigrant who came to the United States legally, Ivanka Trump said this was a “country of laws.” She added: “We have to be very careful about incentivizing behavior that puts children at risk of being trafficked, risk of entering this country with coyotes or making an incredibly dangerous journey alone.”

But she said she felt “very strongly” about the issue and “I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children.”

Asked about the comments, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president had said “that he doesn’t like the idea of family separation. I don’t think anybody does.”

Sanders added: “We also don’t like the idea of open borders. We don’t like the idea of allowing people into our country if we don’t know who they are, where they are going and why they’re coming. The president wants to secure our borders, which is why he has asked Congress to fix the law.”

On high points for the administration, Ivanka Trump cited the president commuting the sentence of Alice Johnson, a woman serving a life sentence for drug offenses whose case had been championed by reality television star Kim Kardashian West. She called Johnson leaving prison “one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”

Asked if she agreed with the description of the press frequently invoked by her father, Ivanka Trump said “no, I don’t.”

In face of criticism, Trump’s national security leaders appear at White House to stress focus on election security

By Shane Harris and Felicia Sonmez, Washington Post

National security advisor John Bolton speaks at the daily press briefing at the White House on Thursday.

National security advisor John Bolton speaks at the daily press briefing at the White House on Thursday.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Top national security officials made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room Thursday to warn that Russia continues to target U.S. elections and to outline what is being done to combat the interference.

“In regards to Russian involvement in the midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States,” Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said. “We know there are others who have the capability and may be considering influence activities.”

The joint appearance by Coats, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, national security advisor John Bolton, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone comes as the administration faces criticism over its efforts to deal with election interference and continuing questions over how seriously President Trump takes the threat.

Lawmakers and independent analysts say that voting systems are more secure against hackers, thanks to action at the federal and state levels — and that the Russians have not targeted those systems to the degree they did in 2016.

But Russian efforts to manipulate U.S. voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect, and there is not a sufficiently strong government strategy to combat information warfare against the U.S., outside experts warn.

Thursday’s news conference was the first time that the heads of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies with a role in preventing election interference have appeared together to address the threat. It follows a meeting last week of the National Security Council on election security, the first Trump has led on the matter, which lasted less than an hour and produced no new orders on how to counter or deter the interference.

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Trump imposes sanctions over Turkey’s detention of American pastor

By Associated Press

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, N.C., outside his house in Izmir, Turkey, on July 25.

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, N.C., outside his house in Izmir, Turkey, on July 25.

(Emre Tazegul / Associated Press)

The White House said the Treasury Department will impose sanctions on two Turkish officials over a detained American pastor who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration was issuing the sanctions over the treatment of 50-year-old Andrew Craig Brunson.

The administration says Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu both played leading roles in the organizations responsible for Brunson’s arrest and detention.

Brunson, an evangelical pastor, was arrested and jailed in December 2016. He was recently released to home detention.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his government won’t back down and may “go its own way” if the U.S. imposes sanctions.

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Trump calls on Sessions to stop Mueller’s Russia probe, raising specter of attempted obstruction

By Chris Megerian

President Trump called on Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to “stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now,” opening the president to further complaints that he is trying to obstruct the investigation into Russia’s election interference and his campaign’s possible complicity.

Trump is already reportedly under investigation for potential obstruction of the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The tweet early Wednesday was the president’s most explicit post or statement to date seemingly aimed at getting his attorney general,the nation’s top law enforcement officer, to end the probe

The tweet, along with several others this morning, accelerated the president’s attacks on the investigation, which he claims is tainted by bias. They were likely prompted by the start of the trial on Tuesday of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, on 18 charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and conspiracy.

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Ex-Playboy model accuses her former lawyer of giving ‘unconscionable’ hush-money deal to top Trump donor

By Michael Finnegan

One of President Trump’s top fundraisers secured a “crushingly one-sided” hush-money deal with a former Playboy playmate whom he impregnated, then withheld most of the $1.6 million that he promised to pay her, according to a lawsuit released Tuesday.

The suit filed by former Playboy model Shera Bechard on July 6 says the pact threatens her with financial ruin because it lets the Trump fundraiser, Elliott Broidy of Beverly Hills, collect up to $4.8 million in damages from her if she breaks its terms.

Bechard claimed in the lawsuit that her former attorney, Keith Davidson, deceived her about the terms that he negotiated with Broidy’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of President Trump.

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Trump calls on Sessions to stop Mueller’s Russia probe, raising specter of attempted obstruction

By Noah Bierman

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions

(Saul Loeb and Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)

President Trump called on Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to “stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now,” opening the president to further complaints that he is trying to obstruct the investigation into Russia’s election interference and his campaign’s possible complicity.

Trump is already reportedly under investigation for potential obstruction of the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The president’s morning tweets accelerated further his attacks on the investigation, which he claims is tainted by bias. They were likely prompted by the start of the trial on Tuesday of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, on 18 charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and conspiracy, a subject that Trump also hit on in his barrage of tweets.

“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!” Trump wrote.

That tweet prompted Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, to accuse Trump of obstruction “hiding in plain sight.”

“The President of the United States just called on his Attorney General to put an end to an investigation in which the President, his family and campaign may be implicated,” Schiff tweeted. “This is an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight. America must never accept it.”

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Critics pounce on Trump’s assertion that you need ID to buy groceries

By John Wagner, Washington Post

President Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.

President Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.

(Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

An assertion Tuesday night by President Trump that identification is required to purchase groceries prompted a cascade of criticism from the media and his adversaries, including the lawyer for adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

During a freewheeling rally in Tampa, Trump was making the case for stricter voter identification laws, a cause that is broadly popular among his conservative base, when he made the false claim about grocery shopping.

“If you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID,” Trump said at the event at the Florida State Fairgrounds. “You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture.”

Although photo identification is required for some purchases, such as alcohol or cigarettes, by and large, it’s not. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Daniels, was among the scores of critics who took to Twitter to point that out — and, in his case, put in a plug for a possible 2020 presidential bid to challenge Trump.

Daniels is seeking to void an agreement with Trump under which she received $130,000 to stay silent about an alleged affair.

For many, Trump’s claim brought to mind reports of President George H.W. Bush expressing amazement upon seeing a supermarket scanner during his 1992 reelection campaign. John Dean, the former White House counsel under President Nixon, was among those to draw a comparison between the two episodes.

“George H.W. Bush lost an election for not having any idea how a electronic scanner in a market worked,” Dean wrote on Twitter. “Trump thinks you need photo ID to buy groceries. May his ignorance come back to defeat him, not to mention his ignorance is 10,000 times Bush’s!”

Kaili Joy Gray, the managing editor of the liberal website Shareblue, also sought to portray Trump as out of touch.

“This man has never bought a carton of milk in his life, has he?” she asked on Twitter.

Media covering Trump’s rally were among the first to pounce on Tuesday night as the president rallied the faithful and promoted the Florida gubernatorial candidacy of Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.

“Honest question: What’s the last time he’s bought groceries?” wrote Zeke Miller, a White House reporter for the Associated Press.

Jim Acosta of CNN, a frequent target of criticism by Trump, also weighed in with a tweet, writing: “Trump out of touch here . . . you don’t need an ID to buy groceries.”

Judge denies Michael Cohen’s request for a gag order on Michael Avenatti

(Andres Kudacki / Associated Press)

A Los Angeles federal judge on Tuesday denied Michael Cohen’s request to impose a gag order on Michael Avenatti, saying it would violate the attorney’s right to free speech.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said Cohen was understandably concerned that Avenatti’s disparaging of him in frequent media interviews could affect his right to a fair trial if a federal criminal probe in New York yields formal charges against him.

But Otero said the issues involved in the litigation that he is overseeing in Los Angeles are “far less consequential” than those in the criminal case, which is outside his jurisdiction.

Otero is presiding over a lawsuit that an Avenatti client, porn actress Stormy Daniels, filed against President Trump and Cohen to void a nondisclosure agreement that bars her from discussing an alleged affair with Trump. Cohen was the Trump lawyer who negotiated his deal with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

“It is clear that Mr. Cohen’s worry is not about the effect of the publicity on this litigation, but the effect of the publicity” on the potential New York prosecution, Otero wrote.

On Twitter, Avenatti said Otero’s ruling blocked an attempt by Cohen and Trump “to silence me and prevent me from commenting as to the truth. So much winning from these two!”

Feds offer fintech firms an end-around on state regulations to lend nationally

By Jim Puzzanghera

Federal officials said Tuesday they would make it easier for financial technology firms to operate nationwide following a Trump administration report calling for sweeping regulatory changes to advance new fintech companies and services.

Just hours after the Treasury Department unveiled its long-awaited findings, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced it was moving ahead with a plan to begin offering national banking charters to innovative companies offering loans or online payments.

Those firms would bypass state laws, which now govern most financial technology and non-bank services.

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John Kelly says he will stay on as chief of staff at President Trump’s request

By Associated Press

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens to President Trump during a working lunch with governors at the White House on June 21.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens to President Trump during a working lunch with governors at the White House on June 21.

(Olivier Douliery / AFP / Getty Images)

Embattled White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has told senior aides that President Trump asked him to stay in his role through 2020.

Kelly is telling staffers that he had agreed to stay on. That’s according to three White House officials Tuesday, who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

Kelly hit the one-year mark as Trump’s chief of staff Monday. Speculation about his exit has flared for months, amid reports that Trump had cooled on the retired four-star general. Kelly is credited with bringing order to the West Wing but also grates on the freewheeling president.

Still, Trump is known as a mercurial boss, whose feelings on key staffers can shift rapidly. Trump on Monday tweeted congratulations to Kelly on reaching the one-year milestone.

White House turns up the pressure on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega

By Tracy Wilkinson

The White House announced Monday that it has confiscated U.S.-donated vehicles from Nicaraguan security forces and suspended future donations and sales in response to President Daniel Ortega’s deadly crackdown on opponents.

In the administration’s strongest condemnation yet, the White House accused Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, of having “brutalized their own people” with “indiscriminate violence” that has killed more than 300 people in three months. Hundreds more have been jailed, tortured or have disappeared, human rights organizations say.

Ortega, a revolutionary hero for the leftist Sandinista Front when it toppled Nicaragua’s U.S.-backed dictator nearly 40 years ago, must “immediately end the state-sanctioned violence perpetuated by police and para-police forces,” the White House said in an unusually detailed statement.

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Watch live: Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearing on family separations

L.A. Times reporter Jazmine Ulloa is at the hearing. Follow along on Twitter.

Trump says he’s looking at 3-D printed guns issue after eight states file suit

By Associated Press

A pistol completely made on a 3-D-printer in Austin, Texas.

A pistol completely made on a 3-D-printer in Austin, Texas.

(Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman / Associated Press)

President Trump says he is consulting with the National Rifle Assn. over whether it makes sense for a Texas company to publish downloadable blueprints for a 3-D printed gun.

Trump tweeted Tuesday he is “looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public,” adding that he “already spoke to NRA.”

The president expressed doubt, saying “doesn’t seem to make much sense!” He did not offer further details.

Trump spoke after eight states filed suit against the administration, contending the hard-to-trace plastic weapons are a boon to terrorists and criminals and threaten public safety.

The suit, filed Monday in Seattle, asks a judge to block the federal government’s late-June settlement with Defense Distributed, which allowed the company to make the plans available online.

Kamala Harris’ challenge in a 2020 presidential bid? Defining herself before her opponents do

By Sarah D. Wire

Shortly after she won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2016, Kamala Harris said she expected to follow the traditional freshman lawmaker playbook: “Listen and watch, and kind of get a lay of the land.”

Far from keeping her head down, however, California’s junior senator has put herself way out front.

She’s embraced a high-profile role in confronting the Trump administration, from her sharp questioning of Cabinet officials in public hearings to fiery speeches on the National Mall. In January she’s releasing a book about her political vision.

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Bob Woodward is writing an inside account of the Trump White House

By Associated Press

Bob Woodward in Washington in 2012.

Bob Woodward in Washington in 2012.

(Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images)

The next writer to take a close look at the Trump presidency: Bob Woodward.

The celebrated journalist of Watergate fame has written “Fear: Trump in the White House,” Simon & Schuster announced Monday. The book is coming out Sept. 11. According to the publisher, Woodward is drawing on “hundreds of hours” of interviews, along with notes, files and diaries to evoke the “harrowing life” within the White House. Over the last 40 years, Woodward has written best-selling accounts of several administrations. He and fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein teamed up on two classics about President Nixon, “All the President’s Men” and “The Final Days.”

“Fear” also renews a Woodward tradition that had been on hold for several years: a book about the sitting president, released during an election year.

Trump says he would ‘certainly meet’ with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Monday.

President Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Monday.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump said he would “certainly meet” with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani if the Iranian leader was willing, adding he would do it with “no preconditions.”

During a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Trump said that he believes in meetings and pointed to the benefits of recent meetings with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The Trump administration withdrew from the landmark nuclear accord with Iran in May, saying it was too generous to Iran. The United States has vowed to boost sanctions until Iran changes its regional policies, including its support for regional militant groups.

New York Times publisher, Trump meet and discuss anti-media rhetoric

By Associated Press

A.G. Sulzberger, left, and President Trump met on July 20 to discuss media coverage of the White House.

A.G. Sulzberger, left, and President Trump met on July 20 to discuss media coverage of the White House.

(Associated Press)

President Trump met with the publisher of the New York Times to discuss media coverage of his administration, including his oft-repeated accusation that the media is the “enemy of the people,” Trump and the newspaper said Sunday.

The meeting with A.G. Sulzberger occurred July 20, the White House and Times said.

“Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People.” Sad!”

Sulzberger said in a statement issued after Trump’s tweet that he told the president his incendiary language about the media was “not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.” He said the president’s rhetoric was being used by authoritarian regimes to justify attacks on journalists.

“I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press,” Sulzberger said.

Trump often describes the Times, a publication he regularly reads and has given interviews to, as the “failing New York Times.” In May, the New York Times Co. reported first-quarter revenue of about $414 million, a 3.8% increase from the first quarter of 2017.

The president, who bristles at negative media coverage, has labeled the news media the “enemy of the people” and regularly accuses it of spreading “fake news,” which is the term he often uses for stories he does not consider complimentary.

Sulzberger said he accepted the White House’s request for a meeting so he could discuss Trump’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.” He said Times publishers have long held meetings with presidential administrations and other public figures who have concerns with coverage of them.

After Sulzberger took over from his father on Jan. 1, Trump tweeted that his ascension gives the paper a “last chance” to fulfill its founder’s vision of impartiality.

In that tweet, Trump urged the new publisher, “Get impartial journalists of a much higher standard, lose all of your phony and non-existent ‘sources,’ and treat the President of the United States FAIRLY, so that the next time I (and the people) win, you won’t have to write an apology to your readers for a job poorly done!”

Sulzberger said Sunday that he made clear to Trump that he was not asking the president to stop speaking out about coverage he felt was unfair.

“Instead,” Sulzberger said, “I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.”

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U.S. economy surges to 4.1% growth rate, but next it’s expected to slow

By Jim Puzzanghera

Boosted by tax cuts, the U.S. economy surged this spring to grow at a robust 4.1% annual pace for its best quarterly performance since 2014, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

But with trade tensions still strong between the United States and some key trading partners, particularly China, analysts expect the April-through-June growth will be the high-water mark for the economy this year.

That would mean the tax cuts would fall short of the economic “rocket fuel” predicted by President Trump and Republicans when they pushed through the legislation last year.

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Trump is pressuring the Fed to keep interest rates low. Nixon actually did it — and damaged the economy

By Jim Puzzanghera

The Federal Reserve was raising interest rates and the president wasn’t happy about it.

No, it wasn’t President Trump, who took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the independent central bank last week. It was another volatile president — Richard Nixon — and the experience presents a cautionary tale.

The U.S. had just emerged from a nearly yearlong recession in 1971 after the independent central bank slashed its key short-term interest rate by more than half.

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Jim Jordan to run for House speaker, challenging California Rep. Kevin McCarthy

By Sarah D. Wire

Rep. Jim Jordan, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Thursday he will run for House speaker this fall.

He is the first Republican to officially say he will seek the leadership position, which will open after Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) retires in January.

Jordan’s entry is bad news for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who is also expected to seek the post and has already won several key endorsements.

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Trump threatens Turkey with ‘large sanctions’ over detained American pastor

By Associated Press

U.S. pastor Andrew Craig Brunson is escorted by Turkish plainclothes police officers from his house in Izmir, Turkey, on July 25.

U.S. pastor Andrew Craig Brunson is escorted by Turkish plainclothes police officers from his house in Izmir, Turkey, on July 25.

(AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump says the U.S. will hit Turkey with “large sanctions” over an American pastor detained on terror and espionage charges, and he called for the pastor’s immediate release.

Tweeting from aboard Air Force One, Trump said: “The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being.” Trump said Brunson “is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”

Just hours earlier, Vice President Mike Pence said that if Turkey does not take immediate action to free Brunson, “the United States of America will impose significant sanctions on Turkey.” Pence spoke at the close of a three-day conference in Washington on religious freedom.

Brunson, 50, an evangelical Christian pastor originally from North Carolina, was let out of jail Wednesday, after 1 1/2 years, to serve house arrest because of “health problems,” according to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency.

Pompeo firmly opposes Russian claims on Crimea and Ukraine, but struggles to explain Trump

By Tracy Wilkinson

An often-defensive Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo struggled Wednesday to explain President Trump’s often confusing and secretive handling of foreign policy as senators demanded details about the president’s conversations last week with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In testimony that began shortly after the White House announced that a planned Putin visit to Washington would be put off until next year, sparing Republicans an unwanted election-season distraction, Pompeo attempted to dispel the criticism that Trump has been soft on Russia.

Citing a series of economic sanctions that Washington imposed on Moscow and the expulsion from the U.S. of dozens of Russian spies, Pompeo contended that Trump has overseen a defensive military buildup that “frightens” the Russian president.

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White House delays Putin visit to 2019 after Republican backlash

By Eli Stokols

(Associated Press)

President Trump has postponed his invitation for Russian President Vladimir Putin to come to Washington until next year, after Republican congressional leaders registered their opposition about a visit initially planned for this fall, around the time of the midterm elections.

Putin never responded to the administration’s announcement last week that, at Trump’s direction, “plans were underway” for a fall welcome; a Russian official pointed to the controversy in the United States to explain the hesitance. On Wednesday, the president’s national security advisor, John Bolton, issued a statement about the change of plans, citing special counselRobert S. Mueller III’s ongoing Russia probe — not political concerns — as the reason.

“The President believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,” Bolton said.

The statement came just hours after Trump had met with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom had told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol that Putin would not be welcome in Congress because Russia is not an ally.

Judge Kavanaugh could give conservatives the vote they need to rein in EPA rules on climate change

By David G. Savage

In its most important environmental ruling of recent decades, the Supreme Court decided in 2007 that the greenhouse gases blamed for warming the planet can be regulated as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act of 1990.

It was a pivotal opinion that opened the door for the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new regulations on autos, power plants, manufacturers and others, to address climate change as well as the dirty air targeted by the original law.

But it came on a 5-4 vote, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the four liberals and over a fierce dissent by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

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Trump considering revoking ex-Obama officials’ security clearance

By Associated Press

President Trump boards Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., on July 22.

President Trump boards Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., on July 22.

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

President Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of half a dozen former Obama administration officials and critics of his presidency.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that the president is “exploring the mechanisms” to strip clearance from former CIA director John Brennan, along with former FBI director James B. Comey, former national intelligence director James R. Clapper and others.

Sanders accused the officials of having “politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances” as well as “making baseless accusations” against the president.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted earlier Monday that he was planning to raise the issue of revoking Brennan’s clearance at a meeting with Trump.

Brennan last week described Trump’s news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “nothing short of treasonous.”

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California Rep. Barbara Lee enters a key House leadership race

By Sarah D. Wire

Rep. Barbara Lee will seek to lead the Democratic Caucus next year, making her the second Californian to enter the race.

“Whether it’s working across the aisle to enact HIV/AIDS laws, or bringing the Sanders and Clinton campaigns together behind a cohesive and progressive Democratic platform, my career has been dedicated to finding common ground and delivering results. Over the years, I have fought to lift families out of poverty and empower everyday people. As your caucus chair, I will ensure that we hear every view, respect every member and welcome every voice,” Lee said in a letter to colleagues Monday.

If Democrats pick the Oakland lawmaker as Democratic Caucus chairwoman in the election this fall, she would be the first black woman to serve in House leadership.

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Trump targets Iran in blistering tweet, suddenly escalating tensions

By Tracy Wilkinson

President Trump has issued a blistering tweet that seems to threaten Iran with war unless it changes its ways, suddenly escalating tensions with the Islamic Republic and shifting attention away from his dealings with Russia.

“To Iranian President Rouhani,” Trump wrote shortly before midnight Sunday EDT, then he hit the caps-lock button:

Trump was apparently responding to a speech earlier Sunday by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in which he warned of a “mother of all wars” if the United States attacked the Islamic Republic.

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Can moderate Democrats rise again? The answer may be in Ohio

By Evan Halper

If the thick New England accent did not already reveal that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was not from around here, the polemic he launched into at a campaign rally in a union hall did.

“We have an administration that is reckless,” Walsh said, attacking President Trump’s foreign policy. “It is reckless.”

That’s not the approach that Danny O’Connor, one of the congressional candidates Walsh was here to boost, typically takes.

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White House invites Putin to Washington for another meeting with Trump

By Associated Press

President Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday.

President Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday.

(Alexander Zemlianichenko / Associated Press)

Unbowed by criticism over his Helsinki summit, President Trump extended an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet in Washington in the fall, the White House said Thursday.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter that Trump had asked national security advisor John Bolton to invite Putin, adding, “Those discussions are already underway.” The invitation was announced hours after the president tweeted that he looked forward to “our second meeting” as he defended his performance Monday at the summit in which the two leaders conferred on a range of issues, including terrorism, Israeli security, nuclear proliferation and North Korea.

“There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems … but they can ALL be solved!” Trump tweeted.

The announcement of the invitation came as the White House sought to clean up days of confounding statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election that sent Trump to the presidency. Trump’s public doubting of Russia’s responsibility in a joint news conference with Putin on Monday provoked withering criticism from Democrats and some Republicans and forced the president to make a rare public admission of error.

On Thursday, the White House said Trump “disagrees” with Putin’s offer to swap the questioning of 12 Russians indicted over 2016 election interference for an interview with the former U.S. ambassador.

The White House retreated from what Trump had called Putin’s “incredible offer” during the Helsinki summit, revising its position just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the plan. It was Congress’ first formal rebuke of Trump’s actions from the summit and its aftermath.

Sanders said Putin’s proposal was “made in sincerity,” but Trump “disagrees with it.” She said the U.S. hopes Putin will have the indicted Russians “come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”

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Democrats rip Trump’s CFPB nominee, calling her role in controversial administration policies ‘a moral stain’

By Jim Puzzanghera

Senate Democrats on Thursday aggressively ripped into President Trump’s nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, saying her involvement as a White House aide in controversial administration policies disqualified her from watching out for average Americans.

In a highly charged confirmation hearing, Democratic senators questioned Kathy Kraninger about her role overseeing the budgets of agencies that developed and implemented the child-separation policy at the border and the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico — and verbally unloaded on her when she evaded direct answers.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could barely control her rage as she pressed Kraninger about whether she had any role in implementing the “zero tolerance” immigration policy that has separated nearly 3,000 children from their parents crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since April.

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Trump says he’s ‘not thrilled’ by Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, a rare insertion into independent monetary policy

By Jim Puzzanghera

President Trump said he’s “not thrilled” by recent interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, a historically rare insertion by the White House into monetary policy set by the nation’s independent central bank.

“I’m not thrilled,” Trump told CNBC in an excerpt of an interview released Thursday. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. I don’t really — I am not happy about it. But at the same time, I’m letting them do what they feel is best.”

Presidents and top administration officials normally do not comment on Fed monetary policy decisions to allow the central bank to make independent decisions about what’s best for the U.S. economy instead of enacting policies that might politically benefit the party in power.

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Time magazine’s latest cover shows the faces of Trump and Putin morphing into one

By Kelcie Pegher

Time magazine unveiled its latest cover on Twitter on Thursday, morphing the faces of U.S. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin into one image.

The July 30 edition is “meant to represent this particular moment in U.S. foreign policy,” Time said in a statement about the cover.

The coverage comes during a week of upheaval for the administration following a meeting between Trump and Putin and a subsequent news conference in Helsinki. After returning to Washington on Tuesday, Trump said he misspoke during the conference and accepts the consensus of American intelligence agencies, which have reported that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. He also said the perpetrators “could be other people also.”

For its July 2 cover, Time focused on the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating migrant children from their parents entering the country unlawfully. The cover, which showed an illustration of Trump towering over a crying child, included the text “Welcome to America.”

U.S. Interior watchdog investigating Secretary Ryan Zinke’s role in land deal

By Associated Press

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks during the Western Governors' Assn. meeting at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial on June 26, 2018.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks during the Western Governors’ Assn. meeting at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial on June 26, 2018.

(Ryan Hermens)

The U.S. Interior Department’s internal watchdog has opened an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke’s involvement in a land deal with the head of an energy services company that does business with the agency.

Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said in a letter Wednesday to congressional Democrats that the investigation started Monday.

The Associated Press reported last month that Kendall’s office was looking into lawmakers’ complaints over a charitable foundation created by Zinke and run by his wife, Lola.

The foundation allowed a company co-owned by Halliburton chairman David Lesar to use land for a commercial development in Zinke’s hometown in Montana.

Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift has said that he did nothing wrong and that Zinke resigned from the foundation’s board of directors prior to the land deal.

Sanders tries to clarify Trump’s remark about Russia threat, says his ‘no’ was to answering more questions

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in Washington on Wednesday.

President Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in Washington on Wednesday.

(Olivier Douliery / Getty Images)

The White House says President Donald Trump believes Russia would target U.S. elections again, saying the “threat still exists.” That comes hours after Trump appeared to deny Russia was still targeting the United States, a statement at odds with warnings from his top intelligence chief.

Trump was asked at the end of a Cabinet meeting Wednesday if Russia was still targeting the U.S. He answered “no” without elaborating.

But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump was saying “no” to answering more questions, although he did go on to answer an additional question.

Sanders says Trump believes Russia would target U.S. elections again and he’s taking steps to ensure that it won’t happen again.

Trump told reporters at the end of the meeting that no American president has been as “tough” on Russia as he has been.

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Watch live: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders holds briefing

California’s Rep. Linda Sanchez announces bid to lead House Democrats

By Sarah D. Wire

The fight over who will lead House Democrats next year got its first public entrance Tuesday as Rep. Linda T. Sanchez made her official bid to lead the House Democratic Caucus.

Sanchez, of Whittier, currently vice chairwoman of the Democratic Caucus, sent a letter to her colleagues Tuesday confirming her interest in moving up the leadership ranks.

“If the American people instill their trust in House Democrats, we must show them that we are ready to lead on the first day,” Sanchez wrote. “A new Congress gives us the opportunity to take a full assessment of what changes we need to make to ensure our success going forward. However, it is clear that if we wait until next year to have these discussions, it will be too late. We must prepare now.”

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Trump says he misspoke, and believes U.S. intelligence findings that Russia meddled in election

By Noah Bierman

In Helsinki, President Trump said of meddling in the 2016 election:  “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia; I will say this: I don’t say any reason why it would be.” Tuesday, the day after, Trump said he meant to say the word “wouldn

President Trump, seeking to stanch a national furor, said on Tuesday that he misspoke in Helsinki, Finland, and meant to say that he indeed does see Russia as the culprit that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, just as U.S. intelligence agencies have found.

The president’s comments were unlikely to satisfy his critics in both parties. His new version was undercut by his fuller and widely watched remarks on Monday. Also, Trump no longer was speaking alongside Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, but addressing reporters from the White House alongside Republican lawmakers.

In his attempt to walk back his Helsinki remarks, Trump said he accepts the consensus of American intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election. Yet in a sign that he cannot fully accept those findings — seeing them as a challenge to his legitimacy — he added that it “could be other people also.” That assertion is not supported by known intelligence.

In Helsinki, as Putin looked on, Trump said the following to a question about whether he believed U.S. intelligence agencies, or Putin’s denials of interference: “My people came to me…they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia.

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Robert Mueller seeks immunity for five witnesses in Paul Manafort case

By Associated Press

Robert S. Mueller III on Capitol Hill in 2013.

Robert S. Mueller III on Capitol Hill in 2013.

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is seeking immunity for five potential witnesses in the upcoming trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Mueller’s office told a federal judge in Virginia on Tuesday that it was seeking to compel the witnesses to testify under condition of immunity.

Prosecutors have not identified the witnesses and say they have not been publicly identified with the case. Prosecutors say the witnesses have indicated they won’t testify “on the basis of their privilege against self-incrimination.” Prosecutors say that if they do testify, they are requesting “use immunity.” That means the government couldn’t use their statements against them.

Manafort is scheduled for trial on financial charges starting next week in Alexandria, Va.

Trump says he misspoke on Russia meddling

By Associated Press

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint news conference after their summit on in Helsinki, Finland.

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint news conference after their summit on in Helsinki, Finland.

(Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

President Trump says he meant the opposite when he said in Helsinki that he doesn’t see why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Back at the White House on Tuesday, the president told reporters that he said he meant he doesn’t see why Russia “wouldn’t” be responsible.

He also said he accepts the American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election, but he denied that his campaign had colluded in the effort.

Trump spoke a day after returning to the U.S. to nearly universal condemnation of his performance at Russian President Vladmir Putin’s side in Helsinki. Putin said he wanted Trump to win the race against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In Helsinki, Trump delivered no condemnation of Russia’s interference and refused to say he believes American intelligence agencies over Russia’s denials of meddling.

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Trump says Putin summit was ‘even better’ than NATO meeting

By Associated Press

President Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference in Helsinki on Monday.

President Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference in Helsinki on Monday.

(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is unbowed by bipartisan criticism of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a Tuesday tweet the President calls the Monday summit in Helsinki “even better” than his meeting with NATO allies last week in Brussels.

Trump is facing bipartisan criticism for his refusal to publicly challenge Putin over Russia’s election hacking and for doubting U.S. intelligence agency conclusions about Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Trump backers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have criticized his performance.

Trump is taking aim at a familiar target — the media — saying his NATO meeting was “great” but that he “had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!”

Even hosts on the Trump-preferred Fox News have been critical of his handling of the summit.

People on both sides of the aisle respond to Trump’s summit with Putin

By David Lewis

President Trump’s Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, drew heated reactions from Washington insiders and politicians of all stripes, with many expressing disappointment that Trump wasn’t more confrontational with Putin following the latest revelations in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., issued a statement saying there is “no question” that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, adding that “the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally” and that the country “remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

Some of Ryan’s fellow GOP members took to Twitter to express their dismay:

Democratic lawmakers were more forceful, calling the meeting “disturbing” and “an embarrassment,” with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., floating the idea that Russia may be holding “damaging information” over Trump and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., implying that Trump may be a “Russian asset.”

Members of the U.S. intelligence committee, including former CIA Director John Brennan and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, also responded.

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Apparent protester removed ahead of Trump-Putin conference

By Associated Press

Security staff grapple with a man before a news conference by President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Security staff grapple with a man before a news conference by President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

An apparent protester was removed from a joint news conference between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

The individual, seated with the American press corps in Helsinki, Finland, was holding a sign about nuclear weapons. He identified himself as a reporter from the liberal magazine the Nation.

A Secret Service agent spoke with the unidentified man before Finnish security physically escorted him from the room minutes before the two presidents entered to begin their news conference.

Watch live: Trump holds a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Watch live: Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May hold joint news conference

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says charges in Ohio strip club arrest against her have been dismissed

By Associated Press

Charges were dropped Thursday against porn actress Stormy Daniels, just hours after she was arrested while performing at an Ohio strip club and charged with letting patrons touch her in violation of a state law.

Her attorney said she was set up in a Columbus police sting operation, something police deny.

Charging documents say Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was arrested for touching a patron at a “sexually oriented” business in violation of the law commonly known as the Community Defense Act.

The documents said that Daniels, who was semi-nude, allegedly touched some of the patrons’ breasts and allowed them to touch her. She allegedly performed the same act with several officers who approached the stage and forced one officer’s head into her bare chest.

She was released on bail before 6 a.m. Thursday. Daniels posted $6,000.

The charges relate to the law prohibiting dancers from touching customers and customers touching dancers — excluding immediate family members. The arrest followed a performance Wednesday night at Sirens, a strip club in Columbus.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told The Associated Press that some patrons touched Daniels in a non-sexual” way during her performance.

Stymied elsewhere, Trump turns to pardons to advance personal and policy goals

By Mark Z. Barabak

As a candidate for president, Donald Trump vowed to accomplish a great many things with the ease and simplicity of snapping his fingers.

Once in office, however, he discovered that achieving those goals — dismantling Obamacare, slashing the federal debt, building a wall along the border with Mexico, among other promises — was far more frustrating and complicated than he supposed.

There is one area, however, where Trump can exercise nearly limitless sway: the power to pardon. He has made early and eager use of that unfettered authority, advancing his political agenda in the process.

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Bankruptcy judge hits Michael Avenatti’s firm with restraining order to freeze legal fees in 54 cases

By Michael Finnegan

A federal bankruptcy judge issued a restraining order late Wednesday to block the firm of Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, from spending any fees it collects while it owes more than $10 million in unpaid debts and back taxes.

The move by Judge Catherine Bauer of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana was a severe blow to Avenatti, whose personal financial troubles have deepened as his star has risen on cable news.

“I don’t want him going out and buying a new house,” Bauer said at a court hearing a few hours before she signed the restraining order.

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Trump lands in Britain for first U.K. visit

By Associated Press

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark Air Force One at Stansted Airport, north of London on July 12.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark Air Force One at Stansted Airport, north of London on July 12.

(Brendan Smialowski / Getty)

President Trump has arrived in Britain for his first visit as president amid NATO tensions, protests and Brexit turmoil.

Air Force One has landed at London Stansted Airport, where Trump is beginning a four-day visit to the country.

Trump will attend a gala dinner Thursday with British and American officials at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

On Friday, Trump will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II and then spend the weekend at one of his private golf courses in Scotland.

Widespread protests of Trump are expected during his visit to the U.K., which comes during a tumultuous week for May’s government as it seeks to navigate the Brexit process. Trump is arriving after a chaotic NATO summit.

Watch live: FBI agent Peter Strzok testifies on texts critical of Trump

Democrats hope Obamacare fears will derail Kavanaugh as White House moves to soften his image

By Noah Bierman

As President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, made the rounds Tuesday on Capitol Hill, early contours of what is likely to be a bitter confirmation battle began to take shape.

Democrats, who had previously focused largely on the impact to legalized abortion, began shifting their focus to the threat Trump’s pick might pose to the survival of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Not only has healthcare proved to be a galvanizing force for the party’s supporters, it’s far less divisive than abortion.

Republicans, meanwhile, are working to soften Kavanaugh’s image as a political operative who has been at the center of some of the most partisan battles of the last two decades. The White House and its surrogates are instead drawing attention to the nominee’s impressive credentials and what they see as his commitment to women and diversity.

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Attorney: Ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page won’t show for House interview

By Associated Press

An attorney for former FBI lawyer Lisa Page says she will not appear for a private interview Wednesday with two House committees, despite a subpoena.

Page’s lawyer says she didn’t have enough time to prepare and had asked the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees to schedule another date. Because they would not, “Lisa is not going to appear for an interview at this time,” Amy Jeffress said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The committees are interested in Page as part of their investigation into what they say is bias at the Justice Department. Page exchanged text messages critical of Donald Trump with FBI agent Peter Strzok, who will testify publicly before the panel Thursday. Page and Strzok both worked on the FBI investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails and, later, special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte said Page has known for months that the panel has sought her testimony, and the committee will use “all tools at our disposal” to obtain it. If a witness does not respond to a subpoena, the full House can vote to hold her in contempt of Congress.

“It appears that Lisa Page has something to hide,” Goodlatte said.

