Washington, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump and Chief Justice John Roberts are clashing over the independence of America's judiciary, with Roberts bluntly rebuking the president for denouncing a judge who rejected his migrant asylum policy as an "Obama judge."
Roberts has issued a strongly worded statement says there's no such thing. Trump is defending his own comment, tweeting defiantly, "Sorry Justice Roberts."
The pre-Thanksgiving dustup is the first time Roberts, the Republican-appointed leader of the federal judiciary, has offered even a hint of criticism of Trump, who has several times blasted federal judges who have ruled against him.
Before now, it has been highly unusual for a president to single out judges for personal criticism. And a chief justice's challenge to a president's comments is downright unprecedented.
President Donald Trump and Chief Justice John Roberts are engaged in an extraordinary public back-and-forth over Trump's description of a judge who ruled against his administration as an "Obama judge."
Trump tweeted Wednesday: "Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have 'Obama judges,' and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country."
Roberts, in a statement to The Associated Press earlier Wednesday, had pushed back against Trump's description, saying the country doesn't have "Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges." Roberts said an "independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."
Trump says it would "be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an 'independent judiciary,'" but says their rulings are "Very dangerous and unwise!"
Chief Justice John Roberts is pushing back against President Donald Trump for his description of a judge who ruled against Trump's migrant asylum policy as an "Obama judge."
It's the first time the Republican-appointed leader of the federal judiciary has offered even a hint of criticism of Trump, who has previously blasted federal judges who ruled against him.
Roberts said Wednesday the U.S. doesn't have "Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges." He commented in a statement released by the Supreme Court after a query by The Associated Press.
Roberts said on the day before Thanksgiving that an "independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."
Washington, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — The date had been picked, the location too, and the plan was penciled in: President Donald Trump would be whisked from the White House to Camp David on a quiet winter Saturday to answer questions from special counsel Robert Mueller's team.
But as the Jan. 27, 2018, date neared and Mueller provided the topics he wanted to discuss, Trump's lawyers balked. Attorney John Dowd then fired off a searing letter disputing Mueller's authority to question the president. The interview was off.
Nearly a year later, Trump has still not spoken directly to Mueller's team — and may never. Through private letters, tense meetings and considerable public posturing, the president's lawyers have engaged in a tangled, tortured back-and-forth with the special counsel to prevent the president from sitting down for a face-to-face with enormous political and legal consequences.
The prolonged negotiation speaks to the high stakes for Trump, Mueller's investigation of his campaign and the presidency. Any questioning of a president in a criminal investigation tests the limit of executive authority. Putting this president on the record also tests his ability to stick to the facts and risks a constitutional showdown.
The process took a significant step forward this week when Trump's lawyers handed over the president's written answers to some of Mueller's questions. The arrangement was a hard-fought compromise. Trump answered only questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election and not questions about whether he has tried to obstruct the special counsel's investigation. It's unclear whether Mueller intends to push for more — either in writing or in person.
Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined comment.
Even those written answers were months in the making.
In the months following Mueller's May 2017 appointment, the White House pledged its cooperation, believing it the fastest way to end the investigation. The administration produced thousands of documents demanded by the special counsel and made close Trump aides — including his legal counsel, chief of staff and press secretary — available for questioning. White House lawyer Ty Cobb predicted the investigation could conclude by the end of that year.
But it soon became clear that Mueller would want to interview Trump, given his involvement in several events under scrutiny. The president had fired FBI Director James Comey, harangued his attorney general over his recusal from the Russia investigation and dictated a misleading statement about a Trump Tower meeting involving his son and a Kremlin-connected lawyer.
But Trump lawyers Dowd and Jay Sekulow moved cautiously.
The last time a president is known to have been interviewed in a criminal investigation was nearly 15 years ago, and a commander-in-chief has not been subpoenaed before a grand jury since 1998, when President Bill Clinton was summoned in the Whitewater case. Trump's lawyers were mindful such an interview would be a minefield for a president who often misstates the facts. They set out to avoid it however possible, even if it could lead to resisting a subpoena and bringing on a court fight over presidential power.
But first they tried to head off a request. Trump's lawyers staked out a bold constitutional argument, declaring they considered his actions as president outside a prosecutor's bounds. Mueller had no right to question the president on any of his decisions made at the White House, they argued, saying any outside scrutiny of those choices would curb a president's executive powers.
At the same time, they worked to undermine Mueller's case should he choose to challenge that argument. They furnished a trove of White House documents about key moments in the investigation in hopes of undercutting any claim that he could only get the information he needed by questioning Trump, according to people familiar with the strategy.
Trump had other plans.
As his lawyers plotted to dig in against any interview, he pushed for one, believing it would exonerate him. In January, he burst into a reporters' briefing with chief of staff John Kelly and insisted he was eager to speak to Mueller. He might do so in weeks, he said, "subject to my lawyers and all of that."
