Washington, Apr 18 (AP/UNB) — After nearly two years of waiting, America will get some answers straight from Robert Mueller— but not before President Donald Trump's attorney general has his say.
The Justice Department on Thursday is expected to release a redacted version of the special counsel's report on Russian election interference and Trump's campaign, opening up months, if not years, of fights over what the document means in a deeply divided country.
Even the planned release of the nearly 400-page report quickly spiraled into a political battle Wednesday over whether Attorney General William Barr is attempting to shield the president who appointed him and spin the report's findings before the American people can read it and come to their own judgments.
Barr will hold a 9:30 a.m. news conference to present his interpretation of the report's findings, before providing redacted copies to Congress and the public. The news conference, first announced by Trump during a radio interview, provoked immediate criticism from congressional Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had "thrown out his credibility & the DOJ's independence with his single-minded effort to protect" Trump. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, "The process is poisoned before the report is even released."
"Barr shouldn't be spinning the report at all, but it's doubly outrageous he's doing it before America is given a chance to read it," Schumer said.
A Justice Department official confirmed Barr's plan to speak and answer questions about his "process" before the report's public release. He will be accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the investigation after Mueller's appointment in May 2017. Mueller and other members of his team will not attend, special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said.
After the news conference, the report will be delivered to Congress on CDs between 11 a.m. and noon and then be posted on the special counsel's website, said the official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Barr formulated the report's roll-out and briefed the White House on his plans, according to a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The White House declined to comment on an ABC News report that it had been briefed on the contents of Mueller's report beyond what Barr has made public.
At a later date, the Justice Department also plans to provide a "limited number" of members of Congress and their staff access to a copy of the Mueller report with fewer redactions than the public version, according to a court filing Wednesday.
The report is expected to reveal what Mueller uncovered about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia that fell short of criminal conduct. It will also lay out the special counsel's conclusions about formative episodes in Trump's presidency, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey and his efforts to undermine the Russia investigation publicly and privately.
The report is not expected to place the president in legal jeopardy, as Barr made his own decision that Trump shouldn't be prosecuted for obstruction. But it is likely to contain unflattering details about the president's efforts to control the Russia investigation that will cloud his ability to credibly claim total exoneration. And it may paint the Trump campaign as eager to exploit Russian aid and emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton's campaign even if no Americans crossed the line into criminal activity.
The report's release will be a test of Barr's credibility as the public and Congress judge whether he is using his post to protect Trump.
Barr will also face scrutiny over how much of the report he blacks out and whether Mueller's document lines up with a letter the attorney general released last month. The letter said Mueller didn't find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government but he found evidence on "both sides" of the question of whether the president obstructed justice.
Barr has said he is withholding grand jury and classified information as well as portions relating to ongoing investigation and the privacy or reputation of uncharged "peripheral" people. But how liberally he interprets those categories is yet to be seen.
Democrats have vowed to fight in court for the disclosure of the additional information from the report and say they have subpoenas ready to go if it is heavily redacted.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Wednesday he will "probably find it useful" to call Mueller and members of his team to testify after reading the version of the report Barr releases.
Nadler also criticized the attorney general for trying to "bake in the narrative" of the report to the benefit of the White House.
Late Wednesday, Nadler joined the chairs of four other House committees in calling for Barr to cancel his news conference. But Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, defended Barr and accused Democrats of "trying to spin the report."
Collins said Barr has done "nothing unilaterally," saying he had worked with Rosenstein and Mueller's team "step by step."
Mueller is known to have investigated multiple efforts by the president over the last two years to influence the Russia probe or shape public perception of it.
In addition to Comey's firing, Mueller scrutinized the president's request of Comey to end an investigation into Trump's first national security adviser; his relentless badgering of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation; and his role in drafting an incomplete explanation about a meeting his oldest son took at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected lawyer.
Overall, Mueller brought charges against 34 people — including six Trump aides and advisers — and revealed a sophisticated, wide-ranging Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. Twenty-five of those charged were Russians accused either in the hacking of Democratic email accounts or of a hidden but powerful social media effort to spread disinformation online.
Five former Trump aides or advisers pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in Mueller's investigation, including Trump's campaign chairman, national security adviser and personal lawyer.
Washington, Apr 15 (AP/UNB) — Rep. Ilhan Omar says she's faced increased death threats since President Donald Trump spread around a video that purports to show her being dismissive of the 2001 terrorist attacks. "This is endangering lives," she said, accusing Trump of fomenting right-wing extremism. "It has to stop."
Her statement late Sunday followed an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she has taken steps to ensure the safety of the Minnesota Democrat and the speaker's call for Trump to take down the video.
Soon after Pelosi's statement, the video disappeared as a pinned tweet at the top of Trump's Twitter feed, but it was not deleted.
Pelosi was among Democrats who had criticized Trump over the tweet , with some accusing him of trying to incite violence against the Muslim lawmaker. An upstate New York man recently was charged with making death threats against her.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump earlier Sunday, saying the president has a duty to highlight Omar's history of making comments that others deem anti-Semitic or otherwise offensive and that he wished no "ill will" upon the first-term lawmaker.
But Omar said that since Trump retweeted the video Friday night, she's received many threats on her life that referred or replied to the posted video.
"Violent crimes and other acts of hate by right-wing extremists and white nationalists are on the rise in this country and around the world," she said. "We can no longer ignore that they are being encouraged by the occupant of the highest office in the land." She said: "We are all Americans."
Earlier, Pelosi issued a statement while traveling in London saying she had spoken with congressional authorities "to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family and her staff."
Pelosi said officials will continue to monitor and assess threats against Omar and called on Trump to discourage such behavior.
"The President's words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger," Pelosi said. "President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video."