House Republicans have suggested the FBI was conspiring against Trump during and after his presidential campaign, and the two committees are investigating decisions made by the agency and the Justice Department during the 2016 presidential election.

The Judiciary committee issued a subpoena Saturday for Page to appear Wednesday, according to Jeffress. She suggested on Monday that it was still unclear whether Page would appear, saying in a statement that they were “still waiting to work out a reasonable date” for the interview and waiting on documents from the FBI to prepare. On Tuesday, Jeffress said she and Page had gone to the FBI to review the materials, “but after waiting for more than three hours, we were not provided with any documents.”

The Judiciary and Oversight panels have already spent much of the summer holding hearings and interviews critical of the FBI and Justice Department. Democrats have strongly objected to the GOP-led investigation, saying it is an attempt to undermine Mueller’s probe and sway public opinion against investigators.

The committees have focused much of their ire on Strzok, who was interviewed privately by lawmakers on the two committees for 11 hours June 27. He will return to Capitol Hill for the hearing Thursday, the first time he will speak publicly about the messages.

Strzok had a leading role in the Clinton probe and was removed from the Mueller investigation after the texts were discovered a year ago. Page had already left the Mueller team.

A report by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog released last month detailed the inflammatory texts between the two, including an exchange in which Strzok wrote “we’ll stop it” in reference to a potential Trump election. The report did not find that the conclusions in the Clinton investigation were tainted by political bias.

The Judiciary Committee also held a contentious hearing June 28 with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein. In the hearing, Republicans angrily accused the officials of withholding documents from them and demanded details about surveillance tactics in the Russia investigation.

Trump opens NATO summit with blast at allies, accuses Germany over ties to Russia

By Eli Stokols

President Trump kicked off his two-day visit with NATO allies by doing exactly what many of them feared, worsening tensions within the alliance by claiming that Germany, a bulwark of the transatlantic democratic order, “is totally controlled by” and “captive to Russia.”

Trump, who often goes on the attack by accusing someone of behavior he has been accused of, irked allies last month by suggesting that Russia should be readmitted to the G-7, and is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. He began a series of meetings with NATO leaders here Wednesday by suggesting during a welcome breakfast that a natural gas pipeline project has made Germany subservient to Russia.

He did not name the project, but appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would transport Russian gas to Germany’s Baltic coast and dramatically increase the amount of gas Russia is able to export directly to Germany. The U.S. and some European Union countries oppose the project.

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Trump claims Germany is ‘totally controlled’ by Russia

By Associated Press

President Trump attends a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, ahead of a NATO Summit on July 11.

President Trump attends a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, ahead of a NATO Summit on July 11.

(Stephanie Lecocz / EPA/Shutterstock)

In a combative start to his NATO visit, President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” and blasted NATO allies’ defense spending, opening what was expected to be a fraught summit with a list of grievances involving American allies.

Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, took issue with the U.S. protecting Germany when the European nation is making deals with Russia.

“I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia,” Trump said during a breakfast with Stoltenberg, his first event since arriving in Brussels. “We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate.”

The president appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany’s northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany. The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the U.S. and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.

Trump said that, “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia” and urged NATO to look into the issue. Trump, who has been accused of being too cozy with Putin — a man accused of U.S. election meddling — was expected to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day.

Stoltenberg pushed back, stressing that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences.

The dramatic exchange set the tone for what was already expected to be a tense day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance. Trump is expected to continue hammering jittery NATO allies about their military spending during the summit meeting, which comes amid increasingly frayed relations between the “America first” president and the United States’ closest traditional allies.

Brett Kavanaugh, a Washington veteran, is Trump’s second pick for the Supreme Court

By David G. Savage

In choosing Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, President Trump went with a well-credentialed Washington insider who compiled a long record as a reliable conservative and won the respect of White House lawyers and the outside groups that advise them.

They are confident that, if confirmed by the Senate, he will move the high court to the right on abortion, gun rights, affirmative action, religious liberty and environmental protection, among other issues.

But his court record and his status as a Beltway insider could also pose problems as the 53-year-old judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeks to move a few blocks up Capitol Hill to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for whom he worked as a law clerk from 1993 to 1994.

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Watch live: President Trump announces his Supreme Court nominee

Customs agency says only 7 families separated at ports of entry from May to June, conflicting with news reports and a judge’s ruling

By Jazmine Ulloa

A group of asylum seekers waits to be processed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry south of San Diego.

A group of asylum seekers waits to be processed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry south of San Diego.

(Alejandro Tamayo / San Diego Union-Tribune)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials attempted to rebut claims that they have been separating families at border ports of entry, saying Monday that the agency split only seven families out of 5,298 who presented themselves at legal international checkpoints from May to June.

“Separation at the ports of entry is very rare,” said Todd C. Owen, executive assistant commissioner of the agency’s office of field operations. “We are very judicious about the family unit.”

Owen said, however, that U.S. officials have been struggling to process asylum seekers because of a lack of temporary holding space at the nation’s 328 ports of entry. He also said the agency has been working with Mexican counterparts to hold families seeking asylum at shelters in Mexico instead of letting them wait on border bridges where they would be “exposed to the elements.”

The numbers are the first the agency has released concerning family separations at legal ports amid the Trump administration’s enforcement of its “zero-tolerance” policy.

By contrast, more than 2,000 children were taken from parents who crossed the border illegally since the administration began enforcing its new policy in early May. Under the zero-tolerance policy, officials said they would charge all adults who crossed the border illegally with misdemeanors. Because children can’t be placed in adult jails, the criminal charges became grounds for splitting up the families.

The agents’ statements about the rarity of separations of families entering at legal ports of entry conflict with news reports and findings by a federal judge who has ordered the federal government to reunite all children younger than 5 with their families by Tuesday.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw of San Diego wrote that there had been a “casual, if not deliberate, separation of families that lawfully present at the port of entry, not just those who cross into the country illegally.”

The Times reported this month on a number of cases since last year in which families were separated after asking for asylum at a port of entry. The separations happened even when asylum seekers carried records, such as birth certificates or hospital documents, listing them as the parents of their children, according to interviews and court records.

At the time, border officials told The Times the agency did not have data showing how often such separations occur.

Some of the cases reviewed by The Times happened in the days after the families presented themselves at a port of entry, when they had been transferred to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Those cases would not necessarily be counted in the statistics that Customs and Border Protection released Monday.

Owen said family separation has rarely been the practice with asylum seekers at ports of entry. If asylum seekers have been turned away, he said, it has been because of a lack of resources. The challenges have been compounded by 1,300 vacancies across the agency and efforts to curb the flow of meth, heroin and opioids, he said.

Despite the administration’s strict but changing immigration policies, families have continued to come across the border. The number of families crossing at ports of entry, primarily the southern border bridges, decreased from 35,476 in 2016 to 29,377 last year only to spike again this year, 37,397 as of June.

Owen said roughly 532,000 people and 208,000 vehicles cross into the U.S daily. The two busiest ports are in Tijuana and San Ysidro.

Customs officials have been stationed at the “limit lines” at entry points in recent months, preventing asylum seekers from entering the country, intermittently halting the processing of asylum seekers at border bridges at times in recent weeks.

Owen said he could not provide an estimate as to how long it takes to process families. “We try to get them out as quickly as we can,” he said.

Staff writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske contributed to this report.

The roiled solar power market shows how Trump’s tariffs can disrupt an industry

By Don Lee

A 30% U.S. tariff on imported solar panels put in place last winter should have caused prices here to jump.

But when tariffs are unleashed, as businesses are learning, things don’t always go as expected.

Therein lies a cautionary tale of the uncertainty in store for other industries as the Trump administration’s latest tariffs took effect Friday against hundreds of Chinese imports valued at $34 billion, including semiconductors, farm machinery, medical devices and aircraft parts.

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Pompeo pushes back on North Korea complaints, insists nuclear talks are on track

By Tracy Wilkinson

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on Sunday sought to downplay North Korea’s harsh complaints about U.S. demands and insisted that negotiations on Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament were making progress.

Speaking in Tokyo, Pompeo suggested North Korea’s public statements were very different from what he heard privately during two days of talks with the country’s powerful former spy chief, Kim Yong Chol.

“People are going to make certain comments after meetings,” Pompeo said at a news conference with the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea. “If I paid attention to what the press said, I’d go nuts, and I refuse to do that.”

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Democrats’ long-shot plan to stop Trump’s Supreme Court pick

By Sarah D. Wire

Narrowly outnumbered in the Senate, Democrats are embarking on a Hail Mary campaign to block President Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court.

And they realize what a long shot it is.

“Let’s be clear: Democrats have no way to hold up this confirmation or delay the process. Mitch McConnell can and will hold a vote on Trump’s pick,” warned Indivisible — a liberal advocacy group launched after Trump’s election — on its website.

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Trump administration moves to rescind Obama-era guidance on race in college admissions

By Nick Anderson

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions speaks during a Medal of Valor ceremony in the White House on Feb. 20.

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions speaks during a Medal of Valor ceremony in the White House on Feb. 20.

(Olivier Douliery / TNS)

The Trump administration is moving to rescind Obama-era guidance to colleges and universities on how they can use race in admissions decisions to promote diversity, according to an administration official.

The action, expected Tuesday afternoon, is likely to signal a shift toward advocacy of race-neutral admissions. The Supreme Court has upheld race-conscious admission practices as recently as 2016, but affirmative action in higher education remains a contentious issue.

In 2011 and 2016, the Obama administration’s Justice and Education departments jointly spelled out for colleges their view of the law on the voluntary use of race in admissions.

The 2011 statement said the departments “recognize the compelling interest that postsecondary institutions have in obtaining the benefits that flow from achieving a diverse student body.” It went on to assert that schools have flexibility “to take proactive steps, in a manner consistent with principles articulated in Supreme Court opinions, to meet this compelling interest.”

The Obama-era documents replaced a 2008 letter on the subject from the Bush administration. Now it appears that the Trump administration is about to assert its own views. A Justice Department spokesman said an announcement was imminent.

Former Obama officials criticized the move.

“Once again, the Trump administration works to create confusion where none exists, needlessly muddying civil rights practices in schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant education secretary for civil rights under Obama. “The Supreme Court has been consistent over decades in its rulings on lawful use of race in affirmative action, and the guidance the Trump administration rescinds today offered nothing more than a clear and practical statement of the law and how to comply with it. Taking away that guidance undermines the steps toward equity school communities have long been taking.”

Pompeo to travel to North Korea seeking answers about its nuclear plans

By Bloomberg

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo.

(Kris Tripplaar / TNS)

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo will travel to North Korea on Thursday to continue talks with Kim Jong Un’s government, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.

Pompeo’s visit follows the historic summit between Kim and President Trump in Singapore in June. The secretary of State, who will be making his third trip to North Korea, will seek answers about Kim’s intentions after new intelligence suggested that his country has continued to ramp up its nuclear capabilities.

The trip represents the highest-level exchange between the two sides since Trump and Kim met and agreed to work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” without establishing a framework or guideposts for achieving that goal. Trump administration officials have deflected criticism of the agreement, describing it as the first step in a negotiated process to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.

But new doubts about Kim’s intentions have been raised in recent days as independent researchers and media organizations detailed North Korean efforts to increase fuel production, build more missile launchers and expand a key rocket-engine manufacturing facility.

“This meeting is absolutely critical,” said Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “One can argue that the North Koreans are doing all of this to get maximum concessions out of the United States if and when they decide to give up their nuclear program. But at some point they have to sit down and actually produce something. Maybe this trip, but I’m not holding my breath.”

White House attacks Sen. Kamala Harris over border issues, and she fires back

By Los Angeles Times

The White House attacked Sen. Kamala Harris of California on Twitter on Monday over illegal immigration, prompting her to fire back on the administration’s separation of children from their parents after they crossed the border.

The White House accused Harris, a Democrat, of supporting “the animals of MS-13,” a criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles. It offered no evidence for the claim.

Later, Harris responded that she had a long history of combating gangs as a prosecutor, and then slammed Trump for “ripping babies from their mothers.”

Michael Cohen signals split with President Trump in new interview

By Chris Megerian

Michael Cohen leaves the federal courthouse in Manhattan this year.

Michael Cohen leaves the federal courthouse in Manhattan this year.

(Hector Retamal / AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime lawyer, put some distance between himself and his former client in an interview published on Monday, implying that he wouldn’t hesitate to cooperate with prosecutors even if that hurt the president.

“To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son and this country have my first loyalty,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Although Cohen has not been charged, he’s the subject of a criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Federal agents seized thousands of records from his home, office and hotel room earlier this year, and Cohen is in the process of switching his legal team.

Once that happens, ABC reported, his lawyers and Trump’s lawyers will no longer share information, a sign that their interests are diverging.

Cohen also pointedly declined to answer certain questions during the interview. For example, he previously insisted that he was acting on his own when arranging a $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claims to have had sex with Trump.

But he wouldn’t say one way or another in the interview.

“I want to answer. One day I will answer,” Cohen said. “But for now, I can’t comment further on advice of my counsel.”

Mexico asks United Nations to intervene on family separation by U.S.

By Patrick J. McDonnell

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray this week at the Organisation of American States in Washington.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray this week at the Organisation of American States in Washington.

(Aldo Gamboa / AFP/Getty Images)

Mexico is calling on the United Nations to intervene to prevent the United States from separating immigrant children and parents, the result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

President Trump last week signed an executive order to end the practice after a global outcry, but the Mexican government made no mention of Trump’s order in a statement released Thursday evening.

The statement said Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s foreign secretary, met Thursday in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and urged the U.N. to intervene on the issue.

The statement called the separation of families cruel and a violation of human rights. Videgaray had already condemned the practice in remarks on June 18, calling it “cruel and inhuman.”

This week the Trump administration said it was developing plans to reunite parents with children. On Tuesday a federal judge in San Diego issued an injunction ordering the administration to reunite thousands of migrant children with their parents within 30 days.

A week ago, the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council the day after the U.N. high commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Hussein, sternly criticized the family separation policy.

Melania Trump travels to Arizona to meet with Border Patrol officials

By Associated Press

First Lady Melania Trump arrives in Tucson on June 28.

First Lady Melania Trump arrives in Tucson on June 28.

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

First Lady Melania Trump said she’s looking forward to speaking with Border Patrol officials and touring an intake facility in Arizona on Thursday.

The first lady said as she sat down with officials at a Border Patrol facility in Tucson that: “I’m here to support you and give my help, whatever I can,” on “behalf of children and the families.”

She is also expected to meet with children and local members of the community during her second trip to the border amid outrage over her husband’s now-suspended policy of separating migrant children from their families when they cross the border illegally.

Most families have yet to be reunited.

She boarded an official plane Thursday morning at Joint Base Andrews wearing a black shirt and white slacks.

The first lady’s wardrobe became an issue last week, when she traveled to McAllen, Texas, wearing a jacket that said, “I really don’t care, do u?” on the back.

Her spokeswoman said there was no message intended in the jacket. President Trump undercut that statement, tweeting it was about his wife not caring about “fake news.”

Judge’s ruling on migrant children in custody gives families few answers

By Eliza Fawcett

Activists went without food near the border in Texas, protesters banged pots outside an immigration agency office in Washington, and Congress prepared to go on break after rejecting a potential fix as the saga of migrant children in federal custody dragged on Wednesday for another day without resolution.

A day after a federal judge in San Diego ordered the Trump administration to reunite 2,042 migrant children taken from their parents and put into detention facilities at the border, no plan for bringing the families back together had emerged and the administration still had a chance to appeal the ruling.

President Trump would not say if he would fight the order in court.

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Both sides mobilize for a Senate ‘battle of the ages’ focused on one issue — abortion

By Jackie Calmes

Democrats have a very limited ability to block President Trump’s second nominee for the Supreme Court in the Republican-controlled Senate, yet they do have some chance — and they quickly began mobilizing for it on Wednesday.

Whether Trump’s nominee wins likely will turn on one of the most divisive issues in American politics — abortion rights.

For decades Republicans succeeded where Democrats have failed, in making court nominations a motivating force at election time — turning out religious conservatives with the promise that Republican candidates would support Supreme Court justices opposed to Roe vs. Wade, the decision that guaranteed a nationwide right to abortion. Now, with Trump poised to tip the Supreme Court’s balance decidedly rightward, Democrats’ hope lies in shaking their own voters’ complacency about that 45-year-old ruling.

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Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire, giving Trump a chance to shift Supreme Court sharply right

By David G. Savage

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Supreme Court centrist who for a generation has cast the deciding vote in the biggest cases, plans to retire, giving President Trump a chance to shift the court sharply to the right.

Kennedy, 81, will depart effective July 31, the court said in a statement Wednesday.

Kennedy’s decision to step down offers conservatives the opportunity they have long sought to lock in a reliable five-member majority on the high court. And for them, it comes at an ideal time, since Republicans control the Senate and have voted in unison to confirm most of Trump’s conservative court nominees.

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Trump’s leading picks for Kennedy’s replacement would shift Supreme Court to conservative majority

By Colleen Shalby

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

(J. Scott Applewhite)

The Supreme Court’s swing justice plans to retire – a decision that will give President Trump the ability to shift the court toward the right. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 81, has been the deciding vote on several major cases – including approval of same-sex marriage in 2015.

Trump said Kennedy’s replacement would be selected from a list of 25 people that he updated last year. Leading candidates include federal appeals court Judges Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania and Brett Kavanaugh, who sits on the D.C. Circuit.

Kavanaugh, a staunch conservative and a former law clerk for Kennedy, was a top deputy to Kenneth M. Starr, the Independent Counsel in the drive to impeach President Clinton. President George W. Bush later appointed Kavanaugh to the appeals court.

In December, Kavanaugh was one of three dissenters in a case that allowed two pregnant teenage immigrants being held in detention facilities to obtain abortions. Opposite Kavanaugh was Merrick Garland, the judge President Obama nominated to fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Scalia’s death, but who ultimately was denied before Trump brought in Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Before Kennedy announced his retirement, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted criticism about the Trump administration’s Supreme Court list, calling the choices a “danger to women’s health.”

But in a Republican-controlled Senate, Democrats will have a difficult time preventing Trump’s nominee from being approved.

As David Savage noted, if the high court shifts to a solidly conservative majority, the move could open the way to overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to once again make abortion illegal. Other issues on which the court could move include expanded protections for gun owners, limits on gay rights and broader ability for the government to detain and deport immigrants who enter the country illegally.

Leaving Kennedy aside, the court has four justices in the conservative camp – Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Gorsuch – and four on the liberal side, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg, the oldest on the court, has made it clear that she has no plans to retire.

Trump says he’ll pick Supreme Court nominee from his campaign list

By Jackie Calmes

Neil Gorsuch was President Trump's first Supreme Court appointee.

Neil Gorsuch was President Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

President Trump said he will soon pick a nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy from the same list of people he announced during his election campaign, and from which he chose his first justice, Neil Gorsuch.

“Hopefully we will pick someone who is just as outstanding” as Gorsuch, Trump told reporters ahead of a meeting with the president of Portugal.

The list of 25 people — now 24 with Gorsuch’s selection — names decidedly conservative jurists and one Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah. In releasing it during the 2016 campaign, Trump sought to appeal to religious conservatives wary of a him, given his record of three marriages, his past Democratic affiliation and his formerly pro-abortion rights views.

Calling it an “excellent list of great talent,” Trump added that releasing the names “was pretty effective” during the election season.

His second nominee “will be somebody from that list,” he said.

Surprise defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley is a blow to Nancy Pelosi’s House leadership team

By Sarah D. Wire

The stunning primary defeat of New York Rep. Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent once seen as a likely replacement for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is once again forcing House Democrats to address their inner divisions, including questions about who will lead them if they regain control in 2018.

Grumbling about whether Pelosi and other long-serving Democratic leaders should step aside has been getting louder in recent years, with a surprising number of new Democratic candidates saying this year that they will not back the Democrat from San Francisco for speaker if their party retakes the House.

The surprise loss by Crowley, the fourth-ranked Democrat in the House, pushes that debate front and center.

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U.S. and Russia set date for Trump-Putin summit, Kremlin says

By Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with U.S. national security advisor John Bolton in Moscow in June 27.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with U.S. national security advisor John Bolton in Moscow in June 27.

(Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A foreign affairs advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow and Washington have reached an agreement on a summit meeting between Putin and President Trump.

Presidential advisor Yuri Ushakov said talks between Kremlin officials and Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, yielded an agreement on the time and venue of the summit.

The Kremlin and the White House are expected to formally announce the date and location on Thursday. Ushakov said the summit will take place in a third country.

California federal judge orders separated children reunited with parents within 30 days

By Alene Tchekmedyian

A federal judge in San Diego issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union that calls for all children affected by the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy to be reunited with their parents within 30 days.

In a strongly worded opinion, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw wrote “the facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance — responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making. They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.”

Under the order, children younger than 5 years old must be reunited with their parents within 14 days, while older children must be reunited with their parents within 30 days. Within 10 days, federal authorities must allow parents to call their children if they’re not already in contact with them.

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Migrant children won’t be reunited with parents who are still in custody, top official says

By Jazmine Ulloa

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testifying at a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testifying at a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

(Associated Press)

The Trump administration will not reunite any migrant children with parents still held in immigrant detention facilities unless current federal law changes first, a top administration official told Congress on Tuesday.

The statement by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose agency currently has custody of 2,047 children who were separated from their parents after being apprehended crossing the border illegally, confirmed what immigrant advocates have feared: The administration will reunite children with their parents quickly only if the parents drop their claims for asylum in the U.S. and agree to be deported.

Under administration policy, immigrants claiming asylum are held in detention awaiting a hearing — a process that can often take months or years. Because current law allows children to be held in immigrant detention facilities for no more than 20 days, Azar’s agency would not place any of the children with parents who are in those facilities, he said.

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Trump again calls Maxine Waters ‘low IQ,’ warns her to ‘be careful’

By Associated Press

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) questions witnesses during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 28, 2009.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) questions witnesses during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 28, 2009.

(Charles Dharapak / Associated Press)

President Trump says Congresswoman Maxine Waters should “be careful” after she urged the public to “push back” against administration members.

Trump criticized the California Democrat in a tweet Monday. The president renewed his claim that he considers Waters “an extraordinarily low IQ person” and said she’s become the “Face of the Democrat Party” along with fellow California Democrat Nancy Pelosi. Trump added: “Be careful what you wish for Max!”

Waters is a vocal Trump critic who has been calling for his impeachment. She told rally-goers in her Los Angeles district over the weekend to “push back” on Trump administration members when they’re in public and “tell them they’re not welcome.”

Waters’ comments were in response to Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that led to families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Supreme Court sides with faith-based pregnancy centers over California disclosure law

By L.A. Times staff

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a blow to a California law that requires faith-based crisis pregnancy centers to notify patients that the state offers subsidized medical care, including abortions.

The decision, on a 5-4 vote, did not strike down the law but sent the case back to lower courts for further review, suggesting the centers were likely to win. The majority questioned whether the disclosure rule amounts to compelled speech that violates the 1st Amendment.

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Supreme Court upholds Trump’s travel ban

By Los Angeles Times Staff

The Supreme Court today upheld President Trump’s ban on travelers from six nations, ruling that the chief executive has the power to target foreign nations and block their citizens from entering this country.

The 5-4 ruling rejected arguments that Trump overstepped his authority under the immigration laws and that his targeting of mostly Muslim-majority countries amounted to unconstitutional religious discrimination.

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Border Patrol stops handing over most immigrant parents for prosecution, but won’t say when families will be reunified

By Jazmine Ulloa

U.S. Border Patrol agents have stopped handing parents over to the Justice Department for prosecution when they are caught crossing the border illegally with their children, the head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said Monday.

The statement by Commissioner Kevin McAleenan marked a significant, if temporary, step back from the “zero tolerance” policy that the Trump administration has pursued for the last two months, which has led to more than 2,000 children being taken from their parents. President Trump issued an order Wednesday to stop separating families.

“I directed the temporary suspension of prosecutions for families in that category while we work through a process … where we can maintain family unity while enforcing prosecution efforts,” McAleenan said.

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Trump claims credit for the strong labor market. Experts say he also should thank Obama

By Jim Puzzanghera

President Trump stood before a crowd of small-business owners at a hotel here last week and said that his administration’s economic policy could “be summed up in three very beautiful words … jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Then, as he and other administration officials have frequently done, he trumpeted a slew of recent outstanding labor market statistics: the lowest unemployment rate since 1969, the best black and Latino unemployment rates since the government began tracking them in the early 1970s, the four-week average for jobless claims at a 44-year low and 3.4 million jobs created since his election.

“Nobody would have believed these numbers if I said them during the campaign,” Trump told a cheering crowd of members of the National Federation of Independent Business on Wednesday.

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Some Democrats fear publicly shaming Trump officials may backfire

By Sarah D. Wire

The recent public shaming of Trump administration officials in restaurants has triggered a fierce internal debate among Democrats over how far they should go in confronting the president and his policies.

The boisterous protests against Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Trump advisor Stephen Miller as they dined in different Mexican restaurants, and the ejection of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Saturday by the owner of a Virginia eatery, caused some Democrats to embrace the strategy as an effective way to rally supporters and hold officials responsible.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), a frequent critic of the administration, gave a high-profile boost to the tactic by saying members of the Trump administration should be repeatedly confronted in their everyday lives.

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Trump supporters unleash anger at the wrong Red Hen restaurant. Why the law sets the two apart

By Colleen Shalby

Sarah Sanders made comments on the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia.

A restaurant in Lexington, Va., refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the basis of her political views. Sanders and President Trump tweeted their outrage at the Red Hen eatery, as did a slew of others.

Another restaurant nearly 200 miles away was caught in the cross-hairs. Though the two have no affiliation and share only the same name, Sanders defenders directed their anger at the Washington, D.C., establishment nonetheless.

Aside from address, ownership and menu, there’s another major difference between the two restaurants – the law. The D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on a myriad of subjects including political affiliation. That’s not the case in Virginia, where much like the majority of states, the list includes sex, religion, gender, color and national origin – as directed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – but not political affiliation. And although political discrimination is not allowed in Virginia when it comes to employment, the same does not apply to patronage at businesses.

In April, a New York judge threw out a lawsuit brought by a Trump supporter after he was thrown out of a New York bar for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. The judge ruled that the law there does not protect against political discrimination.

Watch: Sarah Huckabee Sanders addresses the Red Hen controversy

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addresses the news that a Virginia restaurant asked her to leave because of her association with President Trump.     

“Healthy debate on ideas and political philosophy is important, but the calls for harassment and push for any Trump supporter to avoid the public is unacceptable.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Watch live: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a media briefing

Impeach Trump? Even Democrats who despise the president can’t agree on a strategy for the midterm election

By Mark Z. Barabak

Michael E. Capuano, a 10-term Democratic congressman from Boston, says he’s always delivered for the folks back home, but right now there’s an even higher priority: stopping Donald Trump.

“That’s why I voted twice to begin impeachment proceedings,” Capuano states in a reelection ad.

But Jacky Rosen, a freshman Democratic congresswoman from Las Vegas, says she’s waiting for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to complete his investigation of President Trump and his associates before supporting such a drastic step.

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Trump trash talks restaurant that booted Sarah Huckabee Sanders

By Associated Press

Passerby gather in front of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., on Saturday.

Passerby gather in front of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., on Saturday.

(Daniel Lin / Associated Press)

President Donald Trump on Monday trash-talked a Virginia restaurant that asked his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to leave because she worked for his administration.

Trump, in a Monday morning tweet, said that the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., “should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.”

“I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” added Trump, an admitted germophobe, who has said he prefers eating at fast-food chains rather than independent eateries because he trusts them more.

Online images of the restaurant, a three-hour-drive from Washington, appear to show no evidence of serious disrepair, with clean-looking green awnings and white paint on the doors and trim.

Sanders tweeted over the weekend that she was asked to leave the restaurant by its owner Friday evening because she worked for Trump. Sanders said she “politely left” and that the owner’s “actions say far more about her than about me.”

The restaurant’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, but she told the Washington Post that her reasons for booting Sanders included the concerns of employees who were gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from serving in the military.

Several other Trump administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have been confronted in public in recent days amid intense fury over an administration policy that led to a spike in the number of immigrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border illegally.

Nielsen cut short a working dinner at a Mexican restaurant last week after protesters shouted, “Shame!” until she left. Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller was accosted by someone at a different Mexican restaurant, who called him “a fascist,” according to the New York Post.

The displays of hostility have set off a fierce debate about whether politics should play a role in how administration officials are treated in public, with Sanders’s father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, denouncing his daughter’s treatment as “bigotry.”

People angry over Sarah Huckabee Sanders slam the wrong Red Hen

By Associated Press

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

People have been flooding a Red Hen restaurant with angry calls and negative reviews since White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was told to leave — but they’ve got the wrong Red Hen.

Restaurant managing partner Elizabeth Pope tells the Philadelphia Inquirer that the New Jersey eatery has received at least 600 phone calls from people mistaking it with a Virginia eatery with the same name.

The owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Va., asked Sanders to leave the restaurant Friday, citing the concerns of employees.

Pope says people have threatened the Swedesboro, N.J., restaurant and staff, prompting the restaurant to proclaim its lack of affiliation with the Virginia restaurant on Facebook.

When asked if Pope would turn down Sanders, she said the press secretary would be welcomed like anyone else.

Trump tweets that migrants who enter U.S. illegally should be sent back without court hearing

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks in Las Vegas on Saturday.

President Trump speaks in Las Vegas on Saturday.

(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

President Trump says people who “invade” the U.S. must immediately be sent back to their countries and not be given a court hearing.

Trump tweeted Saturday that the U.S. immigration system is “laughed at all over the world” and is “very unfair” to individuals using legal avenues to gain entry.

“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country,” Trump tweeted. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”

Last week, Trump reversed a policy of separating families entering the U.S. illegally at the border with Mexico.

The House is expected to vote on immigration legislation later this week.

Rep. Ted Lieu plays audio of sobbing children from migrant detention center on House floor

By Associated Press

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) caused a stir on the House floor Friday when he played audio of sobbing children in a migrant detention center crying out for their parents.

He was quickly gaveled by the presiding officer, Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.), who told him to stop playing the audio because it was against House rules.

Lieu responded that Americans need to hear what was going on at the center.

The dramatic audio, first published by ProPublica and later provided to the Associated Press, roiled the national debate over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” approach to border crossings. The policy has resulted in more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents.

Within a minute, Lieu yielded back his time and the audio was cut off.

Protesters gather outside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s home

By Washington Post

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

(Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA / Shutterstock)

About two dozen people gathered Friday morning outside the Virginia home of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in response to the Trump administration’s policy on separating children from their parents at the border.

According to an organizer of the protest, Nielsen was seen leaving through the back door of the home, in Alexandria, as the protest wound down around 8:30 a.m. It lasted about an hour.

Nielsen has become the face of President Trump’s family separation policy, which he halted in an executive order Wednesday. At least 2,500 immigrant children have been separated from their families over the past six weeks at the border.

On Tuesday, she was heckled by protesters at a Mexican restaurant in Washington that sits two blocks from the White House.

Trump kills off House immigration bill he had vowed to support ‘1,000%’

By Eli Stokols

President Trump discusses immigration with members of Congress at the White House on Wednesday

President Trump discusses immigration with members of Congress at the White House on Wednesday

(Jim Lo Scalzo /EPA /Shutterstock)

With an early morning tweet, President Trump put the likely final nail in the coffin of an immigration measure supported by the House GOP leadership, saying that lawmakers shouldn’t bother with legislation he had claimed to support just days before.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” Trump tweeted, forecasting that the GOP would gain seats in the midterm election.

Trump has shown consistent inconsistency on the proposal. Last Friday, he said during a television interview that he opposed it. Hours later, the White House reversed course, saying he supported it.

During a meeting with lawmakers earlier this week, Trump said he supported the bill “1,000%.”

The shifts offered another reminder to Republican lawmakers of Trump’s unreliability as a political partner. The president, uniquely capable of providing lawmakers with the political cover to take difficult votes on immigration, has hesitated to commit to legislation and often reversed himself after doing so.

The tweet comes at the end of a week in which the administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrants crossing the border illegally, which has forced the separation of more than 2,300 migrant children from their parents, has prompted many of his GOP allies to split with the White House.

Trump, as he indicated in his tweet, believes a divisive debate over immigration will benefit his party in November’s midterm elections, and he has continued to claim that Democrats are to blame for the immigration impasse. Many rank-and-file Republicans, however, already facing a strong Democratic headwind and nervous about preserving their majorities, aren’t convinced.

The legislation in question, backed by Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), offered a potential vehicle for a long-term fix to the law under which immigrant families have been separated under the administration’s zero tolerance policy that went into effect last month.

As of Friday, the proposal was scheduled for a vote next week, although it already appeared to be unlikely to pass, largely because of divisions within the GOP. Some conservative Republicans have labeled the proposal an “amnesty” because it includes a potential path to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers — young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

Even prior to the president’s Friday morning tweet, the GOP leadership had struggled to whip up votes for the proposal. After the tweet, it seemed doomed.

“Game over,” Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) told CNN Friday shortly after Trump’s tweet.

Supreme Court sides with states to permit online sales taxes

By Los Angeles Times Staff

In a billion-dollar victory for states, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, 5-4, that states may impose sales taxes on internet businesses, even if they don’t have physical locations in that state.

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Painful scenes of child separations force a rare retreat from the White House

By Jazmine Ulloa

A 2-year-old girl, with red sneakers and dark hair, crying as a U.S. Border Patrol agent searches her mother. Boys filing along white tents against a desolate desert backdrop. Toddlers screaming for their parents in a detention center in South Texas.

As wrenching scenes of the more than 2,300 immigrant children pulled apart from their parents at the southwest border sparked anguish around the globe and a political backlash at home, President Trump said migrants illegally “infest our country,” framing his policy to separate families as a deterrent against drug smugglers and Central American gang members.

From the June day three years ago when Trump announced his White House bid by charging that Mexico was sending “rapists” across the border, he has used inflammatory rhetoric on immigration, dehumanizing and criminalizing a broad class of people who he said threatened the nation’s security.

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The public widely rejected Trump’s family separation policy, polls found

By David Lauter

Several polls taken in recent weeks have found widespread public rejection of the Trump administration’s now-abandoned policy of separating children from parents when families are caught crossing the border illegally.

But at least one survey found that President Trump’s core supporters — those who voted for him during the GOP primaries in 2016 — were supportive of the idea. That suggests, as some of Trump’s advisors have said, that the policy was popular with his voters even as it was clearly political trouble for Republicans in some swing congressional districts.

A poll by Quinnipiac University, taken June 14-17, found that the public opposed separating parents from children by 27%-66%. Republicans in that poll supported the policy 55%-35%, while Democrats opposed it 91%-7%.

“As you may know, some families seeking asylum from their home country cross the U.S. border illegally and then request asylum. In an attempt to discourage this, the Trump administration has been prosecuting the parents immediately, which means separating parents from their children. Do you support or oppose this policy?” that poll asked.

A survey by YouGov for the Economist magazine asked a simpler question and got similar results.

“Do you approve or disapprove of separating families from each other, including minor children, when the adults are arrested for crossing the border into the United States without proper documentation?” that poll asked.

That poll found that Trump voters from the 2016 primary supported separation, 68%-23%. Those who voted for some other Republican in the primaries were more closely divided, with 50% supporting and 42% opposed. Those who voted in a Democratic primary opposed the plan with 16% in support and 78% against.

That poll was taken June 3-5, before the policy became the subject of intense controversy.

Two other surveys, one by the IPSOS polling firm for the Daily Beast website and one by CNN, found similar results — slightly more than a quarter of the public in favor of the policy, and about two thirds opposed.

Trump orders end to his family separation policy at the border, but relief could be temporary

By Eli Stokols

In a rare retreat to dispel outrage about his “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border, President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order to end a six-week-old practice of separating children from parents illegally crossing into the United States.

His directive seeks to keep families together in detention. That is likely to open a new legal battle, however, over a landmark 21-year-old court settlement known as the Flores agreement under which the federal government agreed to hold immigrant minors no longer than 20 days. Immigration cases typically take much longer than that.