"I would love to do that — I'd like to do it as soon as possible," Trump said.
What he didn't mention was that his attorneys had already discussed, and scuttled, the planned interview with Mueller. That process had even progressed to discussing logistics with Kelly, who advised of ways White House officials could get people in and out of the building without the press knowing.
But the interest cooled after Mueller team prosecutor Jim Quarles dictated over the phone 16 topics Mueller wanted to cover, including Trump's interactions with Comey, his knowledge of national security adviser Michael Flynn's interview with the FBI and his involvement in the Trump Tower statement.
Dowd responded that the answers could all be found in documents and witness statements provided to Mueller, according to a person familiar with the exchange. He then canceled the interview and days later drafted a feisty letter contesting the interview's appropriateness and offering extensive explanations on the incidents in question.
The investigation has been "a considerable burden for the president and his office, has endangered the safety and security of our country, and has interfered with the president's ability to both govern domestically and conduct foreign affairs," Dowd wrote.
In the following months, Trump told some of his closest confidants that he still wanted to interview with Mueller, according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who asked for anonymity because they were not permitted to publicly discuss private conversations. The president repeatedly insisted he had done nothing wrong and believed he could convince Mueller of that.
He told one confidant last spring he was frustrated his lawyers didn't believe he should do it and snapped that he didn't understand what was taking so long, according to one Republican in contact with the White House.
Tensions were on display at a March meeting where Dowd and Sekulow met with Mueller to discuss the need for an interview. Mueller said he needed to know if Trump had a "corrupt intent" when he fired Comey, such as by intending to stymie the investigation, according to a person familiar with the encounter. Dowd responded that the question was ridiculous and the answer was obviously no. Investigators at the same meeting raised the prospect of a subpoena if Trump didn't cooperate, Dowd has said.
Later that month, Mueller's team produced its most detailed list of questions yet — dozens, broken into different categories from Trump's time as a candidate, through the transition period and into his presidency.
Trump's own views soon began to shift. He had his first misgivings in mid-April after FBI raids on his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, believing they were a sign that he could "not trust" Mueller, according to one of the Republicans close to Trump who spoke with the AP.
As Rudy Giuliani joined Trump's legal team in April, the White House settled into a new strategy: Drag out the interview drama for months, and use that time to ratchet up attacks on Mueller's credibility and complaints about the cost and time of the probe, according to the officials and advisers familiar with the strategy.
Giuliani led the charge. His scattershot arguments sometimes frustrated others in the White House, as he frequently moved the goalposts as to what would be required to have an interview. But the effect was to ensure the process would drag out longer.
Trump, meanwhile, continued complaining about the investigation even as his lawyers quietly negotiated acceptable interview terms.
A key breakthrough occurred earlier this fall when Mueller's team said it would accept written answers on Russian election interference and collusion. The concession ensured that Mueller would get at least some on-the-record response from Trump. Prosecutors tabled questions about obstruction, reserving the right to return to that area later.
Giuliani seemed to foreclose future dialogue Tuesday, saying, "It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion."
Whether Mueller agrees is a different story.
Chico, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — Amy Sheppard packs her belongings into a plastic garbage bag as rain drips around her, readying to move on from a field by a Walmart where thousands of evacuees had taken refuge from a deadly Northern California wildfire.
Sheppard, 38, her sister and niece, who is 1, are looking to move into a dry hotel after camping in the field for four days. They lost their home in Magalia and the jewelry-maker tears up as she thinks about what's next.
"This rain is making it so hard," she said.
Rain falling Wednesday in some areas of Northern California could help crews fighting a deadly wildfire. But it could also raise the risk of flash floods, complicate efforts to recover remains and make life even more difficult for people like Sheppard who have nowhere to go.
Heavier rain is expected later in the day in the Paradise burn area, which is about 140 miles (225 kilometers) north of San Francisco, where the Camp Fire has killed at least 83 people, including two victims who were found Wednesday in burned homes. The blaze also destroyed more than 13,000 homes.
"The rain is really a double-edged sword for this fire," said Rick Carhart, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He said searchers have "been able to sift through this really fine ash and when rain gets onto that really fine ash, it turns it into sort of a muddy muck and makes it a lot more difficult."
Farther south, residents of communities charred by a Los Angeles-area fire stacked sandbags as they prepared for possible downpours that threaten to unleash runoff from hillsides left barren by flames.
Residents were mindful of a disaster that struck less than a year ago when a downpour on a fresh burn scar sent home-smashing debris flows through Montecito, killing 21 people and leaving two missing.
The 151-square-mile (391-square-kilometer) Woolsey Fire in the Los Angeles area was almost entirely contained after three people were killed and more than 1,600 structures destroyed.
In Northern California, the wildfire that started two weeks ago has torched an area in Butte County about the size of Chicago — nearly 240 square miles (622 square kilometers) — and was 80 percent contained.
