WH claiming sweeping ‘executive privilege’ in Russia probes
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s White House is relying on a sweeping interpretation of executive privilege that is rankling members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as current and former advisers parade to Capitol Hill for questioning about possible connections with Russia.
The White House’s contention: Pretty much everything is off limits until the president says it’s not.
The argument was laid bare this week during former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s interview with the House Intelligence Committee. As lawmakers in the closed-door session probed Bannon’s time working for Trump, his attorney got on the phone with the White House counsel’s office, relaying questions and asking what Bannon could tell Congress, according to a White House official and a second person familiar with the interview.
The answer was a broad one. Bannon couldn’t discuss anything to do with his work on the presidential transition or later in the White House itself.
The development brought to the forefront questions about White House efforts to control what current and former aides may or may not tell Congress about their time in Trump’s inner circle, and whether Republicans who hold majorities on Capitol Hill will force the issue. It was also the broadest example yet of the White House using executive privilege to limit a witness’ testimony without making a formal invocation of that presidential power.
White House official: Trump immigration views have evolved
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s views on immigration and building a wall along the Mexico border have evolved since his presidential campaign, the White House chief of staff said Wednesday.
Those changes are giving some people hope that a compromise with Congress on the thorny issue is possible. But they are perplexing others — even as the clock ticks down to a showdown.
John Kelly made the comments Wednesday at a closed-door meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, participants say, and made similar remarks later on Fox News Channel. They came amid a shaky effort to craft an accord protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation — a push the White House and Republicans say they would back if it’s coupled with tough border security measures and other restrictions.
Kelly said on Fox that he told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that “they all say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.”
He said Trump has “very definitely changed his attitude” toward protecting the young immigrants, “and even the wall, once we briefed him.”
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
1. STEVE BANNON WAS CUED TO KEEP MUM
During an interview by a House panel, the attorney for the ex-White House strategist relayed questions, in real time, to the White House and was told when not to respond, the AP learns.
2. HOW RIVAL KOREAS ARE Co-operatING
North and South Korea agree to form their first unified Olympic team and have their athletes parade together for the first time in 11 years during the opening ceremony of next month’s Winter Games in South Korea.
13 siblings held captive were likely coerced to remain quiet
LOS ANGELES (AP) — When a 17-year-old girl jumped out a window from the house where her parents allegedly starved and tortured their 13 children, she broke a silence that had likely lasted years.
It’s not clear why the teenager waited so long to act, but psychiatrists say such behaviour is not uncommon even in cases of extreme deprivation.
Most people would recognize milder forms of the same inaction that is a coping mechanism, whether it’s failing to speak out against off-colour jokes, enduring sexual harassment or staying in an awful marriage, said Dr. Bruce Perry.
“This happens all the time. The number of individuals who would immediately respond to an opportunity where they could get away is very small compared to the number of people who would have that paralysis and insecurity and confusion about what to do,” said Perry, a psychiatrist who is a senior fellow at the ChildTrauma Academy in Houston.
The vulnerable girl might have been shamed, beaten or threatened with violence and only after many missed opportunities did she probably work up the courage to act, Perry said.
‘Very strong’ Democratic sentiment to oppose GOP budget bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said Wednesday there’s “very, very strong” sentiment among Democrats in the chamber to oppose GOP-drafted legislation to keep the government’s doors open, comments that could indicate the chances are increasing that the government could shut down at midnight Friday night.
Democrats’ votes are needed to advance the stopgap measure through the Senate, but they have been rebuffed in their demands to add protections against deportation for younger immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.
“The overwhelming number in our caucus have said they don’t like this deal and they believe if we kick the can down the road this time we’ll be back where we started from next time,” Schumer said. “So there’s very, very strong support not to go along with their deal.”
Talks among a bipartisan group of leaders of both the House and Senate convened Wednesday, but participants reported little progress.
“Good will but no progress,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a negotiator but one whose loyalties lie chiefly with separate compromise legislation on the so-called “Dreamer” immigrants that he’s co-authored with Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., some of the Senate’s most dovish Republicans on immigration.
Lawmakers ask if states or feds should alert about missiles
HONOLULU (AP) — Nearly 40 terrifying minutes passed between the time Hawaii officials fired off a bogus alert about an incoming missile over the weekend and the moment the notice was cancelled.
The state was slow to contain the situation, waiting 23 minutes to call officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get unnecessary approval to send a retraction. That call lasted for about one minute, a state emergency official said Wednesday, but residents and visitors still didn’t receive the corrected alert until about 14 minutes later.