The order could well be temporary. Administration officials called the order a stopgap measure, and refused to say what they would do with the migrant children in three weeks, should they fail to get a court’s exemption or pass legislation through Congress.

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Voter interest in the midterm elections stands at a historic high with a singular focus — Trump

By David Lauter

With about 4 1/2 months to go until a midterm election that will determine whether Democrats gain power to check President Trump, voter interest in the contest has reached historic highs, with far more intense focus than usual on one subject: the president.

Midterm elections often act as a referendum on whoever occupies the White House, but in most election years, many voters don’t view their ballot that way. This year, they do: Some 60% say they view their midterm vote as a ballot essentially against (34%) or for (26%) Trump, according to a newly released survey from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. That makes Trump a bigger factor in the midterm than any president since Pew first asked the question during President Reagan’s first term.

The new survey highlights how much the national, partisan contest now outweighs local issues in voters’ choice for Congress: Nearly three-quarters of voters on both sides of the partisan divide said they cared which party will end up controlling Congress — a significantly larger share than in previous elections.

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U.S. withdraws from U.N. Human Rights Council

By Tracy Wilkinson

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it is withdrawing from the U.N. body that oversees human rights around the globe, saying the 47-nation council has shown an “unconscionable” bias against Israel and a blind willingness to ignore abuse elsewhere.

The decision to leave the U.N. Human Rights Council was the latest multinational institution or accord that the administration has abandoned, sometimes upending years of U.S. policy. Critics were quick to cite the withdrawal as further evidence that under President Trump, the United States is retreating from its position as the leading international advocate for human rights.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made the announcement at the State Department. It wasn’t immediately clear if U.S. diplomats would stop all cooperation with the council or would continue to observe its sessions or engage in some investigations.

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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen heckled at restaurant over immigration policy

By Associated Press

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at a White House news briefing on June 18.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at a White House news briefing on June 18.

(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)

About a dozen protesters heckled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about the Trump administration’s immigration policy as she ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington.

The protesters entered MXDC Cocina Mexicana Tuesday and chanted “Shame!” and “End family separation!”

In a video posted on Facebook by Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America, the protesters yelled, “if kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace.”

Nielsen paid her bill and left after about 10 or 15 minutes.

A department spokesman tweeted that during a work dinner, the secretary and her staff heard from a small group of protesters who “share her concern with our current immigration laws.”

CFPB nominee Kathy Kraninger faces questions on her role in ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy

By Jim Puzzanghera

Two Senate Democrats want to know what role Kathy Kraninger, who is President Trump’s choice to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, played in the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy as a White House aide.

Kraninger oversees the budgets for the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which have been implementing the controversial policy that has separated at least 2,000 children from their parents crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since April.

“Kathy Kraninger helps oversee the agencies that are ripping kids from their parents,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), said Tuesday on Twitter.

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Critics say CFPB nominee Kathy Kraninger lacks the experience to be the nation’s top consumer financial watchdog

By Jim Puzzanghera

Nominees for top federal financial regulators usually have worked in high-level government or private-sector jobs and President Trump had been following that traditional playbook. Until his latest pick.

His choice for Comptroller of the Currency was chief executive of Pasadena’s OneWest Bank; the selection for Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairwoman had been executive vice president of Fifth Third Bank and chief counsel for the Senate Banking committee; and the nominee to head the Federal Reserve had served on the central bank’s board since 2012 after having been a top Treasury official and a partner at a high-powered asset-management firm.

But now for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — arguably the single most powerful financial regulator in Washington — Trump has tapped a little-known White House aide with no apparent relevant experience in finance, banking regulation or consumer protection.

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President Trump announces new tariffs on Chinese goods

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks at the White House on Monday.

President Trump speaks at the White House on Monday.

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

President Trump directed the U.S. trade representative to prepare new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports Monday as the two nations moved closer to a trade war.

The tariffs, which Trump wants set at 10%, would be the latest round of punitive measures in an escalating dispute over the large trade imbalance between the two countries. Trump recently ordered tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods in retaliation for what the U.S. said is intellectual property theft. The tariffs were quickly matched by China on U.S. exports.

“China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology,” Trump said in a statement Monday announcing the new action. “Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers and farmers who have done nothing wrong.”

Trump added: “These tariffs will go into effect if China refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced.”

Trump said that if China responds to this fresh round of tariffs, then he will move to counter “by pursuing additional tariffs on another $200 billion of goods.”

Trump’s comments come hours after the top U.S. diplomat accused China of engaging in “predatory economics 101″ and an “unprecedented level of larceny” of intellectual property.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the remarks at the Detroit Economic Club as global markets reacted to trade tension between the U.S. and China. Both nations started putting trade tariffs in motion that are set to take effect July 6.

He said China’s recent claims of “openness and globalization” are “a joke.” He added that China is a “predatory economic government” that is “long overdue in being tackled,” matters that include intellectual property theft and Chinese steel and aluminum flooding the U.S. market.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pompeo raised the trade issue directly with China last week when he met in Beijing with President Xi Jinping and others.

“I reminded him that’s not fair competition,” Pompeo said.

Trump had announced a 25% tariff on up to $50 billion in Chinese imports. China is retaliating by raising import duties on $34 billion worth of American goods, including soybeans, electric cars and whiskey. Trump also has slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and European allies.

Wall Street has viewed the escalating trade tension with wariness, fearful they could strangle the economic growth achieved during Trump’s watch.

Read more

Watch live: The White House answers questions regarding immigration

Supreme Court punts on partisan gerrymandering

By David Savage

(Jessica Gresko /Associated Press)

The Supreme Court on Monday effectively punted on the thorny issue of whether partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts is constitutional, dismissing two cases without ruling on the larger issue.

In a 9-0 decision, the justices said plaintiffs in a Wisconsin lawsuit lacked standing. It also dismissed a similar Maryland case for procedural issues.

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1,995 immigrant children separated from adults in previous two months, officials say

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Boys are held at a migrant youth shelter this week in Brownsville, Texas.

Boys are held at a migrant youth shelter this week in Brownsville, Texas.

(Health and Human Services)

Migrant family separations on the border have drawn national attention, as the Trump administration enforces a “zero tolerance” policy of charging parents in criminal court and placing their children in federally funded shelters.

A total of 1,995 children have been separated from 1,940 adult guardians who were prosecuted for entering the country illegally from April 19 to May 31, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman said Friday. The spokesman made the comment during a background telephone briefing with reporters. Officials from the Border Patrol and Department of Justice also participated.

A number of lawmakers from both parties, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), have said in recent days that they disagree with the policy of separating children from parents.

During Friday’s briefing, officials said their policy was not family separation, but rather “100% prosecution.”

“Either we choose to enforce the law, or we choose to ignore it, and this administration has made it clear we’re not going to ignore the law any longer,” a Homeland Security official said. In the past, parents were often released pending court appearances; the practice and other alternatives to detention meant immigrants were “incentivized to break the law,” the official said.

Michael Cohen requests gag order to silence Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti

By Michael Finnegan

Michael Avenatti outside New York federal court.

Michael Avenatti outside New York federal court.

(Andres Kudacki / Associated Press)

President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is seeking a gag order to stop Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, from maligning him in the news media.

Citing Avenatti’s “seemingly unquenchable thirst for publicity,” Cohen’s lawyer Brent Blakely told a federal judge that Avenatti’s constant bashing of Cohen threatens to deprive Cohen of a fair trial.

In the three months since Daniels sued Cohen and the president to void a contract that bars her from discussing an alleged affair with Trump, Avenatti has talked about the case in at least 121 television appearances and 439 tweets, Blakely said in court papers.

“During these appearances and tweets, Mr. Avenatti has repeatedly denigrated Mr. Cohen, predicted that Mr. Cohen would be indicted for bank fraud, wire fraud, campaign finance violations, and accused Mr. Cohen of hiring a ‘thug’ to allegedly threaten Ms. Clifford,” Blakely wrote.

Blakely asked Judge S. James Otero of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for a restraining order barring Avenatti from discussing the matter with the news media.

On Twitter, Avenatti called the request “a complete joke.” “Mr. Cohen and Brent Blakely can’t deal with the truth, the facts, and the law, so they have to resort to unethical, meritless motions,” he said.

Cohen, who denies wrongdoing, is under federal criminal investigation in New York. Prosecutors are examining, among other things, his $130,000 payment to Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election to buy her silence on the alleged affair with Trump.

GOP bill would let crime victims sue ‘sanctuary’ cities; critics decry ‘total political theater’

By Sarah D. Wire

So-called sanctuary jurisdictions that decline to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement could be held liable for failing to detain people in the U.S. illegally for deportation proceedings, under draft legislation proposed Thursday by House Republican leaders.

Under the bill, if local law enforcement officials do not comply with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request to hold an immigrant who is in the country illegally, and that immigrant is released and later commits rape, murder or sexual assault of a minor, the victim or the victim’s family would be allowed to sue the jurisdiction, according to a draft of the bill released Thursday.

President Trump frequently railed about violent crimes committed by people in the country illegally during the 2016 campaign, most notably the case of Kathryn Steinle, a San Francisco woman killed two years ago by a Mexican man who had been deported several times.

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Sanders says it’s ‘biblical to enforce the law’ when asked about separating families at the border

By Colleen Shalby

An exchange between White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and CNN’s Jim Acosta. 

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions cited the Bible on Thursday in defense of the Trump administration’s criminal prosecution of adults who cross the border illegally, effectively separating them from their migrant children.

“Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” he said.

When CNN’s Jim Acosta asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to elaborate on the attorney general’s comments, the conversation turned tense.

“Where does it say in the Bible that it’s moral to take children away from their mothers?” Acosta asked.

Sanders said she wasn’t aware of Sessions’ comments, but said, “I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law.”

No law requires families to be separated. The administration recently adopted a new “zero tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting all people caught trying to cross the border illegally, even those seeking asylum. When families are caught, the approach separates the parents who are held pending trial from their children, who are taken to different detention centers. Border agents previously tried to keep parents and their children at the same detention site.

Sanders faulted Democrats for the separation of families.

Acosta continued to ask about the implementation of the policy to separate families.

“Because it’s the law,” Sanders responded.

Comey responds to the Justice Department’s report, says conclusions are ‘reasonable’

By Jessica Roy

Former FBI Director James Comey responded on Twitter to the Justice Department inspector general’s report about his handling of the investigation in 2016 into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The report found that Comey and others mishandled the case, including by improperly sharing information with the public. Investigators characterized Comey’s disclosure of the FBI’s findings in July 2016 as “extraordinary and insubordinate,” though not politically motivated.

“The conclusions are reasonable, even though I disagree with some,” Comey tweeted Thursday morning. Noting that he had a difficult decision to make, he added, “I pray no Director faces it again.”

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Speaker Paul Ryan says he disagrees with Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border

By Sarah D. Wire

(Shawn Thew / EPA/Shutterstock)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday he disagrees with the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.

“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents. We believe because of the court ruling, this will require legislative change,” Ryan said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) disputed that legislation is needed.

“This was an act of the administration, they had been planning this for a while,” Pelosi said in her own news conference.

“This is barbaric, this is not who America is, and this is the policy of the Trump administration,” she said. “The casual attitude that they’re having about this … they could weigh in with the administration and stop it on a dime.”

Ryan’s reference to a court decision involved a 1997 agreement called the Flores settlement, which requires the federal government in many cases to release immigrant children in its custody. The settlement does not require the government to separate families who arrive together, and previous administrations have not interpreted it that way.

Next week the House is expected to consider wide-ranging immigration legislation. Along with providing a legal solution for young people brought into the country illegally as children, the bill is expected to limit separating parents and children at the border.

It’s not clear if the bill, which is still being written by GOP leaders, could get enough support to pass the House, or if it would be brought up in the Senate.

The new zero-tolerance policy requiring prosecution of people arriving illegally at the border has driven up the number of immigrant children in government shelters in the nearly two months since it began.

Previously, border agents tried to keep families together by sending all members to the same family detention facility. Now, under the new policy announced in May, in most cases parents are prosecuted and children are sent to a separate refugee facility.

New York attorney general sues Trump Foundation

By Associated Press

(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

New York’s attorney general says President Trump’s foundation served as a personal piggy bank for his businesses, legal bills and presidential campaign.

Democratic Atty. Gen. Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the foundation and its directors, Trump and his children Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump. The suit seeks $2.8 million in restitution and the dissolution of the foundation.

Underwood says the foundation illegally helped support the Republican’s campaign by raising money at a nationally televised fundraiser in January 2016, then allowing campaign staffers to dictate how the money was spent in grants.

As Trump declares summit a success, Pompeo begins the hard part — negotiating the details of a nuclear deal

By Eli Stokols

As President Trump declared his summit with Kim Jong Un a smashing success, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quickly began the hard part: negotiating the complex details for a deal to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear threat.

Pompeo went straight to Seoul after the summit in Singapore to confer on Wednesday with South Korean allies and top U.S. military commanders in the region. He said that dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal could take 2½ years, the most concrete timeframe yet ascribed to what would undoubtedly be a long process.

Pompeo also had to explain to both the allies and American commanders the unexpected announcement from Trump in Singapore that he is halting annual joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, which the president described as provocative war games, using the lexicon of North Korea and China. Allies, including in Japan, were blindsided by the decision, which triggered sharp criticism from Congress, including Republicans, and from former and current U.S. officials.

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Trump puts stranglehold on GOP — and woe to any Republican who objects

By Mark Z. Barabak

Mark Sanford blew up his marriage and became a national laughingstock when he sneaked off his job as South Carolina governor for a tryst with his Argentine lover.

After he forsook his presidential ambitions and spent time in political purgatory, voters forgave Sanford’s trespass and, in 2013, elected him their representative in Congress.

But on Tuesday, Sanford was tossed from office by his Republican constituents for committing a far graver sin: criticizing President Trump.

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Is that environmental group a pawn of Beijing? Nonprofits wary of being branded ‘foreign agents’

By Evan Halper

When leaders of a powerful congressional committee turned their attention this month to the scourge of foreign agents plotting to weaken American democracy, they didn’t target Eastern European hackers or shadowy international political operatives.

They instead took off after the even-tempered environmental lawyers at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said he suspects the group has become an agent of China’s Communist Party. Why else, Bishop and a colleague wrote in a letter to the group demanding documents, would NRDC spend so much effort fawning over our adversary’s imperfect environmental record while attacking the Trump administration’s stewardship?

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Members of Congress join protest of family separations at the border

By Eliza Fawcett

Trump declares via Twitter the North Korea nuclear threat is over

By Associated Press

President Trump shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore.

President Trump shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump declared Wednesdayon Twitter that there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” a bold and questionable claim following his summit with leader Kim Jong Un that produced few guarantees on how and when Pyongyang would disarm.

Trump and Kim were returning to their respective strongholds following the talks — but to far different receptions.

In Pyongyang, the North Korean autocrat woke up to state media’s enthusiastic claims of a victorious meeting with the U.S. president; photos of him standing side-by-side with Trump on the world stage were splashed across newspapers. Trump, meanwhile, faced questions about whether he gave away too much in return for far too little when he bestowed a new legitimacy on Kim’s rule and agreed, at Pyongyang’s request, to end war games with Seoul that the allies had long portrayed as crucial to Asian safety.

As the top U.S. diplomat jetted to South Korea for follow-up talks Wednesday, much of Asia was still trying to process the whirlwind events of the day before.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived at Osan Air Base south of Seoul from Singapore early Wednesday evening. Pompeo met for close to an hour with Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, at the air base before heading by motorcade to Seoul.

Pompeo will meet President Moon Jae-in on Thursday morning to discuss the summit. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono is also heading to Seoul and is due to meet with Pompeo and his South Korean counterpart. Pompeo, the former CIA director, then plans to fly to Beijing to update the Chinese government on the talks.

House GOP leaders bump against deadline to agree on an immigration bill or be forced to vote

By Sarah D. Wire

GOP House leaders have bumped up against the Tuesday deadline set by moderate Republicans to come up with a compromise immigration proposal. Otherwise, the dissidents intend to act to force a vote on four immigration bills later this month.

Moderate and conservative Republicans have struggled for years to come together on immigration. In recent weeks, Republicans frustrated by Congress’ failure to resolve the legal status of people brought to the country illegally as children have pushed the issue back into the spotlight.

House GOP leaders late last week asked for more time to reach a compromise. Moderates, who organized a rarely used parliamentary maneuver known as a discharge petition to force a vote, said they could not wait beyond June 12 for House leaders to forge an alternative for helping the young immigrants, often called Dreamers.

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White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow suffers apparent heart attack

By Eli Stokols

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow this month.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow this month.

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

White House chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow suffered a heart attack Monday, according to President Trump.

“Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center,” Trump said on Twitter on Monday night.

The tweet came as the president was in a motorcade traveling from his Singapore hotel to the site of a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump offered no other details.

Kudlow, 70, who replaced Gary Cohn as the chair of the National Economic Council in March, traveled with the president to Quebec, Canada, last weekend for the Group of 7 summit and appeared Sunday morning on network television from Washington defending Trump’s tirade against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He was not part of the White House delegation that traveled from Quebec to Singapore for the North Korea summit.

Obamacare used to be political poison for Democrats. Now they see it as a winning prescription — even in red states

By Mark Z. Barabak

For years Democrats ran from the healthcare issue as though it were a heap of flaming rubble, which, politically speaking, it was.

Passage of the Affordable Care Act cost them control of Congress, gave rise to the upstart tea party movement and helped install Donald Trump in the White House.

But polls show support for the law increasing as it becomes more imperiled, and the result has been a political sea change.

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Supreme Court upholds Ohio’s voter purge law

By David Savage

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court

(Dreamstime)

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that states may remove people from voting rolls who did not cast a ballot in one election and failed to respond to notices.

The 5-4 decision by Justice Samuel Alito upheld Ohio’s voting rules. Challengers argued that the Ohio practice violated federal law and discriminated against lower-income voters, who move often and might miss notices mailed to their old address.

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Pompeo says Trump can offer North Korea security assurances unlike any in the past

By Matt Stiles

On the eve of a historic meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dangled new security concessions while publicly downplaying expectations that the nuclear summit will lead to anything beyond future talks.

As senior U.S. and North Korean negotiators huddled all day in working-level talks, Pompeo highlighted the extraordinary nature of the rushed Singapore summit, which brings a mercurial U.S. president and an erratic North Korean dictator face to face for the first time to haggle over the apocalyptic threat of nuclear war.

“There are only two people that can make decisions of this magnitude, and those two people are going to be sitting in a room together tomorrow,” Pompeo told reporters here Monday.

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Paul Manafort faces new charges of obstruction of justice in Russia probe

By Chris Megerian

(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been indicted again, this time on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The new charges were announced Friday by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Also indicted was Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner whom Mueller has accused of having ties to Russian intelligence.

The charges involve allegations that Manafort and Kilimnik tried to convince people to lie about an undisclosed lobbying effort on behalf of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.

Mueller unveiled the accusations earlier this week when telling a federal judge that Manafort may have violated the terms of his bail.

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Democratic senators call for probe into whether Trump’s jobs tweet led to market manipulation

By Jim Puzzanghera

Three Democratic senators want federal regulators to investigate whether there was any manipulation in financial markets after President Trump’s tweet last week suggesting a strong jobs report was about to be released.

“President Trump recklessly violated federal rules and years of precedent by telegraphing financial data that has the power to move our markets,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who joined with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to send letters to regulators and administration officials.

“The Trump Administration is swarming with people who have secret financial holdings and conflicts of interest a mile long,” she said Friday.

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Trump says he may pardon late boxing champion Muhammad Ali

By Associated Press

Muhammad Ali speaks to the Illinois Athletic Commission in Chicago in February 1966.

Muhammad Ali speaks to the Illinois Athletic Commission in Chicago in February 1966.

(Associated Press)

President Trump said Friday he may pardon the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, and for futures acts of clemency, he may seek recommendations from pro football players and other athletes who have protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.

Trump said that “instead of talk,” he is going to ask protesting players to suggest “people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system.” The president said that football players have “seen a lot of abuse” and “a lot of unfairness” and that he wants their input on his use of this executive power.

Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a meeting in Canada with U.S. allies that his team was “looking at literally thousands of names” of people for potential pardons because they were treated unfairly or their sentences are too long.

Ali is one name on this list.

Ali was born Cassius Clay and changed his name after converting to Islam in the 1960s. He refused to serve in the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs, declaring himself a conscientious objector and saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong.”

Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967. Ali’s legal fight ended in 1971, when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, reversing his conviction on a technicality. He regained his boxing title in 1974. Ali died in 2016.

Trump already has granted a posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, more than 100 years after what many saw as his racially charged conviction. Johnson was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury of violating the Mann Act for traveling with his white girlfriend. That law made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.

Earlier this week, Trump commuted the life sentence of a woman whose cause was championed by Kim Kardashian West.

Businesses hiked spending after the tax bill, but the U.S. economy still awaits that promised big boost

By Jim Puzzanghera

Southern California biotech giant Amgen Inc. opened its first state-of-the-art factory in Singapore in 2014 and executives were preparing late last year to pick the spot for a second one.

Then they hit the pause button.

Congress was closing in on a sweeping $1.5-trillion Republican tax bill with major benefits for U.S. businesses. If the legislation passed, domestic locations would vault into stronger competition with sites abroad to land a factory that would cost as much as $300 million to build, said David Meline, Amgen’s chief financial officer.

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Would a North Korea nuclear deal be better than the one Trump just abandoned with Iran?

By Tracy Wilkinson

When President Trump turned against the global tide and withdrew from the landmark, multi-nation Iran nuclear deal, he cited its failure to curtail the Islamic Republic’s other “malign behavior.”

That included Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and its support of militant groups beyond its borders.

Now, as he is about to embark on the potentially historic negotiation of an agreement with nuclear-armed North Korea, those criticisms of the Iran agreement could potentially put the president in a bind. He faces a challenge similar to the one President Obama faced in his dealings with Iran.

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Trump to exit G-7 summit early amid deepening trade dispute with allies

By Eli Stokols

President Trump met Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday before the weekend Group of 7 summit, which Trump now plans to skip early.

President Trump met Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday before the weekend Group of 7 summit, which Trump now plans to skip early.

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

President Trump will leave the weekend Group of 7 summit early, the White House announced Thursday night amid an intensifying battle over his decision to impose tariffs on some of the United States’ closest allies.

The White House announcement followed Trump’s tweets earlier in the evening attacking Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the summit host, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who will attend, for criticizing him over the tariffs.

Trump is to fly to the two-day summit in Quebec on Friday but now plans to depart earlier, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday. He will travel directly to Singapore, ahead of his scheduled meeting there with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday night.

Everett Eissenstat, deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs, will take Trump’s place at the closing sessions of the G-7 on Saturday. Those include a meeting on climate change, according to a statement released Thursday night by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The president’s top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, had insisted on Wednesday to reporters that Trump was looking forward to the summit despite the likelihood of a confrontation with allied leaders angered by the president’s decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on their nations’ exports.

Federal prosecutors seize New York Times reporter’s phone and email records, paper says

By David Lauter

Federal law enforcement officials seized several years’ worth of email and phone records from a reporter who currently works for the New York Times, the paper reported Thursday.

The seized material does not include the contents of the emails, but does include customer records from Verizon and Google covering two email accounts and a phone used by the reporter, Ali Watkins.

The seizures would mark the first known time that the Justice Department under President Trump has authorized prosecutors to obtain a reporter’s records as part of a leak investigation.

Federal prosecutors took similar actions in several cases under President Obama, but the Justice Department in Obama’s second term adopted new rules designed to shield reporters in many circumstances. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has said that the Justice Department may change some of those rules, which some prosecutors say have hindered investigations.

The records in the current case appear to be part of an investigation into alleged leaks of classified information from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Late Thursday, the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington announced that the committee’s former security director, James A. Wolfe, had been indicted and arrested on a charge of making a false statement to investigators. Wolfe, 57, worked for the committee for 30 years and retired last month.

The reporter had a three-year romantic relationship with Wolfe, the paper said. Wolfe was not a source for Watkins’ stories, she said, according to the Times. The indictment of Wolfe, however, cites numerous communications between him and Watkins.

Watkins began working for the New York Times late last year, covering national security. The seized records predate her hiring, covering a period during which she worked at BuzzFeed and Politico.

A prosecutor informed Watkins on Feb. 13 about the seizure, the Times reported. The paper learned of the matter on Thursday, the day after the Intelligence Committee made a terse announcement that it was cooperating with the Justice Department “in a pending investigation.”

Trump trades insults with leaders of France and Canada on eve of G-7 summit

By Noah Bierman

President Trump greets French President Emmanuel Macron in April.

President Trump greets French President Emmanuel Macron in April.

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

It may or may not be a trade war. But it’s definitely a Twitter war. Between friends.

On the eve of the annual summit of the so-called G-7 economic powers in Quebec, President Trump traded thinly veiled insults over trade with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has worked to be one of Trump’s closest friends on the world stage — to little avail.

Trump also took a shot at another ally, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, following Trudeau’s criticisms of the president’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The exchanges underscored the dramatic backdrop to this year’s summit: In the roughly 45-year history of the group of major industrialized countries, never has the United States been in a position of such open antagonism to its longtime allies.

The meetings in Canada Friday and Saturday were already expected to be spicy given Trump’s protectionist moves, in contrast to another unusual turn in Trump’s diplomacy — his charm offensive with North Korea, the world’s biggest pariah state, and its autocratic leader Kim Jong Un.

While Macron has tweeted several times against the U.S. tariffs, in his most pointed one on Thursday he took a backhanded swipe at Trump’s “values” while threatening to isolate the U.S. at the summit.

“The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” he wrote. “Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”

Besides the United States, the other six countries of the G-7 are France, Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy.

Trump is well-known for the counter-punch and he did not disappoint, with a tweet that slapped at Trudeau as well. Trudeau publicly has called Trump’s tariffs “insulting” to allies like Canada.

“Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers,” Trump wrote Thursday evening. “The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out.”

Then, for good measure, he added: “Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”

North Korea summit is a signature moment for Trump and his challenge to the foreign policy establishment

By Noah Bierman

During his campaign, Donald Trump lashed U.S. presidents for cutting “stupid” foreign deals, alleging that they gave too much away to allies and adversaries alike, and insisted “the world is laughing at America’s politicians.”

National security and foreign policy experts called him naive and reckless, and warned that sensitive global diplomacy is nothing like the bare-knuckled world of New York real estate or the raw voyeurism of reality TV.

Now, as he prepares to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a historic nuclear summit in Singapore, President Trump is putting his much-touted negotiating skills and his iconoclastic worldview to the ultimate test.

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Moderate Republicans may resume push to force immigration vote after GOP compromise stalls

By Sarah D. Wire

House Republicans emerged from a meeting Thursday morning without clear agreement on immigration legislation, opening the door for a group of moderate lawmakers to move forward with a maneuver to force a vote — over GOP leaders’ objections — on the divisive issue.

Moderate and conservative Republicans had tried to reach a deal during the Memorial Day recess to present to House Republicans. The party has struggled for years to come together on immigration, and at a meeting Thursday morning, no compromise plan got enough support from the caucus to move forward.

Some members leaving the meeting indicated that GOP leadership will try to draft legislation based on the conversation, but it’s not yet clear if the moderates will hold off on their effort.

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Trump grants clemency to Alice Johnson, who was serving a life sentence and was championed by Kim Kardashian West

By Eli Stokols

President Trump on Wednesday commuted the sentence of Alice Johnson, a woman serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense whose cause was championed last week by Kim Kardashian West during a visit to the Oval Office.

Johnson, 63, was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in 1996 for her role in a cocaine-trafficking operation in Tennessee.

The commutation, which was also championed by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, is the second act of clemency Trump has issued in the last six days, and more may be in the offing, White House officials say.

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Contradicting Trump, Ryan agrees there’s no evidence of a campaign spy

By Associated Press

House Speaker Paull D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), right, in Washington on May 16.

House Speaker Paull D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), right, in Washington on May 16.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is agreeing with another senior House Republican who says there’s no evidence that the FBI planted a “spy” in President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The comments contradict Trump, who has insisted the agency planted a “spy for political reasons and to help Crooked Hillary win.”

Both Ryan and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) attended a classified briefing last month following reports that the FBI used an informant in its Russian meddling probe. Gowdy said afterward he was convinced that “the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do” and he didn’t see evidence of a spy.

Ryan said Gowdy’s “initial assessment is accurate” and he’s seen no evidence to the contrary. But he said Congress still has questions.

Trump accuses media of spreading ‘unfair’ and ‘vicious’ rumors about the first lady’s absence

By Eli Stokols

(Jabin Botsford / Washington Post)

President Trump blasted “the Fake News Media” in two tweets early Wednesday for fanning speculation about First Lady Melania Trump, who hasn’t been seen in public for more than three weeks following a medical procedure last month.

“The Fake News Media has been so unfair, and vicious, to my wife and our great First Lady, Melania,” Trump tweeted. “During her recovery from surgery they reported everything from near death, to facelift, to left the W.H. (and me) for N.Y. or Virginia, to abuse. All Fake, she is doing really well!”

He followed that up with a second tweet, claiming that some reporters saw Melania Trump headed to a White House meeting and withheld the information to propel conspiracy theories about her health.

”…Four reporters spotted Melania in the White House last week walking merrily along to a meeting,” the second tweet began. “They never reported the sighting because it would hurt the sick narrative that she was living in a different part of the world, was really ill, or whatever. Fake News is really bad!”

However, that sighting was noted in some news accounts, while the speculation that Trump cited in his initial tweet was not widely reported in mainstream news media. Such rumors were rampant on social media.

The first lady, who attended a private event at the White House on Monday, is scheduled to make her first public appearance this afternoon when she joins the president at a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency on federal preparations to respond to hurricanes this season.

Trump congratulates gubernatorial candidate John Cox

President Trump tweeted congratulations Wednesday morning to Republican John Cox on advancing in the race for governor.

The multimillionaire had 26% of the vote, with 95% of precincts reporting Wednesday morning. He will face Democrat Gavin Newsom on the November ballot.

More on the California governor’s race >>

Supreme Court sidesteps abortion dispute between Trump lawyers and ACLU over teen immigrant

By David G. Savage

The Supreme Court on Monday steered around a long-pending abortion dispute between the Trump administration and ACLU lawyers over young immigrant women in custody, telling lower courts on Monday to start over in deciding the issue.

In a short, unsigned opinion, the justices wiped away rulings by several judges who last fall had cleared the way for a 17-year-old to see a doctor and obtain an abortion.

In doing so, the Supreme Court cited its “established practice” of wiping away rulings in disputed cases that were resolved before the losing side could appeal. In this case, the losing side was the Trump administration, whose lawyers wanted to appeal to the high court in hopes of blocking the teenager’s abortion.

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Snubbed by Super Bowl champs, Trump accuses players — unfairly — of being unpatriotic

By Noah Bierman

(Abbie Parr / Getty Images)

President Trump was busy with his Twitter finger Tuesday morning and suggested that he was especially embarrassed by an expected snub from the vast majority of players for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, a turn that prompted him to disinvite the entire team.

Trump decided late Monday, less than 24 hours before the visit, to hold a celebration for the Eagles without allowing the team to come. Fewer than 10 players out of a group of more than 70 eligible had been expected to attend, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Trump, in a statement and several tweets since then, tried to cast the cancellation as a dispute over the recent decision by the NFL to require players to either stand for the national anthem or wait in the locker room. He said the White House would hold an alternate celebration for the fans “where we will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music…no escaping to the Locker Rooms!”

No Eagles players knelt during the anthem during the 2017 season. Many professional athletes, however, especially African Americans, have been conflicted about White House visits during the Trump presidency.

Torrey Smith, a former Eagles player, tweeted that “The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti-military.”

In between the tweets about the Eagles, Trump renewed his unprecedented public attack on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. He repeated that he regrets having selected Sessions for the job and his complaint that Sessions should not have recused himself from the Russia probe, a decision that the Justice Department’s ethics advisors told Sessions was necessary because of his role in Trump’s presidential campaign.

Trump tweets of ‘Record Jobs numbers’ but the actual record shows otherwise

By Jackie Calmes

President Trump, not for the first time, claimed early Tuesday that job creation has set a record under his watch. Even with last week’s good jobs report for May, he is still wrong.

On Twitter the president exclaimed, “May be the best economy in the history of our country. Record Jobs numbers. Nice!”

Actually, 2.966 million jobs have been created during Trump’s first 16 months in office, since his first full month in February 2017 — a good number but nearly 500,000 fewer jobs than the 3.452 million jobs created in the final 16 months under President Obama.

Those numbers are from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the same agency that produces the monthly jobs reports like the one Trump extolled last week. While the overall unemployment rate, 3.8% in May, is the lowest in more than 17 years, current job growth continues a trend that is nearly 8 years old, marking the slow recovery from the Great Recession. The lowest recorded jobless rate is 2.5%, in May 1953.

Mueller’s team accuses Manafort of witness tampering

By Associated Press

Paul Manafort in 2016.

Paul Manafort in 2016.

(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort made several attempts to tamper with witnesses in his ongoing criminal cases, prosecutors said Monday as they asked a federal judge to consider revoking his house arrest.

In a court filing, prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wrote that Manafort and one of his associates had “repeatedly” contacted two witnesses in an effort to influence their testimony. The contacts occurred this year, shortly after a grand jury returned a new indictment against Manafort and while he was confined to his home, prosecutors said.

Court documents do not name Manafort’s associate, but they refer to him as “Person A” and note the pseudonym is consistent with previous filings in the case. In earlier filings, Person A has referred to Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort associate who prosecutors have said has ties to Russian intelligence.

The two witnesses are also not named in court filings. But prosecutors say they worked with Manafort in organizing a group of former European officials, known as the Hapsburg Group, who promoted Ukrainian interests in Europe as well as the U.S.

According to the court filing, Manafort began messaging and calling one of the witnesses in February shortly after a federal grand jury in Washington returned a superseding indictment against him that included allegations of unregistered lobbying related to the Hapsburg Group.

Manafort messaged and called one of the witnesses the day after his co-defendant and business partner, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty and continued reaching out over the next several days, according to a sworn affidavit filed by an FBI agent in the case.

In one call, the agent wrote, Manafort said he wanted to give the person a “heads-up about Hapsburg.” The individual then hung up “because he was concerned about the outreach,” according to the affidavit.

On Feb. 26, Manafort sent the person a series of messages through an encrypted application, including a link to a Business Insider story with the headline: “Former European leaders struggle to explain themselves after Mueller claims Paul Manafort paid them to lobby for Ukraine.” Another message said, “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”

The person told investigators that he interpreted Manafort’s efforts to reach him as a way to influence his potential statements. The person believed from his experience that the Hapsburg Group lobbied in the United States and knew that Manafort knew that as well, the agent wrote.

Manafort faces several felony charges in two federal cases. He has pleaded not guilty.

Melania Trump makes first appearance after 24 days out of sight

By Associated Press

First Lady Melania Trump at the White House on May 7.

First Lady Melania Trump at the White House on May 7.

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

First Lady Melania Trump attended a White House event honoring Gold Star families on Monday in her first appearance in more than three weeks after a kidney procedure.

The first lady joined the president at a reception to honor families of those killed during military service. Out of respect for the families, the White House did not allow journalists to cover the event, meaning the first lady was seen in the flesh only by the families and administration officials who attended.

Others had to wait for photos and video to hit social media — and it didn’t take long before that happened.

Video posted on Twitter showed the first lady, who wore a black sleeveless dress, strolling into the East Room accompanied by President Trump. The president showed her to a seat in the front row before he headed for the stage.

It’s the second year the Trumps have opened the White House to Gold Star families. The first lady said in a written statement after last June’s event that these families “are a unique and distinct category of individuals who should be cherished.”

Melania Trump had not been seen in public since the overnight hours of May 10 when she and the president traveled to a Maryland military base to welcome home three Americans who had been released from captivity in North Korea. Four days later, the White House announced that she had been hospitalized to treat a benign kidney condition.

