US, North Korea offer dueling accounts of talks breakdown
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The U.S. and North Korea offered contradictory accounts Thursday of why the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un broke down, though both pointed to punishing American sanctions as a sticking point in the high-stakes nuclear negotiation.
President Trump, who returned to the White House Thursday night, said before leaving Hanoi that the talks collapsed because North Korea’s leader insisted that all the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Pyongyang be lifted without the North firmly committing to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.
But North Korea challenged that account, insisting it had asked only for partial sanctions relief in exchange for shutting down its main nuclear complex. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho commented on the talks during an abruptly scheduled middle-of-the-night news conference after Trump was in the air.
Ri said the North was also ready to offer in writing a permanent halt of the country’s nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and Washington had wasted an opportunity that “may not come again.” He said the North’s position won’t change even if the United States offers to resume another round of dialogue.
Later, a senior U.S. official involved in the negotiations offered some clarification, saying the North wanted all sanctions, except for those involving weapons sales and transfers, to be lifted in exchange for the dismantlement of parts of the Yongbyon nuclear site. The official was not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Art of the Walk? Summit collapse and Trump’s diplomacy
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — President Donald Trump framed the breakdown of his nuclear summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as wisely knowing when “to walk.” But the stunning collapse revealed the limits of his unique brand of personal diplomacy and raised concerns about future efforts to disarm a global threat.
Eyeing the history books and a much-needed political victory, Trump bet big on the two-day Vietnam summit only to be forced to explain away its sudden failure.
The president and North Korea gave conflicting explanations of what went wrong, though the result actually was a relief to some critics and even some Trump supporters who feared he might give too much away in pursuit of a deal.
Trump, the businessman who was elected in part on his boasts of deal-making prowess, said a proposed agreement was “ready to be signed.” But he said he refused to accept what he described as North Korean insistence that all U.S. sanctions be lifted without the North committing to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.
“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” the president said. “We’re in position to do something very special.”
Democrats eye new inquiries, witnesses after Cohen testimony
WASHINGTON (AP) — After three days of grilling Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Democrats are quickly using his words as a roadmap to open new lines of investigation into the president’s ties to Russia and summon additional witnesses.
Cohen completed a third day of testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday, one day after publicly branding his former boss a racist and a con man who lied about business dealings in Russia and directed him to conceal extramarital relationships. He was interviewed behind closed doors by the House Intelligence Committee for more than eight hours.
As he left the House intelligence interview, Cohen said he would be returning to Capitol Hill on March 6 for another round of questioning with that panel.
The weeklong gauntlet of interviews with Cohen launched what is expected to be months of investigations of Trump and those connected to him. Multiple Democrat-led House committees are pledging to investigate not only Trump’s campaign’s ties to Russia, which are also the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, but presidential conflicts of interest, possible money laundering and other oversight matters that Democrats say were ignored under GOP control.
House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff called the closed-door session with Cohen productive and said lawmakers were able to “drill down in great detail” on issues they are investigating. Another Democratic committee member, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, said Cohen “has been asked, based on a lot of new evidence we learned today, to bring corroborating materials that he believes he has.”
Many view ‘black friend defense’ as a tired, hollow argument
Kelly Darden Jr. still remembers one of the first times he experienced the “black friend defense.”
Back in high school, a group of white classmates dressed in Confederate-inspired clothing as part of a social club called the “Rebel Rousers” and insisted they weren’t racist when confronted because some of them knew Darden, who is black.
“It was insulting,” the 64-year-old Greenville, North Carolina, man recalled Thursday. “I was insulted by it even when it was occurring.”
Darden and countless other African-Americans have experienced variations of the “black friend defense” — saying that a person can’t be racist because of the color of the company he keeps — for generations. And the trope played out in front of a national TV audience this week as Republican Rep. Mark Meadows defended President Donald Trump against testimony by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen , who claimed the president is racist. Meadows, of North Carolina, quickly sent social media into a frenzy when he pointed to Lynne Patton, a black Trump administration staffer, and said Patton never would tolerate working for a racist .
Many consider the “black friend defense” a tired and hollow argument.
Trump border emergency foes close in on needed Senate votes
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate opponents of President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border moved within a hair Thursday of having enough votes to prevail, and one Republican suggested he risks a rebuff by the GOP-led chamber if he doesn’t change course.
Trump’s move would “turn a border crisis into a constitutional crisis,” veteran Sen. Lamar Alexander said on the Senate floor. But he stopped just short of saying he’d support a resolution blocking the president’s move. Had Alexander pledged his vote, it would probably be enough for the Senate to pass a measure repealing the emergency declaration.
