Trump won’t declassify Democratic memo on Russia probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — Citing national security concerns, the White House on Friday formally notified the House intelligence committee that President Donald Trump is “unable” to declassify a memo drafted by Democrats that counters GOP allegations about abuse of government surveillance powers in the FBI’s Russia probe.
White House counsel Don McGahn said in a letter to the committee that the memo contains “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages” and asked the intelligence panel to revise the memo with the help of the Justice Department. He said Trump is still “inclined” to release the memo in the interest of transparency if revisions are made.
The president’s rejection of the Democratic memo is in contrast to his enthusiastic embrace of releasing the Republican document, which he pledged before reading to make public. The president declassified the document last week, allowing its publication in full over the objections of the Justice Department.
The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, criticized Trump for treating the two documents differently, saying the president is now seeking revisions by the same committee that produced the original Republican memo. Still, Schiff said, Democrats “look forward to conferring with the agencies to determine how we can properly inform the American people about the misleading attack on law enforcement by the GOP.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was less measured, saying the White House move is “part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of coverup on the part of the president.” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and has read the classified information both memos are based on, tweeted that Trump’s blocking the memo is “hypocrisy at its worst.”
S. Korean president hosts lunch for Kim Jong Un’s sister
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday met with senior North Korean officials including leader Kim Jong Un’s sister over lunch at Seoul’s presidential palace in the most significant diplomatic encounter between the rivals in years.
The luncheon at the Blue House came after Kim Yo Jong and other North Korean delegates attended the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which has brought a temporary lull in tensions over the North’s nuclear program.
At the Olympic Stadium’s VIP box, Kim Yo Jong and North Korea’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, took their place among dignitaries from around the world, including U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence who sat just a few feet (less than a meter) away and seemed to make an effort not to acknowledge them.
South Korean television showed a smiling Moon entering a reception room and shaking hands with the North Koreans, who also included Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.
“You went through a lot of trouble braving the cold until late,” he told them.
Amid a White House in tumult, Trump defends former aide
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday defended former aide Rob Porter, wishing him well in his future endeavours without any mention of the two ex-wives who have accused Porter of physical and emotional abuse.
Trump’s comments set off a firestorm at a time of national conversation about the mistreatment of women. And they came amid rampant White House finger-pointing about who knew what, and when, about the severity of the spousal abuse allegations.
Trump said Porter, who resigned when the abuse allegations became public this week, had “worked hard” at the White House and wished him well.
“It’s a, obviously, tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career,” Trump said in his first comments on the allegations against the onetime rising West Wing star.
“He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent,” Trump added.
US stocks swing back to gains, Dow up 330 on turbulent day
A late-afternoon rally reversed steep losses for U.S. stocks Friday, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average more than 300 points and capping a turbulent week on Wall Street that left the market with its steepest weekly slide in two years.
The big point swings that pummeled stocks reflected a return of volatility after an unprecedented period of calm. Until this week, the market had not endured a 5 per cent drop since January 2016.
“There’s a fair amount of volatility in the market, and our belief is the volatility is leaving investors riddled with stress and uncertainty, which is likely to continue,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
The swiftness of the market’s slide into a correction, or a drop of at least 10 per cent from a recent peak, was unparalleled. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index, the benchmark for many index funds, took only nine days to fall 10 per cent from its all-time high on Jan. 26.
“The S&P 500 hasn’t moved into correction mode this quickly, ever,” said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research.
No. 3 Justice Department official stepping down amid turmoil
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department’s No. 3 official is planning to step down at a time of turmoil in the agency.
Rachel Brand is leaving for the top legal job at Walmart, friend and former colleague Jamie Gorelick told The Associated Press Friday.
Brand attracted interest because of her potential to assume a key role in the Trump-Russia investigation. The official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, has been repeatedly criticized by Trump. If Rosenstein had been fired or quit, oversight would have fallen to Brand. That job would now fall to Solicitor General Noel Francisco.
“She felt this was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down,” Gorelick said. Walmart sought Brand to be head of global corporate governance at the retail giant, a position Gorelick said has legal and policy responsibilities that will cater to her strengths.
“It really seems to have her name on it,” Gorelick said.
Autopsy gives no insight on motive in Vegas mass shooting
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The much anticipated autopsy report on Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock did nothing to help explain why he carried out the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history — his body didn’t hold diseases or drugs or other substances that could have caused aggressive behaviour.