She stayed in the hospital for five days and has kept out of public view since returning home May 19. She has been meeting with staff and working on upcoming projects, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.

Grisham said the Gold Star families’ event is important to the first lady and has been on her calendar for some time.

It’s still unclear when the first lady will make an appearance in public. She’s not scheduled to accompany Trump to an annual world leaders’ summit in Canada this weekend, or when he meets with North Korea’s leader in Singapore next week.

What China wants from a U.S.-North Korea summit — and why it makes Trump nervous

By Don Lee

In the head-snapping drama of the off-again, on-again U.S.-North Korea summit, the unpredictable lead actors, President Trump and Kim Jong Un, hold center stage.

But off in the wings, China is controlling some of the key action — and may help dictate the ending.

Until recently, Beijing seemed to share Washington’s growing worry about Pyongyang’s increasingly powerful nuclear tests and ballistic missiles. Armed with a United Nations resolution, Chinese President Xi Jinping began squeezing his Communist “little brother” with the toughest economic sanctions ever.

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Supreme Court rules in favor of Colorado baker who refused to make wedding cake for a same-sex couple

By Los Angeles Times Staff

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. By a 7-2 vote, the majority said he was a victim of religious discrimination.

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In untested claim of presidential power, Trump says he has ‘absolute right to PARDON myself’

By Eli Stokols

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump asserted for the first time Monday that he has “the absolute right” to pardon himself, a marker laid down in a tweet on the morning of his 500th day in office.

Minutes later, he fired off another new claim: that the appointment of the special counsel for the Russia investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, is “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL.”

“The appointment of the Special Councel [sic] is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Despite that, we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!” the president tweeted.

That attack on Mueller, who was named just over a year ago by Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, Trump’s appointee, followed a tweet in which Trump wrote, “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

That initial tweet is something of a response to a report Saturday in the New York Times of a letter written by two of Trump’s lawyers, who argued in January that the president’s powers are so broad as to make it impossible for him to have obstructed justice.

Many legal experts subsequently challenged that assertion. On television on Sunday, Trump’s own lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was less emphatic on the subject of the president’s pardoning power, suggesting that Trump might have the authority to pardon himself but would be unwise to actually do so.

“Pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment,” Giuliani said Sunday during an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Trump, in his tweet, also reiterated his misleading criticism of the investigators working under the special counsel to probe Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, possible cooperation by Trump associates and whether the president has obstructed justice during the ongoing investigation.

He wrote that “the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!”

Mueller is a registered Republican, as is Rosenstein. Several lawyers on the team are Democrats.

Trump tweets he has ‘absolute right to PARDON myself’

By Associated Press

President Donald J. Trump speaks during the US Coast Guard Change-of-Command Ceremony on June 1.

President Donald J. Trump speaks during the US Coast Guard Change-of-Command Ceremony on June 1.

(OLIVIER DOULIERY / EPA-EFE/RE)

President Trump tweeted Monday that he has the ‘absolute right to PARDON myself,’ but he said he has ‘done nothing wrong’ in the Russia probe.

Michael Avenatti tested legal boundaries as his firm maneuvered into bankruptcy

By Michael Finnegan

Michael Avenatti was caught in a downward spiral of financial trouble last year when Jerry Tobin, an unlikely savior, came to the rescue.

Tobin, who has a long arrest record and sports a Mohawk in his mug shots, showed up at a UPS Store in Orlando, Fla., put down two 100-dollar bills and rented a mailbox.

The next day, using his new anonymous address, Tobin filed a court petition to force Avenatti’s Newport Beach law firm into bankruptcy. The firm, Eagan Avenatti, owed him $28,700, Tobin claimed.

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Trump’s jobs-report tweet broke a protocol designed to prevent giving early hints to investors

By Jim Puzzanghera

For decades, federal officials have taken great care to prevent providing any early indications to investors about monthly jobs report data that can move markets.

On Friday, President Trump broke that longstanding protocol using his favorite communication tool — Twitter — triggering a jump in yields on the 10-year Treasury bond and an outcry from former White House officials.

Trump, who learned about the strong May jobs report Thursday night, tweeted Friday morning that he was “looking forward to seeing the employment numbers” due to be released by the Labor Department about an hour later. A top White House official emphasized that Trump didn’t reveal any of the numbers.

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Trump considers commuting sentence for Rod Blagojevich, pardoning Martha Stewart

By Associated Press

President Trump announced he’s pardoning conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza and considering two more for Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

President Trump says he is considering commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and pardoning Martha Stewart.

The comments came aboard Air Force One on Thursday after he announced on Twitter that he planned to pardon conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating federal campaign finance laws.

Trump tells reporters that Blagojevich said something dumb but that “lots of politicians” do and thinks his sentence is excessive.

The Democratic former governor began serving his 14-year prison sentence on corruption convictions in 2012. One of his convictions involved trying to trade or sell an appointment to President Obama’s former Senate seat. His scheduled release date is 2024.

Blagojevich was also a contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality television show in 2010.

Stewart was convicted in 2004 of obstructing justice and lying to the government about why she unloaded stock just before the price plummeted.

Trump says she “used to be one of my biggest fans.”

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Trump says he’s giving full pardon to Dinesh D’Souza, who admitted campaign finance fraud

By Associated Press

President Trump announced he’s pardoning conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza and considering two more for Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

President Trump announced Thursday that he will pardon conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud.

As he left Washington for a trip to Texas, Trump tweeted: “Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!”

D’Souza, a conservative filmmaker, author and speaker, was sentenced in September 2014 in federal court in New York to five years of probation after he admitted making illegal contributions to a U.S. Senate candidate in New York.

D’Souza acknowledged that he had two close associates each contribute $10,000 to the Senate campaign of Wendy Long with the understanding that he would reimburse them. Long ended up losing the 2012 race to incumbent Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

D’Souza, who made the documentary “2016: Obama’s America,” entered the plea a week after the federal judge overseeing his case rejected his claim that he was selectively prosecuted. The judge said D’Souza had shown the court no evidence that he was targeted.

The government said in court papers that D’Souza faced overwhelming evidence of guilt and “now seizes upon the fact that he is an outspoken critic of the Obama administration as an excuse to avoid the consequences of his actions.”

D’Souza is a former policy analyst under President Reagan and a prolific author well known for works critical of former President Obama. He retweeted Trump’s tweet about the forthcoming pardon, but did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment sent to his media company, D’Souza Media.

Trump’s announcement that he will pardon D’Souza follows the president’s granting last week of a rare posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, boxing’s first black heavyweight champion. The pardon cleared Johnson’s name more than 100 years after what many viewed as his racially motivated conviction in 1913 for traveling with his white girlfriend.

Ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wrote memo on Comey firing

By Associated Press

Then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee on June 7, 2017.

Then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee on June 7, 2017.

(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe drafted a memo on circumstances leading up to the firing of his onetime boss, James Comey, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday night.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press to discuss a secret document that has been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller. His team is investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential election and whether the president sought to obstruct that inquiry through actions including the firing of Comey last May.

The memo concerns a conversation that McCabe had with Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein about Rosenstein’s preparations for Comey’s firing. Rosenstein played an important role in that episode, having authored a memo faulting Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation that the White House held up as justification for President Trump’s decision to fire the FBI director.

Rosenstein has said he wrote a memo laying out his concerns with Comey after learning that the White House intended to fire him.

According to McCabe’s memo, Rosenstein indicated to him that he was initially asked to reference the Russia investigation in his own memo on Comey. But the final version didn’t include discussion of Russia and focused instead on the Clinton email case.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller special counsel one week after Comey was fired. He has said he would recuse himself if necessary if his actions became relevant to Mueller’s investigation.

The AP reported in March that McCabe had drafted multiple memos, including about his interactions with Trump. Comey also drafted a series of memos about his own encounters with Trump that unnerved him.

The New York Times first reported on the content of this particular memo.

McCabe became FBI acting director following Comey’s firing last May. He was fired as deputy director in March, just days before his scheduled retirement, amid an inspector general finding that he had misled internal investigators about his role in an October 2016 disclosure to the Wall Street Journal.

Fed taking first step to scale back Volcker Rule limits on bank trading enacted after financial crisis

By Jim Puzzanghera

The Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday is expected to take the first step toward loosening the Volcker Rule restrictions on investment trades by large banks as Republicans press forward with a deregulatory agenda sought by Wall Street.

The Volcker rule, mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank reforms spurred by the financial crisis, prohibits banks with federally insured deposits from trading for their own profit rather than on behalf of customers. It also limits ownership of risky investments, such as relationships with hedge funds and private equity funds.

Such so-called proprietary trading by large Wall Street firms was a factor in the 2008 crisis as banks made risky bets on the market through stocks, derivatives and other complex financial instruments. When many of those investments backfired, taxpayers ended up picking up the tab through hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts.

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Why California’s Kevin McCarthy is having a hard time locking down the speaker’s job — again

By Sarah D. Wire

More than a month after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan anointed his second lieutenant as his heir apparent, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is still struggling to lock down the support he needs to secure the job.

The same House conservatives who blocked the Bakersfield Republican from ascending to the coveted post in 2015 do not appear any more convinced that he’s their guy.

Since Ryan’s announcement, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, has indicated he’ll run against McCarthy for speaker, and he’s getting support from some conservative colleagues.

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Trump signs ‘right-to-try’ bill for terminal patients to use experimental drugs, calling it a ‘fundamental freedom’

By Associated Press

President Trump hugs Jordan McLinn, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, after signing the

President Trump hugs Jordan McLinn, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, after signing the “Right to Try” act Wednesday.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump signed legislation Wednesday aimed at helping people with deadly diseases try experimental treatments, calling it a “fundamental freedom” that will offer hope and save lives.

Joined by families dealing with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, and other diseases, Trump signed the so-called right-to-try bill and said he never understood why the issue had lagged for years and Congress hadn’t acted sooner.

“There were no options. But now you have hope — you really have hope,” Trump said. He noted that “for many years, patients, advocates and lawmakers have fought for this fundamental freedom.”

The bill cleared the House last week following an emotional debate in which Republicans said it would help thousands of people in search of hope. Many Democrats said the measure was dangerous and would give patients false hope.

As he distributed pens after signing the bill at a small table, 8-year-old Jordan McLinn of Indianapolis, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, waited to embrace the president, drawing laughter in the auditorium when he put his elbow on the table and held up his chin. Trump hugged McLinn and kissed him on the forehead. “He’s going to be fantastic,” the president told McLinn’s mother.

The president was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and some of the bill’s allies in Congress, including Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

Trump had supported efforts to gain access to the treatments during his 2016 campaign. In his State of the Union address, the president said people who are terminally ill shouldn’t have to travel “from country to country to seek a cure.”

The measure would give people diagnosed with life-threatening conditions who have exhausted treatment options the ability to gain access to unproven drugs without first getting permission from the FDA.

New drugs normally undergo years of expensive testing before manufacturers seek and gain FDA approval to market them.

Opponents of the bill said it would empower “fly-by-night physicians” to offer false hope and ineffective drugs to patients who are desperate for treatment. They also said that the bill created the incorrect impression that the FDA serves as a bottleneck that deprives dying patients of unproven options.

FDA figures show it approves 99% of the roughly 1,000 requests it receives from doctors annually for so-called “compassionate use” of such treatments. The process generally takes about four days, but permission can be granted immediately by phone in emergencies.

The bill was supported by the libertarian Goldwater Institute and the conservative Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the wealthy brothers Charles and David Koch. The bill also offers some legal protections for pharmaceutical companies, doctors or others involved in providing the treatment.

Trump finally tweets — indirectly — about racist Roseanne tweet, and makes it about himself

By Eli Stokols

President Trump responded Wednesday to ABC’s decision to cancel the hit show “Roseanne” because the show’s star sent a racist tweet comparing an African American Obama administration official to an ape.

In his tweet, Trump criticized the network, not Roseanne Barr, whose revived sitcom depicted a blue-collar Midwestern family that voted for the president.

“Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that ‘ABC does not tolerate comments like those’ made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn’t get the call?”

Iger, chief executive of ABC’s parent company Walt Disney, quit the president’s business advisory council in June 2017, protesting the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. Later he called Trump’s decision to end protections for young immigrants known as Dreamers as “cruel and misguided.”

Trump’s tweet belied the impression given by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, who told reporters on Air Force One en route to Nashville on Tuesday that the president had bigger things to think about than a television show’s cancellation. “That’s not what the president is looking at,” Sanders said when pressed about Trump’s reaction. “That’s not what’s he’s spending his time on. I think we have a lot bigger things going on in the country right now.”

Trump did not mention the “Roseanne” cancellation during a rally Tuesday night in Nashville.

Two months ago, Trump extolled the show’s early ratings at an Ohio rally purportedly about infrastructure policy. The day before the rally, Trump had called Barr to congratulate her on the show’s successful debut.

“And it was about us!” Trump told the crowd, extending his arms to the audience. Pointing toward the press area, Trump added, “They haven’t figured it out yet. The fake news hasn’t quite figured it out yet.”

At Wednesday’s briefing, Sanders redirected a question about the president’s tweet into a rant about media bias. “The president’s simply calling out the media bias,” she said. “No one’s defending what she said.”

Sanders then asked, “where was the apology” to Trump. She mentioned Jemele Hill, who is no longer anchoring SportsCenter on ESPN months after she described the president as a “white supremacist” and was suspended.

Sanders also mentioned Kathy Griffin, the comedienne who was widely condemned for posting a mock image of herself holding Trump’s severed head.

12:28 p.m.: This story was updated with Sanders’ comments.

Supreme Court allows Arkansas to enforce abortion restrictions

By Associated Press

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arkansas that asked justices to reinstate a lower court order.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arkansas that asked justices to reinstate a lower court order.

(Jon Elswick / Associated Press)

The Supreme Court is allowing Arkansas to put into effect restrictions on how abortion pills are administered. Critics of a challenged state law say it could effectively end medication abortions in the state.

The justices did not comment Tuesday in rejecting an appeal from the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arkansas that asked the court to review an appeals court ruling and reinstate a lower court order that had blocked the law from taking effect. The law says doctors who provide abortion pills must hold a contract with another physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital and who would agree to handle complications.

The law is similar to a provision in Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016.

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the court order barring enforcement of the law, but put its ruling on hold while Planned Parenthood appealed to the Supreme Court.

The legal fight over the law is not over, but the state is now free to enforce it, at least for the time being.

Planned Parenthood has said that if the law stands, Arkansas would be the only state where women would not have access to a pair of drugs that end pregnancies: mifepristone, which makes it difficult for a fetus to attach to the uterine wall, and misoprostol, which causes the body to expel it, similar to a miscarriage.

The organization offers pills to end pregnancies at clinics in Fayetteville and Little Rock but says it cannot find any Arkansas obstetrician willing to handle hospital admissions. Preventing women from obtaining medication abortions would create an undue burden on their right to an abortion, Planned Parenthood says. Undue burden is the standard set by the Supreme Court to measure whether restrictions go too far in limiting women who want an abortion.

Trump confirms North Korean official headed to New York

By Associated Press

In an image from video, Kim Yong Chol, front, arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport on May 29.

In an image from video, Kim Yong Chol, front, arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport on May 29.

(Associated Press)

President Trump confirmed early Tuesday that top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol is heading to New York for talks on an upcoming summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump tweeted: “We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”

South Korea’s Yonhap News said Tuesday it saw the name of Kim Yong Chol on the passenger list for a flight Tuesday from Beijing to Washington. The news service later reported that Kim changed his flight to go to New York on Wednesday.

Kim is a former military intelligence chief and now a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s central committee, tasked with inter-Korean relations.

George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine with low blood pressure

By Associated Press

Former President George H.W. Bush waves to supporters as his motorcade arrives in Kennebunkport, Maine on May 20.

Former President George H.W. Bush waves to supporters as his motorcade arrives in Kennebunkport, Maine on May 20.

(Evan Sisley / Associated Press)

A spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush says the 93-year-old was experiencing low blood pressure and has been hospitalized.

Spokesman Jim McGrath tweeted just after 2 p.m. Sunday that Bush will likely remain in the hospital for a few days.

Bush is being treated at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford. McGrath said Bush is awake, alert and not in any discomfort.

A hospital spokeswoman said Sunday that all information would be released by the Bush family.

The 41st president is spending the summer at the family compound in Kennebunkport. He attended a pancake breakfast Saturday at the local American Legion.

Bush’s wife of 73 years, Barbara, died last month.

The day after his wife’s funeral, Bush was hospitalized in Houston for an infection for 13 days.

Trump nominates anti-immigration activist to head agency for immigrants and refugees

By Tracy Wilkinson

President Trump has nominated a staunch anti-immigration activist to head the State Department agency that oversees refugee and immigration issues.

Ronald W. Mortensen, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer and longtime fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates against legal and illegal immigration, is Trump’s choice to be assistant secretary of State for the bureau of population, refugees and migration. The White House announced the nomination late Thursday.

As word spread on Friday, Democrats and immigration advocates quickly objected. But Mortensen, who must be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, could face trouble among Republicans as well: His long trail of controversial writings and statements includes attacks not only against immigrants but against some Republican senators, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona.

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Trump says he is still hopeful of a summit with North Korea’s Kim

By Jackie Calmes

President Trump on Friday said his administration continues to talk with North Korea, and he expressed continued hope for a summit with its leader, Kim Jong Un, a day after calling off their June 12 meeting citing North Korea’s “open hostility.”

“We’ll see what happens. It could even be the 12th,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House to give the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy.

“We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’re going to see what happens.”

The president also cited what he called “a very nice statement” that North Korea issued in response to his letter on Thursday scrapping the summit. In its statement, Kim’s government said it regretted Trump’s action and remained willing to talk.

The exchange underscored the mixed messages and unpredictability on both sides. They remain as far apart as ever on the central issue of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal: Trump demands Kim completely and irreversibly give up his program, while North Korea considers it essential for the nation’s survival.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said diplomats are working to get the summit back on track.

Mattis called the recent back-and-forth between Trump and North Korea the “usual give and take.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UPDATE

7:49 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

This article was originally posted at 7:36 a.m.

Summit cancellation gives Trump more time to ponder Mueller interview

By Chris Megerian

(Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images)

As President Trump’s lawyer acknowledged on Thursday, the president has one less excuse to put off an interview with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III now that he has canceled his summit with North Korea’s leader.

Trump announced on Thursday that he was pulling out of the summit with Kim Jong Un, which had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor representing the president, said that frees up some time in his schedule.

“It means we have more time to discuss the pros and cons of an interview,” Giuliani told The Times. “And then, if we decide on it, more time to prepare, assuming it doesn’t get put back on again.”

Giuliani had previously described the looming high-stakes summit on North Korea’s nuclear-armed missile program as a reason to delay a decision about talking to Mueller. He told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, “The safety of the world is at stake.”

How the Supreme Court is invoking a 1925 law to restrict workers’ rights today

By David G. Savage

In 1925, at the behest of New York merchants, Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act to uphold as “valid, irrevocable and enforceable” the contracts they had negotiated for shipping and delivering goods. They agreed to settle disputes through private arbitration, which was seen as quicker and cheaper than going to court.

When labor interests voiced objection, Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover proposed an amendment to make clear the law did not involve workers. “Nothing herein contained shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce,” it said.

A decade later, in response to the Great Depression, Congress adopted the New Deal-era laws that guaranteed to workers the right to join together for “mutual aid or protection.” And in the response to the civil rights movement, Congress adopted laws in the 1960s and ’70s which gave employees the right to sue companies for discriminatory workplace policies. In 1991, Congress gave workers a right to a jury trial.

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Moderate Republicans pushing for immigration vote give leaders until June 7 to reach a deal

By Sarah D. Wire

Moderate Republicans are giving their colleagues until June 7 to find a legislative fix for the legal status of people brought to the country illegally as children, or they will try to use a special process to force a vote over the GOP leaders’ objections, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) said Thursday.

Denham, frustrated by the leaders’ refusal to hold a vote on legislation to help so-called Dreamers, launched a rarely used House procedure this month that would force a vote if at least 218 members support it.

As of Thursday, they had 213 signatures of support, including 23 Republicans and the rest Democrats. Denham says the remaining five signers that are needed are waiting to see if negotiations succeed.

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Trump signs bipartisan bill rolling back some Dodd-Frank bank regulations

By Jim Puzzanghera

President Trump on Thursday signed bipartisan legislation rolling back some of the Dodd-Frank financial rules put in place after the 2008 financial crisis, touting another victory for his deregulatory agenda.

But the bill fell well short of his campaign call to dismantle the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, leaving key pillars unchanged, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Instead, with the key support of some Senate Democrats, the legislation focuses relief on small and medium-sized banks that had complained they were unfairly burdened with regulations designed to prevent a future crisis.

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Trump opens door to diplomacy with North Korea

By Associated Press

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump said he is “waiting” to see if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will again “engage in constructive dialogue.”

Trump opened the door for diplomacy Thursday just hours after he canceled a summit with Kim scheduled for next month in Singapore.

But he insisted that Kim reach out, placing the blame on the North Korean leader for the collapse of negotiations.

He also said that until that happened, tough sanctions on Pyongyang would continue and the U.S.-led “maximum pressure campaign is continuing.”

Trump and Kim were slated to meet June 12 for what White House officials had hoped would be a historic diplomatic breakthrough for the president.

They advised that the summit could be rescheduled.

Pompeo won’t say whether South Korea was notified ahead of summit decision

By Associated Press

Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, left, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang in late April.

Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, left, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang in late April.

(White House)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he was involved in discussions late Wednesday and early Thursday that led to President Trump’s decision to pull out of a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But, he would not say exactly which, if any, other countries were given a heads up on the decision, including South Korea.

“I don’t want to get into who all we notified,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding: “The White House will speak to that at the appropriate time.”

However, Pompeo, who met at the State Department on Wednesday with China’s foreign minister, did say that he had not spoken to Chinese officials since the decision was made.

Asked about a report that South Korea had not been informed before the president’s letter to Kim canceling the summit was made public, Pompeo maintained that Washington and Seoul were “in lockstep.”

South Korea trying to figure out Trump’s aim after summit cancellation

By Associated Press

President Trump welcomes South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the White House on May 22.

President Trump welcomes South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the White House on May 22.

(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office says it is trying to figure out President Trump’s intentions in canceling a summit next month with North Korea’s leader.

Moon played a prominent role in planning for the summit with Kim Jong Un, which was scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted a presidential office spokesman as saying South Korea’s leaders “are trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it.”

Trump released a letter to Kim on Thursday saying he had canceled the summit because of “tremendous anger and open hostility” expressed in a recent North Korean statement.

He did not elaborate, but a North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs issued a statement referring to comments by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence about the North’s path to nuclear disarmament as “ignorant” and “stupid,” and saying North Korea is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.

Trump cancels his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

By L.A. Times staff

President Trump has canceled the planned June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

President Trump has canceled the planned June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent statements from Pyongyang.

In a letter released from the White House, Trump urged Kim to “call me or write” if he changes his mind. “This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history,” he added.

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Trump: Stand for the anthem or ‘maybe you shouldn’t be in the country’

By Chris Megerian

(Matt York / Associated Press)

President Trump praised the NFL’s decision to fine teams whose players kneel in protest during the national anthem, then took his criticism of protesters one step further in a new interview on Fox News.

“You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem,” Trump said. “Otherwise you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

The interview was recorded Wednesday and broadcast Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends,” a favorite program of the president’s.

Players began kneeling in 2016 to protest excessive force by police against African Americans. Under the new rules, which are widely considered NFL owners’ response to the pressure Trump has brought to the issue, players can choose to remain in the locker room rather than take the field for the anthem.

Trump said he didn’t like that option but “the NFL owners did the right thing.”

On ‘Stormy Daniels Day,’ West Hollywood to honor porn star with key to the city

By Hailey Branson-Potts

The porn star who was paid hush money to stay silent about a sexual tryst she says she had with President Trump will be honored with an official Stormy Daniels Day in West Hollywood and given a key to the city on Wednesday.

“In these politically tumultuous times, Daniels has proven herself to be a profile in courage by speaking truth to power even under threats to her safety and extreme intimidation,” city officials said in a statement.

Mayor John Duran and members of the West Hollywood City Council will present Daniels with the key and a proclamation at Chi Chi LaRue’s, a Santa Monica Boulevard sex shop named after a drag queen and gay pornographic director.

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California to its presidential wannabes: Don’t quit that day job!

By Mark Z. Barabak

Kamala Harris has enjoyed the celebrity spotlight from the moment — not terribly long ago — she set foot in Washington, owing in good part to the assumption she will reach for history and, come 2020, run to be the nation’s first black woman president.

Having just settled into her first full year as California’s junior U.S. senator, it would be unseemly to admit such fast-tracked political ambitions. So Harris has quickly learned the art of the dodge.

“I honestly am focused on 2018,” she told Vogue magazine.

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IRS takes aim at California, other states trying to help residents avoid new tax-deduction limit

By Jim Puzzanghera

The Internal Revenue Service is preparing to block attempts by California and other states to help their residents avoid a new limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes included in the Republican tax overhaul.

The IRS and the Treasury Department said Wednesday they would issue proposed regulations “in the near future” addressing legislation in states that would allow taxpayers to claim a charitable deduction for their state and local tax payments above the $10,000 limit set in last year’s tax law.

“Despite these state efforts to circumvent the new statutory limitation on state and local tax deductions, taxpayers should be mindful that federal law controls the proper characterization of payments for federal income tax purposes,” the IRS and Treasury Department said.

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Senate leaders reach bipartisan deal for handling sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill

By Sarah D. Wire

After months of delay, senators said Wednesday they have reached a deal on legislation to reform how sexual harassment claims against lawmakers and staff are handled on Capitol Hill.

The legislation requires members of Congress to personally repay taxpayers for settling harassment claims filed against them, even if they resign.

The House unanimously passed its own bill to rewrite the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 in early February, but momentum stalled in the Senate.

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Running for fifth term, Feinstein now says capital punishment is unfair and ineffective

By Sarah D. Wire

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says she now opposes the death penalty, a surprising reversal from her long-standing support for capital punishment — a stance that helped catapault her to the U.S. Senate 25 years ago.

“Several years ago I changed my view of the death penalty. It became crystal clear to me that the risk of unequal application is high and its effect on deterrence is low,” she said in a statement to The Times.

The shift is the latest example of Feinstein — who built her career as a moderate Democrat — embracing more liberal positions as she faces reelection in November in a state that has become increasingly progressive.

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Why centrist Dianne Feinstein is moving so much to the left that she now opposes the death penalty

By Sarah D. Wire

Dianne Feinstein built one of California’s most successful political brands by standing up to her party’s liberal wing.

In her first run for statewide office in 1990, she defiantly faced down raucous booing from California Democratic Party delegates angry over her support for the death penalty. Undeterred, she used footage of the public rebuke in campaign ads to show the state’s then more moderate population — including many Republicans — that she was tough, pragmatic and mainstream.

That centrist formula propelled Feinstein to the U.S. Senate two years later, and after one tough race, she’s coasted to reelection pretty much ever since.

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Pompeo defends tough U.S. demands on Iran as ‘very simple’

By Tracy Wilkinson

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Michael Reynolds / EPA/Shutterstock)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday defended his list of U.S. demands for Iran, rebuffing critics who said his goals were unrealistic in seeking fundamental change by the government in Tehran.

“The tasks that Iran needs to undertake aren’t that difficult,” Pompeo said at the State Department a day after he warned in a hard-line speech that the Trump administration will impose severe economic sanctions on Iran unless it meets a dozen U.S. requirements.

“I’ve seen reports that these are a fantasy and they can’t happen,” he said. “But we asked for things that are really very simple.”

Pompeo presented the 12 demands as an alternative to the Iran nuclear accord, which saw Iran give up its nuclear program in exchange for easing of international sanctions. Trump abandoned the Obama-era deal two weeks ago, saying it was inadequate, after rejecting appeals from British, French and German leaders to stay in it.

Instead, in his speech, Pompeo said Iran must cease all nuclear development “in perpetuity,” dismantle its system of ballistic missiles, withdraw forces from Syria, and end support for militant groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.

In a defiant response Tuesday, Iran denounced the Trump administration for essentially demanding regime change in Tehran.

“The world today does not accept that the United States decides for the world. Countries have their independence,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, according to Iranian media. “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?”

While Pompeo did not address that charge directly, he insisted the Trump administration is seeking reasonable changes in Iran’s behavior.

“We wouldn’t tolerate Iceland doing what the Iranians are doing. We wouldn’t tolerate Chad doing what the — I mean, I could just pick a number, I’m sort of tripping through the alphabet, right?,” he said.

Critics said the demands were unreasonable and impractical, and were intended to spark a confrontation with Iran.

Pompeo repeated his confidence that governments in Europe and Russia would eventually join the U.S. in an anti-Iran coalition, much as they did to help the Obama administration negotiate the nuclear deal in 2015.

European allies have sharply criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal, however, and it’s not clear if they will honor new U.S. sanctions.

Bill easing bank regulations heads to Trump, but falls short of overhaul GOP wanted

By Jim Puzzanghera

Bipartisan legislation focused on easing regulations for small and mid-sized banks passed the House on Tuesday and headed to President Trump for his expected signature.

Although the bill provides some significant relief for larger financial institutions, it falls short of the sweeping overhaul of the Dodd-Frank post-crisis reforms that Trump and most Republicans wanted.

The beneficiaries of most of the changes are community banks, which have complained that tougher regulations spurred by the 2008 financial crisis have unfairly made it more difficult for them to operate.

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In his first major policy speech, Pompeo calls for global anti-Iran coalition

By Tracy Wilkinson

The Trump administration, two weeks after it withdrew from an international arms control deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions, called Monday for a new global coalition to force the Islamic Republic to capitulate to a long list of political and military demands.

In his first major policy address, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Iran in uncompromising and combative terms, vowing to enact history’s most draconian sanctions against Tehran and to “crush” its proxy forces across the Mideast.

The administration’s so-called Plan B, as an alternative to the nuclear deal, was less a detailed new policy than a dozen harsh demands, with no clear way to achieve them, that Pompeo said Iran must meet before President Trump would agree to a “new deal.”

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Trump says summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un ‘may not work out for June 12′

By Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump.

(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump says the planned Singapore summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “may not work out for June 12” and is suggesting it could be delayed.

Trump is meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday at the White House for consultations ahead of the planned June 12 summit with Kim.

The meeting is happening as efforts to build peace between the two Koreas have hit a setback.

North Korea pulled out of planned peace talks with South Korea last week, objecting to long-scheduled joint military exercises between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea forces.

North Korea also has threatened to abandon the planned Trump-Kim meeting over the U.S.’ insistence on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

National security officials brief Congress on protecting elections from Russian cyber-attacks

By Chris Megerian

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks to reporters after a classified briefing on Tuesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks to reporters after a classified briefing on Tuesday.

(Shawn Thew / EPA-EFE)

With political primaries already underway and the November midterm elections fast approaching, top national security officials briefed members of Congress on Tuesday about gaps in election security.

The Trump administration has been under pressure to take stronger steps to deter Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. campaigns. Officials say election systems remain vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Intelligence agencies say Russian operatives attempted to hack 21 electoral systems in states during the 2016 campaign, breaching one system. There’s no evidence any votes were affected.

“This is an issue that the administration takes seriously and is addressing with urgency,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said in a joint statement.

After the briefing, Nielsen was asked about intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow used social media, leaks of hacked emails and other tactics in 2016 in an attempt to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

“That the specific intent was to help President Trump win, I’m not aware of that, but I do generally have no reason to doubt any intelligence assessment.”

According to a public report issued by intelligence agencies in January 2017, Moscow “aspired to help” Trump’s campaign. The Senate Intelligence Committee reported this month that after a 14 month investigation, it agreed with that assessment.

The committee also issued a detailed report on Russian targeting of election infrastructure during the 2016 campaign.

EPA bars AP, CNN from summit on contaminants; guards shove reporter from building

By Associated Press

EPA chief Scott Pruitt appears before Capitol Hill on May 16.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt appears before Capitol Hill on May 16.

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

The Environmental Protection Agency is barring the Associated Press, CNN and the environmental-focused news organization E&E from a national summit on harmful water contaminants.

The EPA blocked the news organizations from attending Tuesday’s Washington meeting, convened by EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred.

Pruitt told about 200 people at the meeting that dealing with the contaminants is a “national priority.”

Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building. When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building.

Reach out or resist? A Texas runoff tests Democrats’ midterm strategy

By Mark Z. Barabak

Democrats say they’re ready to take charge in Washington. They just can’t agree how.

After nearly a decade of GOP rule, the party stands its best chance in years to seize control of the House, an opening that’s intensified the long-standing fight among progressives, pragmatists and party professionals.

Some at the grass roots favor a path of most resistance, saying Democrats will turn out in November only if tooth-and-claw candidates press an assertively liberal agenda and wage all-out war on President Trump.

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Proposed Mayor Libby Schaaf Act aims to imprison officials who warn of ICE raids

By Alene Tchekmedyian

When Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf tipped off residents in February about an upcoming immigration sweep, she received searing criticism from President Trump and immigration hawks who likened the alert to an obstruction of justice.

Now, a Republican congressman from Iowa is proposing criminal penalties for officials in so-called sanctuary cities who make similar disclosures. Rep. Steve King on Monday introduced the Mayor Libby Schaaf Act of 2018, which calls for up to five years’ imprisonment for officials who obstruct or impede the enforcement of federal laws.

“I want lawless, sanctuary city politicians to hear this message clearly: If you obstruct ICE, you are going to end up in the cooler,” King said in a statement.

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Mick Mulvaney must leave as CFPB chief soon, unless Trump nominates somebody — anybody — else for the job

By Jim Puzzanghera

Time is running out on Mick Mulvaney’s tenure as acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but there’s an easy way for the White House to extend his tenure: nominate somebody — anybody — else to permanently fill the job.

As it stands now, Mulvaney must step down from his job temporarily running the bureau next month under the federal law President Trump used to install him in the job last year in a controversial appointment that sparked protests and a lawsuit.

But Mulvaney could stay in the position for months more — to the delight of banks and frustration of consumer advocates — if Trump simply nominates someone to be the permanent director.

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Trump welcomes first female CIA director, tries to make amends with the agency

By Noah Bierman

Gina Haspel

Gina Haspel

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

President Trump led the swearing-in ceremony for the first female CIA director in the agency’s history on Monday, calling it “a ceremony like few will ever have again.”

Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath.

“They love you,” Trump said as officials and agents applauded Haspel during the ceremony. “They respect you. They respect you too.”

“Gina is tough, she is strong” and “will never ever back down,” he said.

Haspel, a career officer, won Senate confirmation last week after a contentious process that focused on her role in the CIA’s use of overseas prisons to torture suspects in hopes of gleaning information on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Haspel, in her own remarks, noted that it’s been more than 50 years since a career officer has led the agency. She pledged to represent rank-and-file agents. “For me, being director is about doing right by all of you,” she said.

She also took in the historic moment, saying, “I stand on the shoulders of heroines who never saw acclaim” and pointing to two girls — ages 6 and 8 — in the audience.

“We did it,” Haspel said.

The venue, CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., is significant for Trump. Trump raised concerns in the agency when he spoke there on his first full day in office last year — making highly political comments and misrepresentations about the media and crowd sizes at his inauguration while standing in front of a wall that memorialized fallen agents.

Trump faced suspicion and concern from agents at the time, particularly after he likened their tactics to Nazis’.

Trump stuck mostly to script Monday, extolling the fallen agents whose names are represented on the wall while telling Haspel the nation is “counting on you to confront a wide array of threats we face….”

He praised the agents in the room. But Trump remains embroiled in conflict with many in the intelligence community, especially the Justice Department, as it continues to probe whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians and whether he worked to obstruct that investigation. Trump said Sunday he would demand an investigation into the FBI’s use of a covert intelligence source, a practice also used widely at the CIA, which is highly protective of those sources’ identities.

Giuliani says Mueller’s investigation of Trump may end by Sept. 1

By Associated Press

President Trump listens to a question during a meeting in the Oval Office on May 16.