Speaking later to reporters, Alexander, R-Tenn., warned what might happen if Trump doesn’t settle for using other money he can access without declaring an emergency.
“He can build a wall and avoid a dangerous precedent and I hope he’ll do that,” Alexander said. “So that would change the voting situation if he would agree to do that.”
The Democratic-led House voted Tuesday to upend Trump’s declaration, which he declared to circumvent Congress and funnel billions of extra dollars to erecting his proposed wall.
Report says Trump demanded top-secret clearance for Kushner
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump last year ordered officials to grant top-secret security clearance to his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to a report published Thursday by The New York Times.
Kushner was granted the high-level clearance last May after a lengthy background check.
The Times, citing anonymous sources, said Trump demanded Kushner’s clearance despite the concerns of intelligence officials, then-Chief of Staff John Kelly and then-White House counsel Don McGahn.
The newspaper said Kelly wrote in an internal memo that he had been “ordered” to give top-secret clearance to Kushner. McGahn wrote a memo in which he advised against such clearance.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell, responded Thursday to the Times story with a statement, saying: “In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone. That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”
Pakistan ready to hand over Indian pilot amid more shelling
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan is preparing to hand over a captured Indian pilot as shelling continued for a third night across the disputed Kashmir border even as the two nuclear-armed neighbors seek to defuse the most serious confrontation in two decades.
Tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers face off against each other along the disputed Himalayan border known as the Line of Control in one of the world most volatile regions.
Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday. Pakistan retaliated, shooting down two Indian aircraft and capturing a pilot.
World leaders have scrambled to head off an all-out war on the Asian subcontinent.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister is expected in Islamabad later Friday.
California residents survey damage as historic floods recede
GUERNEVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Tom Orr began moving lyrics and scripts, clothes and photo albums from his apartment as authorities ordered evacuations along a rising Northern California river threatening to hit a historic crest.
But the actor and writer couldn’t move costumes, computers and performance videos. So he shifted those to his loft bed about 10 feet up and prayed they would survive. On Wednesday, television news footage showed muddy brown water nearly swallowing his ground-level unit and much of the tiny town of Guerneville, part of Sonoma County’s famed wine country and a popular tourist destination.
Residents awoke Thursday to sunshine and began assessing the damage while the water started receding. Orr, 48, was among those still unable to get into his house after the rain-swollen Russian River reached nearly 46 feet (14 meters) Wednesday night, its highest level in more than 20 years.
“I feel so helpless just sitting here and waiting before I can go back and start salvaging whatever I can,” Orr said in text messages to The Associated Press before preparing for a friend to take him by canoe to work at the Main Street Bistro, one of the few places in town that did not flood.
Sonoma County officials said they expected the communities of Guerneville and Monte Rio to be accessible by car Friday. The two-day storm rendered the towns reachable only by boat on Wednesday.
YouTube suspends comments on videos of kids
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — YouTube said Thursday it will turn off comments on nearly all videos featuring kids — potentially affecting millions of posts on the site — after reports last week that pedophiles were leaving inappropriate comments on innocuous videos of children.
The change comes as YouTube grapples with moderating content across its platform as concerns about hate speech, violence and conspiracy theories continue to plague it.
It will take YouTube several months to disable comments on all videos featuring minors, the company said. It already started the process last week when it turned off comments from tens of millions of videos.
Advertisers including Nestle, AT&T and Fortnite-maker Epic Games pulled ads from YouTube last week after the inappropriate comments about children were unearthed by a popular YouTuber and media reports. At least one company, Nestle, was satisfied with YouTube’s response and reinstated ads late last week.
A small number of channels which have videos featuring kids will be allowed to keep comments turned on. But they must be known to YouTube and must actively monitor the comments beyond the standard monitoring tools YouTube provides.
Paying full Bryce: Harper, Phils agree to record $330M deal
NEW YORK (AP) — It took a long time and a lot of money, but the Philadelphia Phillies finally landed Bryce Harper with a record contract.
The young star outfielder and the Phillies agreed Thursday to a $330 million, 13-year contract, the largest deal in baseball history.
Harper’s agent, California-based Scott Boras, said the deal was agreed to at 10:34 a.m. PST, subject to a successful physical.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and his players learned of the agreement from fans behind Philadelphia’s dugout who saw media reports on their mobile devices during a spring training game in Clearwater, Florida.
“If the reports are true, it’s a huge moment for our baseball team,” Kapler said. “Certainly I think that the city of Philadelphia would embrace Bryce Harper. I think he would be very happy in this city because our fans care deeply about winning.”
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