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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Last Updated Jul 16, 2018 at 11:20 pm EDT

Trump embraces longtime US foe Putin, doubting own intel

HELSINKI (AP) — In an extraordinary embrace of a longtime U.S. enemy, President Donald Trump on Monday openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ firm finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to his benefit, seeming to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Moscow’s hands were clean.

The reaction back home was immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics. “Shameful,” ”disgraceful,” ”weak,” were a few of the comments. Makes the U.S. “look like a pushover,” said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the international stage with a man he has described as an important U.S. competitor — but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader.

His remarks, siding with a foe on foreign soil over his own government, was a stark illustration of Trump’s willingness to upend decades of U.S. foreign policy and rattle Western allies in service of his political concerns. A wary and robust stance toward Russia has been a bedrock of his party’s world view. But Trump made clear he feels that any firm acknowledgement of Russia’s involvement would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week’s federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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Wave of condemnation hits Trump after summit with Putin

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Bizarre.” ”Shameful.” ”Disgraceful.”

That’s the swift and sweeping condemnation directed at President Donald Trump on Monday after he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a stunning appearance in Helsinki — and that’s just from the Republicans.

Lawmakers in both major parties and former intelligence officials appeared shocked, dismayed and uneasy with Trump’s suggestion that he believes Putin’s denial of interfering in the 2016 elections. It was a remarkable break with U.S. intelligence officials and the Justice Department. And just as alarming for some, Trump also put the two countries on the same footing when casting blame for their strained relations.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called it “bizarre.” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called it “shameful.” And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted that it was a “bad day for the US.”

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US arrests, accuses woman of acting as Russian agent

WASHINGTON (AP) — A 29-year-old gun-rights activist served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged Monday.

The announcement of the arrest of Maria Butina came just hours after President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and just days after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officials with directing a sprawling hacking effort aimed at swaying the 2016 election.

Mueller didn’t file the charge against Butina, but court papers show her activities revolved around American politics during the 2016 campaign and included efforts to use contacts with the National Rifle Association to develop relationships with U.S. politicians and gather intelligence for Russia.

Court papers also reveal that an unnamed American who worked with Butina claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in an American political party through the NRA.

The court papers do not name the political party mentioned in the October 2016 message, but they contain details that appear to refer to the Republican Party. The documents don’t say whether the back channel was ever established.

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Russian hackers used US online infrastructure against itself

WASHINGTON (AP) — Exactly seven months before the 2016 presidential election, Russian government hackers made it onto a Democratic committee’s network.

One of their carefully crafted fraudulent emails had hit pay dirt, enticing an employee to click a link and enter her password.

That breach of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was the first significant step in gaining access to the Democratic National Committee network.

To steal politically sensitive information, prosecutors say, the hackers exploited some of the United States’ own computer infrastructure against it, using servers they leased in Arizona and Illinois. The details were included in an indictment released Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller, who accused the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, of taking part in a wide-ranging conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The companies operating the servers were not identified in the court papers.

The Russians are accused of exploiting their access to inexpensive, powerful servers worldwide — conveniently available for rental — that can be used to commit crimes with impunity. Reaching across oceans and into networks without borders can obfuscate their origins.

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Lava crashes through roof of Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

HONOLULU (AP) — An explosion caused by lava oozing into the ocean sent molten rock crashing through the roof of a sightseeing boat off Hawaii’s Big Island, injuring 23 people Monday, officials said.

They were aboard a tour boat that takes visitors to see lava plunging into the ocean from the long-erupting Kilauea volcano that has been vigorously shooting lava from a new vent in the ground for the past two months.

The U.S. Geological Survey says explosions of varying sizes happen whenever 2,000-degree (1,093-degree Celsius) lava enters much colder seawater. Some of those explosions can be so tiny they are hard to see. But when the conditions are just right, much larger explosions send molten rock and other debris high into the air, according to USGS geologist Janet Babb.

The lava punctured the boat’s roof, leaving a gaping hole, firefighters said.

A woman in her 20s was in serious condition with a broken thigh bone, the Hawaii County Fire Department said. She was transported to Honolulu for further treatment, said Hilo Medical Center spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

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Judge temporarily halts deportation of reunified families

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge on Monday ordered a temporary halt to deportations of immigrant families reunited after being separated at the border, as the Trump administration races to meet a July 26 deadline for putting more than 2,500 children back in their parents’ arms.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw imposed a delay of at least a week after a request from the American Civil Liberties Union, which cited “persistent and increasing rumours … that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification.”

Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart opposed the delay but did not address the rumours in court.

The ACLU requested that parents have at least one week to decide whether to pursue asylum in the U.S. after they are reunited with their children. The judge held off on deciding that issue until the government outlines its objections in writing by next Monday.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters that he was “extremely pleased” by the halt and that parents need time to think over with their children and advisers whether to seek asylum.

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Chicago activist demands all footage from police shooting

CHICAGO (AP) — A community activist who has pushed for more police transparency said Monday that he’s asked Chicago police for the body camera footage from all the officers at the scene where one of them fatally shot a black man over the weekend.

William Calloway said a brief video released by police showing the view from one officer’s body camera does not answer crucial questions, starting with the reasons the officers approached 37-year-old Harith Augustus on Saturday afternoon just before he was shot. Calloway also said that a police spokesman’s explanation that the Augustus was “exhibiting characteristics of an armed person” does not justify stopping someone in a city and state where it is legal to carry a concealed weapon.

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Sunday that detectives have found no documentation that Augustus had a concealed carry permit, but Calloway said there is no way officers at the scene could have known that when they approached him.

A department spokesman, Tom Ahern, said officers have the right to pat a person down on the street if they are concerned about their own safety.

“If they feel someone is acting suspiciously or they see a bulge under their shirt, if the person is evasive or refuses to answer questions, they can do a protective pat down,” he said, adding that the officer must be able to “articulate why they have a reasonable suspicion” that a person could pose a threat.

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US open to direct talks with Taliban, officials say

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is open to holding direct talks with the Taliban to encourage negotiations between the militant group and the Afghan government to end 17 years of war, U.S. officials said Monday.

That marks a tactical shift by the Trump administration, which has previously only appeared willing to participate in discussions with the Taliban if those talks also involve the Afghan government. The U.S. officials said that Afghan-to-Afghan negotiation remains the goal of any engagement with the militants.

The officials were not authorized to speak to media and requested anonymity.

The Taliban have long refused direct talks with the Afghan government, demanding instead to negotiate with Washington. The militants have persisted in that stance despite Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s unilateral extension of a holiday cease-fire last month in hopes of encouraging the militants to come to the bargaining table. With the Taliban continuing to mount deadly attacks, Ghani ordered government forces to resume military operations this month.

The unprecedented, three-day cease-fire by both sides had offered a rare glimpse of peace for Afghans during which militants fraternized with security force members.

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Fire turns Yosemite National Park smoky, hurts businesses

MARIPOSA, Calif. (AP) — A deadly wildfire near Yosemite National Park shrouded the popular destination in smoke and left some tourist-dependent businesses hurting Monday, but visitors still braved trails, campgrounds, lodges and restaurants in the California park, officials said.

Amenities were open and visitors posted photos on social media as they hiked in smoky conditions, but the growing flames shut down a key route into the park at the peak of tourist season. A stretch of State Route 140 has been closed since the weekend, and drivers have been urged to find alternate ways into the park.

“All the campgrounds and the hotels are open — the shuttles are running,” Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said. “We have limited visibility, but aside from that, the park is open and fully operational.”

Time-lapse video by the Yosemite Conservancy, a group that supports the park, shows billowing smoke enveloping and completely obscuring Half Dome, an iconic rock formation. Park webcams showed other landmarks, such the El Capitan rock formation, concealed by thick plumes of smoke.

Businesses along the highway in Mariposa, a town popular with park visitors, have taken a hit, though the flames haven’t reached them.

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Hometown hero Harper wins thrilling HR Derby over Schwarber

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bryce Harper thrilled the home crowd and surely made his father proud, winning the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night with an exceptional display of power that carried him past Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.

Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the 4 minutes of regulation. After he connected with the game winner, the Washington Nationals slugger threw his bat in the air and pointed both index fingers toward the sky as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.

The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. Harper responded with a performance that drew the loudest cheers of the night at Nationals Park.

It’s been a trying season for Harper, who’s hitting only .214 for the disappointing Nationals. He won a contest that many sluggers avoid, fearful it might wear them out and throw them off.

Harper can only hope this helps him get back into the swing.