President Trump listens to a question during a meeting in the Oval Office on May 16.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office recently shared a timetable that suggested the investigation into the president could end by Sept. 1 if Trump were to sit for an interview in July, which he said is the legal team’s new working plan.

“We said to them, `If we’re going to be interviewed in July, how much time until the report gets issued?“’ Giuliani told the Associated Press on Sunday, referring to the report Mueller is expected to issue to Congress at the conclusion of his investigation. “They said September, which is good for everyone, because no one wants this to drag into the midterms.”

Giuliani said he did not want a repeat of what happened in 2016, when FBI Director James B. Comey announced in the presidential campaign’s final days that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, a decision Democrats believe cost Clinton the race. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, also said that Mueller’s team indicated that the entire probe, not just its investigation into potential obstruction of justice, could end by September.

“This would be the culmination of the investigation into the president,” Giuliani said.

The special counsel’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

It is not certain if Trump will sit for an interview with Mueller, though the president has publicly said he would. Giuliani said a decision on that would not be made until after Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, which is slated for June 12. The former mayor said Sunday the two sides “were getting closer” to agreeing on the parameters on a potential interview, but he would not put the odds of it happening at better than 50/50.

President Trump says he’ll order Justice Dept. investigation of informant in Russia probe

By Chris Megerian

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump tweeted Sunday that he will order an investigation into whether law enforcement “infiltrated or surveilled” his presidential campaign “for political purposes,” escalating an already extraordinary clash between a president and his Justice Department.

The decision could lead to a new level of conflict over the Russia investigation, which began as a counterintelligence probe during the 2016 campaign and has continued as a criminal investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Trump had previously warned that he may try to exert more influence at the Justice Department “because what’s going on is a disgrace.” He has harshly criticized Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions for stepping aside from overseeing the Russia investigation.

Republicans and conservative commentators have ramped up their attacks on the Mueller investigation, claiming it’s been handled improperly and tainted by partisan animus toward the president.

A flashpoint has been the FBI’s use of a confidential informant, a common tactic in federal investigations, who met with three Trump campaign aides believed to have had suspicious Russian contacts as Moscow was meddling in the election.

News accounts have said the informant was a retired American professor in England who has worked undercover repeatedly for the FBI and CIA over the years. His name has not been made public.

In the year since Mueller took over the probe, his team has obtained guilty verdicts from five individuals, mostly for lying to investigators. They also have charged Trump’s former campaign manager with numerous financial crimes unrelated to the campaign, and have indicted 13 Russians for meddling in the U.S. election.

First lady returns to White House after kidney treatment

By Associated Press

Melania Trump is back at the White House after an extended hospitalization for a kidney procedure.

The White House said the first lady returned to the White House on Saturday morning. She had been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington since having an embolization procedure Monday for an unspecified kidney condition that the White House said was benign.

President Trump visited his 48-year-old wife during several of the evenings that she was in the hospital.

The first lady said Wednesday on Twitter that she was “feeling great.” She thanked the Walter Reed staff and her well-wishers, and said she was looking forward to going home.

U.S. sanctions powerful Venezuelan official on eve of presidential election

By Tracy Wilkinson

Diosdado Cabello, center, in red beret, shown earlier this year.

Diosdado Cabello, center, in red beret, shown earlier this year.

(Associated Press)

The Trump administration announced sanctions Friday on a powerful Venezuelan official and his family on the eve of the troubled South American country’s presidential election.

Diosdado Cabello, head of the ruling Socialist Party, and his wife and brother were blacklisted by the Treasury Department. It accused them of illegally enriching themselves through drug trafficking, money-laundering and embezzlement of state funds.

Cabello or his representatives own 14 properties and three firms in New York and Florida that authorities can seize as part of the sanctions, the Treasury Department said.

In addition, American individuals and companies may not do business with the Cabellos, the latest of several Venezuelan officials who have been punished by Treasury.

Venezuela is collapsing under the weight of multiple political and economic crises. It is holding a presidential election on Sunday that most outside observers consider a sham.

President Nicolas Maduro is running virtually unopposed since he jailed or disqualified the most popular opposition figures.

“The Venezuelan people suffer under corrupt politicians who tighten their grip on power while lining their own pockets,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.

“This administration is committed to holding those accountable who violate the trust of the Venezuelan people, and we will continue to block attempts to abuse the U.S. financial system,” he added.

Relations between leftist Venezuela, once an oil-rich ally, and the United States have been strained for years. They have worsened since President Trump took office last year.

Trump administration orders more sanctions on Iran after quitting the nuclear deal

By Tracy Wilkinson

An anti-U.S. protest in Tehran, Iran.

An anti-U.S. protest in Tehran, Iran.

(AFP / Getty Images)

The Trump administration is ratcheting up sanctions on Iran following the president’s withdrawal from the 2015 international accord that curbed Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.

The Treasury Department on Thursday blacklisted two individuals and five companies in the Middle East, Africa and Europe that it said were financing the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group based in Lebanon.

The sanctions mean any assets that the persons or companies might have in the United States or in U.S. institutions will be frozen, and Americans cannot do business with the targets.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin identified one of the individuals as Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, whom he described as a financier who uses drug trafficking deals and money laundering to help fund Hezbollah.

“This action highlights the duplicity and disgraceful conduct of Hezbollah and its Iranian backers,” Mnuchin said. “This administration will expose and disrupt Hezbollah and Iranian terror networks at every turn.”

This was the administration’s third punitive action this week against Iran or entities associated with the country, including the blacklisting on Tuesday of Valiollah Seif, governor of the Central Bank of Iran.

In that case, non-Americans around the world as well as Americans were barred from doing business with him through a mechanism known as secondary sanctions.

The sanctions come in the wake of Trump’s announcement on May 9 that he was pulling the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran. Trump said the accord was not sufficiently tough on Tehran and said he would reimpose a raft of economic penalties aimed at tightening pressure on Tehran.

The move estranged the Trump administration from England, France and Germany, which also signed the nuclear deal and still support it.

Trump repeats questionable claim that the FBI spied on his campaign

By Noah Bierman

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump claimed again in a tweet on Thursday that his campaign was “spied on” by the FBI, drawing a comparison with the Watergate break-in.

The latest tweet builds on a claim Trump made previously, without evidence, that President Obama had ordered his phones tapped.

In this case, Trump is quoting a former federal prosecutor and columnist for the conservative magazine National Review, Andrew McCarthy, whose appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning follows a lengthy New York Times report about the Russia investigation.

The Times report, marking the one-year anniversary of the special counsel’s appointment, details the history of the FBI’s inquiry into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian agents and whether Trump tried to obstruct that probe.

The article says the FBI obtained phone records and other campaign documents through a secret national security subpoena process. The article also says that “an informant” met with two campaign associates — Carter Page and George Papadopoulos — who would later become key figures in the investigation.

The article notes that the meeting has become “a contentious point, with Mr. Trump’s allies questioning whether the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign or trying to entrap campaign officials.”

But the article leaves unclear who the informant was, how he or she was recruited and whether the informant began working with the campaign before cooperating with agents. The use of informants is often attacked by defense attorneys during criminal trials, but they are a fairly common tool for law enforcement.

Tillerson reemerges for veiled swipe at Trump

By Tracy Wilkinson

(Associated Press)

In an apparent swipe at President Trump, his fired secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, warned Wednesday that “going wobbly” on truth endangers American democracy.

Tillerson, a former Texas oil executive who Trump dismissed in March via Twitter, delivered the commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute.

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society among our leaders in both public and private sector, and regrettably at times in the nonprofit sector,” Tillerson told the graduates, “then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years.”

He added that “if our leaders seek to conceal the truth” or if Americans accept “alternative realities” not “grounded in truth,” then the citizenry is on the road to “relinquishing our freedom.”

The former secretary of State, who served slightly more than a year, never mentioned Trump by name. But the president is known to frequently play loose with facts.

Tillerson also chastised those who would abandon allies and international treaties, actions that Trump often favored over Tillerson’s objections.

“We must never take these long-held allies for granted,” Tillerson said.

After he was fired, Tillerson returned to his ranch in Texas. This was the first publicized speech he has made since then.

Senate takes first step to save net neutrality rules, voting to overturn FCC action

By Jim Puzzanghera

The Senate on Wednesday narrowly advanced a Democratic-led attempt to retain net neutrality regulations, the first step in a long shot bid to keep the online traffic rules on the federal books before their repeal takes effect in June.

The effort, which has built momentum in recent weeks, also is intended to elevate net neutrality as a political issue in the fall elections.

Supporters portrayed themselves as defenders of the rights of Americans to unfettered access to the internet by keeping protections in place that they said would prevent telecommunications companies from serving as gatekeepers for online content.

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Gina Haspel wins backing of Senate panel for CIA post

By Associated Press

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday recommended that the full Senate confirm President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA.

The panel voted 10-5 in favor of Gina Haspel in a closed session.

Haspel had already picked up Democratic support and appears on a path to confirmation. The full Senate is expected to vote on her nomination as early as this week.

Her nomination has renewed debate over the harsh interrogation program the CIA conducted on terror suspects after 9/11. Haspel has vowed not to restart such a program, but has declined to disclose details about her involvement.

All eight Republicans and two of the seven Democrats on the Senate panel earlier expressed support for Haspel. The remaining five Democrats had announced their opposition.

Key Democrat backs Gina Haspel for CIA director, virtually ensuring confirmation

By Chris Megerian

Sen. Mark Warner, left, is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Mark Warner, left, is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

(Shawn Thew / European Pressphoto Agency)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced Tuesday that he’ll support Gina Haspel’s nomination as CIA director, a decision that will likely assure her confirmation.

Haspel has been a controversial choice, largely because she once ran a secret prison in Thailand where terrorism suspects were waterboarded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Warner said deciding how to vote on Haspel was a “difficult decision,” but he appreciated her recent letter that included more definitive criticism of the CIA’s interrogation program, which was ended years ago.

“Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to work with Ms. Haspel in her role as Deputy Director, and I have always found her to be professional and forthright with the Intelligence Committee,” Warner said in a statement. “Most importantly, I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral — like a return to torture.”

Two other Democrats, Sen. Joe Machin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), have already announced their support of Haspel.

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Fed nominees slam Wells Fargo for consumer abuses and indicate bank’s growth cap will be tough to lift

By Jim Puzzanghera

Two Federal Reserve nominees on Tuesday slammed Wells Fargo & Co., for its consumer abuses and indicated that they would have to see significant improvements before voting to lift a cap on the San Francisco bank’s growth.

“Just based upon the news accounts, which of course is all I have to go on, the activities of Wells Fargo in this domain are egregious and unacceptable and I was as shocked as anyone to read about it in the newspaper,” said economist Richard Clarida, the nominee to be vice chairman of the Fed, at a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

“If I am confirmed and this matter came before me, as it looks like it would, I would certainly individually want to be absolutely convinced that appropriate steps had been taken and could be verified,” he said in response to questioning from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

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U.S. seeks to separate Gaza violence from embassy opening

By Tracy Wilkinson

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, denied assertions Tuesday that deadly violence on the Gaza Strip border with Israel was motivated by the controversial transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem.

Israeli forces opened fire on angry stone-throwing Palestinian protesters on Monday, killing more than 50 and wounding hundreds. The violence occurred as the U.S. held an elaborate ceremony in Jerusalem inaugurating the embassy, with a high-level American delegation in attendance.

The Palestinians said they were demonstrating against the embassy and the dire conditions they are living under in Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas.

Haley, speaking at a U.N. Security Council meeting called to discuss the Palestinian plight, said Israel acted with restraint, a minority view in the world organization.

“Those who suggest that the Gaza violence has anything to do with the location of the American Embassy are sorely mistaken,” she said. “Rather, the violence comes from those who reject the state of Israel in any location.”

Gina Haspel says CIA interrogation program was a mistake from the start

By Chris Megerian

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, said the agency should never have started the interrogation program that has been the most controversial part of her background during the confirmation process.

“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken,” she wrote in a Monday letter to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The letter goes a step further in criticizing previous decisions at the agency, something Haspel was reluctant to do during her confirmation hearing last week despite pledging to never revive the secret prison network created by the CIA after the Sept. 11 attacks. She ran one of those facilities in Thailand.

It’s unclear whether Haspel’s letter will win over any senators on the fence about her nomination. She wrote that she “won’t condemn those that made these hard calls” and she did not say whether tactics like waterboarding were immoral.

However, Haspel may have the support needed to win confirmation and become the CIA’s first woman director. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) announced over the weekend that he would be the second Democrat to vote for her, following Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was tortured as a Vietnam War POW, opposes her nomination, as does Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Trump went from ‘America first’ to saving jobs in China. This could be why

By Don Lee

President Trump’s stunning change in stance toward a Chinese telecom-equipment maker that his administration recently sanctioned drew widespread rebuke Monday, even as it seemed to increase the likelihood that the U.S. and China could soon pull back from the brink of a trade war.

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Romney calls U.S. pastor at Jerusalem embassy ceremony a ‘bigot’

By Tracy Wilkinson

In this file photo, Mitt Romney speaks with a group during a campaign stop in Green River, Utah, in March.

In this file photo, Mitt Romney speaks with a group during a campaign stop in Green River, Utah, in March.

(Associated Press)

A White House spokesperson insisted he did not know how an American Christian pastor had been chosen to offer prayers at Monday’s inauguration of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after the minister was called a bigot for his view of non-Christian religions.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress, leader of a Southern Baptist church near Dallas and a spiritual advisor to President Trump, delivered the invocation at the ceremony in Jerusalem, attended by an official U.S. delegation featuring Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.

Jeffress has said Jews and other non-Christians, a group in which he includes Mormons, will go to hell — a belief he reconfirmed Monday.

Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ 2012 nominee for president, a Mormon who is running for a Senate seat in Utah, expressed his dismay via Twitter: “Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem,” he wrote.

Jeffress responded by, essentially, doubling down: “Historic Christianity has taught for 2,000 years that salvation is through faith in Christ alone. The fact that I, along with tens of millions of evangelical Christians around the world, continue to espouse that belief, is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.”

White House spokesman Raj Shah, pressed by reporters on Jeffress’ comments, said he did not know how the evangelical minister was chosen to speak at the event. He said that if the comments were accurate, they reflected sentiments that “wouldn’t be embraced by this White House.”

Jeffress is a member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board and White House Faith Initiative.

Many evangelical pastors believe the Mormon faith to be a cult. Some support Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because they interpret that as being consistent with New Testament prophecies related to the second coming of the Messiah, when Jews, along with other non-Christians, convert or be destroyed.

Evangelicals form the largest religious grouping among Trump’s supporters.

The other evangelical minister who gave the benediction in Monday’s ceremony was John Hagee, also a Texas pastor and founder of Christians United for Israel, who said in his prayer that Jerusalem “is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”

Melania Trump hospitalized after procedure to treat a benign kidney condition

By Associated Press

First Lady Melania Trump meets with personnel at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati on Feb. 5.

First Lady Melania Trump meets with personnel at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati on Feb. 5.

(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

The White House says Melania Trump is hospitalized after undergoing a procedure to treat a benign kidney condition.

The first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said Monday that the procedure was successful and that there were no complications.

Grisham said Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center just outside Washington and she will likely remain there for the rest of the week.

Last week, the first lady launched her “Be Best” initiative to help children be their best selves.

Harry Reid treated for pancreatic cancer, according to reports

By Associated Press

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks during a lecture series at the University of Nevada, Reno on April 3, 2018

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks during a lecture series at the University of Nevada, Reno on April 3, 2018

(Scott Sonner / AP Photo)

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid underwent surgery Monday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The generally grave cancer diagnosis was made early, according to multiple media reports citing sources close to the Nevada Democrat.

“They caught it early. The doctors believe it went well, and he is expected to make a full recovery,” a source told the Nevada Independent.

Shortly after reports of the surgery surfaced, Reid’s family put out a statement.

“Today, Former Democratic Leader Harry Reid underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center to remove a tumor from his pancreas. His doctors caught the problem early during a routine screening and his surgeons are confident that the surgery was a success and that the prognosis for his recovery is good. He will undergo chemotherapy as the next step in his treatment. He is now out of surgery, in good spirits and resting with his family. He is grateful to his highly skilled team of doctors and to all who have sent and continue to send their love and support,” the statement said.

His former colleagues sent their well-wishes, including over Twitter.

“Praying for my good friend and mentor, @SenatorReid, and his entire family. Wishing him a full and speedy recovery,” tweeted Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev.

Reid retired from the Senate at the end of the last Congress.

Trump finally calls Waffle House hero

By Noah Bierman

President Trump, who has been criticized by some for his delay in reaching out to James Shaw Jr., who saved lives in last month’s shooting at a Waffle House in Tennessee, called him on Monday “to commend his heroic actions and quick thinking,” Raj Shah, the White House’s deputy press secretary said.

“It was a conversation that the president asked to have,” Shah told reporters during the press briefing.

Shah said he did not know whether Shaw had been invited to the White House, as other figures who have been lauded as public heroes have been.

Shaw, 29, fought off a gunman at the Tennessee Waffle House last month, securing his AR-15 and likely preventing more fatalities in a shooting that left four people dead.

Second Democratic senator announces support for Trump’s CIA pick Gina Haspel

By Associated Press

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) heads to the Senate floor in 2017.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) heads to the Senate floor in 2017.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

A second Democratic senator has announced his support for President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA.

Joe Donnelly of Indiana said in a statement Saturday that he made his decision after “a tough, frank and extensive discussion” with Gina Haspel, the spy agency’s acting director who’s in line for the job permanently.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has also come out for Haspel. Both Donnelly and Manchin are considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate incumbents in the November election.

So far, two Republicans have announced their opposition to Haspel: Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Arizona’s John McCain, who’s battling cancer and isn’t expected to be present for the vote on her confirmation.

Supporters are pushing for votes by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the full Senate before the Memorial Day break.

The GOP holds a 51-49 edge, and Vice President Mike Pence can break a possible tie.

Haspel has run into criticism because she was once involved in the CIA’s harsh interrogation program.

“I believe that she has learned from the past, and that the CIA under her leadership can help our country confront serious international threats and challenges,” Donnelly said in the statement.

Donnelly came under attack from Trump at a rally in Indiana on Thursday, two days after the state’s primary election determined that his Republican opponent in November will be former Indiana lawmaker Mike Braun.

Trump, who was joined at the rally by Pence, a former Indiana governor, urged GOP voters to mobilize and prevent Democrats from regaining control of Congress.

The president called Donnelly “Sleepin’ Joe” and criticized the senator for opposing his tax plan and attempt to end the Affordable Care Act.

Donnelly responded by saying “problems only get solved when you roll up your sleeves and put in the hard work,” and his campaign said he had voted with Trump 62% of the time.

‘New embassy’ in Jerusalem is modest; actual new one to take years and much more money

By Tracy Wilkinson

(AFP/Getty Images)

For all the fanfare the Trump administration has planned — and contrary to President Trump’s boasts — the new U.S. Embassy to be opened in Jerusalem on Monday will be a decidedly modest affair, and probably a temporary one.

The staff will number about 50 or 60, compared to 800 at the compound in Tel Aviv where the embassy has been for years — until Trump upended decades of international consensus to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Previous American policy called for the status of Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians, to be decided by a peace agreement between them.

The U.S. ambassador, David Friedman, said on Friday that he will continue to split his time between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He acknowledged that having a fully operational embassy in Jerusalem will take a long time. Government estimates have said it will be up to seven years.

“We will start the transition as quickly as we can,” Friedman told reporters in a telephone conference from Tel Aviv. “I think there’ll be interim steps, probably a good number between now and the full transition.”

Friedman said that nearly 800 people are expected to attend the opening ceremony amid stepped-up security, including private foreign delegations and a Washington contingent featuring Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner. Yet the “opening” will mainly consist of unveiling a plaque that says “U.S. Embassy,” to be affixed to a building that has been a consular office in Jerusalem’s Armona neighborhood for years.

The president will address the audience through a video link.

As he did Thursday evening in Elkhart, Ind., Trump at his political rallies has bragged that he got a Jerusalem embassy built within months for a fraction of the cost of those completed under recent presidents — giving no clue that in fact an existing building was adapted for temporary use until a more costly embassy can be constructed years from now.

Wells Fargo will need a formal vote from the Federal Reserve before growth restrictions are lifted

By Jim Puzzanghera

Wells Fargo & Co. will have to receive formal approval in a vote taken by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors before the growth restriction on the San Francisco bank is lifted, Fed Chairman Jerome H. Powell has decided.

Powell agreed to the move in a letter Thursday to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who had pushed for a board vote — rather than just a staff endorsement — so Congress and the public could hold the Fed accountable when it decides whether to lift the stiff penalty placed on Wells Fargo for its unauthorized-accounts scandal and other consumer abuses.

Wells Fargo Chief Executive Timothy Sloan separately told investors Thursday at a conference that he expected the restriction, which stopped the bank from growing its assets beyond the $1.95 trillion reached at the end of last year, would probably continue into 2019.

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Both California senators will oppose Gina Haspel for CIA director

By Chris Megerian

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris on Capitol Hill

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris on Capitol Hill

(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

Both of California’s U.S. senators will vote against Gina Haspel to lead the CIA, and her confirmation in the full Senate appears increasingly shaky.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced Thursday that she will oppose Haspel’s nomination, a day after she sharply questioned Haspel at a confirmation hearing on Wednesday about the CIA’s abusive interrogations in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Although Haspel pledged to not restart the discredited program, her answers did not satisfy Feinstein, who spearheaded a scathing 2014 report on the CIA’s secret prison network and brutal treatment of detainees. Haspel ran one of those secret facilities in Thailand in 2002.

“The United States must send a message to the world that we hold ourselves to a higher standard than our enemies,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Feinstein appeared open to supporting Haspel when President Trump nominated her two months ago. But she since hardened her stance, criticizing the CIA’s lack of public disclosure about her classified background.

Sen. Kamala Harris, another San Francisco Democrat, also plans to vote against Haspel.

Supporting Haspel, Harris tweeted, would send “the wrong signal to the CIA workforce, the American people, and countries abroad about our values.”

Their opposition was largely expected given growing concerns about Haspel’s still-murky role in one of the CIA’s darkest chapters, including the shredding of videotapes of the interrogations.

Probably more important was Haspel’s failure to convince Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Although he is battling brain cancer in Arizona, and isn’t expected to return to Washington to vote, McCain announced his opposition in a tweet late Wednesday.

“I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country & has devoted her professional life to its service & defense. However, her role in overseeing the use of torture is disturbing & her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying,” he wrote.

McCain spent five years as a prisoner of war after his Navy fighter was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, and was repeatedly tortured during his captivity. His opposition may give political cover to other lawmakers to vote against her.

It’s official: Trump to meet North Korea’s Kim in Singapore

By Noah Bierman

(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump announced Thursday that he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month, solidifying a historic meeting between the heads of state who had spent a year lobbing threatening comments at each other.

Trump tweeted that the “highly anticipated meeting” — the first between a sitting U.S. president and the leader of antagonistic North Korea — would take place on June 12 in Singapore, an island state in southeast Asia. The president waited to release final details of the summit until three American hostages returned home in the early hours of Thursday.

The U.S. has a tough goal: persuading one of the world’s most isolated governments to give up its nuclear arms program, which North Korea sees as essential to preserving its government.

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Democrats release thousands of Russia-linked Facebook advertisements from 2016

By Chris Megerian

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

House Democrats early Thursday released the full slate of roughly 3,500 advertisements purchased on Facebook by the Russian Internet Research Agency, most during the 2016 campaign, in what U.S. intelligence agencies said was Moscow’s attempt to sow discord and boost Donald Trump’s candidacy.

“There’s no question that Russia sought to weaponize social media platforms to drive a wedge between Americans, and in an attempt to sway the 2016 election,” said a statement from Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

He added, “The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us.”

The Internet Research Agency is one of the organizations charged by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as part of the criminal investigation into Russian political interference and possible Trump campaign complicity. The advertisements focused on divisive issues like illegal immigration, police shootings of black men, Texas secession and Trump’s pledge to lock up his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Although the majority of the ads were posted before the election, the Russians kept running them afterwards, a sign of what intelligence agencies say is Moscow’s ongoing attempt to meddle in U.S. politics.

In a statement, Facebook said it was improving its policies, including disclosing who paid for them and verifying the purchaser’s location.

During the 2016 campaign, the company said, “we were focused on the kinds of cyber security attacks typically used by nation states, for example phishing and malware attacks. And we were to slow to spot this type of information operations interference. Since then, we’ve made important changes to prevent bad actors from using misinformation to undermine the democratic process.”

Senate Democrats believe net neutrality is a political winner as they try to reinstate regulations

By Jim Puzzanghera

One after another, 15 Democratic senators — nearly a third of their caucus — stepped to a microphone on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to call for tough rules to protect net neutrality.

The turnout, which included Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), showed they believe that they could win politically on the issue even if they ultimately fail in their long-shot attempt to reinstate the rules.

“We’re now one step away from allowing the American public to see where their elected officials stand on protecting their internet service,” said Schumer, as the Democrats formally launched an effort to restore the regulations scrapped last year by the Federal Communications Commission.

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Kevin McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi as different as Buck Owens and Jello Biafra. A political tale of two cities.

By Mark Z. Barabak

Kevin McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi may stand political poles apart but, together, the two California lawmakers are on the verge of making history.

If, as seems likely, McCarthy becomes the next Republican House leader and Pelosi continues as head of the Democratic caucus, it would mark the first time the congressional leaders of both parties hail from the same state.

Which of the two would reign as speaker, as opposed to minority leader, depends on the outcome of November’s midterm elections and whether each withstands a potential challenge in his or her own ranks.

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Trump again threatens government action against reporters

By Noah Bierman

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump threatened the media on Wednesday morning, suggesting he could pull the White House press credentials of reporters for unfavorable coverage of him and his administration.

“Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump complains about the media often but rarely threatens government action. During the presidential campaign, he would sometimes bar reporters for certain media outlets from his rallies. As president, he suggested he could take television networks’ broadcast licenses — though federal licenses go to individual stations, not networks — and he proposed an audit of the Post Office system to target Amazon, linking the company to the Washington Post because both are owned by Jeff Bezos.

1st Amendment advocates have been alarmed by his open suggestions about using his office to punish media that he deems antagonistic. The tactics have helped Trump with his political base, which views much reporting on the president with equal disdain.

In his latest tweet, Trump cited a study by the conservative Media Research Center of the three major networks’ nightly news broadcasts finding that 91% of “evaluative” statements about the president were negative.

Protesters line up before confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee to be CIA director

By Chris Megerian

The Senate Intelligence Committee is holding a confirmation hearing on Wednesday morning for Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA.

Her nomination is highly controversial because of her role in the agency’s counterterrorism operations after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including running a so-called black site prison in Thailand where suspects were waterboarded, and protesters showed up to oppose her.

Several members of Code Pink were hauled out by police before the hearing even started when they started shouting, “Don’t reward torture!”

An officer told them, “you are all under arrest,” and they were detained and removed from the room.

Trump announces North Korea’s apparent release of three U.S. hostages

By Noah Bierman

(Wong Maye-E, Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump on Wednesday announced that North Korea had released three American captives to visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a conciliatory signal from Kim Jong Un’s government ahead of a planned summit between him and the president.

Trump broke the news on Twitter, saying that Pompeo was returning after a brief visit with “3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is so looking forward to meeting.” In a second tweet, Trump said he would be at Joint Base Andrews to greet them when they arrive at 2 a.m. Thursday.

Trump did not identify them as hostages or name them. But the president, who has taken a particular interest in individual hostage cases, had been hinting of their imminent release for days.

The president said the three men “seem to be in good health.” Last year, North Korea released another American, Otto Warmbier, who was ailing and soon died upon his return.

The latest release is a prelude to planned nuclear summit between Trump and Kim. The president wrote that a place and date had been set but he did not release details.

The fight over net neutrality returns as supporters launch long-shot bid to resurrect the rules

By Jim Puzzanghera

The fight over net neutrality is back.

This time, Democrats and other supporters of the controversial internet traffic regulations are seeking to turn the tables on Republican opponents by using a legislative tactic, popularized recently by the GOP, to resurrect the rules the Federal Communications Commission struck down last year.

The effort formally begins Wednesday as backers file a petition in the Senate that will force a vote next week to undo the FCC’s action. Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Google and other online giants support the move.

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Trump says he’s withdrawing U.S. from Iran nuclear accord

By Associated Press

President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

( (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA; Iranian Presidency Office via Associated Press))

President Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. will pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, dealing a profound blow to U.S. allies and potentially deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage.

“The United States does not make empty threats,” he said in a televised address.

Trump’s decision means Iran’s government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what’s left of the deal. Iran has offered conflicting statements about what it may do — and the answer may depend on exactly how Trump exits the agreement.

Trump said he would move to reimpose all sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 deal, not just the ones facing an immediate deadline. This had become known informally as the “nuclear option” because of the near-certainty that such a move would scuttle the deal.

Supporters of fixing the agreement had hoped Trump would choose a piecemeal approach that could leave more room for him to reverse himself and stay in the deal if he could secure the additional restrictions that European nations tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with him.

Still, the administration planned to allow a grace period of at least three months and possibly up to six months so that businesses and governments can wind down operations that will violate the reimposed U.S. sanctions.

A slower withdrawal process could allow more room for Trump to reverse course later and decide to stay — if he secures the additional restrictions on Iran that European nations tried unsuccessfully to negotiate to prevent him from withdrawing. Indeed, as administration officials briefed congressional leaders about Trump’s plans Tuesday, they emphasized that just as with a major Asia trade deal and the Paris climate pact that Trump has abandoned, he remains open to renegotiating a better deal, one person briefed on the talks said.

UPDATES

11:31 a.m.: This article was updated with Trump’s announcement.

This article was originally published at 10:07 a.m.

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Watch live: U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions visits the border in San Diego

Trump teases crucial decision on Iran nuclear deal — promising Tuesday announcement

By Noah Bierman

Representatives of several countries and the EU pose in Switzerland on April 2, 2015, the day an Iran deal framework was announced.

Representatives of several countries and the EU pose in Switzerland on April 2, 2015, the day an Iran deal framework was announced.

(AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump has announced that his long-awaited decision on whether to tear up the Iran nuclear deal would come Tuesday.

The announcement could well be one of the most consequential of his presidency. And in typical Trump fashion, he teased it on Monday with a tweet.

Trump has long criticized the deal — brokered by the United States, Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany — promising during and after his campaign that he would tear it up. His new national security advisor, John Bolton, is also a major opponent.

But Trump has held off killing the deal during past opportunities, giving European allies a chance to toughen it up. The leaders of France and Germany were the latest to appeal to Trump during visits to the White House last month in which they urged him to keep the U.S. in the deal.

Trump has kept up his criticism of the agreement, however, and on Monday he denounced former Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s back-channel attempts to save the deal in a separate tweet.

“The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”

Trump has several options, in addition to tearing the deal up and staying in. He could also choose to continue discussions to rework the deal. Or he could decline to recertify the deal without formally pulling out.

Children likely to be separated from parents under new border enforcement policy

By Joseph Tanfani

A National Guard unit in 2007 patrols at the U.S. border with Mexico in Sasabe, Ariz.

A National Guard unit in 2007 patrols at the U.S. border with Mexico in Sasabe, Ariz.

( (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press))

The Trump administration on Monday will unveil a new, tougher border enforcement policy to stem the flow of illegal crossings.

The crackdown, which took effect last week and will be formally announced later Monday, will mean that parents bringing children over the border illegally will likely be separated if caught, according to an official at the Department of Homeland Security, who did not want to be identified before the policy was unveiled.

Currently in many cases border agents try to keep family units together by sending all members to the same family detention facility. Now in most cases parents will be prosecuted and children sent to a separate refugee facility, the official said.

Families seeking asylum and presenting themselves at official border crossings will still be allowed stay together as they seek protected status, the official said.

Individuals who cross illegally will no longer be apprehended and bused back over the border, as often occurs currently. Under the new policy, those crossing illegally will be detained and prosecuted.

The Justice Department last week announced plans to send additional prosecutors to border regions to process the expected increase in cases, the official said.

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Democrats don’t want CIA nominee Gina Haspel because she’s ‘too tough on terror,’ Trump tweets

By Chris Megerian

Gina Haspel attends the ceremonial swearing-in of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department on May 2.

Gina Haspel attends the ceremonial swearing-in of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department on May 2.

(Shawn Thew / EPA / Shutterstock)

President Trump on Monday tweeted in support of his nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, saying she’s “come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists.”

Haspel, a veteran undercover operative, faces stiff criticism from Democrats and some Republicans for her role in the agency’s interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration, which involved waterboarding and other techniques that are widely considered torture.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that Haspel suggested withdrawing her nomination because of concerns about a difficult confirmation hearing, scheduled for Wednesday. After discussions with White House officials, she decided to stick it out, the report said.

Trump has been a supporter of torturing terrorists.

“I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” he said during a primary debate with other Republican candidates in 2016.

But Haspel has reportedly told senators that she’s not willing to revive the interrogation program, a stance echoed by some of her supporters.

“I can say for certain that Gina will not allow the agency to again be involved in similar programs,” said John Sipher, a former CIA veteran.

Trump often characterizes things — such as DACA and Obamacare — as ‘dead.’ Is that right?

By Kurtis Lee

The tweets are nothing new, coming at all hours and sometimes dozens in a single weekend.

President Trump announces policy, castigates critics and touts allies in 280 characters. Amid the onslaught of tweets, a theme of sorts has emerged when Trump disagrees with something: He says it’s “dead.”

But when Trump makes these proclamations — an effort of sorts to show disregard for people, policy or organizations and dismiss their importance — it does not necessarily mean the person or organization is on life support or worse.

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Trump: Fewer would have died in Paris terrorist attacks if victims had been armed

By Michael Livingston

(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

President Trump said during a speech at the National Rifle Assn. convention Friday that France’s strict gun laws prevented victims of that country’s deadliest terrorist attack from fighting the gunmen and suicide bombers who carried out the massacre.

On the evening of Nov. 13, 2015, a series of coordinated suicide bombings and shootings erupted at stadiums, cafes and restaurants in Paris. A total of 130 people were killed.

Trump attributed the high victim count to the country’s stance on gun control. “Paris, France, has the toughest gun laws in the world,” Trump said. “Nobody has guns in Paris.”

The gunmen held hundreds of people hostage in the Bataclan theater, where attendees were watching a concert. The attackers would eventually kill 89 people in the theater.

“They took their time and gunned them down one by one,” Trump said of the terrorists, pointing his index finger to mimic a gun and saying “boom” three times.

“But if one employee, or just one patron had a gun, or if one person in this room had been there with a gun,” Trump continued, “the terrorists would have fled or been shot.”

One of the Bataclan gunmen died when he detonated the bombs on his vests. A second gunman’s bomb vest exploded after he was struck by a police officer’s bullet.

Trump’s stance gave NRA convention attendees reason to cheer. They believe that more armed citizens would make a difference in mass shootings and terrorist attacks.

Trump also supports a call by gun rights advocates to arm trained teachers in schools.

France’s rate of gun violence has been historically low, with its highest rate in 20 years being 4.89 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 1998, according to the gun statistics website GunPolicy.org. The United States’ rate of gun violence has consistently been at least 10 in the same period, and now stands at 11.9 per 100,000.

Trump salutes 2nd Amendment, urges NRA members to vote GOP

By Associated Press

President Trump speaks at the National Rifle Assn. annual convention. Friday.

President Trump speaks at the National Rifle Assn. annual convention. Friday.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

President Trump made a specific link between the sanctity of the 2nd Amendment and Republicans’ prospects in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Trump said at the National Rifle Assn. annual convention that the only thing that has prevented the elimination of the 2nd Amendment has been conservatives in Congress “willing to fight for those rights.”

He claimed that Democrats want to “outlaw guns” and said if the nation takes that step, it might as well ban all vans and trucks because they are the new form of death for “maniac terrorists.”

The president implored NRA members to help elect Republicans in the November elections.

