Longest shutdown over: Trump signs bill to reopen government
WASHINGTON (AP) — Submitting to mounting pressure amid growing disruption, President Donald Trump signed a bill Friday to reopen the government for three weeks, backing down from his demand that Congress give him money for his border wall before federal agencies get back to work.
Standing alone in the Rose Garden, Trump said he would sign legislation funding shuttered agencies until Feb. 15 and try again to persuade lawmakers to finance his long-sought wall. The deal he reached with congressional leaders contains no new money for the wall but ends the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
First the Senate, then the House swiftly and unanimously approved the deal. Late Friday, Trump signed it into law. The administration asked federal department heads to reopen offices in a “prompt and orderly manner” and said furloughed employees can return to work.
Trump’s retreat came in the 35th day of the partial shutdown as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and another missed payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.
“This was in no way a concession,” Trump said in a tweet late Friday, fending off critics who wanted him to keep fighting. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
Analysis: Trump’s shutdown retreat reveals weakness
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will emerge from the longest government shutdown in U.S. history politically weakened, his reputation questioned and his signature campaign promise still glaringly unfulfilled.
The 35-day partial shutdown over the president’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border was, in the end, futile. Facing defections within his own party, sagging poll numbers and public criticism for interrupted services, the self-proclaimed master dealmaker accepted an agreement that he had previously spurned and set an ignominious record that will remain part of his legacy. Days after Trump marked the midpoint of his term, the shutdown highlighted the disquieting side effects of his unconventional governing style and the trials that lie ahead for him in dealing with emboldened Democrats.
The folly of the effort was readily apparent inside the White House, where aides had warned Trump even before the shutdown began that there was no avenue to success in the showdown with Capitol Hill. Democrats ran for office on preventing Trump from building the wall — and it’s hardly a popular idea even among Republican lawmakers. Advisers watched in shock as Trump declared in a December meeting with lawmakers that he would be “proud” to shut down the government.
And when he ultimately did just that, they feared the messaging war had already been lost.
“He was playing double-A ball against major leaguers,” said former Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who once headed the House GOP’s campaign arm. By backing himself into the shutdown with no way out, Davis said, Trump displayed a lack of discipline from the start.
As shutdown ends, workers have little faith about future
Federal workers who have gone a month without getting paid during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history expressed relief Friday that a deal had been reached to end the impasse, but are worried they’ll be in the same spot in a few weeks.
Ivan Tauler and his wife spent an exhausting three weeks calling, researching and haggling to get relief from government agencies, schools, banks and utility companies to scrape by during the shutdown that caused him to be furloughed from his cartographer job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in West Virginia.
For Tauler, the end of the shutdown was far from a cause for celebration. The deal announced Friday by President Donald Trump only reopens the government for three weeks while negotiations continue over the president’s demands for money to build his long-promised border wall.
“We won’t be spending money like we normally would,” said Melinda Tauler. “We will be more cautious about our finances than normal until we know that the government is not going to be closing every couple of weeks.”
Tauler was one of about 800,000 furloughed federal workers thrust into weeks of uncertainty and financial hardship — leading many to take out loans, apply for unemployment, do temporary jobs and launch online campaigns asking for donations.
AP Exclusive: Anti-Maduro coalition grew from secret talks
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The coalition of Latin American governments that joined the U.S. in quickly recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president came together over weeks of secret diplomacy that included whispered messages to activists under constant surveillance and a high-risk foreign trip by the opposition leader challenging President Nicolas Maduro for power, those involved in the talks said.
In mid-December, Guaido quietly travelled to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to brief officials on the opposition’s strategy of mass demonstrations to coincide with Maduro’s expected swearing-in for a second term on Jan. 10 in the face of widespread international condemnation, according to exiled former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, an ally.
To leave Venezuela, he sneaked across the lawless border with Colombia, so as not to raise suspicions among immigration officials who sometimes harass opposition figures at the airport and bar them from travelling abroad, said a different anti-government leader, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss security arrangements.
Building consensus in the fragmented anti-government coalition proved to be an uphill battle. The opposition has for years been divided by egos and strategy, as well as a government crackdown that has sent several prominent leaders into exile, making face-to-face meetings impossible. Others inside Venezuela were being heavily watched by intelligence agencies, and all were concerned about tipping off the government.
Long sessions of encrypted text messaging became the norm, the opposition leader said. A U.S. official said intermediaries were used to deliver messages to Guaido’s political mentor and opposition power broker Leopoldo Lopez, who is under house arrest after he tried and failed to lead a mass uprising against Maduro in 2014. The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.
Dam with mine waste collapses in Brazil; 7 dead, 200 missing
SAO PAULO (AP) — A dam that held back mining waste collapsed Friday in Brazil, inundating a nearby community in reddish-brown sludge, killing at least seven people and leaving scores of others missing.
Parts of the city of Brumadinho were evacuated, and firefighters rescued people by helicopter and ground vehicles. Local television channel TV Record showed a helicopter hovering inches off the ground as it pulled people covered in mud out of the waste.
Photos showed rooftops poking above an extensive field of the mud, which also cut off roads. The flow of waste reached the nearby community of Vila Ferteco and an administrative office for Brazilian mining company Vale SA, where employees were present.
“‘I’ve never seen anything like it,” Josiele Rosa Silva Tomas, president of Brumadinho resident’s association, told The Associated Press by phone. “It was horrible … the amount of mud that took over.”
Silva Tomas said she was awaiting news of her cousin, and many people she knew were trying to get news of loved ones.
