Comey memo: Trump complained about Flynn’s ‘judgment issues’
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump told former FBI Director James Comey that he had serious concerns about the judgment of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Trump’s chief of staff asked days later if Flynn’s communications were being monitored under a secret surveillance warrant, according to memos maintained by Comey and obtained by The Associated Press.
Trump also told Comey that Russian President Vladimir Putin told him that Russia had “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world” even as he adamantly, and repeatedly, distanced himself from a salacious allegation involving prostitutes in Moscow, the documents state.
The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions with Trump that Comey found so unnerving that he documented them in writing. Those encounters in the weeks before Comey’s May 2017 firing include a Trump Tower discussion about a possible encounter between Trump and prostitutes in Moscow; a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty; and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head says the president asked him to end an investigation into Flynn.
The documents had been eagerly anticipated since their existence was first revealed last year, especially since Comey’s interactions with Trump are part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice. The memos have been turned over to Mueller.
Comey has said publicly, “I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function.”
Raul Castro retires as Cuban president, outlines future
HAVANA (AP) — Raul Castro turned over Cuba’s presidency Thursday to a 57-year-old successor he said would hold power until 2031, a plan that would place the state the Castro brothers founded and ruled for 60 years in the hands of a Communist Party official little known to most on the island.
Castro’s 90-minute valedictory speech offered his first clear vision for the nation’s future power structure under new President Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez. Castro said he foresees the white-haired electronics engineer serving two five-year terms as leader of the Cuban government, and taking the helm of the Communist Party, the country’s ultimate authority, when Castro leaves the powerful position in 2021.
“From that point on, I will be just another soldier defending this revolution,” Castro said. The 86-year-old general broke frequently from his prepared remarks to joke and banter with officials on the dais in the National Assembly, saying he looked forward to having more time to travel the country.
In his own half-hour speech to the nation, Diaz-Canel pledged to preserve Cuba’s communist system while gradually reforming the economy and making the government more responsive to the people.
“There’s no space here for a transition that ignores or destroys the legacy of so many years of struggle,” Diaz-Canel said. “For us, it’s totally clear that only the Communist Party of Cuba, the guiding force of society and the state, guarantees the unity of the nation of Cuba.”
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. AFTER STRIKES, US IN HOLDING PATTERN
The drama of U.S. and allied missiles strikes on Syria obscures the fact that the U.S.-led campaign to eliminate the Islamic State group from Syria has stalled.
2. WHY NO CHARGES ARE PLANNED IN PRINCE’S DEATH
The pop star was taking a common painkiller but instead ingested a counterfeit pill that he probably did not know contained fentanyl, a Minnesota prosecutor says. Nor is it clear where he got the drug.
Rudy Giuliani to join Trump legal team in Russia probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump since the early days of his campaign, is joining the team of lawyers representing the president in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
With the addition of Giuliani, Trump gains a former U.S. attorney, a past presidential candidate and a TV-savvy defender at a time when the White House is looking for ways to bring the president’s involvement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to a close.
The president has been weighing whether to sit for questioning by Mueller’s team, and his legal team has repeatedly met with investigators to define the scope of the questions he would face. Giuliani will enter those negotiations, filling the void left by attorney John Dowd, who resigned last month.
It’s a precarious time for Trump. His legal team has been told by Mueller that the president is not a target of the investigation, suggesting he’s not in imminent criminal jeopardy. But he is currently a subject of the probe — a designation that could change at any time.
Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow told The Associated Press that Giuliani will be focusing on the Mueller investigation — not the legal matters raised by the ongoing investigation into Trump attorney Michael Cohen. That probe is being led by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, an office that Giuliani headed in the mid- to late 1980s.
Columbine, Parkland students unite for voter registration
DENVER (AP) — A planned national high school walkout for gun control on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting Friday won’t include student protests at the Colorado school that changed the way the nation viewed shootings.
Just as it has done every year since the April 20, 1999, shooting killed 12 students and a teacher, Columbine High School will be closed, and students there will stick with their tradition of holding a day of service to commemorate the tragedy in a community that includes both those who have pushed for gun control and to arm teachers.
Junior Kaylee Tyner, who helped organize a walkout at the school on March 14, said the anniversary is a day to remember those lost in the shooting and those they left behind and politicizing it could divide the community.
“Every other day can be a day to push for change,” said Tyner, who wishes organizers of the national walkout had reached out to the Columbine community first. “But that is a day to respect victims and their families.”
In a letter to other high schools in its suburban Denver district earlier last week, current Columbine principal Scott Christy and the principal at the time of the massacre, Frank DeAngelis, suggested students join their tradition rather than participating in a walkout, noting that April “has long been a time to respectfully remember our loss.”
Reports: Wells Fargo to be fined $1B as early as Friday
NEW YORK (AP) — Federal regulators plan to fine Wells Fargo as much as $1 billion as early as Friday for abuses tied to its auto-lending and mortgage businesses, The New York Times and other news outlets reported, citing unnamed sources.