U.S. unemployment falls to lowest level since 2000

By Jim Puzzanghera

The labor market improved somewhat last month, adding a solid 164,000 net new jobs while the unemployment rate fell below 4% for the first time since 2000, the Labor Department said Friday.

But while job growth rebounded from a disappointing March figure that was revised up Friday to 134,000, other aspects of the closely watched monthly report were lackluster.

Overall, the data show a labor market that remains resilient in the face of a potential global trade war but is slowing as the recovery from the Great Recession this month became the second-longest in U.S. history.

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Did Trump’s new lawyer Giuliani make things worse for the president? Here’s why some think so

By Joseph Tanfani

President Trump and his new legal point man, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, are off to an explosive start together, admitting what Trump had only recently denied — that he reimbursed his personal lawyer for hush money paid to a porn actress before the election.

The question roiling Washington, ever since Giuliani disclosed the stunner late Wednesday, is “Why?”

If the new version of events was meant to reduce Trump’s legal liability, the success of the strategy seemed in doubt on Thursday. Some legal experts say Giuliani may even have made things worse, not only for the president but also for Michael Cohen, the lawyer who paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election to stay quiet about an alleged sexual liaison with Trump.

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‘We’re the good guys’: Capacity crowd expected for Trump at NRA convention

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are expected to address this year’s National Rifle Assn. convention shortly after it opens Friday in Dallas.

The annual meeting is expected to draw tens of thousands of members and supporters.

Theresa Napolitano, an attorney, traveled from Caldwell, N.J., with her 9-year-old daughter to attend for the first time. She was especially excited by Trump’s last-minute decision to speak.

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House chaplain wins job back after scalding letter to Paul Ryan

By Associated Press

Father Patrick J. Conroy.

Father Patrick J. Conroy.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

The embattled chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives has won his job back just hours after sending a scalding letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan that accused a top Ryan aide of telling him “something like ‘maybe it’s time that we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.’”

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, forced the Rev. Pat Conroy to tender his resignation last month, sparking a firestorm. Ryan has said he was dissatisfied with Conroy’s pastoral care to lawmakers.

But in a statement Thursday, Ryan — himself a Catholic — reversed course.

“It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important position,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s statement came soon after Conroy delivered a two-page letter that said he has never “heard a complaint about my ministry” as House chaplain. Instead, Conroy says top Ryan aide Jonathan Burks told him the speaker wanted his resignation, and cited a prayer last year that was potentially critical of the GOP tax bill.

“I inquired as to whether or not it was ‘for cause,’ and Mr. Burks mentioned something dismissively like ‘maybe it’s time that we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic,’” Conroy wrote to Ryan in a letter that was also sent to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Ryan did not directly address Conroy’s explosive charge, saying, “To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves.”

Burks, in a statement released by Ryan’s office, said “I strongly disagree with Father Conroy’s recollection of our conversation.”

Conroy also wrote that Burks mentioned a November prayer regarding the GOP tax bill that upset many Republicans.

Then, Conroy prayed for lawmakers to make sure that “there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Conroy told The New York Times last week that shortly afterward Ryan warned Conroy to “stay out of politics.” Conroy also invited a Muslim cleric last year to give the opening prayer, a move that Democrats say may have upset GOP conservatives.

Conroy’s resignation sparked an uproar last week when it became known that he was asked to quit. Catholic lawmakers such as Reps. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., and Peter King, R-N.Y., were particularly upset, especially after a Republican lawmaker, Mark Walker, R-N.C., was quoted in The Hill as saying Conroy’s replacement should have a family — which would rule out Catholic priests — to better serve the needs of lawmakers.

Ryan’s retreat came quickly. Congress is on vacation this week but Ryan said he would meet with Conroy early next week “so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House.”

The chaplain is elected by the full House and Democrats said Ryan does not have the power to fire him.

In an appearance in Milwaukee last week, Ryan said: “This was not about politics or prayers, it was about pastoral services. And a number of our members felt like the pastoral services were not being adequately served, or offered.”

But Conroy fired back, saying, “this is not the reason that Mr. Burks gave when asking for my ‘resignation.’”

Conroy’s resignation letter said he was offering to step down at Ryan’s request, calling his seven years of House service “one of the great privileges of my life.”

But on Thursday, Conroy said, ‘I wish to serve the remainder of my term as House Chaplain, unless terminated ‘for cause.’ Please be guided accordingly.”

Conroy copied New Jersey attorney Daniel Marchese on the letter. Marchese declined to comment other than to say Conroy is seeking to get his job back.

The chaplain is responsible for opening the House each day with a prayer and offering counseling to lawmakers and aides on the House side of the Capitol. Conroy is a Roman Catholic priest from the Jesuit order.

House chaplain seeks to withdraw resignation

By Associated Press

The Rev. Patrick Conroy, chaplain of the House of Representatives, delivers a message in Washington on June 13, 2016.

The Rev. Patrick Conroy, chaplain of the House of Representatives, delivers a message in Washington on June 13, 2016.

(J. Scott Applewhite)

The embattled chaplain of the House of Representatives is seeking to withdraw his resignation in a caustic letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The Rev. Patrick Conroy accuses a top Ryan aide of telling him “something like ‘maybe it’s time that we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.’”

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and a Catholic himself, forced Conroy to tender his resignation last month, sparking a firestorm. Ryan has said he was dissatisfied with Conroy’s pastoral care to lawmakers.

Conroy says in a two-page letter that he has never “heard a complaint about my ministry” as House chaplain. Instead, Conroy says top Ryan aide Jonathan Burks told him the speaker wanted his resignation and cited a prayer last year that was potentially critical of the GOP tax bill.

White House: Trump did not know of payments to Stormy Daniels even as he repaid the attorney who gave her money

By Cathleen Decker

Rudolph W. Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.

Rudolph W. Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.

(Carolyn Kaster)

President Trump did not know about a $130,000 payoff to an adult film actress who claimed she’d had a sexual affair with him even as he paid tens of thousands of dollars to the New York attorney who made the payments, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.

In April, Trump told reporters that he knew nothing of the $130,000 that his private attorney, Michael Cohen, paid to Stephanie Clifford, who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, 11 days before the 2016 election. Trump referred all questions to Cohen.

In Fox News interviews Wednesday night and again Thursday morning, Trump’s new outside attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said Trump had reimbursed Cohen via a large monthly stipend beginning after the election.

Giuliani told the New York Times on Thursday that Cohen received about $470,000 from Trump, but he did not explain why Cohen needed the additional money.

Sanders insisted that the president did not mislead the nation. Instead, she said, he had been ignorant of the payment to Daniels, even as he forwarded large sums of money to Cohen.

“This was information the president didn’t know at the time and eventually learned,” she said.

Reporters repeatedly peppered Sanders about statements both she and the president had made that were contradicted by Giuliani’s statements. She insisted that she had spoken truthfully, and she continued to deny that Trump had engaged in an affair with Daniels.

But Sanders also repeatedly said she had not talked to the president about the payments in the wake of Giuliani’s statements and insisted reporters talk to Giuliani to clear up discrepancies.

“We give the very best information that we have at the time,” she said.

She brushed aside questions about when she became aware that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for his payments to Daniels, but ultimately acknowledged that “the first awareness I had was during the interview last night.”

Giuliani said his comments were cleared in advance by the president. They appeared to upend an effort to firm up the president’s legal strategy as he moves closer to a potential showdown with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who heads the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But it wasn’t clear if Giuliani’s comments would help or hurt Trump. If he knowingly repaid his lawyer to keep silent a woman whose claims might have affected the election, it could be seen as an illegal campaign contribution.

On Wednesday, the White House announced that Emmett Flood, an attorney who represented President Clinton during his impeachment woes in the 1990s, would replace Ty Cobb as a senior member of the president’s legal team.

Cobb, who is retiring, had urged cooperation with Mueller’s prosecutors. The change was seen as heralding a more forceful White House opposition toward the Russia investigation.

Giuliani on Thursday also inserted himself in foreign affairs, announcing that three Americans held by North Korea would be released shortly.

Giuliani has not been part of the negotiating team in advance of Trump’s hoped-for summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, so it appeared likely that he had gotten his information from the president himself.

Asked if Giuliani had a role in publicly discussing the North Korean situation, Sanders replied: “Not that I am aware of.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump ‘eventually learned’ of repayment of Stormy Daniels hush money

By Associated Press

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls on reporters during a news conference at the White House on Thursday.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls on reporters during a news conference at the White House on Thursday.

(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says President Trump “eventually learned” that attorney Michael Cohen was reimbursed for making a $130,000 hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election.

Sanders is referring specific questions about the case to Trump’s legal counsel and referring other questions to attorney Rudy Giuliani’s recent interviews.

Giuliani said in televised interviews that Trump didn’t know the full details of the payments until about 10 days ago.

Sanders says her “first awareness” of the president reimbursing the $130,000 payment came during Giuliani’s interview Wednesday night.

Asked if she was caught off-guard, Sanders says she is not part of the legal team and has tried to give reporters the “best information” she has.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has alleged a sexual tryst with the president in 2006. The White House has said Trump denies having a relationship with Daniels.

Trump tries to contain damage from Giuliani’s disclosures on hush money for Stormy Daniels

By Noah Bierman

On April 5, 2018, President Trump said he did not know about a $130,000 hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels from Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney.

In a series of tweets early Thursday, President Trump tried to contain the legal and political fallout from his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani’s revelations that Trump paid hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels, which the president had previously denied.

The president, in the tweets, portrayed his nondisclosure agreement with the actress as the sort of thing “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.”

Trump’s postings are unlikely to answer multiple questions he and his advisors will face during the day. On Wednesday night, Giuliani told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Trump had reimbursed attorney Michael Cohen $130,000 for paying off Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.

Last month, in his first public statement on the alleged affair and payoff for Daniels, the president told reporters on Air Force One that he knew nothing of the payments. “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael’s my attorney,” he said then. The White House also has denied Trump had an affair with Daniels.

Giuliani, by his disclosure, apparently intended to insulate the Trump campaign from potential campaign finance law violations. Yet Trump did not report the payments on his campaign finance reports, which could open him up to legal liability. Also, Giuliani’s remarks suggested that Trump lied to reporters in April.

The payments were secretly made during the campaign as part of a nondisclosure agreement to prevent Daniels from publicly alleging an affair with Trump. They came at a time when he already was under fire following release of “Access Hollywood” recordings, in which he acknowledged acts of sexual assault.

In his tweets, Trump insisted that the payments have “nothing to do with the campaign,” calling the nondisclosure agreement “a private contract between two parties.” Trump again denied he and Daniels had an affair and said he will pursue damages against her for “false and extortionist accusations.”

He said the reimbursements to Cohen came as part of a monthly retainer to the attorney. Cohen’s office, residence and hotel room were raided last month by the FBI as part of an ongoing criminal investigation in New York.

The tweets do not answer why, if there was no affair, Trump agreed to pay Daniels. Nor do they explain details of Trump’s reimbursements to Cohen or address his contrary statements aboard Air Force One last month.

Remember when Trump tweeted that he was happy with his lawyers? That didn’t last long

By David Lauter

John Dowd left his post as President Trump's outside lawyer shortly after Trump denied a shakeup would happen.

John Dowd left his post as President Trump’s outside lawyer shortly after Trump denied a shakeup would happen.

( (Richard Drew / Associated Press))

Seven weeks ago, President Trump tweeted that he was happy with his legal team, denying a story that appeared in the New York Times.

Since then, he’s replaced two-thirds of his lawyers.

John Dowd, who was Trump’s lead outside lawyer, announced his departure from the legal team 11 days after Trump’s tweet.

The president briefly planned to replace him with former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing, a former federal prosecutor who is DiGenova’s wife and law partner. That arrangement came apart within days.

On Wednesday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb announced he was leaving as well, to be replaced with Emmet Flood, who represented former President Clinton during his impeachment.

Trump has also added new lawyers to represent him in connection with the possible prosecution of yet another one of his attorneys, Michael Cohen.

Of the president’s original team, only Jay Sekulow remains, although his role could change with Flood’s arrival.

Ty Cobb replaced by Emmet Flood as White House lawyer for Trump

By Chris Megerian

Ty Cobb was among the original members of President Trump’s legal team for the Russia investigation.

Ty Cobb was among the original members of President Trump’s legal team for the Russia investigation.

(Denver Post / Jerry Cleveland)

Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who was among the original members of President Trump’s legal team for the Russia investigation, announced Wednesday that he is retiring.

Cobb will be replaced by Emmet Flood, a lawyer who previously represented President Clinton during his impeachment. He also served two years in the White House counsel’s office for President George W. Bush.

In an email, Cobb said that he was “glad the president persuaded Emmet to carry the torch forward.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, confirmed Cobb’s departure.

“For several weeks, Ty Cobb has been discussing his retirement and last week he let Chief of Staff [John] Kelly know he would retire at the end of this month,” she said in a statement.

Cobb earned a reputation for pushing the White House to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, facilitating the production of government documents and arranging administration officials’ interviews with the special counsel’s office.

But Trump, cheered on by some of his political allies, has adopted a more combative stance, repeatedly describing the investigation as a “witch hunt.”

Cobb’s departure is only the latest shakeup in Trump’s legal team. John Dowd, a veteran white-collar defense attorney who was representing the president, resigned in March. Trump recently hired Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, to help deal with the special counsel’s office.

A ‘champion of … the rule of law’: Mike Pence praises pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

By John Wagner

Vice President Mike Pence, center, meets with Border Patrol officials in Calexico on April 30.

Vice President Mike Pence, center, meets with Border Patrol officials in Calexico on April 30.

(John Gibbons / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Vice President Mike Pence called former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of federal contempt of court last year, a “champion of … the rule of law” and said he was honored that Arpaio attended an event with him on Tuesday in Tempe, Ariz.

President Trump pardoned Arpaio last year after he was found in contempt of court, a misdemeanor, for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of having entered the U.S. illegally. Arpaio is now running for the Republican nomination to succeed the retiring Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

During remarks at an event in on tax cuts, Pence acknowledged Arpaio was in the room, suggesting he had not expected to see the former Maricopa County sheriff.

“I just found out when I was walking through the door that we were also going to be joined by another favorite, a great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law, who spent a lifetime in law enforcement,” Pence said.

“I’m honored to have you here,” the vice president added.

Arpaio’s critics spent years trying to stop enforcement practices under Arpaio that they charged were discriminatory and abusive.

After Trump announced his pardon of Arpaio, an official at the ACLU called it “a presidential endorsement of racism.”

Arpaio’s conviction has done little to dampen the praise he continues to receive from the Republican establishment.

A recent Magellan Strategies poll found Arpaio running second in a three-person race with a 67% favorable rating among Republican primary voters.

Arpaio has compared his contempt conviction, which he considers politically motivated, to Republican claims that the Obama administration improperly sought warrants to monitor officials connected to the Trump campaign.

Rod Rosenstein fires back over impeachment threat against him: ‘The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted’

By The Washington Post

Rod Rosenstein speaks May 1 in Washington

Rod Rosenstein speaks May 1 in Washington

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein is taking aim at Republican lawmakers who have drafted articles of impeachment against him, saying that he would not comment on documents “that nobody has the courage to put their name on” and asserting that he will not change his behavior in the face of threats.

“I think they should understand by now that the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted,” Rosenstein said Tuesday. “We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law, and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.”

Rosenstein’s comments came at the end of a wide-ranging conversation at the Newseum in Washington to commemorate Law Day, which happened to fall a day after the Washington Post reported that conservative allies of President Trump had drafted impeachment articles against the Justice Department’s No. 2 official.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), have been in a long-running feud with Rosenstein and the Justice Department over what they see as a failure to turn over documents on a number of controversial topics, including the surveillance of former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.

In recent days, they finalized a draft of the impeachment articles, which criticize Rosenstein for approving the warrant to monitor Page, and then failing to turn over requested documents.

In a statement, Meadows said Rosenstein’s “response to the draft articles of impeachment is reminiscent of our interactions with him over the past few months: a lot of rhetoric with little facts.”

Trump postpones decision on steel tariffs for allies and EU for another month

By Don Lee

President Trump has decided to postpone for another month the decision about whether to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, the White House announced Monday evening.

The decision, coming just a few hours before the previous temporary tariff exemption was set to expire at midnight, will prolong the uncertainty and to some degree the tensions that have built up since Trump issued 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% on aluminum from all but a handful of countries and the large EU trading bloc.

Trump ordered the tariffs on March 22, citing a threat to national security and making plain that he intended to use the duties, or threat of them, as leverage to win concessions from American trading partners.

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Once more, Trump explores the idea of a Space Force

By Cathleen Decker

President Trump with members of the U.S. Military Academy football team and coaches.

President Trump with members of the U.S. Military Academy football team and coaches.

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

For President Trump, space may not be the final frontier, but the next one.

On Tuesday, as he awarded the U.S. Military Academy football team the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, in recognition of West Point’s victories against the other service academies, Trump noted that the military is currently divided into five branches.

“We’re actually thinking of a sixth and that would be the Space Force,” the president told assembled guests in the Rose Garden, after ticking off the names of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

“Does that make sense — the Space Force … because we’re getting very big in space both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force.”

In March, at a visit to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, the president made similar remarks in what was taken as an offhanded suggestion. But since then, space appears to have caught his fancy.

During a campaign speech in Washington, Mich., on Saturday night, Trump broke off from a standard paean about the accomplishments of past Americans to conflate NASA and the private organizations that are using federal facilities for their private space developments.

“By the way, excuse me, do you see how our space program is going?” he asked. “A little different, and we are letting those rich guys that like rockets — go ahead, use our property, pay us some rent, go ahead. You can use Cape Canaveral.”

He recounted the “amazing” instance in February when two reusable boosters returned to Cape Canaveral after lifting a SpaceX rocket into space.

“That looks like a futuristic, beautiful stuff. We have reinvigorated our space program to a level that nobody thought possible in this short period of time. NASA is back, and Mars is waiting for us, you know that,” he said Saturday. Both then and on Tuesday, Trump quickly segued to praise for the military.

Trump’s conversations, while seeming the stuff of Hollywood movies, reflect a serious concern for the military and national security: the use of space as a staging area for world conflict. Russia and China, both adversaries, have developed missile and satellite technologies that U.S. officials believe could threaten American assets.

Satellites in space are central not only to domestic communications but to any military action in the future.

Leak of Mueller Russia probe questions ‘disgraceful’, Trump tweets

By Associated Press

President Trump reacted Tuesday morning to a New York Times story that listed questions given to Trump's attorneys by the special counsel.

President Trump reacted Tuesday morning to a New York Times story that listed questions given to Trump’s attorneys by the special counsel.

(Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA/Shutterstock)

President Trump said Tuesday it’s “disgraceful” that a list of questions that the special counsel investigating Russian election interference wants to ask him was “leaked” to the news media.

The New York Times late Monday published the nearly four dozen questions given to Trump’s attorneys, covering Trump’s motivations for firing FBI Director James Comey last May and contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians.

“It is so disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were ‘leaked’ to the media,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!”

In a second tweet, Trump said: “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened.”

Trump repeatedly has called the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller a “witch hunt” and insists there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. Trump has also accused Comey of leaking classified information. Mueller was appointed to oversee the investigation by the deputy attorney general after Trump fired Comey in May 2017.

Although Mueller’s team has indicated to Trump’s lawyers that he’s not considered a target, investigators remain interested in whether the president’s actions constitute obstruction of justice and want to interview him about several episodes in office.

Many of the questions obtained by the Times center on the obstruction issue, including his reaction to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation, a decision Trump has angrily criticized.

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow declined to comment to the Associated Press on Monday night, as did White House lawyer Ty Cobb.

The questions also touch on Russian meddling and whether the Trump campaign coordinated in any way with the Kremlin. In one question obtained by the Times, Mueller asks what Trump knew about campaign staff, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, reaching out to Moscow.

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Chief of Staff John Kelly calls ‘BS’ on report he called Trump an idiot

By Associated Press

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens during a working lunch with President Trump at the White House on March 20.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens during a working lunch with President Trump at the White House on March 20.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly is calling a report that he called President Trump an idiot “total BS.”

Kelly, in a statement, says he and Trump have “an incredibly candid and strong relationship.”

He adds, “He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS.”

NBC reported Monday that Kelly has criticized Trump’s knowledge on issues like immigration and cast himself as a protecting the country from Trump’s impulses. The report, citing current and former White House staffers, said Trump was growing tired of Kelly’s attitude.

Trump has chafed at Kelly’s controlling management style and has occasionally talked with friends about replacing him.

Kelly says NBC’s report “is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”

This is what it’s like to be a cross-country flight away from your constituents — and your family

By Sarah D. Wire

House members stream down the Capitol steps early on a Wednesday evening, just after the last votes of the week. Some lawmakers linger, planning to fly home the next morning, but Rep. Juan Vargas rushes down the steps in jeans and a windbreaker — his travel wear.

At the nearest intersection, an aide hails a taxi and hands his boss an overnight bag. Vargas is hoping to catch an evening flight out of Baltimore, an hour’s drive away, and be home 2,700 miles across the country in San Diego before his daughter goes to bed.

“Even though she’s 14, she still loves to be put to bed with a prayer,” said Vargas, a Democrat who is a former Jesuit missionary. “I try very, very hard to get there.”

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Ronny Jackson won’t return to job as Trump’s physician

By The Washington Post

Ronny Jackson

Ronny Jackson

(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Ronny Jackson, a Navy rear admiral whom President Trump unsuccessfully nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, will not return to his previous role as the president’s personal physician, a White House official said Sunday.

Jackson, who withdrew as Trump’s VA pick last week, will remain on as part of the White House medical unit, the official added. Sean Conley, a Navy veteran who took over Jackson’s responsibilities after his nomination, will remain in the role as Trump’s personal doctor.

Jackson, a former combat physician who faced criticism almost immediately that he was not qualified to oversee the VA Department, withdrew his nomination Thursday, after the office of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) released allegations against Jackson that he drank on the job, over-prescribed medication and presided over a toxic work environment.

Jackson’s new role was first reported by Politico.

Jackson has denied the allegations against him, which have proved difficult to verify or disprove. Tester’s staff has yet to release documentation supporting the accusations, and a Secret Service statement on Friday said the agency had found to evidence to support one of the specific allegations.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with Israel on Iran’s growing presence in Syria

By Noga Tarnopolsky

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

(Thomas Coex / EPA/Shutterstock)

Iran was the principal subject of discussion during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s lightning-quick visit Sunday to Israel, a four-hour stop during which he met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

The two reiterated declarations of personal friendship and the close alliance between the United States and Israel, but at the end of a six-minute news conference in which they took no questions, several questions dividing the two nations remained unresolved.

The principal matter separating Israel and the United States continues to be Iran’s growing presence in Syria, an enemy state lying along Israel’s northern border, that has been riven by a bloody civil war for seven years.

At the closing news conference, Netanyahu stated that he believes “the greatest threat to the world and to our two countries — to all countries — is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, and specifically the attempt of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”

After expressing his appreciation for President Trump’s leadership “on stopping Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu linked the nuclear deal signed by Iran, the U.S. and five other nations in 2015 to the question that most preoccupies him today: Iran’s encroachment into Syria.

“I appreciate the president’s leadership … on stopping Iran’s aggression in the region. That aggression has grown manifold since the signing of the Iranian deal,” he said.

“People thought that Iran’s aggression would be moderated as a result of signing the deal,” Netanyahu continued, but “the opposite has happened and Iran is trying to gobble up one country after the other. Iran must be stopped.”

A disciplined Pompeo responded by listing U.S. talking points about its priorities in the Syrian conflict, a catalog that did not include removing Iran’s Syrian footprint.

“Regarding Syria,” Pompeo said, notably omitting any mention of Russia, the principal backer of embattled President Bashar Assad, “where the barbaric Assad regime is propped up by Iran, the United States’ top priority is to defeat ISIS, deescalate violence, deter the use of chemical weapons and ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian aid and support an ultimate political resolution to the conflict.”

Trump talks tough. But after 15 months, he’s been risk averse when it comes to use of military force

By Noah Bierman

He tweets about “fire and fury” and threatens “an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before.”

But after 15 months in the White House, Donald Trump has shown that his use of military force may be the most conventional aspect of his presidency.

To date, Trump has launched two limited military strikes against Syria and increased the use of airstrikes and special operations raids in Somalia and Yemen to kill Islamic extremists, killing more civilians as well. He has equivocated over pulling troops from Syria amid its civil war and reversed President Obama’s drawdown of American forces from Afghanistan.

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Trump says Sen. Tester should resign over failed Veterans Affairs nomination

By Sarah D. Wire

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

(Zach Gibson / Bloomberg)

President Trump tweeted Saturday that Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) “should resign” for his role in helping to sink Dr. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jackson, who is the White House physician, withdrew his name from consideration Thursday after the Republican-led Senate Veterans Affairs Committee delayed his confirmation hearing amid multiple reports of alleged on-the-job misconduct by Jackson.

Tester is up for reelection in 2018 in a state that strongly backed Trump in 2016, and Trump has indicated that he wants repercussions for Tester, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee.

Tester’s office gathered and released some of the allegations against Jackson, which included claims that he inappropriately dispensed prescription drugs, and wrecked a government vehicle after getting intoxicated at a Secret Service agent’s going-away party.

“I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana,” Trump said during a wide-ranging half-hour phone conversation with the hosts of Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Thursday.

The White House said Friday that its internal records disprove some of the allegations.

“Allegations made by Senator Jon Tester against Admiral/Doctor Ron Jackson are proving false,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “The Secret Service is unable to confirm (in fact they deny) any of the phony Democrat charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. Tester should resign.”

Pompeo says Trump ‘unlikely’ to stick with Iran nuclear deal barring major fix

By Tracy Wilkinson

(Olivier Hoslet /EPA / Shutterstock)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on his first full day on the job, said Friday it was “unlikely” that President Trump will remain in the Iran nuclear deal after a May 12 self-imposed deadline barring a “substantial fix” negotiated with European leaders.

Speaking on the margins of a NATO summit for foreign ministers in Brussels, Pompeo said that no decision has been made but that he was communicating Trump’s position to allies in Europe and the Middle East.

“Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the flaws of the deal, he [Trump] is unlikely to stay in that deal,” Pompeo said.

Trump has said he will decide by May 12 whether to withdraw from the 2015 international accord and unilaterally reimpose U.S. sanctions on Tehran.

He has repeatedly lambasted the agreement, which has successfully blocked Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon, and has threatened to “rip it up.”

European allies have sought to persuade Trump to remain a partner to the deal and have been negotiating a series of possible supplemental agreements to address his concerns.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Trump at the White House on Friday, two days after French President Emmanuel Macron made a similar pitch during a state visit to Washington. The United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China signed the deal with Iran.

Trump and other critics say the accord lets some of the nuclear restrictions on Iran expire over time. They also lambaste the fact that the nuclear negotiations did not address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its support for militant groups elsewhere in the Middle East.

House Republicans release Russia report that Democrats claim is a whitewash

By Chris Megerian

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) played a leading role in the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) played a leading role in the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday released their hotly contested report on Russian interference in the presidential election, concluding there was no conspiracy between President Trump or his allies and Moscow.

“While the Committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns,” the report said.

Among those bad decisions, Republicans said, was the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, in which Donald Trump Jr. hosted a Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. No information was provided, Trump Jr. later said.

Republicans also put some blame on Clinton’s team for secretly paying “for opposition research on Trump obtained from Russian sources,” research that was compiled by a former British spy into the notorious dossier of allegations against Trump.

Democrats have said the conclusions represent a partisan attempt to defend Trump and his allies, and they’ve pledged to continue what they called an incomplete investigation into the issue.

Trump praised the report and called for an end to the Russia investigation being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Despite tax cuts, U.S. economic growth slowed in first quarter of the year

By Jim Puzzanghera

The nation’s economic growth slowed in the first three months of the year despite the large tax cuts kicking in, raising new questions about whether the U.S. can reach the levels President Trump has promised.

Total economic output, also known as gross domestic product, expanded at a solid 2.3% annual pace in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The figure, which was higher than analysts had expected, is down from 2.9% in the fourth quarter of last year.

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Trump says he’s given up watching television. Then again, maybe not

By Cathleen Decker

President Trump, shown in 2016, said of certain news shows: “I don’t watch them at all.

President Trump, shown in 2016, said of certain news shows: “I don’t watch them at all.” He later added: “But last night I did watch.”

(Jason Szenes / European Pressphoto Agency)

President Trump just can’t quit TV.

During a half-hour telephone interview on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, Trump offered a new spin on his frequent media criticism, assailing “fake news” yet insisting he has found the path to sanity by avoiding that which he has long seemed to adore.

“I don’t watch them at all,” Trump claimed at one point, referring to networks he dislikes, CNN and NBC. In the next sentence he made an exception for a CNN town hall on Wednesday featuring the FBI director he fired, James B. Comey.

“I watched last night,” the president said, and then he kicked off a soliloquy that hewed to the fiction that he ignores TV. (He starred on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” famously installed a giant set near the Oval Office and often tweets quotes from news shows, particularly those on Fox, while denying he watches much.)

“I’ll tell you what. I watched leaking, lying Comey last night and I did — I did — I hated to do it.”

He digressed for some lifestyle advice: “You know, one of the reasons people say, ‘You’re still looking good, Mr. President. How do you do it?’” How he did it, Trump said, was to avoid television. Previously, he said, “Whether it’s good or bad, I’d always watch.”

“I don’t watch things now. I can put it out of my mind, and I never, ever thought that that would be possible. And you know what that does? It keeps you on the ball. It keeps you — you keep your sanity and it works very well.”

“But last night I did watch,” he confessed, even conceding that he thought CNN anchor Anderson Cooper “was surprisingly tough and he did a good job.”

But Comey? “His performance, by the way, was horrible.”

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the most powerful federal agency ever? That’s debatable

By Jim Puzzanghera

Rep. Jeb Hensarling welcomed the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a fellow Republican, to a hearing this month in the same way he did the former Democratic holder of the job — by accusing him of wielding near-dictatorial authority.

“When Richard Cordray was director of the CFPB, I maintained it was perhaps the single most powerful and unaccountable agency in the history of the Republic,” said Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and an ardent critic of the bureau.

“Now that Mick Mulvaney is acting director, I still maintain that the CFPB is the most powerful and unaccountable agency in the history of the Republic,” he said.

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Trump to make long-delayed visit to Britain in July

By Noah Bierman

British Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump address the media during her visit to Washington last year.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump address the media during her visit to Washington last year.

(Shawn Thew / EPA / Shutterstock)

President Trump’s long-delayed visit to the United Kingdom has been scheduled for July 13, 18 months into his presidency that has been notable for its occasional tensions with America’s closest ally.

The two governments on Thursday announced the trip for Trump to hold talks with Prime Minister Theresa May.

“Further details will be set out in due course,” a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement.

Talk of a visit in Trump’s first year went unrealized amid several controversies sparked by his comments or tweets, including attacks on London’s Muslim mayor that May criticized. In February, Trump had been scheduled to open the new U.S. Embassy in Britain but the trip was abruptly canceled amid fears of mass protests. This was shortly after it was reported that Trump had called African countries “shitholes” in a private meeting in which he also disparaged Haitians and Central Americans.

The concerns over protests began as soon as as Trump was elected and reached into Parliament, where some members argued against an invitation to the American president.

Neither the White House nor Downing Street have said where Trump will visit. British media reported Thursday that six conservative groups that support Trump sent the president a letter urging him to visit Scotland, his “ancestral home,” to avoid protests in London.

President’s doctor withdraws as Veterans Affairs nominee

By Noah Bierman

Dr. Ronny Jackson

Dr. Ronny Jackson

(Olivier Douliery / Tribune News Service)

President Trump’s White House physician, Adm. Ronny Jackson, on Thursday withdrew his nomination to serve as secretary of Veterans Affairs, citing the “distraction” from a string of what he termed “completely false and fabricated” allegations.

“While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Jackson wrote in a statement released by the White House.

Jackson served three presidents as a White House doctor but was an unorthodox pick for the VA job, which requires managing a massive federal bureaucracy.

Trump picked him after minimal consultation with his staff. Senators this week postponed a hearing on his confirmation amid allegations of drunkenness on the job, poor management and over-prescribing of drugs.

“Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity,” Jackson said.

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Sessions won’t say if he’s talked with Trump about Michael Cohen

By Joseph Tanfani

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions.

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions.

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions refused to tell Congress on Wednesday whether he had stepped aside from supervising the federal investigation into President Trump’s personal lawyer in New York, or say whether he had discussed the sensitive inquiry with the president or his aides.

Sessions, testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, rebuffed questions about the Justice Department’s investigation into Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney and trusted fixer.

Asked whether he had discussed the Cohen investigation with Trump or White House staff members, Sessions started to answer, “I don’t think in any significant…” but then said he shouldn’t reveal his conversations with the president.

“I am just not able to go down that road,” Sessions said. He also declined to answer when asked whether Trump or anyone else in the administration had discussed the possibility of pardoning Cohen if necessary.

On April 9, FBI agents armed with search warrants raided Cohen’s New York City apartment, hotel room and law office and hauled away 10 boxes of documents, plus digital devices.

The investigation reportedly is focused on whether Cohen violated federal banking or campaign finance laws with payments he arranged to silence women who claimed they had sexual affairs with Trump.

A lawyer for the president argued in court last week that Trump, to protect attorney-client privilege, should be allowed to review the seized documents before they can be used in the investigation. The judge has yet to rule.

Cohen has not been charged with any crime, and he has denied wrongdoing.

Sessions recused himself early last year from supervising the special counsel investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, or whether anyone in the Trump campaign cooperated with it. Sessions was a senior advisor to the Trump campaign.

But Sessions wouldn’t say Wednesday whether his recusal also includes the investigation into Cohen, saying that would reveal details about the scope of the probe. According to court documents, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York launched the investigation after Mueller’s team shared evidence of a potential crime.

The recusals are a sensitive subject for Sessions. The president has repeatedly blasted him for stepping away from the Russia investigation, a decision he apparently views as a personal betrayal.

CFPB’s Mick Mulvaney gives lobbying advice to bankers, further infuriating consumer advocates

By Jim Puzzanghera

The nation’s acting consumer financial watchdog delivered some good news and lobbying advice this week to the bankers he regulates: He would like to cut off public access to a database of consumer complaints and suggested the industry donate to lawmakers to convince them to weaken his agency’s authority.

The comments by Mick Mulvaney, in a speech to a banking trade group, infuriated Democrats and consumer advocates who have complained that President Trump’s handpicked chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is serving the industry instead of average Americans.

In a speech to the American Bankers Assn., Mulvaney indicated he would eliminate the public’s ability to see the bureau’s extensive online database of complaints about credit cards and other financial products, a move industry executives have advocated.

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U.S. falls in global index of press freedom, reporters’ group says

By Tracy Wilkinson

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders

(AFP/Getty Images)

The United States has slipped again among countries in an annual ranking of freedom of the press, according to a study that says a “climate of hatred” is growing worldwide toward the news media.

Citing the Trump administration among other nations’ governments, the international advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday, “More and more democratically elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion.”

The United States fell to 45th place from 43rd last year, out of 180 countries that the reporters’ organization ranks. Norway is in first place for the second consecutive year, and North Korea is last, as it has been for years.

Asked about the latest report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the idea that President Trump has limited Americans’ freedom of expression is “ridiculous.”

The United States’ new position puts it behind Romania in terms of press freedoms.

“The violent anti-press rhetoric from the White House has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level,” Reporters Without Borders said. It noted that American journalists have run the risk of arrest as they cover protests or ask officials tough questions.

The annual index considers criteria such as pluralism, independence and legal protections for media, according to the group. It said the forces that erode press freedom and threaten democracy include despots and war; suppression of dissent and criticism; a rise in propaganda; internet censorship; and government moves to sue, threaten or imprison reporters.

In its first week, James Comey’s book outsells ‘Fire and Fury’ and Hillary Clinton’s ‘What Happened’

By Michael Schaub

Judging by its first week of sales, James Comey’s book is on track to become the biggest political hit of 2018.

