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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Dems say oust Trump or he’ll betray again; ‘He is who he is’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Closing out their case, House Democrats warned Friday in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that the president will persist in abusing his power and endangering American democracy unless Congress intervenes to remove him before the 2020 election.

They then implored Republican senators to allow new testimony before rendering a final verdict.

“Give America a fair trial,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democratic impeachment manager. “She’s worth it.”

Schiff delivered Democrats’ final remarks in the Senate trial after three days of methodical and impassioned arguments detailing charges that Trump abused power by asking Ukraine for politically motivated probes of political rivals, then obstructed Congress’ investigation into the matter. The president’s lawyers get their first chance to defend him Saturday, and are expected to argue he acted appropriately.

The opening arguments appear to have done nothing to shake Republicans’ support for Trump or persuade enough centrist GOP lawmakers to call for new witnesses, including Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton. In his final appeal to lawmakers and a divided nation, Schiff argued that a guilty verdict in the Senate is the only remedy left to curb what he called the “’imminent threat” posed to the nation by Trump’s unconstitutional impulses.

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GOP shows little desire for witnesses ahead of critical vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans in the Senate appear unmoved by the Democratic push for witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial despite persistent appeals from Rep. Adam Schiff and the other House prosecutors.

Over three days of arguments, Democrats warned that the senators will live to regret not delving deeper into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. One of the managers, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, even told them it was “treacherous” to vote against gathering more evidence.

Yet there’s no indication the Democrats are moving closer to persuading four Republicans to break with their party in a critical vote expected next week — the minimum needed to reach a majority for subpoenas and extend a trial that seems on track for Trump’s acquittal.

“As someone who has enjoyed really fairly strong working relationships with a lot of my colleagues, I’ve been struck by how little outreach and conversation there has been” about calling witnesses, said Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who has often been at the centre of bipartisan negotiations.

“I understand that we are in a very partisan and divided environment, but I’m hoping that some conversations will begin. But so far there have been strikingly few.”

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Trial highlights: Dems cry coverup, Trump hails activists

WASHINGTON (AP) — From the floor of the Senate, Democratic impeachment prosecutors said Friday that President Donald Trump tried to cover up his actions with Ukraine, another reason to remove him from office.

A few blocks away, Trump told anti-abortion activists on the National Mall that he proudly stands with them. “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” Trump said as he became the first sitting president to speak at the annual March for Life.

Highlights of Friday’s session and what’s ahead as senators conduct just the third impeachment trial of a president:

UNPRECEDENTED STONEWALLING

Trump, who calls impeachment a hoax and a witch hunt, has refused to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House probe, an unprecedented stonewalling that Democrats said was worse than former President Richard Nixon and merits Trump’s removal from power.

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Outbreak casts pall over China new year as deaths surpass 40

BEIJING (AP) — China’s most festive holiday began in the shadow of a worrying new virus Saturday as the death toll surpassed 40, an unprecedented lockdown kept 36 million people from travelling and authorities cancelled a host of Lunar New Year events.

The National Health Commission reported a jump in the number of people infected with the virus to 1,287 with 41 deaths. The latest tally comes from 29 provinces across China, including 237 patients in serious condition. All 41 deaths have been in China, including 39 in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, one in Hebei and one in Heilongjiang.

Meanwhile, Australia announced its first case Saturday, a Chinese man in his 50s who last week returned from China. Malaysia said three people, relatives of a father and son from Wuhan who were earlier diagnosed with the virus in neighbouring Singapore, tested positive on Saturday.

France said that three people had fallen ill with the virus — the disease’s first appearance in Europe. And the United States reported its second case, involving a Chicago woman in her 60s who was hospitalized in isolation after returning from China.

On Wall Street, stocks slumped amid fears over the widening crisis, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 170 points and the S&P 500 posting its worst day in three months. Health care companies suffered losses, along with financial institutions, airlines and other tourism and travel industry businesses.

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AP Exclusive: Feds plan to move Epstein warden to prison job

WASHINGTON (AP) — The warden in charge when Jeffrey Epstein ended his life in his jail cell is being moved to a leadership position at another federal correctional facility, putting him back in the field with inmates despite an ongoing investigation into the financier’s death, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The federal Bureau of Prisons is planning to move Lamine N’Diaye to the role at FCI Fort Dix, a low-security prison in Burlington County, New Jersey, the people said. The move comes months after Attorney General William Barr ordered N’Diaye be reassigned to a desk post at the Bureau of Prisons’ regional office in Pennsylvania after Epstein’s death as the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigated.

One of the people said the agency planned to move N’Diaye into the new role on Feb. 2. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal personnel matter.

It was unclear why the agency was planning to return N’Diaye to a position supervising inmates and staff members, even though multiple investigations into Epstein’s death remain active. The inspector general’s investigation is continuing, and the Justice Department is still probing the circumstances that led to Epstein’s death, including why he wasn’t given a cellmate.

Epstein took his own life in August while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.

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Use of ‘rescues’ by Mexican migration officials criticized

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The headline on a statement from Mexico’s National Immigration Institute read: “INM rescues 800 Central American migrants who entered (Mexico) today irregularly.”