The potential $1 billion fine would be largest ever imposed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the bank’s main national regulator, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog bureau set up after the Great Recession.
The fine against Wells Fargo had been expected. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo said last week that it was negotiating with federal regulators to pay as much as $1 billion in fines to settle various charges.
A CFPB spokesman declined to comment, as well as a spokesman for the Comptroller’s Office. A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo also declined to comment.
The problems with Wells Fargo this time are not tied directly to its well-known sales-practices scandal, where the bank admitted its employees opened as many as 3.5 million bank and credit card accounts without getting customers’ authorization. But they do involve to significant parts of the bank’s businesses: auto lending and mortgages.
At trial, experts debate drug Cosby gave to his accuser
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — It’s long been one of the most enduring mysteries of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case: What drug did he give his chief accuser on the night she says he molested her?
Cosby has insisted he handed 1 1/2 tablets of the over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to Andrea Constand to help her relax before their sexual encounter at his home outside Philadelphia more than a dozen years ago. Constand testified he gave her three small blue pills that left her incapacitated and unable to resist as he molested her.
A pair of drug experts — one for the prosecution, one for the defence — testified at the TV star’s retrial Thursday that paralysis isn’t known to be a side effect of Benadryl, though its active ingredient can cause drowsiness and muscle weakness, among other side effects.
And Cosby’s expert, Harry Milman, said he doesn’t know of any small blue pill that could have produced the symptoms that Constand described.
The “Cosby Show” star has previously acknowledged under oath he gave quaaludes — a powerful sedative and 1970s-era party drug that’s been banned in the U.S. for more than 35 years — to women he wanted to have sex with, but denied having them by the time he met Constand in the early 2000s.
Southwest Airlines sought more time for engine inspections
DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines sought more time last year to inspect jet-engine fan blades like the one that snapped off during one of its flights Tuesday in an accident that left a passenger dead.
The airline opposed a recommendation by the engine manufacturer to require ultrasonic inspections of certain fan blades within 12 months. Southwest said it needed more time, and it raised concern over the number of engines it would need to inspect. Other airlines also voiced objections.
It wasn’t until after Tuesday’s accident that the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it will soon make the inspections mandatory. It is unclear how many planes will be affected by the FAA order. Airlines including Southwest say they have begun inspections anyway.
An engine on a Southwest jet exploded over Pennsylvania on Tuesday, and debris hit the plane. Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old bank executive from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was sucked partway out of the jet when a window shattered. She died later from her injuries. The Boeing 737, bound from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
Investigators said the blade that broke off mid-flight and triggered the fatal accident was showing signs of metal fatigue — microscopic cracks from repeated use.
Prosecutor: Prince thought he was taking common painkiller
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prince thought he was taking a common painkiller but instead ingested a counterfeit pill containing the dangerously powerful drug fentanyl, a Minnesota prosecutor said Thursday as he announced that no charges would be filed in the musician’s death.
Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said Prince had suffered from pain for years and was addicted to pain medication. While some of the superstar’s associates might have enabled his drug habit and tried to protect his privacy, authorities found “no direct evidence that a specific person provided the fentanyl.”
“In all likelihood, Prince had no idea that he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him,” Metz said.
The investigative materials — including documents, photos and videos — were posted online Thursday afternoon. Several videos show the pop superstar’s body on the floor of his Paisley Park estate, near an elevator. He is on his back, his head on the floor, eyes closed. His right hand is on his stomach and left arm on the floor.
Metz’s announcement came just hours after the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that a doctor who was accused of illegally prescribing an opioid for Prince agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a civil violation of a federal drug law. Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg allegedly wrote a prescription for oxycodone in the name of Prince’s bodyguard, intending for the potent painkiller to go Prince. That prescription was not linked to Prince’s death.
Some GOP officials urge charges for women who get abortions
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Anti-abortion rhetoric is intensifying ahead of midterm elections as officials in Republican-dominant states push legislation that would punish both doctors and patients, even though such laws are likely unconstitutional.
In Idaho, Republicans competing in a crowded field for governor have made it a major campaign issue ahead of the May 15 primary. One candidate promised to back a long-shot effort that would allow women to be prosecuted for getting abortions, and another offered tepid support but doubted it would survive a legal challenge.
Politicians in states from Ohio to Oklahoma are pushing similar measures or promising to criminalize abortion as they seek office. It comes despite courts temporarily blocking stringent laws passed recently in Mississippi and Kentucky.
Targeting patients for punishment is a stance that traditionally has raised eyebrows even from staunch anti-abortion groups that tend to treat women as victims, not criminals, for choosing to end a pregnancy.
However, with President Donald Trump’s administration embracing anti-abortion groups and promising to appoint federal judges who will favour efforts to roll back abortion rights, Republican state leaders have become more emboldened to support the idea without facing backlash from their conservative base.