“A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” sold more than 600,000 copies in its first week, during which the former FBI director made media appearances and crossed the nation on a sold-out book tour.

“A Higher Loyalty” is the No. 1 bestselling book in the country, and the No. 1 bestselling English language book in the world, publisher Flatiron Books said in a news release, adding that the book had already been reprinted “several times.”

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Veterans Affairs nominee may withdraw, Trump suggests

By Cathleen Decker

President Trump speaks at a news conference Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House

President Trump speaks at a news conference Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House

(Shawn Thew / EPA/Shutterstock)

President Trump suggested Tuesday that he was nudging aside Dr. Ronny Jackson, his nominee to head the Veterans Affairs Department, after senators cancelled his nomination hearing to investigate allegations of inappropriate behavior.

“I told Admiral Jackson just a little while ago … I said, ‘What do you need this for?’” Trump said during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The decision on whether to continue was up to Jackson, the chief White House physician, Trump said. But, he added, “If I were him, the fact is, I wouldn’t do it.”

Trump blamed Democrats for what loomed as a tortuous nomination process, calling the opposition to Jackson “vicious” and praising his nominee as “one of the finest people I have met.”

Both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, however, suggested they were exasperated by what appeared to be a low level of White House vetting of Jackson.

“If it is true, it’s a vetting mess,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), said, referring to the allegations against the nominee.

“Basically, the administration has to get its act together on nominations,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

According to several news reports, senators are examining accusations that Jackson has overseen a hostile work environment, as well as allegations of drinking and over-prescribing drugs. Several senators said Tuesday that the reports, which came from multiple people who had worked with Jackson, had not yet been corroborated.

The Veterans’ Affairs Committee had been scheduled to take up Jackson’s nomination on Wednesday, but that hearing has been postponed. Senators said the earliest it could be considered was in two weeks, following a Senate break next week.

For Melania Trump, the shroud of invisibility lifts during a week of public attention

By Cathleen Decker

President Trump's reflection is seen in First Lady Melania Trump's sunglasses.

President Trump’s reflection is seen in First Lady Melania Trump’s sunglasses.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

She is either complicit in her husband’s worst instincts or a victim of them, either struggling in an anachronistic job or confidently doing precisely what she wants to do with it. Fifteen months after she became first lady, Melania Trump remains a mystery.

In the span of several days ending Tuesday, Melania Trump will have been thrust into a more visible public role than perhaps at any other time in her husband’s presidency. It comes after a lengthy period of relative invisibility that has not only confounded White House tradition but also limited her potential political benefit to a troubled administration.

After hosting the Japanese prime minister and his wife at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound in Florida last week, Melania Trump attended the Saturday funeral of former First Lady Barbara Bush in Houston; the president stayed away. Before the service she smiled and chatted with President Obama, whom her husband has scorned for years, and, again smiling, joined in a formal picture with all of the former presidents and first ladies who attended the funeral.

Later that day, as her husband continued to rage at perceived opponents on Twitter, she released a statement reiterating support for the Bush family, which has been openly antagonistic toward the president.

On Tuesday, two days before her 48th birthday, Melania Trump will preside over the first state dinner of the Trump presidency, honoring the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte. The delay in hosting a state dinner, an event usually held in a president’s first year, had raised questions about Melania Trump’s view of the job.

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Trump is pushing hard to reach NAFTA agreement, both with trading partners and with Congress

By Don Lee

With critical political deadlines fast approaching, the Trump administration is racing to strike a deal on a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement by early May — with an eye toward forcing a congressional vote on a new pact by the end of the year.

After months of making little progress, recent statements from high-level trade officials meeting in Washington indicate that negotiations have been gaining momentum and that there’s a fair chance of reaching an agreement in principle in weeks or even days.

But as Trump’s chief trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, resumed talks Tuesday with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, analysts say the three sides have yet to close the gap on several key issues, leaving many wondering whether there’s enough time. Canada and Mexico, rather than make politically unpopular concessions, may decide it better to prolong the talks, even at the risk of a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA, as Trump has repeatedly threatened.

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Iran warns it may restart nuclear program if Trump pulls U.S. out of nuclear accord

By Laura King

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq on Sept. 8, 2013.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq on Sept. 8, 2013.

(Associated Press)

Iran’s foreign minister said in an interview aired Sunday that if President Trump pulls out of a landmark nuclear accord, Tehran might respond by re-launching and intensifying its nuclear program.

Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Mohammad Javed Zarif said Iran would weigh its options if Trump makes good next month on repeated threats to withdraw the United States from the deal and reimpose sanctions against Tehran.

Iran’s options, Zarif said, would include “resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities.”

The Iranian official added: “Obviously the rest of the world cannot ask us to unilaterally and one-sidedly implement a deal that has already been broken.”

The Iranian foreign minister added that a pullout by Trump would be harmful to American credibility in dealings with the rest of the world, saying other nations would “think twice” before embarking on negotiations with the United States. That reminder was a particularly pointed one in advance of Trump’s expected meeting with North Korean President Kim Jong Un.

“I think the international community has seen that…the United States under this administration has not been in a mood to fulfill its obligations,” he said. “So that makes the United States not very trustworthy.”

Every 120 days, the president is required to decide whether to renew a waiver of sanctions against Iran, which Trump so far has done. The next deadline is May 12.

In January, on the strong advice of aides, the president moved to extend the nuclear agreement, but complained bitterly about doing so. Now he has a hawkish new national security adviser in place, John Bolton, and another Iran hardliner, Mike Pompeo, is awaiting confirmation as secretary of State.

The Iran accord was considered one of the major foreign policy accomplishments of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, whose legacy the president has sought to undo on a number of fronts.

Trump has frequently denounced Iran’s role in the Middle East, particularly the conflict in Syria, where Tehran is a prime backer of President Bashar Assad, and has publicly sided with Iran’s chief rival Saudi Arabia, in describing Tehran as a threat to the region and the world.

European leaders have appealed to Trump to leave the accord between Iran and six world powers in place. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are due in Washington this week and expected to try hard to persuade Trump to maintain the accord.

Trump lashes out at New York Times over Michael Cohen coverage

By Washington Post

President Trump vowed Saturday that his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will not “flip” and cooperate against him in the special counsel investigation into his campaign’s connections to Russia and attacked a New York Times story as part of a “witch hunt” against him.

In several morning tweets, the president also lashed out at the Times over its coverage of the investigation. He slammed Maggie Haberman, the lead reporter on a new story, and called a former aide quoted in the story a “drunk/drugged up loser.”

The tweets were posted about the time Trump headed out of Mar-a-Lago, his resort where he spent the entire week, for a trip to a nearby Trump golf property. It was the second day in a row the president spent at one of his own courses in Florida.

Trump appeared to be angered by a front-page Times story Saturday that examined his relationship with Cohen, whose office was raided by federal authorities last week. The story cited other former Trump campaign aides, including Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone, as saying Trump has long treated Cohen abusively by insulting him and threatening to fire him.

The story suggested that Cohen, who has said he paid off adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election to keep quiet her allegations of an affair with Trump years earlier, could decide to cooperate in the investigation if he faces criminal charges.

In an initial version of his tweetstorm, Trump misspelled Haberman’s last name. He claimed he does not speak with her, even though he has granted her several interviews since taking office and posed with her for a photo in the Oval Office. Trump has known Haberman for years, since he was a private developer in New York.

The Times’ communication department wrote on Twitter that the paper is “extremely proud” of Haberman and that it stands by the story.

Federal judge delays ruling in Stormy Daniels lawsuit against Trump and his personal lawyer

By Richard Winton

A federal judge postponed a ruling on a request by President Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is now the subject of a federal investigation, for a 90-day delay of a lawsuit filed against them by porn star Stormy Daniels.

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero took the request under submission Friday, saying that the FBI’s recent raids on Cohen’s New York office, home and hotel room suggest he may be facing a criminal indictment.

“It is substantially likely there is going to be criminal action to follow,” Otero said, given that the warrant was approved by a federal judge. Cohen’s lawyers were clearly correct to advise him of his rights to avoid self-incrimination, he added.

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While criminal investigation continues, Democrats sue Trump campaign over alleged Russia collusion

By Chris Megerian

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez

(Branden Camp / Associated Press)

The Democratic National Committee has sued Russia, President Trump’s campaign, WikiLeaks and others on Friday, alleging a broad conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Manhattan, said “the Trump campaign and its agents gleefully welcomed Russia’s help,” which involved releasing hacked emails and spreading misinformation on social media.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. “This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery.”

The lawsuit — which seeks unspecified damages, likely in the millions of dollars — claims the alleged fraud, theft and conspiracy damaged the party and its 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Trump is not one of the people being sued by the Democrats, but the lawsuit does name Donald J. Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Roger Stone, among others.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is still conducting a criminal investigation into whether anyone from President Trump’s team conspired with Russia during the campaign.

Associated Press publishes Comey memos on interactions with Trump

By Associated Press

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

The Associated Press has obtained and published 15 pages of memos that former FBI Director James B. Comey drafted about his interactions with President Trump.

The Justice Department earlier Thursday provided the documents to Congress.

In a letter sent to three Republican House committee chairmen Thursday evening, Assistant Atty. Gen. Stephen Boyd writes that the department is sending a classified version of the memos and an unclassified version. The department released Boyd’s letter publicly, but not the memos.

Boyd writes that the department “consulted the relevant parties” and concluded that releasing the memos would not adversely affect any ongoing investigations. Some lawmakers have been able to view the memos since last summer, but copies had not been provided to Congress.

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Former N.Y. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will join Trump’s legal team

By Chris Megerian

((John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and an unofficial White House advisor, is joining President Trump’s personal legal defense team.

“He has been my friend for a long time and wants to get this matter quickly resolved for the good of the country,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement.

Giuliani is a former federal prosecutor in New York, but he has not spent much time in a courtroom in recent years.

He was an early Trump supporter and frequent companion on the campaign trail. He delivered a fiery speech at the Republican National Convention.

Sekulow also announced that a pair of Miami defense attorneys, Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, had joined the team.

He called them “highly respected former federal prosecutors with decades of experience.”

Trump has had trouble hiring attorneys from large law firms. His lead lawyer, John Dowd, resigned last month.

Duckworth and daughter make Senate history

By Associated Press

Sen. Tammy Duckworth holds her newborn, Maile, after voting on the Senate floor.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth holds her newborn, Maile, after voting on the Senate floor.

(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth and daughter Maile have made Senate history.

The Illinois Democrat brought her daughter, in a pink hat, onto the Senate floor under new rules that permitted it. Duckworth is the only senator to have given birth while serving in the Senate. Maile, born April 9, is the first senator’s baby to be allowed on the chamber floor.

The history was made under a new rule passed a day earlier that permitted newborns of senators on the floor during votes. The Republican-controlled Senate held the vote — on President Trump’s pick to lead NASA — open so Duckworth and Maile could adhere to the new rule. Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and double-amputee, arrived in a wheelchair with Maile on her lap, voted no with a downturned thumb, and laughed. Her colleagues crowded around to see.

Trump attorney Michael Cohen withdraws libel lawsuits over Russia dossier

By The Washington Post

Michael Cohen would have had to submit to an evidence discovery process if his lawsuits moved forward.

Michael Cohen would have had to submit to an evidence discovery process if his lawsuits moved forward.

(Justin Lane / EPA/Shutterstock)

Lawyers for President Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen withdrew defamation lawsuits late Wednesday against BuzzFeed and the political research firm Fusion GPS related to a dossier that included claims Cohen helped organize Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.

The lawsuits would have required Cohen to submit to an evidence discovery process, forcing him to produce documentation and sworn testimony about his activities before the closely contested election.

Among other things, the dossier alleged that Cohen had traveled to Prague and met with Russian operatives. Cohen has repeatedly denied the allegation, including in a text message Thursday morning. The assertion came from research conducted by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was working for Fusion GPS.

Cohen filed a pair of lawsuits in January, one in federal court and one in state court in New York, claiming he could prove that the allegation was false and had harmed his reputation. BuzzFeed was the first to publish the dossier.

In a statement, Cohen’s lawyer said he continues to deny the allegations but had to concentrate on other legal matters after FBI raids last week on his office, home and hotel room.

On Friday, the Justice Department said Cohen has been “under criminal investigation” over his business dealings.

“The decision to voluntarily discontinue these cases was a difficult one,” Cohen’s attorney David Schwartz said. “We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr. Cohen’s rights was — and still remains — important. But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits.”

Earlier this month, FBI agents raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump.

In a statement, Fusion GPS said the firm was not surprised by Cohen’s decision to withdraw what it called a “meritless complaint.”

Pursuing it, the firm said, would require Cohen to “face a discovery process that would have forced him to defend his reputation and address the allegations of the Steele dossier under penalty of perjury.”

BuzzFeed said in a statement that the withdrawal of the lawsuits suggests that “Donald Trump’s personal lawyer no longer thinks an attack on the free press is worth his time.”

BuzzFeed also defended its publication of the dossier, saying it was “an important part of the government’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Its interest to the public is, and always have been, obvious.”

John McCain was tortured as a POW in Vietnam. Will he help sink CIA nominee implicated in torture program?

By Chris Megerian

Activists seeking to derail President Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the CIA are looking to Sen. John McCain to cast the deciding vote against her — assuming he is well enough to return to Washington.

The 81-year-old Republican was diagnosed with brain cancer in July and last cast a vote in the Senate on early December before he returned home to Arizona for treatment. He underwent surgery in Phoenix for an intestinal infection on April 15.

Haspel’s critics are counting on McCain to speak out against her nomination, even if he can’t cast a vote on the Senate floor, cementing his legacy as the country’s most prominent critic of torture as he faces the twilight of his career.

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Ex-Playboy model settles suit over Trump hush money

By Michael Finnegan

(Cherie Steinberg / Getty Images)

Former Playboy model Karen McDougal has reached a settlement of the lawsuit she filed to break the confidentiality agreement that barred her from speaking publicly about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, confirmed that it has agreed to release McDougal from the agreement.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the company paid McDougal $150,000 for, among other things, exclusive rights to the story of what she described as a 10-month romance that started in 2006 with the married Trump. American Media, led by Trump’s close friend David Packer, never published her story.

McDougal said her settlement with AMI “restores to me the rights to my life story and frees me from this contract that I was misled into signing nearly two years ago.”

“My goal from the beginning was to restore my rights and not to achieve any financial gain, and this settlement does exactly that,” she said.

Cameron Stracher, American Media’s general counsel for media, released a statement saying the company was “pleased that we reached an amicable resolution with Karen today that provides both sides what they wanted.”

The settlement, first reported by the New York Times, allows American Media to collect up to $75,000 from any money McDougal makes within the next year for her story about the alleged relationship with Trump. Spokesmen for the president have denied that he had an extramarital affair with McDougal.

The deal also calls for American Media to put McDougal on the cover of the September issue of its Men’s Journal magazine.

Rep. Schiff wants Congress to get more information on presidential pardons

By Chris Megerian

(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Rattled by President Trump’s decision to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Rep. Adam Schiff wants Congress to pass legislation giving itself more oversight of the president’s pardoning power.

The proposal would allow Congress to view evidence against someone who receives a presidential pardon when that person is connected to an investigation involving the president or a member of the president’s family.

“I think it will have an important deterrent impact, as well as inform the Congress if circumstances arise in which the president uses the pardon power for an illicit purpose, to protect himself, to obstruct justice,” said Schiff (D-Burbank) in an interview.

Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a leading figure in Congress’ investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to federal investigators and obstruction of justice in a probe into the leaking of a CIA officers’ identity. Trump said he issued the pardon because Libby was “treated unfairly” by a special counsel. The president whom Libby served, George W. Bush, stopped short of pardoning Libby, as Cheney wanted, and agreed only to commute his sentence.

Libby’s pardon, Trump’s third, was the second to be highly controversial, following his pardon in August of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court. Yet legislation of the sort that Schiff proposes likely faces long odds, both because Republicans control Congress and because the Constitution gives presidents broad power to pardon.

Schiff said he believes his proposal would be constitutional because “we don’t prevent the president from granting any pardons,” just require more information about the recipients of them.

Trump claims he didn’t fire Comey because of Russia case, despite what he said last year

By Chris Megerian

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump’s Twitter tirades against James B. Comey, the former FBI director he fired last May, continued on Wednesday morning.

The tweet was something of a head-scratcher, however, because it contradicted Trump’s own comments at the time about Comey’s firing.

Although his administration originally said Comey was removed because he mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server in 2016, Trump volunteered a different reason when he was interviewed on May 11 on NBC.

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, ‘This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,’” the president told NBC’s Lester Holt.

Comey has been making the rounds on television promoting his new book focused on his troublesome interactions with Trump, “A Higher Loyalty,” and the attention has vexed the media-obsessed president. Trump’s latest attack on the man he called “Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history” came as the president is at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida with the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.

Barbara Bush dies at 92; popular first lady was also the mother of a president

By Cathleen Decker

Trump says CIA director’s secret meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un went ‘very smoothly’

By Noah Bierman

President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 17.

President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 17.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump used Twitter to confirm a secret meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, writing on Wednesday morning that talks between the two men “went very smoothly” and “a good relationship was formed.”

Trump tweeted that the meeting in North Korea was a prelude to a summit between himself and Kim by early June.

Pompeo is Trump’s nominee to become secretary of State, but a divided Senate oversight committee is expected to decline to recommend his confirmation. However, the full Senate, under Republicans’ control, still is expected to approve him.

The president has long derided Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and warned the previous secretary of State whom he fired, Rex Tillerson, against negotiating with North Korea. Since he decided last month to pursue talks himself, however, his rhetoric has become more hopeful and conciliatory.

The meeting with Pompeo was first reported on Tuesday night by the Washington Post. In 2014, President Obama’s CIA director, James Clapper, traveled to North Korea to win the release of two prisoners held by the regime, but he did not meet with Kim. In 2000, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim’s father and predecessor. Kim Jong Il

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Nikki Haley denies she was ‘confused’ about sanctions on Russia

By Tracy Wilkinson

(Associated Press)

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, shot back Tuesday at a senior White House advisor who claimed she apparently was confused when she disclosed plans to impose new sanctions on Russia.

“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley said on Fox News.

The kerfuffle suggested that Haley, who is the public face of U.S. diplomacy since a new secretary of State has not been confirmed, had been authorized to announce on Sunday that new sanctions aimed at Russia were coming Monday.

President Trump reportedly nixed the plan, however. The White House said additional sanctions to punish Russia for its support of the Syrian government and its suspected use of chemical weapons were “under consideration” but had not been approved.

On Tuesday, Larry Kudlow, the president’s newly appointed senior economic advisor, suggested that Haley had misspoken.

“She’s doing a great job, she’s a very effective ambassador,” Kudlow told reporters at the White House. “There might have been some momentary confusion about that.”

Haley has occasionally taken positions that are more hawkish than those of Trump, especially on Russia, which the president has been reluctant to criticize.

But the rest of the administration has a similar disconnect.

The Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on more than 100 Russians, including some with close ties to the Kremlin, and the State Department recently expelled 60 Russian diplomats whom it accused of being spies.

FBI agent pleads guilty to leaking classified documents

By Joseph Tanfani

A former FBI agent has been charged with leaking classified records to a news site.

A former FBI agent has been charged with leaking classified records to a news site.

(Getty Images)

A former FBI agent in Minneapolis who says he was angry about racial targeting by the bureau has pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents to a news organization.

Terry Albury, 39, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two charges of revealing national defense information and, under sentencing guidelines, is expected to serve three or four years in prison.

“Today, Terry Albury admitted to violating his oath to protect our country by disclosing to a reporter classified information that, as an FBI agent, he was entrusted to protect,” said Assistant Atty. Gen. John C. Demers.

Albury, who did a stint working for the FBI in Iraq, had a top secret clearance for his assignment as a liaison with Customs and Border Protection at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Beginning in 2016, he began to copy records, cutting and pasting some documents, or taking pictures of his computer screen, in an effort to avoid detection.

The date on one document listed in the charges matches one published by The Intercept, a news website, as part of a series on FBI practices.

According to a copy of the search warrant obtained by Minnesota Public Radio, the FBI opened an investigation after journalists submitted two FOIA requests that listed 27 documents, including 16 that had been classified secret.

The bureau reviewed internal records and found that Albury had accessed two thirds of them.

After Albury was charged, The Intercept’s editor in chief, Betsy Reed, said the news organization does not discuss its anonymous sources, but that prosecuting people trying to expose government wrongdoing was “an outrage.”

Albury’s lawyers, JaneAnne Murray and Joshua Dratel, said he was a whistleblower who was trying to expose wrongdoing in the FBI. They said he did not reveal any sources or information about specific operations.

Albury, the only African-American agent in the Minneapolis field office, became disturbed at FBI directives to develop sources, believing that the methods “profiled and intimidated” minority communities, the statement said.

“His conduct in this case was an act of conscience,” the lawyers said.

Last August, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions promised a crackdown on authorized disclosures of classified information, saying law enforcement had tripled the number of investigations. Only a handful of cases have led to charges.

Reality Leigh Winner, a woman working for a federal contracting firm in Georgia, was charged last June with leaking a secret document to The Intercept about Russian hacking. That case is pending.

Barbara Bush dies at 92; popular first lady was also the mother of a president

By Valerie Nelson and Cathleen Decker

McConnell blocks bipartisan legislation to protect special counsel

By Chris Megerian

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he would block bipartisan legislation intended to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III from being fired by President Trump.

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told Fox News, adding, “We will not be having this on the floor of the Senate.”

McConnell said that while he wouldn’t support Mueller’s removal, he doesn’t think Trump would take that step. However, multiple reports have said that the president in the past has ordered aides to fire Mueller or he considered doing so.

“This is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary in my judgement,” McConnell said.

Though there is some debate whether Congress can limit the president’s power over the executive branch, a bipartisan group of senators has drafted legislation that would write into law current Justice Department regulations holding that only department leaders can fire a special counsel. The bill also would allow the special counsel to appeal a firing in court.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized McConnell’s opposition in a statement.

“We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late,” he said.

This post has been updated with a statement from Schumer.

CIA touts Gina Haspels’ focus on partnerships and languages in confirmation process, but doesn’t mention interrogations

By Chris Megerian

(CIA)

U.S. senators are clamoring to learn more about the role Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, played in the torture of terrorism suspects after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But the CIA isn’t ready to talk publicly about that yet, instead releasing on Tuesday a description of how Haspel helped guide the country’s foreign espionage efforts since she was named deputy director in February 2017.

Before she rose to the CIA’s No. 2 job, Haspel spent more than three decades as an undercover operative, working overseas and at agency headquarters in Langley, Va.

As deputy director, Haspel pushed more resources to intelligence officers working abroad and increased partnerships with other spy services, the agency said.

She also emphasized foreign language expertise so “officers know the languages, dialects, and cultures of priority targets and liaison partners,” according to the agency.

Haspel has said her love of learning foreign languages drew her to intelligence work.

It’s unclear if the details will influence senators considering Haspel’s nomination since it doesn’t delve into the more controversial aspects of her background, such as when she ran a then-secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002.

The date for her confirmation hearing hasn’t been set.

Oops. Haley’s office ‘recalls’ headline summary on embarrassing White House walk-back

By Tracy Wilkinson

(Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press)

The office of Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, routinely puts out a roundup of the morning’s news headlines that may or may not involve her work.

But on Tuesday, those headlines were less than flattering:

“President Trump walks back Russia sanctions” that Haley had announced the day before, one said. Haley “got out ahead of things this time,” White House says.

About 20 minutes after Haley’s office emailed the headline summary to reporters and others, an undoubtedly chagrined staffer took the unusual step of “recalling” the email.

Haley on Sunday had announced with apparent certainty that the Trump administration was planning to slap another round of economic sanctions on Russia for its support of the Syrian government and its suspected use of chemical weapons.

On Monday, the White House said new sanctions were “under consideration” but no decision had been made — a position that seemed to reflect Trump’s reluctance to publicly criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Haley often has been tougher on Russia at the U.N. than the president has been at the White House.

Another embarrassing headline on the now-recalled summary: an account of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough predicting that Haley could defeat Trump in 2020 should she decided to run.

Trump hits Gov. Brown over plan to send National Guard to border

By Noah Bierman

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

President Trump’s temporary truce with Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t last long. Tuesday, he blamed Brown for failing to reach an agreement with the administration to send members of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexican border.

“The high crime rate will only get higher,” Trump warned in a tweet.

Trump’s fight with the state thawed for a moment last week after Brown agreed to send 400 members of the Guard to help along the border.

But the terms were bound to create conflict. Brown had said they would not help with immigration enforcement. And administration officials said Monday that state officials had interpreted that broadly, severely limiting the tasks they would allow the Guard to perform.

Brown, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday, said that the details of sending California Guard members to the border are still being discussed.

“It could be two or four hundred. That is being worked out,” Brown said. “We’re pretty close to an agreement.”

Some Republican lawmakers, once critical of marijuana, now think highly of it. Here’s why

By Kurtis Lee

States that have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana in recent years appear to have found some new, unexpected supporters: Republican politicians.

Since voters began to pass recreational marijuana measures in 2012, the pro-pot movement has seen swift support from many Democrats, with Republicans often pushing back against legalization. Those expressing concern or opposition have cited, among other things, the potential for pot to be a gateway drug, and they have regularly sided with law enforcement, which has established a unified front against recreational marijuana.

But a recent mix of public opinion, an influx in tax revenue and questions surrounding states’ rights has in part led to a shift in rhetoric and legislative proposals.

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Former First Lady Barbara Bush, 92, will not seek any more medical treatment; focus will be comfort care

By Los Angeles Times Staff

Former First Lady Barbara Bush

Former First Lady Barbara Bush

(Tom Pennington / Getty Images)

Former First Lady Barbara Bush will not seek any additional medical treatment, according to a statement released by the office of George H.W. Bush on Sunday.

The 92-year-old who was described in the statement as “a rock in the face of her failing health,” will instead focus on comfort care.

“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others. She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving,” it read.

Trump again denounces ‘slimeball’ Comey, lauds Syria strikes

By Laura King

Former FBI director James Comey and President Trump

Former FBI director James Comey and President Trump

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty)

President Trump launched a new Twitter fusillade at ex-FBI chief James Comey on Sunday morning, again calling the former top federal law enforcement official a “slimeball” and ridiculing his actions surrounding the federal investigation of Trump’s defeated presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s tweets included a raft of unsubstantiated allegations against Comey, complete with suggestions that the former FBI director be jailed. Trump also sought to rebut Comey’s claim that he had demanded personal loyalty, insisting in a tweet that “I hardly even knew this guy.”

Comey’s new book, replete with highly unflattering characterizations of Trump, is garnering wide attention in advance of its release. The president’s tweets — which also targeted Loretta Lynch, the attorney general under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama — came hours before a lengthy interview with the ex-FBI head was to air on ABC Sunday night.

In his book, Comey acknowledged that he might have been influenced by the assumption that Clinton would win the 2016 election when he spoke publicly about the investigation shortly before the vote, writing that he feared her presidency would be tainted if he did not fully air allegations against her.

The former FBI chief likened Trump in his book to a Mafia chieftain and asserted that the president is “untethered” to truthfulness. In a later tweet Sunday morning, Trump called Comey a liar for asserting that Trump, in an uncomfortable private dinner, had demanded personal loyalty from him.

Trump also took to Twitter on Sunday morning to complain about media coverage of his use of the term “Mission Accomplished” to describe U.S.-led missile strikes on Syrian military targets in retaliation for an alleged chemical strike on Syrian civilians by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. The phrase is widely associated with former President George W. Bush’s premature 2003 claim of victory in the Iraq war.

In praising the raid carried out in concert with Britain and France, Trump wrote “Mission Accomplished” is “such a great Military term, it should be brought back.”

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on running for president, not running and his favorite jazz pianists

By Mark Z. Barabak

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti brought his all-but-announced 2020 presidential candidacy to Iowa on Friday, visiting for two days of stumping in the state that traditionally casts the first ballots of the presidential campaign.

Having called on New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, Garcetti has now completed the circuit of early-voting states, though he insists a final decision on running won’t come until next year.

The Democrat not only starts the race as an extreme long shot — even just to win his party’s nomination — but he also is bucking history: No mayor has ever gone straight from City Hall to the White House.

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As Trump approves Syria strikes, Congress looks on cautiously and hopes for a quick conclusion

By Cathleen Decker

As President Obama considered strikes against Syria in 2013 over the threat posed by its chemical weapons, businessman Donald Trump strongly opposed U.S. intervention.

“We should stay the hell out of Syria,” he tweeted in midsummer that year, adding later: “The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!”

As president, Trump has now prosecuted two military strikes against Syria without so much of a suggestion that he needs congressional approval. And many lawmakers on Capitol Hill seem content to leave it that way.

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Blasts reported in Damascus — ‘like WW3′

After President Trump announced an attack on Syria by the United States, France and Britain, sounds of explosions were reported in Damascus, the Syrian capital.

Trump announces missile response to Syrian chemical attack

By Noah Bierman

President Trump announces the United States' military response to Syria's chemical weapon attack this month.

President Trump announces the United States’ military response to Syria’s chemical weapon attack this month.

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

President Trump on Friday night announced missile attacks on Syria to retaliate for a chemical weapons attack.

“These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster,” he said, referring to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. He spoke in a nationally televised address to announce the joint attack by the U.S., the United Kingdom and France.

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” Trump said.

He said the United States would not maintain an indefinite presence in the war-torn region, but called on Russia and Iran, which he said are the chief enablers of the Syrian government, to relinquish their support.

“What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men women and children?” he said.

U.S., France and Britain launch strikes against Syria

President Trump addresses the U.S. about missile strikes against Syria on Friday.

President Trump addresses the U.S. about missile strikes against Syria on Friday.

(MANDEL NGAN)

The U.S., the United Kingdom and France have launched strikes against Syria to retaliate for a chemical weapons attack.

“Chemical weapons are uniquely dangerous,” President Trump said in announcing the attack. Syria’s use of them, he said, are “crimes of a monster.”

Trump and Cohen ask judge to postpone Stormy Daniels case

By Michael Finnegan

Michael Cohen, personal lawyer for President Trump

Michael Cohen, personal lawyer for President Trump

(Justin Lane / EPA-Shutterstock)

Attorneys for President Trump and his beleaguered personal lawyer Michael Cohen asked a federal judge on Friday for a 90-day suspension of the lawsuit filed against them by porn star Stormy Daniels.

The FBI raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in New York on Monday are part of a criminal investigation that overlaps Daniels’ suit to void the contract that bars her from talking publicly about what she says was a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, the lawyers argued in court papers.

If the lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court proceeds without delay, Cohen would be forced to choose between defending himself in deposition testimony or exercising his 5th Amendment rights, the lawyers told Judge S. James Otero.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, is calling for the suit to move forward without delay.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, wants the judge to invalidate her confidentiality agreement, in part because Trump did not sign it. Lawyers for Trump say she has already broken the deal and could owe the president as much as $20 million in damages.

In Iowa, a taste of L.A. from Mayor Garcetti

Garcetti in Des Moines: Baby steps to Iowa 2020

Garcetti makes fashion statement for Iowa 2020

Hearing adjourns on Michael Cohen’s attempt to recover property seized in FBI raids

By Associated Press

Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen

(Justin Lane / EPA-Shutterstock)

A court hearing Friday of an attempt by President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to prevent federal investigators from using materials the FBI seized in searches of his Manhattan office, apartment and hotel room this week has adjourned.

Before the adjournment, lawyers for Trump and Cohen told a federal judge in New York that they believe some of the documents and devices seized from Cohen during FBI raids on Monday are protected by attorney-client privilege, and they want a chance to review the materials before prosecutors get to examine them.

Prosecutors and attorneys for Cohen and Trump appeared before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood on Friday in Manhattan.

Cohen’s attorneys say they want a chance to review documents seized in the raid on Monday and specify items they believe aren’t relevant to the investigation.

An attorney for the president, Joanna Hendon, told the judge that Trump has “an acute interest in this matter.”

At U.N. emergency session, U.S. and Russia exchange charges over suspected chemical attack in Syria

By Tracy Wilkinson

(Associated Press)

As President Trump ponders retaliatory military action in Syria, his envoy to the United Nations on Friday laid out a forceful argument Friday for reining in the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ambassador Nikki Haley addressed the U.N. Security Council in emergency session ahead of a vote called by Russia to attempt to block U.S. action.

“Washington has adopted a categorical policy to unleash a military scenario against Syria,” the Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vasilly Nebenzia, told the council. “This cannot be tolerated.”

Russia backs Assad government in a brutal civil war, and has given it the upper military hand against rebels and opponents, some of which are supported by the United States.

Haley accused Russia of “lies and cover-ups” as it tried to conceal what the U.S. and allies say was an Assad-directed chemical weapons attack last Saturday on Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. More than 40 people, including children, were reported killed.

“We all know who did this,” Haley said. “This is not the first, second, third or 49th time” Assad has used chemical weapons against his people, but the 50th incident since the civil war in Syria started in 2011, she said.

“I am in awe you can say what you say with a straight face,” Haley said, directing her comments to Nebenzia.

Syria and Russia have denied that the attack involved chemical weapons, and argue that photographs of the victims were staged. U.S. officials have yet to determine precisely what was used, but suspect that a banned nerve agent like sarin was mixed with chlorine.

Syria warned it would defend itself if attacked by the United States and its allies.

Syrian ambassador to the U.N., Bashar JaafariI, said that if Britain, France and the United States take military action, “we would have no other choice” but to invoke a U.N. charter article that “gives us the right to defend ourselves.”

Earlier this week, Russia vetoed a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution to launch an independent investigation of the attack in Syria. Fact-finding teams from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are scheduled to visit Douma on Saturday to investigate the incident.

Trump’s lawyer going to court to try to stop prosecutors from using materials seized in raid on his residence, office

By Associated Press

Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump’s personal attorney is trying to prevent the government from using materials it found in a search of his office and residence this week.

A federal prosecutor’s office said there will be a hearing Friday to address a temporary restraining order sought by Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Federal agents raided Cohen’s Manhattan office and residence on Monday, seizing records on topics including a $130,000 payment made to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump, who in the last month has escalated his attacks on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, said it was a “disgrace” that the FBI “broke into” his lawyer’s office. He called Mueller’s investigation “an attack on our country.”

As Comey’s book nears release, Trump lashes out, calls him an ‘untruthful slime ball’

By Chris Megerian

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Republicans are gearing up their campaign to discredit former FBI chief James B. Comey ahead of his tell-all book’s release next week, but President Trump took things into his own hands on Friday morning.

In sharply pejorative terms — even by Trump’s standards — he described the man he fired as an “untruthful slime ball.”

Trump also said, “It was my great honor to fire James Comey!” Although aides originally explained the firing as a response to Comey’s mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the president later explained that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he made the decision.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who was soon appointed to continue the probe, is believed to have expanded the investigation to examine whether Trump sought to obstruct justice, including by firing Comey.

Ahead of his book’s formal release (portions have been leaked), the first of several interviews with Comey is being broadcast by ABC News on Sunday night. In excerpts released on Friday morning, Comey says Trump wanted him to prove that the president never had prostitutes urinate on a hotel bed in Moscow, an unverified allegation that was included in an infamous dossier against Trump.

Comey said he was stunned by the exchange with Trump.

“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” he said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

Trump convenes task force to study U.S. Postal Service

By Associated Pres

(David Goldman / Associated Press )

After weeks of railing against online shopping giant Amazon, President Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a task force to study the United States Postal Service.

In the surprise move, Trump said that USPS is on “an unsustainable financial path” and “must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout.”

The task force will be assigned to study factors including USPS pricing in the package delivery market and will have 120 days to submit a report with recommendations.

The order does not specifically mention Amazon or its owner, Jeff Bezos. But Trump has been criticizing the company for months, accusing it of not paying its share of taxes, harming the postal service and putting brick-and-mortar stores out of business. Trump has also gone after Bezos personally and accused the Washington Post, which he owns, of being Amazon’s “chief lobbyist.”

“Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE,” Trump tweeted this month, declaring: “this will be changed.”