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise visit to weary firefighters on Wednesday, providing encouragement and helping serve breakfast.
"I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all the work that you do," he told firefighters during a brief speech.
The 71-year-old actor also slammed President Donald Trump for blaming the wildfire on poor forest management. He told firefighters, "you are tough to not only fight the fires, but you are tough to listen to all this crap."
Officials said 563 people were still unaccounted for.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Paradise and nearby communities and for those areas charred by wildfires earlier this year in Lake, Shasta, Trinity and Mendocino counties.
New York, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — Michelle Obama's "Becoming" has become a massive hit.
Crown Publishing told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the former first lady's memoir has sold more than 1.4 million copies in print and digital formats in the U.S. and Canada in the seven days since it was released Nov. 13.
Based on demand from retailers across all channels, the publisher has printed 3 million hardcover copies in North America. On its first day, the book sold more than 725,000 copies, making it one of the year's biggest debuts.
Crown also said that "Becoming" is currently the No. 1 adult nonfiction title in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Holland, Spain, Denmark and Finland. In Germany, some 200,000 copies have been sold, prompting a second printing of 100,000 copies.
In the United Kingdom, "Becoming" is published by Viking and it has had five press runs with a total of 575,000 copies in print. In Holland, the Dutch-language edition is the best-selling book in the Netherlands, with the English-language edition ranked second.
"Becoming" is well exceeding the pace of previous memoirs by first ladies. In 2003, Hillary Clinton's "Living History" had first week sales of around 600,000 copies.
Reviews of the book, which traces Obama's journey from Chicago's South Side to the White House, have been positive, with The Washington Post praising its "impressive balance in telling the truth of her challenges while repeatedly acknowledging her lucky life."
Los Angeles, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — Ray Chavez, the oldest U.S. military survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II, died Wednesday. He was 106.
Chavez, who had been battling pneumonia, died in his sleep in the San Diego suburb of Poway, his daughter, Kathleen Chavez, told The Associated Press.
As recently as last May he had traveled to Washington, D.C., where he was honored on Memorial Day by President Donald Trump. The White House Tweeted a statement Wednesday saying it was saddened to hear of his passing.
"We were honored to host him at the White House earlier this year," the statement said. "Thank you for your service to our great nation, Ray!"
Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the National Park Service at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, confirmed Wednesday that Chavez was the oldest survivor of the attack that killed 2,335 U.S. military personnel and 68 civilians.
"I still feel a loss," Chavez said during 2016 ceremonies marking the attack's 75th anniversary. "We were all together. We were friends and brothers. I feel close to all of them."
Hours before the attack, he was aboard the minesweeper USS Condor as it patrolled the harbor's east entrance when he and others saw the periscope of a Japanese submarine. They notified a destroyer that sunk it shortly before Japanese bombers arrived to strafe the harbor.
By then Chavez, who had worked through the early morning hours, had gone to his nearby home to sleep, ordering his wife not to wake him because he had been up all night.
"It seemed like I only slept about 10 minutes when she called me and said, 'We're being attacked,' " he recalled in 2016. "And I said, 'Who is going to attack us?' "
"She said, 'The Japanese are here, and they're attacking everything.' "
He ran back to the harbor to find it in flames.
Chavez would spend the next week there, working around the clock sifting through the destruction that had crippled the U.S. Navy's Pacific fleet.
Later he was assigned to the transport ship USS La Salle, ferrying troops, tanks and other equipment to war-torn islands across the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.
Although never wounded, he left the military in 1945 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that left him anxious and shaking.
Returning to San Diego, where he had grown up, he took a job as a landscaper and groundskeeper, attributing the outdoors, a healthy diet and a strict workout program that he continued into his early 100s with restoring his health.
"He loved trees and he dearly loved plants and he knew everything about a plant or tree that you could possibly want to know," his daughter said Wednesday with a chuckle. "And he finally retired when he was 95."
Still, he would not talk about Pearl Harbor for decades. Then, on a last-minute whim, he decided to return to Hawaii in 1991 for ceremonies marking the attack's 50th anniversary.
"Then we did the 55th, the 60th, the 65th and the 70th, and from then on we went to every one," his daughter recalled, adding that until Chavez's health began to fail he had planned to attend this year's gathering next month.
Born March 12, 1912, in San Bernardino, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, Chavez moved to San Diego as a child, where his family ran a wholesale flower business. He joined the Navy in 1938.
In his later years, as he became well known as the attack's oldest military survivor, he'd be approached at memorial services and other events and asked for his autograph or to pose for pictures. He always maintained that those events were not about him, however, but about those who gave their lives.
"He'd just shrug his shoulders and shake his head and say, 'I was just doing my job,' " said his daughter. "He was just a very nice, quiet man. He never hollered about anything, and he was always pleasant to everybody."
Chavez was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. His daughter is his only survivor.
Funeral services are pending.