The video in Trump's tweet included a snippet from a recent speech Omar gave to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in which she described the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as "some people did something," along with news footage of the hijacked airplanes hitting the Twin Towers. Trump captioned his tweet with: "WE WILL NEVER FORGET!"
Critics accuse Omar of being flippant in describing the perpetrators of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. She later sought to defend herself by tweeting a quote from President George W. Bush, in which the Republican president referred to the attackers as "people" just days after 9/11.
Neither Trump's tweet nor the video included Omar's full quote or the context of her comments, which were about Muslims feeling that their civil liberties had eroded after the attacks. The tweet was posted atop Trump's Twitter feed for much of Sunday, with more than 9 million views. It remained lower in the feed after Pelosi requested that the video be pulled.
Sanders questioned why Democrats weren't following Trump's example and calling out Omar, too. Democrats who criticized the president over the tweet defended Omar, with some noting their past disagreements with her.
"Certainly the president is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone, but the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her — not only one time — but history of anti-Semitic comments," Sanders said. "The bigger question is why aren't Democrats doing the same thing? It's absolutely abhorrent the comments that she continues to make and has made and they look the other way."
Omar repeatedly has pushed fellow Democrats into uncomfortable territory with comments about Israel and the strength of the Jewish state's influence in Washington. She apologized for suggesting that lawmakers support Israel for pay and said she isn't criticizing Jews. But she refused to take back a tweet in which she suggested American supporters of Israel "pledge allegiance" to a foreign country.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who represents Manhattan's financial district, which was targeted on 9/11, said he had no issues with Omar's characterization of the attack.
"I have had some problems with some of her other remarks, but not — but not with that one," he said.
Sanders commented on "Fox News Sunday" and ABC's "This Week." Nadler appeared on CNN's "State of the Union.
Ethiopia, Apr 15 (AP/UNB) — During a visit to Addis Ababa, Ivanka Trump has honored victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash that occurred soon after takeoff last month.
The president's daughter and senior adviser visited Holy Trinity Cathedral Monday, where she met with religious leaders and laid a wreath to mourn the dead.
A total of 21 United Nations staffers and 12 aid workers were killed last month when the Boeing 737 Max crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi. All 157 people on board died.
Airlines and countries around the world have grounded Boeing 737 Max jets or banned them from their airspace following the crash. A similar crash involving the same Boeing model plane crashed into the waters off Indonesia in October, killing all 189 on board.
New Orleans, Apr 15 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. Coast Guard said it worked with a cruise ship to rescue 23 people adrift for days in the Gulf of Mexico.
A Coast Guard news statement issued Sunday saying 22 Cubans started traveling on a wooden boat from Cuba to Mexico before losing power and drifting three days. A Cuban-Mexican man took them aboard his sports fishing boat, but then its engines malfunctioned and the group drifted three more days.
The Coast Guard said it was contacted early Sunday by a brother of one of the Cubans. In addition to launching its own effort to find the disabled fishing boat, the Coast Guard alerted the Carnival Fantasy.
The cruise ship took the 23 people aboard within hours, about 130 nautical miles (210 kilometers) off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
The statement said two of the people rescued had minor medical issues and were treated by medical staff on the cruise ship. It added that the 23 people would be transferred Tuesday to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Coast Guard Investigative Services in Mobile, Alabama.
Washington, Apr 15(AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump wants to explore a twice-rejected proposal to send migrants to "sanctuary cities," but that is not the preferred solution to fix the straining immigration system, the White House said Sunday.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said it was one of many options, though she hoped Congress would work with the president on a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
The Trump administration is dealing with an ever-increasing number of Central American migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, an influx that has pushed the immigration system to the breaking point.
Laws make it hard to quickly return Central Americans, and many of them spend years in the U.S. waiting for their immigration cases to play out. Others claim asylum and wait just as long, living and working in the U.S. as they wait.
"Sanctuary cities" are mostly left-leaning places such as New York City and San Francisco where laws prohibit local police and correction officers from working with immigration officials to help arrest and deport people living here illegally.
Trump seized on reports last week of the proposal that sought to send migrants already detained to Democratic locations or transport migrants that have just crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to sanctuary cities.
Sanders said the idea would be to spread out the number of migrants so the strain would not be on "one or two border communities."
"The president likes the idea and Democrats have said they want these individuals into their communities so let's see if it works and everybody gets a win out of it," Sanders said. "Again, this is not the ideal situation."
Trump tweeted on Saturday evening that the U.S. had the "absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities."
But the plan had already been eschewed twice.
People with knowledge of the discussions say it was first brought to the Department of Homeland Security from White House staff in November, and was again discussed in February but was put down after DHS officials reviewed it and found it was too costly, a misuse of funds and would be too timely. The people were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
It actually could make it more difficult for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to arrest people facing deportation because sanctuary cities do not work with ICE.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University announced last week that an analysis found that immigrants in sanctuary cities are 20% less likely to be arrested out in the community than in cities without such policies.
Democrats criticized the White House proposal as a political stunt that used humans as pawns and would not work.
"Look, you can't threaten somebody with something they're not afraid of," said Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, a candidate for president. "And we are not afraid of diversity in the state of Washington. We relish it. It is the basis of our economic and cultural success. We're built as a state of immigrants."
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., questioned the legality of the proposal.
"This is again his manufactured chaos that he's created over the last two years on the border," Thompson said of Trump, adding Democrats were more than willing to sit down and talk about immigration legislation.
But Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said sanctuary cities showed contempt for the law, though he didn't know whether there were any legal concerns with transporting migrants to the locales.
"I mean, maybe he's just saying this to make everybody crazy," he said of Trump.
Sanders appears on ABC's "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday." Scott was on CNN's "State of the Union" and Inslee was on NBC's "Meet the Press." Thompson appeared on ABC.