The U.S. Postal Service has indeed lost money for years, but package delivery has actually been a bright spot for the service.

Boosted by e-commerce, the Postal Service has enjoyed double-digit revenue increases from delivering packages. That just hasn’t been enough to offset pension and healthcare costs as well as declines in first-class letters and marketing mail, which together make up more than two-thirds of postal revenue.

Still, Trump’s claim that the service could be charging more may not be entirely far-fetched. A 2017 analysis by Citigroup concluded that the Postal Service, which does not use taxpayer money for its operations, was charging below market rates as a whole on parcels. Still, federal regulators have reviewed the Amazon contract with the Postal Service each year, and deemed it to be profitable.

Three decades after a DEA agent was slain in Mexico, the FBI puts his alleged killer on the Most Wanted list

By Joseph Tanfani

Special Agent Enrique

Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena of the Drug Enforcement Administration was murdered in Mexico in 1985.

(Associated Press)

The Trump administration is trying to ratchet up pressure to capture a Mexican drug lord who allegedly ordered the murder of an American narcotics agent more than three decades ago.

Rafael Caro Quintero was convicted and jailed in the 1985 killing of Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena of the Drug Enforcement Administration. But the convicted murderer has been free since 2013, when a Mexican judge released him from prison on a technicality.

The U.S. government reacted furiously to the release of one of Mexico’s most notorious cartel leaders, and pressured Mexican officials to find him so he can be extradited to the United States.

The Trump administration increased the heat Thursday. The FBI put Caro Quintero on the bureau’s Most Wanted list and the State Department announced a $20 million reward for information leading to his arrest in hopes it will convince one of his allies to betray his location.

“He has to have people logistically move him all day long” to avoid capture, said Robert W. Patterson, DEA acting administrator. “At some point, those people will turn on him too.”

A new federal indictment also was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, charging Caro Quintero with being a leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel and with arranging Camarena’s murder.

“We are not going to stop looking for Caro Quintero – not ever,” David L. Bowdich, FBI deputy director, told reporters.

The DEA agent was based in Guadalajara, in central Mexico, when Caro Quintero allegedly ordered him killed.

Camarena’s body turned up a month later on a ranch in western Mexico, revealing evidence that he had been tortured, along with the corpse of a Mexican pilot who helped him search for marijuana fields.

Even though the crime occurred 33 years ago, Camarena’s death still is a raw issue at the DEA, and the case remains a source of friction between the U.S. and Mexico.

Both Mexican and American officials suspected that corruption played a role in Caro Quintero’s release from prison. He had served 28 years of a 40-year sentence when a Mexican judge ruled that he should have been tried in a state court and not a federal one, and let him out.

Federal judges indicate they could remove Mulvaney as acting CFPB chief

By Jim Puzzanghera

Judges on a federal appeals court panel on Thursday appeared hesitant to overrule President Trump and install the deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as the agency’s temporary leader.

But two of the three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit indicated they had a problem with the person Trump selected to take the position, Mick Mulvaney, because he also heads the White House Office of Management and Budget. The 2010 law that created the bureau as an independent federal agency specifically said OMB should not have oversight or jurisdiction over it.

That raised the possibility that the legal battle over the future of the watchdog agency could end with Mulvaney’s removal as acting director — a move that would be cheered by Democrats and consumer advocates who have complained about his public opposition to the bureau’s existence.

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Lawmakers say Trump is exploring rejoining Pacific trade talks

By Associated Press

Donald Trump participates in a meeting on trade with governors and members of Congress at the White House on Thursday.

Donald Trump participates in a meeting on trade with governors and members of Congress at the White House on Thursday.

(Chris Kleponis / EPA)

President Trump has asked trade officials to explore the possibility of the United States rejoining negotiations on the Pacific Rim agreement after he pulled out last year as part of his “America first” agenda.

Farm-state lawmakers said Thursday after a White House meeting with Trump that he had given that assignment to his trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, and his new chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would open more overseas markets for American farmers.

“I’m sure there are lots of particulars that they’d want to negotiate, but the president multiple times reaffirmed in general to all of us and looked right at Larry Kudlow and said, ‘Larry, go get it done,’” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).

Eleven countries signed the agreement last month. Trump’s rejection of the deal has rattled allies and raised questions at home about whether protectionism will impede U.S. economic growth.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said he was “very impressed” that Trump had assigned Kudlow and Lighthizer “the task to see if we couldn’t take another look at TPP. And that certainly would be good news all throughout farm country.”

The discussions came during a meeting in which Trump told farm-state governors and lawmakers that he was pressing China to treat the American agriculture industry fairly. Midwest farmers fear becoming caught up in a trade war as Beijing threatens to impose tariffs on soybeans and other U.S. crops, something that would be a big blow to Midwestern farmers, many of whom are strong Trump supporters.

House Speaker Ryan sends a message to Republicans: I’m here until the election

By Cathleen Decker

Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) speaks to reporters Thursday at the Capitol.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) speaks to reporters Thursday at the Capitol.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

One day after his surprise announcement that he would not seek reelection, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan sought to knock down suggestions that he should depart earlier to avoid distracting Republicans from their uphill battle to keep control of the House.

Ryan cast the sentiments expressed by some allies of his second-in-command, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, as those of a “small group” and not the vast majority of the Republican caucus.

“I’ve talked to a lot of members, a lot of members, who think it’s in all of our best interests for this leadership team to stay in place and run through the tape,” Ryan said.

He heatedly defended his record levels of fundraising for Republican campaigns. He noted that when he became speaker in 2015, he doubled the fundraising goal and blew through the higher level, becoming one of the Republican Party’s most prolific fundraisers.

“There is nobody who has come close to being able to raise the kinds of funds I have and still can raise for this majority,” he said. “So it’s obviously in our interest to keeping our majority that every player is on the field fighting for this majority, raising for this majority and it makes no sense to take the biggest fundraiser off the field. And I think almost all of our members see it that way as well.”

Republicans generally had expected Ryan to run again and then leave the speakership after the election. He took many of them by surprise by announcing Wednesday that he would not seek reelection — but would remain speaker.

Even some Ryan allies expressed concerns Wednesday that his timing would roil the Republican effort to preserve control of the House, already in doubt because of a sharply negative political environment for the GOP amid President Trump’s unpopularity.

Their concerns centered on the hit to morale due to Ryan’s choice, the specter of a rumbling fight to replace him and the possibility that Ryan would raise less money as a lame duck.

The two main candidates for speaker at this point are McCarthy and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, another Ryan lieutenant.

Ryan insisted Thursday that his successor would be chosen after the November election, from what he termed a “very talented leadership team” under a process that would not disrupt Republican goals.

Asked if he would hasten his departure if his prediction proved wrong, he replied: “I’m not going to go into that.”

EPA staffer alleges outsized spending by Scott Pruitt

By Associated Press

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at the White House on June 2, 2017.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at the White House on June 2, 2017.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

A high-ranking political staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency has told lawmakers he faced retaliation after pushing back against outsized spending demands from Administrator Scott Pruitt and his top aides.

House and Senate Democrats sent letters Thursday to President Trump and Pruitt describing a meeting they had with Kevin Chmielewski, who was recently placed on involuntary, unpaid leave from his positon as EPA’s deputy chief of staff for operations.

Chmielewski is a Republican who served as a key staffer for the Trump campaign before being hired at the EPA last year to help oversee spending at the agency. He says he was forced out after questioning Pruitt’s travel and security spending, including the administrator’s use of first-class flights.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it would respond “through the proper channel” to lawmakers’ requests for documents.

Listen live to oral arguments in legal battle over the CFPB’s acting director

By Jim Puzzanghera

Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaui

Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaui

(Jacquelyn Martin)

A federal appeals court panel on Thursday will hear oral arguments in the legal battle over the acting leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will provide a live audio stream of the arguments, beginning at 6:30 a.m. PDT.

Leandra English, the bureau’s deputy director, is appealing a lower court decision denying her request for a preliminary injunction to remove Mick Mulvaney as acting director and install her instead.

English said she is the rightful acting director under a provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that created the bureau.

President Trump appointed Mulvaney, who also serves as White House budget director, to fill the post under a different law, the Federal Vacancies Act of 1998.

Two of the judges on the panel were appointed by Democrats: Judith W. Rogers by President Clinton and Patricia A. Millett by President Obama. The third judge, Thomas B. Griffith, was appointed by President George W. Bush.

Trump tweets Syria attack could be ‘very soon or not so soon at all!’

By Associated Press

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer Donald Cook as the ship departs Larnaca, Cyprus on April 9.

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer Donald Cook as the ship departs Larnaca, Cyprus on April 9.

(MC2 Alyssa Weeks / U.S. Navy)

President Trump said Thursday that an attack on Syria could take place “very soon or not so soon at all!”

The president made the statement in a tweet Thursday morning. Trump on Wednesday had warned Russia to “get ready” for a missile attack on its ally Syria, suggesting imminent retaliation for last weekend’s suspected chemical weapons attack. But on Thursday, Trump wrote: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place.”

At stake in Syria is the potential for confrontation, if not outright conflict, between the U.S. and Russia, former Cold War foes whose relations have deteriorated in recent years over Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and, most recently, its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Russian lawmakers have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime and that it could trigger a direct U.S.-Russian military clash. Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon said any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted — a stark warning of a potential major confrontation.

Trump, who has often said a commander in chief should never telegraph his military intentions, apparently did so himself, tweeting that missiles “will be coming” in response to the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people near Damascus.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump wrote. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, however, indicated that evidence of what happened was still being studied. At a photo-taking session during a Pentagon meeting with his Dutch counterpart, Mattis was asked by a reporter whether he had seen enough evidence to blame the Syrian government.

“We’re still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies,” Mattis said. “We’re still working on this.”

CFPB chief Mick Mulvaney says he could just ‘twiddle my thumbs’ before Congress to highlight agency’s flaws

By Jim Puzzanghera

Mick Mulvaney took his seat before a congressional committee Wednesday for the first time since his controversial appointment to be the nation’s top consumer financial watchdog and boldly declared he didn’t have to say a word.

“I believe it would be my statutory right to just sit here and twiddle my thumbs while you all ask questions,” Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told the House Financial Services Committee.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank law that created the bureau in the wake of the financial crisis only requires the bureau director to appear before Congress, but doesn’t specifically mandate answering questions, said Mulvaney, a Republican and outspoken critic of the agency.

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Former Speaker Gingrich on Paul Ryan: ‘I think he’s tired’

By Noah Bierman

(Associated Press)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Paul D. Ryan, who announced Wednesday he would not run for reelection, has plenty of time to consider a presidential run, especially if you measure in Sen. Bernie Sanders years, the liberal Vermont independent who is still mulling a presidential bid at the age of 76.

“He’s got 28 years,” Gingrich said in a phone interview from Italy, adding that Ryan can go home, spend time with his family, earn some money, run for governor of Wisconsin and then still forge a presidential campaign. “He’s got at least six presidential elections in front of him.”

But Gingrich is not surprised Ryan is leaving the speakership.

“I think he’s tired,” Gingrich said. “I think that he loves policy and does not particularly like managing and leading 240 Republicans and trying to cope with the Senate and the White House.”

Gingrich downplayed the notion that Ryan’s departure signals that Republicans will lose their House majority, arguing that it will motivate the two men who are next in line to replace him, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, to work harder to elect Republican lawmakers needed to hold it.

“Part of what he’ll do is he’ll liberate McCarthy and Scalise to go out and campaign like crazy,” McCarthy said. “That’ll be a significant factor in which of them gets picked” to replace Ryan.

Trump fumes on Twitter about ‘conflicted’ Mueller and Rosenstein

By Chris Megerian

(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images )

President Trump continues to lash out at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the wake of Monday’s FBI raids targeting his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

In a tweet on Wednesday morning, he called the Russia investigation “Fake & Corrupt” and referred to Mueller as the “most conflicted of all,” except for Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel’s work because Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions recused himself.

Trump did not explain why he believes Mueller is conflicted, a charge that could lay the groundwork for attempting to fire him as special counsel. But previously the president has complained that Mueller should be precluded from leading the investigation because, among other reasons, Trump interviewed him as a potential FBI director after firing James B. Comey last year.

Mueller, a Republican who previously ran the FBI under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was named as special counsel by Rosenstein soon after the interview.

Trump’s latest attacks seem to have given impetus to stalled efforts in Congress to insulate the special counsel from being fired. A bipartisan group of senators announced on Tuesday morning a revised proposal to codify regulations that only Justice Department leaders — not the president — could fire a special counsel, who could then appeal the decision in court.

California’s McCarthy expected to seek speaker position if Republicans keep the House

By Sarah D. Wire

With news that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) won’t seek another term in 2018, Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy is expected to make a bid for the position, assuming Republicans keep their majority.

McCarthy and Republican House Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have quietly shored up support behind the scenes for months in case Ryan stepped down.

McCarthy’s spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan won’t seek reelection, he tells colleagues

By Cathleen Decker

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), seen here speaking to reporters recently at the Capitol, has decided not to run for reelection.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), seen here speaking to reporters recently at the Capitol, has decided not to run for reelection.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) will not seek reelection in November, he told colleagues Wednesday, throwing an already fractious House into tumult and dealing another blow to Republican hopes of holding onto power in Congress.

The announcement comes as Republicans already face serious prospects of losing their majority in the House in this fall’s midterm election. Ryan has been a key fundraiser for Republican candidates, and his decision to call it quits is almost certain to be a demoralizing blow to the party’s candidates and donors.

The speaker’s move came less than three years after he took office as a compromise candidate on the resignation of Ohio Rep. John A. Boehner. His tenure as speaker will have been among the shortest in the past century.

Like Boehner’s before him, Ryan’s tenure was plagued by divisions within the GOP, some of long standing, other exacerbated by the election of President Trump, whom Ryan at first opposed, then eventually made an uneasy peace with.

Ryan scored one major victory last year, playing a central role in pushing through a tax cut plan in December. In March, he was among the negotiators of a $1.3-trillion spending package that the president criticized but ultimately signed.

He suffered a major defeat, however, when Congress rejected a measure he strongly backed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

And Ryan’s other priorities, notably cutting back on Social Security and Medicare benefits to reduce long-term federal spending, were not popular even among many Republicans and were largely pushed aside by Trump.

Ryan criticized Trump during the campaign but accommodated him during his presidency, drawing fire for not speaking out against Trump’s attacks on the FBI, the Justice Department and special counsel Robert S Mueller III.

Ryan, the party’s vice presidential candidate in 2012, was 45 when he became speaker, the youngest to serve in that role since 1869.

Republican House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will not run for reelection, sources say

By Associated Press

Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan meets with reporters following a closed-door Republican strategy session on Capitol Hill on March 6.

Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan meets with reporters following a closed-door Republican strategy session on Capitol Hill on March 6.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will not run for reelection to Congress, he plans to tell colleagues today.

Two people with knowledge of the Wisconsin Republican’s thinking said Ryan has decided against seeking another term. Both sought anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The news will come as another serious and demoralizing blow to GOP hopes of holding the party’s congressional majority in this fall’s midterm election.

Trump warns Russia that missiles ‘will be coming’ to Syria — ‘Get ready’

By Noah Bierman

This image released by the Syria Civil Defense is said to show victims of a chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held city of Douma.

This image released by the Syria Civil Defense is said to show victims of a chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held city of Douma.

(Associated Press)

After several days of deliberating a response to an alleged Syrian gas attack, President Trump tweeted a promise on Wednesday to attack the country with “nice and new and ‘smart!’” missiles despite Russia’s vow to counter them.

Trump’s tweet was a response to Russian threats to shoot down any missiles headed toward Syria. Russia is allied with the government of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad.

“Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” Trump wrote. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Trump had said Monday that he would decide on a response to the alleged gas attack within 48 hours. But tweeting about it violates Trump’s longstanding boast that he does not telegraph military actions, because it ruins the element of surprise. Military experts have said the strategic value of a surprise attack is often outweighed in modern warfare by other concerns, including the need to protect civilians and allied groups that may be near opposition targets.

The tweet is also unusual in confronting Russia rhetorically. Though the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Russia, Trump has only occasionally spoken out against the country or its leader, Vladimir Putin.

But Trump showed exceptional frustration with Russia on Wednesday, issuing a second tweet that said “our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.”

Trump, who did not mention Putin by name, added that “there is no reason for this,” suggesting that the countries can work together on economic policies and nuclear arms control.

Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon warned that Moscow would shoot down any missile strike against Syria and view such a move by the United States or its allies as a war crime.

“Russia will execute the statement of its president related to any U.S. aggression against Syria, knocking down American missiles and striking at the sources of fire,” Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin told the Lebanese television channel Al-Manar.

When asked about escalating tensions over the Syrian conflict, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that the Kremlin was urging restraint from everyone involved.

“Hopefully, all countries will refrain from steps that, on the one hand, would be totally unwarranted and on the other hand, may exacerbate the already fragile situation in the region,” Peskov said in a media conference call.

Russia has disputed claims by the United States that Assad’s forces used a chemical weapon on Douma on Saturday.

Peskov said the Russian officials want an “unbiased” investigation into allegations of the attack, “so that we do not take guidance from rumors and empty reports in the media.”

Trump’s pick for secretary of State readies for confirmation hearing Thursday

By Tracy Wilkinson

President Trump’s pick for his second secretary of State will face his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, a key test of his mettle and diplomatic skills.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a veteran congressman from Kansas and solid conservative, will testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The full Senate must then vote to confirm his nomination.

Pompeo passed Senate muster last year to become CIA director. But several activist groups are objecting to his past comments that have seemed derogatory toward Muslims and gay people.

He enjoys considerable Republican support, however.

He is more hawkish on some issues than Trump, although he told senators Tuesday that he would be willing to maintain the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran if it could be fixed.

Trump has threatened to withdraw from the deal in coming weeks.

Last month, Trump announced on Twitter that he had fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil. The two routinely disagreed on foreign policy issues.

‘Consumer’ may get a demotion if Mick Mulvaney’s CFPB overhaul includes altering its name

By Jim Puzzanghera

Mick Mulvaney’s overhaul of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is so extensive it now could include revising the agency’s name and discarding its simple, modern logo.

Mulvaney, installed as acting director by President Trump last fall, has taken to calling the agency the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection in formal correspondence. Then, this month, his staff unveiled the bureau’s first-ever official seal, which formalized that name, written in full above an eagle with its wings raised over a shield featuring symbols for justice, consumer financial security and transparency.

Consumer advocates worry that the wording change and old-fashioned-looking seal are part of a broader strategy by Mulvaney, an outspoken critic of the agency he now heads, to undermine its mandate by making it sound more bureaucratic and de-emphasizing the word “consumer.”

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Syria will allow inspectors at site of suspected chemical attack, complicating U.S. retaliation

By Tracy Wilkinson

U.S. troops in eastern Syria

U.S. troops in eastern Syria

(Associated Press)

A team of international inspectors on Tuesday accepted an invitation from Syria to examine the site of a suspected chemical attack on civilians in a rebel-held enclave outside Damascus.

The U.S. and other world powers suspect Syrian government forces of being behind the attack, which reportedly killed nearly 50 people, including children. They blame Russia for helping Syria.

But both Syria and Russia insist the attack did not happen and that graphic photographs of the victims were staged.

Hoping to back its position, Syria said members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would be allowed access to the site. The autonomous, intergovernmental group, which is based at The Hague, Netherlands, said in a statement it would dispatch a fact-finding team to Syria “shortly.”

Having international inspectors on the ground in Syria could complicate any forthcoming plans by the Trump administration to bomb or otherwise retaliate against the government of President Bashar Assad.

The same group has been attacked twice by unknown hostile groups while on missions to sites of suspected chemical attacks in Syria.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry on the state-run Sana website condemned the use of chemical weapons “by anyone and under any circumstances and anywhere,” and said it wanted to uncover the truth “about the claims being promoted by some Western sides to justify their hostile intentions and political goals.”

On Monday, the United States had sought through the U.N. Security Council to establish an independent panel to investigate the most recent attack in Syria. However, Russia is likely to veto the measure, if brought to a vote.

Chinese investment in U.S. plunged last year, even before Trump threatened tariffs

By Jim Puzzanghera

Chinese investment in the U.S. plunged last year amid rising economic tensions between the two nations under the Trump administration.

Even before President Trump threatened a barrage of tariffs on Chinese goods, foreign direct investment by China into the U.S. dropped more than a third — to $29 billion in 2017 from $46 billion the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday by the nonprofit National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and research firm Rhodium Group.

The decline, which reversed nearly a decade of sharp growth, would have been steeper if not for $18 billion in Chinese acquisitions in the U.S. that were announced in 2016 but not completed until last year, the report said. The value of newly announced Chinese acquisitions in the U.S. last year dropped 90% compared with 2016, according to a second report by the organizations that focused on Chinese investment in the U.S. by congressional districts.

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White House: Trump’s homeland security advisor, Tom Bossert, to resign in latest West Wing departure

By Associated Press

White House Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert speaks in Washington in December. The White House announced he will resign.

White House Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert speaks in Washington in December. The White House announced he will resign.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump’s homeland security advisor is resigning, in the latest White House departure.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday that Tom Bossert would be leaving his post. She said Trump was “grateful for Tom’s commitment to the safety and security of our great country.”

Bossert was a point person in the White House on protecting the nation from terrorism and cyber threats. He also helped spearhead the administration’s response to last year’s hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

His exit is the latest in a wave of departures from the West Wing in recent months. It comes a day after new national security advisor John Bolton began his tenure.

Trump, facing twin crises, will skip South America summit

By Noah Bierman

President Trump speaks at the White House on April 9.

President Trump speaks at the White House on April 9.

( Jim Lo Scalzo / Getty Images)

President Trump, facing an international crisis in Syria and a personal one with the FBI raid of his attorney’s office and residence, abruptly canceled a planned trip to South America.

Trump had planned to leave Washington on Friday for a whirlwind journey to Peru and Colombia, highlighted by the Summit of the Americas gathering of international leaders in Peru. The visit would have been his first to the region as president.

The White House, in a statement Tuesday morning, attributed Trump’s cancellation to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend.

“The president will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Trump said Monday he would “forcefully” respond to the apparent chemical weapons attack, which U.S. officials have blamed on the Syrian government and its allies, and would soon decide how.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend the Latin America summit in Trump’s place.

A year ago, Trump was absent from the White House when the U.S. launched missiles at Syria following another chemical weapons attack. At the time, Trump was holding an international meeting at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

The fact that he decided he needs to remain in the country this time could suggest that the response to this latest incident will be more prolonged than last year’s single strike.

At the same time, however, in addition to the Syria crisis, Trump has been fuming over Monday’s FBI raid of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney. He unleashed an angry tirade to reporters Monday night followed by terse tweets Tuesday morning.

“A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” he tweeted.

“Attorney–client privilege is dead!” he wrote in another tweet.

Trump is extremely unpopular in Latin America, in large part because of his harsh language about illegal immigration and drug smuggling, with one major poll putting his approval rate at 16%. But his absence could reflect poorly on U.S. interest in the region, particularly since he has yet to visit.

President Clinton skipped an Asia summit at the last minute in 1998, sending Vice President Al Gore to Japan. At the time, Clinton was also facing a Middle East crisis in Iraq and an investigation that led to impeachment charges.

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Trump lashes out after news of raid on his lawyer’s office, raising the possibility of firing special counsel Mueller

By Noah Bierman

President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump lashed out Monday at news that his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was the subject of an FBI raid, calling it “a disgraceful situation” and adding that “many people have said” he should fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel heading the Russia investigation.

“They broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys,” Trump told reporters before a meeting with his military advisors, adding that “I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now.”

“It’s a disgrace,” he said. “It’s an attack on our country. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

The raid is “a whole new level of unfairness,” Trump added, saying that he learned about the raid, from news reports, “like you did.”

He called attorneys working under Mueller “the most conflicted group of people I have ever seen.” The raid on Cohen’s office was undertaken by agents working with the federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan, acting on a referral from Mueller.

“They’re not looking at the other side. They’re not looking at Hillary Clinton and all the horrible things she did,” Trump said, repeating a charge that he has made before that the lawyers working for Mueller were all Democrats.

The president also renewed criticism of Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, saying he “made a terrible mistake” by recusing himself from involvement in the Russia investigation, “a very terrible mistake for the country.”

U.S and Russia trade angry charges at U.N. over suspected poison gas attack in Syria

By Tracy Wilkinson

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., attends an emergency session of the Security Council on Monday.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., attends an emergency session of the Security Council on Monday.

(Associated Press)

U.S. and Russian diplomats exchanged bitter recriminations Monday in an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, which met to confront a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel stronghold in Syria that killed at least 48 people near Damascus.

The debate flared as the Trump administration weighed a military response to punish Syria’s government for the attack. President Trump said at the White House that he would make a “major decision” within 24 to 48 hours.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., squarely blamed Moscow for Saturday’s gruesome attack because the Russian military has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s grinding civil war.

“Russian hands,” Haley said, “are all covered in the blood of Syrian children.”

She scolded Russia for repeatedly refusing to punish Syria by vetoing five Security Council resolutions that singled out Assad for condemnation.

“The day we prayed would never come has come again,” Haley told the council, a year after a similar chemical weapons attack in Syria. “Only a monster does this.”

She described photographs of victims — slain infants and toddlers in their diapers, lying next to their dead parents, skin bluish, white foam bubbling from their mouths. Unlike last year, she did not display the photographs but her descriptions were graphic.

“We must not overlook Russia and Iran’s roles in enabling the Assad regime’s murderous destruction,” Haley said.

The council was debating a U.S.-drafted proposal to create an independent panel to investigate the attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s eastern Ghouta enclave. The council adjourned without taking a vote, however.

The Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vassily Nebenzia, gave an impassioned description of the “boorish” U.S. behavior and countries that follow Washington “blindly,” threatening Moscow with sanctions, “blackmail” and hostilities that “go beyond the Cold War.”

Nebenzia said the attack in Douma was staged by anti-Assad “terrorists,” and that reports about the use of chemical weapons and photographs of the victims were “fake news.”

“We are not begging to be friends with you,” Nebenzia said, turning to Haley. He accused the Trump administration of mounting a campaign of aggression against Russia.

Syria’s ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jaafari, was allowed to speak.

He condemned U.S. and Israeli “aggression,” citing what he said was a deadly Israeli air strike on Syrian positions on Sunday.

“And what about the United States? What is the U.S. spending its money on? Milk for children? Or weapons for armed groups?,” he said.

Jaafari denied Syria possesses illicit chemical weapons. Some diplomats walked out of the meeting hall as he spoke.

.

FBI agents seize documents from Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen

By Chris Megerian

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

FBI agents used search warrants Monday to seize documents from Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, marking a dramatic escalation in law enforcement’s investigation of the president’s inner circle.

The raid stemmed in part from special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign after Mueller’s team referred material to federal prosecutors in New York, who are conducting a separate probe.

It’s unclear exactly what the FBI was looking for but Cohen is deeply involved in two of Trump’s most controversial episodes.

The New York-based lawyer worked on a plan to develop a Trump-branded hotel complex in Moscow during the presidential campaign. The hotel was never built.

Cohen also crafted an agreement to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, an adult-film star who said she had a sexual affair with Trump years ago.

The payment of $130,000 was delivered shortly before the 2016 election, raising the possibility that it represented an illegal campaign expenditure. Trump last week denied knowing about the payment.

A lawyer for Cohen, Stephen Ryan, accused the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York of seizing “privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients.”

“The decision by the U.S. attorney’s office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” Ryan said in a statement.

He said Cohen had “cooperated completely” with federal investigators, and had handed over thousands of documents and given testimony under oath.

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Sen. Tammy Duckworth has baby, becomes first serving U.S. senator to give birth

By Associated Press

(Alex Brandon)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth has given birth to a baby girl, making her the first serving U.S. senator to give birth.

The Illinois Democrat announced she delivered her second daughter, Maile (MY-lee) Pearl Bowlsbey, on Monday. Her office says Duckworth is recovering well and asked for privacy.

Duckworth, a 50-year-old veteran who lost her legs in the Iraq war, is one of only 10 lawmakers who have given birth while serving in Congress. Her first daughter, Abigail, was born in 2014.

Duckworth says Maile is named after her husband’s great-aunt, who was an Army officer and nurse in World War II.

She says she’s grateful to friends and family and “our wonderful medical teams for everything they’ve done to help us in our decades-long journey to complete our family.”

U.S. seeks U.N. emergency session and probe into Syria attack

By Tracy Wilkinson

(Associated Press)

The Trump administration on Monday urged the United Nations to open an investigation into an alleged chemical attack by Syrian government forces that killed scores of civilians outside Damascus.

The United States also joined eight other countries to call for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council for later Monday to consider the attack. Yet that body is unlikely to go beyond words of condemnation because Russia, which backs Syria’s President Bashar Assad, is expected to veto any Security Council resolution for bolder action.

U.S. officials circulated a draft U.N. resolution on Monday to create an independent commission to investigate the attack on Saturday. More than 40 people were killed in Douma, the last rebel-held town in the eastern Ghouta enclave outside Damascus.

First responders and pro-opposition rescuers said many of the dead appeared to have suffocated from poison gas. President Trump suggested that Syria, Iran or Russia, or all three, were to blame, and said he would decide how to respond within 48 hours. Moscow said reports of a poison gas attack were a hoax.

Syrian government forces are believed to have used chemical weapons numerous times without consequence, according to U.N. officials. Last year, Trump retaliated with a missile strike on a Syrian airfield following a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed dozens.

Trump says he’ll decide response to suspected gas attack in Syria within 48 hours

By Noah Bierman

Volunteers spray a man with water at a make-shift hospital following an alleged chemical attack on Douma on April 7.

Volunteers spray a man with water at a make-shift hospital following an alleged chemical attack on Douma on April 7.

(AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump on Monday said that he will make a “major decision” on a response to a suspected chemical weapon attack in Syria that killed scores of people — “a barbaric act,” he called it — over the next 24 to 48 hours.

“It was an atrocious attack. It was horrible,” Trump told reporters who were briefly brought into the room ahead of his Cabinet meeting at the White House. “This is about humanity… and it can’t be allowed to happen.”

Of the weekend attack near Damascus, the president added, “If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out.”

Trump’s warning seemed to conflict with his frequent criticism of his predecessors, chiefly former President Obama, for telegraphing potential military strikes and thus taking away the element of surprise. Many experts say such warnings can have a strategic benefit, however, and also minimize civilian casualties.

By his latest statements Trump has raised the pressure to act militarily; after an earlier chemical attack a year ago, he ordered a limited strike against a Syrian airfield. As a candidate and president, he often condemned Obama for drawing a “red line” suggesting Syria’s use of chemical weapons would invite retaliation, and then failing to follow up.

Trump is to meet with his senior military advisors this evening at the White House.

Trump calls California a ‘border-free zone’

By Noah Bierman

President Trump devoted his weekly address over the weekend to his attack on California’s sanctuary laws, arguing without evidence that the state had made itself “a border-free zone where thousands of criminal aliens can roam free.”

A fact-check posted in The Times on Friday notes that the law passed last year bars officials from alerting federal immigration officials when inmates are released from a county jail. But the law carves out 800 offenses — including violent crimes and nonviolent drug offenses — where cooperation is allowed. The law also allows state prison officials to continue working with federal immigration agents on deportations.

Trump argued the state “violated the Constitution by nullifying federal law,” the subject of a still unresolved court battle between his administration and the state of California.

“Their actions not only imperil the security of the people of California, but the security of the entire nation,” Trump said in the weekly address posted on YouTube. “California’s sanctuary bill should be called the ‘jail break’ bill because that’s exactly what it is. They force the release of dangerous criminal aliens from prisons and jails, including drug traffickers and dealers responsible for the deaths of countless Americans. It’s gotten totally out of control. We can’t allow it to go on.”

Trump praised the Orange County Board of Supervisors for voting to join the federal lawsuit against the state’s laws.

“My message to communities under siege from drugs, and gangs, and violence is: You can stop this and you can stop it cold,” he said. “Partner with the federal government so we can help to remove these threats from your communities and restore peace to our streets.”

The address was little noticed but it continues the especially combative relationship between the Trump administration and the state of California, especially over immigration and climate policy.

U.S. ethics chief expresses alarm over Pruitt’s alleged behavior

By Evan Halper

(Andrew Harnik/AP)

Even as President Trump tries to quiet speculation that Scott Pruitt’s days in his administration are numbered, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency continues to become a bigger political liability for him.

Now the federal government’s top ethics officer is calling for the EPA to take action addressing Pruitt’s multiple alleged ethics lapses. The letter sent to the EPA from David Apol, acting director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, was notable because such letters are rarely written from Apol’s office. The New York Times first reported on the letter, which is dated April 6.

It warns the EPA appears to be inadequately addressing the various ethics issues swirling around Pruitt and “action to appropriately address any violations” may be necessary. Apol expresses particular concern about the $50 a night bedroom Pruitt rented from the wife of a top energy lobbyist on a block in Washington, D.C., where housing typically costs much more.

“Only after the existence of the lease was reported in the press did he provide EPA ethics advisors with limited information about the lease,” Apol wrote. After the EPA ethics officer condoned the housing arrangement retroactively, Apol wrote, other details about it emerged suggesting the use of the condo may have been an improper gift to Pruitt. “Additional information has now come to light that calls into question whether the earlier determination that the administration paid market value for the use he made of the apartment would still be valid.” While Apol did not specify the nature of the additional information, it was likely a reference to the reported use of the apartment by Pruitt’s daughter at no additional charge.

Apol also takes aim at Pruitt’s big spending on travel, security and salaries for aides. He wrote that reports that Pruitt has regularly scheduled costly government trips to his home state of Oklahoma to offset the expense of travel there for personal and political reasons “raise concerns about whether the administrator is using his public office for personal gain.”

And Apol found “extremely concerning” reports that Pruitt has sidelined several staffers who confronted him about excessive spending. “If true,” he wrote, “it is hard to imagine any action that could more effectively undermine an agency’s integrity.”

White House says North Korea has confirmed Kim will join summit with Trump

By Noah Bierman

(Associated Press)

U.S. and North Korean officials have engaged in secret back-channel talks and Pyongyang has committed to a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un that will touch on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a White House official said Sunday.

The White House said on March 8 that Trump had accepted an invitation from Kim to meet, but the government in Pyongyang did not officially confirm the meeting until now. The date and the venue have still not been set.

No sitting U.S. president has ever met with a North Korean leader, and Trump’s offer to do so without preconditions stunned American allies in the region and U.S. foreign policy veterans.

The proposed summit grew out of an easing of tensions between North and South Korea early this year. In March, several senior South Korean officials met with Kim in Pyongyang, and then flew to Washington where they told Trump that Kim had extended an invitation to meet as early as May.

It has not been clear if North Korea would be willing to talk about giving up its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. goal in any negotiations. Kim’s government tested a powerful nuclear device last September, and has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental United States.

The White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks, said recent secret meetings between North Korean and U.S. officials secured Pyongyang’s commitment to go ahead with a summit.

The official did not say where the meetings occurred, but U.S. officials have dealt with North Korea on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York, where North Korea has a diplomatic mission, and at other international settings. Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations.

The summit site still is an open question. Kim is known to have traveled outside North Korea only once since taking office in 2011, visiting Beijing for two days recently to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

U.S. officials say Trump would not go to Pyongyang, the isolated nation’s capital. So speculation has focused on sites in China, in neutral Switzerland, or in the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

The potential detente comes after Trump and Kim exchanged crude insults last year — “little rocket man” versus “deranged U.S. dotard” — and bellicose threats of nuclear war as Kim continued his nuclear and missile tests, including some that flew over Japan.

But North Korea’s economy has been hurt by U.S. and international sanctions, and South Korea’s government has sought to promote talks.

Trump will meet on April 17 in Florida with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose government was caught off guard by Trump’s offer to negotiate directly with North Korea.

Trump meets his match: Stormy Daniels’ combative lawyer Michael Avenatti

By Maura Dolan

Michael Avenatti, the newly famous lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, has more than a few things in common with President Trump.

He’s brash. He’s media savvy. He enjoys the high life. He revels in antagonizing opponents.