The confusion — and panic — have raised questions about whether any state should be solely responsible for notifying the public of such an event — especially as Washington and North Korea trade insults and threats.
Hawaii is the only state in the nation with a pre-programmed alert that can be quickly sent to wireless devices if a ballistic missile is heading toward the U.S. FEMA said Hawaii did not require its approval to cancel the alert on Saturday.
U.S. Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard, both of Hawaii, have asked the House Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing on the issue.
At least 10 deaths from snow, ice and record cold in South
ATLANTA (AP) — Snow, ice and a record-breaking blast of cold closed runways, highways, schools and government offices across the South and sent cars sliding off roads Wednesday in a corner of the country ill-equipped to deal with wintry weather. At least 10 people died, including a baby in a car that plunged off a slippery overpass into a Louisiana canal.
Icicles hung from a statue of jazz musicians in normally balmy New Orleans, and drivers unaccustomed to ice spun their wheels across Atlanta, which was brought to a near-standstill by little more than an inch (2.5 centimetres) of snow. The beach in Biloxi, Mississippi, got a light coating. And the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill cancelled classes as the storm unloaded at least 8 inches (20 centimetres) of snow in Durham and Greensboro.
Even the best drivers had trouble: Retired NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted that he had just used his winch to help pull a car out of a ditch when he drove off the road and into a tree in North Carolina.
“NC stay off the roads today/tonight. 5 minutes after helping these folks I centre punched a pine tree,” he reported. A spokesman said Earnhardt was not hurt and his pickup had only minor damage.
Though skies were sunny and bright in many places, temperatures remained below freezing throughout the day in much of the South.
Pope has tough words for indigenous, Chile during Mass
TEMUCO, Chile (AP) — Pope Francis took the Chilean state and the country’s largest indigenous group to task Wednesday over their failure to forge a truly unified nation, saying the government must do more than just negotiate “elegant” agreements and radical Mapuche factions must stop violence.
Francis’ pointed homily in the heart of Chile’s restive Araucania region came hours after two more churches and three helicopters were torched — attacks blamed on Mapuche radical groups demanding the return of ancestral lands and the release of Mapuche prisoners. No arrests have been made.
The outdoor Mass at the Maquehue Air Base was steeped in symbolism because of its own history: The land was taken from the Mapuche in the early 20th century and the location was also used as a detention and torture facility in the early years of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship.
Leading some 150,000 people in a moment of silent prayer, Francis said the fertile green fields and snow-capped mountains of the Mapuche heartland in Chile’s southern Araucania region were both blessed by God and cursed by man, the site of “grave human rights violations” during the 1973-1990 dictatorship.
“We offer this Mass for all those who suffered and died, and for those who daily bear the burden of those many injustices,” he said.
Apple banks on tax break to build 2nd campus, hire 20,000
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple is planning to build a new corporate campus and hire 20,000 U.S. workers in an expansion driven in part by a tax cut that will enable the iPhone maker to bring an estimated $245 billion back to its home country.
The pledge announced Wednesday comes less than a month after Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code championed by President Donald Trump that will increase corporate profits.
Besides dramatically lowering the standard corporate tax rate, the reforms offer a one-time break on cash held overseas.
Apple plans to take advantage of that provision to bring back most of its roughly $252 billion in offshore cash, generating a tax bill of about $38 billion. That anticipated tax bill implies Apple intends to bring back about $245 billion of its overseas cash, based on the temporary tax rate of 15.5 per cent on foreign profits.
Apple has earmarked about $75 billion of the money currently overseas to finance $350 billion in spending during the next five years. The spree will include the new campus, new data centres and other investments.
Turning up the heat: Sharapova into 3rd round, Konta out
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Maria Sharapova ticked off more items on her “to-do” list at the Australian Open, returning to centre court and accounting for the only person who has beaten her at a Grand Slam since her comeback from a doping ban.
Sharapova advanced to the third round with a 6-1, 7-6 (4) win over No. 14-seeded Anastasija Sevastova as the temperature began to rise at Melbourne Park.
“It’s a warm day. I did my job in two sets against someone that’s been troubling in the past for me,” Sharapova said. “So third round of the Australian Open, I don’t know, I think I deserve to smile out there after that victory.”
With a forecast high of 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), Sharapova appeared to be in a hurry to get off the Rod Laver Arena court ASAP and won the first set in 23 minutes.
The five-time major winner was broken while serving for the match, but recovered quickly in the subsequent tiebreaker to advance in the tournament.