APNewsBreak: Undercover agents target cybersecurity watchdog
NEW YORK (AP) — The researchers who reported that Israeli software was used to spy on Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s inner circle before his gruesome death are being targeted in turn by international undercover operatives, The Associated Press has found.
Twice in the past two months, men masquerading as socially conscious investors have lured members of the Citizen Lab internet watchdog group to meetings at luxury hotels to quiz them for hours about their work exposing Israeli surveillance and the details of their personal lives. In both cases, the researchers believe they were secretly recorded.
Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert described the stunts as “a new low.”
“We condemn these sinister, underhanded activities in the strongest possible terms,” he said in a statement Friday. “Such a deceitful attack on an academic group like the Citizen Lab is an attack on academic freedom everywhere.”
Who these operatives are working for remains a riddle, but their tactics recall those of private investigators who assume elaborate false identities to gather intelligence or compromising material on critics of powerful figures in government or business.
Roger Stone: Political trickster long in Trump’s orbit
NEW YORK (AP) — It was vintage Roger Stone: The longtime Republican operative flashed a Nixonesque double-armed victory sign after being indicted Friday for lying to federal investigators.
Stone, with his self-professed political dirty tricks and the tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back, has long lurked in the shadows of Donald Trump’s world and was instrumental in guiding him on his first steps to the White House.
Stone was only officially on the president’s campaign for a few months, but would spin reporters, peddle conspiracies and, according to prosecutors, collaborate with WikiLeaks to release damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the final stretch of the 2016 campaign. He was arrested Friday for lying to investigators and trying to tamper with a witness.
Stone has a knack for commanding attention: He sports impeccably tailored suits and close-cropped bleach blond hair and is willing to say just about anything. He has known Trump for decades, pushing him to run for president as far back as 1998 after seeing in the New York celebrity developer the potent political combination of charisma, money and controversy.
Stone on Friday denied any wrongdoing, flashing Nixon’s famous “victory” sign as he stood outside a Florida courthouse hours after he was arrested by FBI agents who moved on his house before dawn. He decried his arrest as motivated by the president’s political enemies and as an example of overreach by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating 2016 election interference and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Trump confidant Stone charged with lying about hacked emails
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s confidant Roger Stone was charged with lying about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election bid, with prosecutors alleging that senior Trump campaign officials sought to leverage the stolen material into a White House win.
The self-proclaimed dirty trickster, arrested by the FBI in a raid before dawn Friday at his Florida home, swiftly blasted the prosecution as politically motivated. In a circus-like atmosphere outside the courthouse, as supporters cheered him on and jeering spectators shouted “Lock Him Up,” Stone proclaimed his innocence and predicted his vindication.
“As I have said previously, there is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself,” Stone said.
The seven-count indictment , the first criminal case in months in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, provides the most detail to date about how Trump campaign associates in the summer of 2016 actively sought the disclosure of emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. It alleges that an unidentified senior Trump campaign official was “directed” to keep in contact with Stone about when stolen emails relating to Clinton might be disclosed.
Stone is the sixth Trump aide or adviser charged by Mueller and the 34th person overall. The nearly two-year-old probe has exposed multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign and transition period and revealed efforts by several to conceal those communications.
‘Untouchable’ charts the rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Harvey Weinstein’s name was intrinsically linked to the Sundance Film Festival for years, which makes it somewhat fitting that 14 months after his demise the festival played host the world premiere of a documentary about his rise and fall.
“I’m so happy it’s at Sundance,” said “Untouchable” director Ursula Macfarlane, whose film debuted Friday night in Park City. “It’s the perfect place for a film about Harvey.”
The film is semi-biography of the disgraced mogul, packed with interviews from people who knew him as a concert promoter in Buffalo, those who worked alongside him at Miramax and The Weinstein Company, like Zelda Perkins, his former assistant, director Mark Gill and producer Jack Lechner. It also features a handful of women who came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, including actresses Rosanna Arquette, Erika Rosenbaum, Caitlin Dulany and Paz de la Huerta.
“We knew that at the heart of it we wanted to tell some of the accusers’ stories, but we couldn’t spend the whole film telling those stories because it would probably just be too intense and too much,” Macfarlane said. “We also wanted to tell the story of Harvey and to understand what kind of human he was, and why people liked him and why he had this charm and this spell where he could draw people in. We couldn’t just say he’s a monster and he was raping people for 40 years…We wanted to understand how he got in a position where he was able to do these things.”
Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex. Friday’s premiere occurred hours after Weinstein appeared in a Manhattan courthouse to change his legal team in a rape and sexual assault case .
Dueling Venezuela leaders dig in defending presidency claims
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Venezuelan opposition leader who has declared himself interim president vowed Friday he would remain on the streets until the South American country has a transitional government, while President Nicolas Maduro dug in and accused his opponents of orchestrating a coup.
In dueling press conferences, Juan Guaido urged his followers to stage another mass protest next week, while Maduro pushed his oft-repeated call for dialogue. Each man appeared ready to defend his claim to the presidency no matter the cost, with Guaido telling supporters that if he is arrested they should “stay the course” and peacefully protest.
But the standoff could set the scene for more violence and has plunged troubled Venezuela into a new chapter of political turmoil that rights groups say has already left more than two dozen dead as thousands take to the street demanding Maduro step down.
“They can cut a flower, but they will never keep spring from coming,” Guaido told supporters Friday, alluding to a similar phrase from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
Guaido’s talk with reporters in a plaza in Caracas turned into a de facto rally as thousands gathered after hearing he would speak in public for the first time since taking a symbolic oath Wednesday proclaiming himself the nation’s rightful leader.
The Associated Press