In fact, it showed he was a sober, healthy 64-year-old.
The report — released Friday in response to a lawsuit by The Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal — showed gunman Stephen Paddock had anti-anxiety drugs in his system but was not under the influence of them.
Paddock unleashed a barrage of bullets from his high-rise hotel suite into a crowd at a country music festival below, killing 58 people and injuring more than 800 others on Oct. 1. He fatally shot himself before officers stormed his hotel suite after the mass shooting.
The autopsy showed the 6-foot-1 (1.8 metres) Paddock was slightly overweight at 224 pounds (102 kilograms), had high blood pressure and bad teeth. But there was nothing unusual in his physical condition, even after a microscopic brain examination conducted by experts at Stanford University. His cremated remains were released to his brother in January.
Winter storm pounding Midwest blamed for 2 deaths
CHICAGO (AP) — A winter storm pounding the Midwest caused at least two deaths Friday, authorities said, while closing schools and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
Snow-related crashed snarled highways across southern Michigan, with one person killed when a semitrailer struck the rear of a car stopped in traffic on U.S. 23 near Flint, police said.
A Michigan State Police trooper was hospitalized after a pickup truck lost control and slammed into his stopped squad on Interstate 94 northeast of Detroit. A pileup on the same highway just east of Kalamazoo in southwestern Michigan of collected 38 vehicle including 16 semitrailers in eastbound lanes Friday afternoon, causing only minor injuries.
In Naperville, Illinois, just west of Chicago, a man in his 60s died after suffering a heart attack while shovelling snow Friday morning, Edward Hospital spokesman Keith Hartenberger told the Chicago Tribune.
The National Weather Service reported 10 inches (25) of snow on the ground Friday afternoon in suburban Chicago and 11 inches (28 centimetres) near South Bend, Indiana. Chicago was forecast to receive as much as 14 inches (35 centimetres) of snow with Detroit expecting up to 9 inches (23 centimetres).
Equifax hack put more info at risk than consumers knew
The Equifax data breach exposed more of consumers’ personal information than the company first disclosed last year, according to documents given to lawmakers.
The credit reporting company announced in September that the personal information of 145.5 million consumers had been compromised in a data breach. It originally said that the information accessed included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and — in some cases — driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. It also said some consumers’ credit card numbers were among the information exposed, as well as the personal information from thousands of dispute documents.
However, Atlanta-based Equifax Inc. recently disclosed in a document submitted to the Senate Banking Committee, that a forensic investigation found criminals accessed other information from company records. According to the document, provided to The Associated Press by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office, that included tax identification numbers, email addresses and phone numbers. Finer details, such as the expiration dates for credit cards or issuing states for driver’s licenses, were also included in the list.
The additional insight into the massive breach was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Equifax’s disclosure, which it has not made directly to consumers, underscores the depth of detail the company keeps on individuals that it may have put at risk. And it adds to the string of missteps the company has made in recovering from the security debacle.
Flu season still getting worse; now as bad as 2009 swine flu
NEW YORK (AP) — The flu has further tightened its grip on the U.S. This season is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago.
A government report out Friday shows 1 of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That ties the highest level seen in the U.S. during swine flu in 2009.
And it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu.
“I wish that there were better news this week, but almost everything we’re looking at is bad news,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Flu season usually takes off in late December and peaks around February. This season started early and was widespread in many states by December. Early last month, it hit what seemed like peak levels — but then continued to surge.
John Gavin, actor who became ambassador to Mexico, has died
LOS ANGELES (AP) — John Gavin, the tall, strikingly handsome actor who appeared in “Spartacus,” ”Psycho” and other hit films of the 1960s before forsaking acting to become President Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to Mexico, died Friday at age 86.
Gavin, who was also a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, died Friday, said Brad Burton Moss, manager of Gavin’s wife, actress Constance Towers. Moss did not provide the cause of death.
After appearances in a handful of 1950s B-movies, Gavin’s breakthrough came in 1958 when he landed the lead role of a World War II German soldier in “A Time to Love and a Time to Die.”
The film was based on an Erich Maria Remarque novel, and Universal Studios, having won an Academy Award in 1930 with its adaptation of Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front,” was hoping lightning would strike again.
With a postwar audience hungering for escapism, however, it didn’t happen and neither the film nor its leading man fared well with critics.