For many people who watched the moments when hundreds of Mexican national guardsmen with helmets and riot shields confronted hundreds of migrants who had been resting in the shade after walking all morning, “rescues” didn’t seem to be the right word.

Defenders of migrants’ rights say rescues typically don’t involve spraying those being rescued with pepper spray. Those requiring rescue usually don’t run away from their rescuers.

But such euphemisms have become the language of immigration policy and not just in Mexico. The same terminology has been employed in Europe for immigrants crossing the Mediterranean, though sometimes those migrants are in unseaworthy vessels in need of assistance.

The same statement Thursday from Mexico’s immigration agency said the migrants were taken to “migration shelters,” which is a step beyond the agency’s previous language calling its detention centres “immigration stations.”

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House is given tape of Trump calling for ambassador’s ouster

NEW YORK (AP) — An associate of Rudy Giuliani has provided congressional investigators with a recording of President Donald Trump saying he wanted to get rid of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, whose ouster emerged as an issue in the president’s impeachment, his attorney told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, attended a small dinner with Trump at his Washington hotel in April 2018. Joseph Bondy, Parnas’ lawyer, said he turned over to the House Intelligence Committee a recording from the dinner in which Trump demands the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

The recording, which was first reported by ABC News, appears to contradict the president’s statements that he did not know Parnas, a key figure in the investigation. It came to light as Democrats continue to press for witnesses and other evidence to be considered during the Senate impeachment trial.

ABC News released a portion of the recording online late Friday. A voice that appears to be Parnas can be heard saying, “The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we got to get rid of the ambassador.” He later can be heard telling Trump, “She’s basically walking around telling everybody: ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached. Just wait.'”

A speaker who appears to be Trump then responds: “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s false assurance about troops in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — At first, President Donald Trump stated inaccurately that no U.S. troops were injured in the Iranian missile attack against them in Iraq. Then he prematurely minimized those injuries as doctors tried to determine how severe they were.

On Friday, the Pentagon said that in fact, 34 troops suffered traumatic brain injuries in the attack and half remain under medical observation in Germany or back in the U.S. more than two weeks later.

TRUMP, Jan. 8: “Good morning. I’m pleased to inform you: The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.” — statement delivered the morning after the Iranian missile attack on bases hosting U.S. troops in Iraq.

TRUMP, Jan. 9, as if in dialogue with an aide after the Iranian attack: “I said how many? How many died? How many were wounded? Sir, none. None. Pretty good warning system. None. How many were hurt? None, sir. So we didn’t do anything.” — Toledo, Ohio, rally, a day before the first wounded troops were evacuated from Iraq.

TRUMP, Wednesday: “I heard they had headaches and a couple of other things … and I can report it is not very serious. … No, I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen. … No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries, no.” — press conference in Davos, Switzerland.

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Trump touts logo for new Space Force, with nod to Star Trek

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon’s new U.S. Space Force is not Star Trek’s Starfleet Command, but their logos bear a striking similarity.

President Donald Trump unveiled the Space Force logo Friday, writing on Twitter that he had consulted with military leaders and designers before presenting the blue-and-white symbol, which features an arrowhead shape centred on a planetary background and encircled by the words, “United States Space Force” and “Department of the Air Force.”

The logo, which bears the date 2019 in Roman numerals, also is similar in design to that of Air Force Space Command, from which Space Force was created by legislation that Trump signed in last month.

Space Force explained the logo in a statement late Friday: “The delta symbol, the central design element in the seal, was first used as early as 1942 by the U.S. Army Air Forces; and was used in early Air Force space organization emblems dating back to 1961. Since then, the delta symbol has been a prominent feature in military space community emblems.”

Space Force is the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947. It is meant mainly to improve protection of U.S. satellites and other space assets, rather than to put warriors in orbit to conduct combat in outer space. The idea became a regular applause line for Trump at his political rallies. He originally wanted a Space Force that was “separate but equal” to the Army, Navy and Air Force, but instead Congress made it part of the Department of the Air Force.

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Doubts loom over nominating process for Grammy Awards

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Questions have loomed for years around the nominations process for the Grammy Awards. But the doubts reached a new level this week after the Recording Academy’s just-ousted CEO claimed the show is rigged and full of conflicts of interest.

The academy, which puts on the 62nd Grammys on Sunday, says nominees are selected from contenders who are voted into the top 20 in each category. But some people view the voting process as less than transparent because the choice of finalists happens behind closed doors. That has stirred claims that members of key nominating committees promote projects they worked on or projects they favour based on personal relationships.

People have become more conscious of the idea that Grammys might be won “through all these nefarious, back-channel kinds of ways,” said Robert Thompson, a trustee professor of television and popular culture at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Deborah Dugan was fired only months into her job as head of the Recording Academy and recently filed an explosive complaint alleging that she was sexually harassed and that the music organization was a “boys club” that favours friends. The academy, which has accused Dugan of misconduct, said it launched an investigation.

At the 2018 Grammys, when Rapsody earned nominations for best rap album and best rap song, her producer, 9th Wonder, sat on the rap committee, and some argued that she would not have earned nominations without 9th Wonder’s influence. Q-Tip even publicly called out 9th Wonder that year since A Tribe Called Quest’s album did not earn any nominations.

The Associated Press

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