Jeff Sessions pushed out after a year of attacks from Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out Wednesday after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump, who inserted in his place a Republican Party loyalist with authority to oversee the remainder of the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
The move has potentially ominous implications for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe given that the new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, until now Sessions’ chief of staff, has questioned the inquiry’s scope and spoke publicly before joining the Justice Department about ways an attorney general could theoretically stymie the investigation.
Congressional Democrats, concerned about protecting Mueller, called on Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation in its final but potentially explosive stages.
That duty has belonged to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and closely monitors his work.
The resignation, in a one-page letter to Trump, came one day after Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives and was the first of several expected post-midterms Cabinet and White House departures. Though Sessions was an early and prominent campaign backer of Trump, his departure letter lacked effusive praise for the president and made clear the resignation came “at your request.”
White House suspends CNN’s Acosta after Trump confrontation
NEW YORK (AP) — The White House on Wednesday suspended the press pass of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta after he and President Donald Trump had a heated confrontation during a news conference.
They began sparring after Acosta asked Trump about the caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern U.S. border. When Acosta tried to follow up with another question, Trump said, “That’s enough!” and a female White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from Acosta.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement accusing Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,” calling it “absolutely unacceptable.”
The interaction between Acosta and the intern was brief, and Acosta appeared to brush her arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told her.
Acosta tweeted that Sanders’ statement that he put his hands on the aide was “a lie.”
Trump, Democrats confront thorny life under divided Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — Suddenly facing life under divided government, President Donald Trump and congressional leaders talked bipartisanship Wednesday but then bluntly previewed the fault lines to come. Trump threatened to go after House Democrats who try to investigate him, while Rep. Nancy Pelosi said her party would be “a check and balance” against the White House.
The day after midterm elections reset Washington, Trump took a victory lap at a raucous news conference, celebrating Republican Senate wins but distancing himself from the GOP’s loss of the House. He said he was interested in working with House Democrats but was ready to respond if he felt he was being ill-treated.
As long as Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress, Democrats have been hampered in pursuing any significant probes of Trump and his administration, and he made it clear he expects the Senate to follow that course.
“They can play that game,” he said of possible House Democratic investigations, “but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate.”
On Capitol Hill, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats must decide how much “harassment” they want to pursue against Trump, while suggesting there could be limited opportunities to work across the aisle. And Pelosi, who is expected to run for a second stint as speaker when Democrats take the House majority in January, said the party has “a responsibility to seek common ground where we can.” But she added, “Where we cannot, we must stand our ground.”
Midterms offer clues for Trump, Dems in ’20 presidential bid
WASHINGTON (AP) — This week’s midterm elections offered revealing lessons for both parties as battle lines begin to emerge for the 2020 presidential election.
For Democrats, a string of statewide victories in Rust Belt states opened a potential path back to the White House. But President Donald Trump’s Republican Party found strength in critical states that often hold the keys to the presidency.
Perhaps no state offered Democrats more hope than Wisconsin, which shocked the party in 2016 by narrowly falling into Trump’s column. Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s narrow loss in his bid for a third term left Democrats optimistic they could reclaim Wisconsin along with other traditionally blue states that Trump carried, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“To have Walker lose is a significant turning point that the right candidate in 2020 could win all of these states” across the industrial north, Democratic pollster Paul Maslin, who advised Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s campaign. “If they do, Trump’s map starts to get more difficult.”
Still, there are plenty of reasons for caution for Democrats. Gains in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were offset by mixed results in Ohio and GOP dominance in electoral powerhouse Florida.
Kemp’s campaign declares victory in Georgia’s governor race
ATLANTA (AP) — Republican Brian Kemp’s campaign declared victory Wednesday in the Georgia governor’s race, though Democrat Stacey Abrams insists that enough ballots remain to leave open the possibility of a runoff in a race that Kemp oversees as secretary of state.
The Associated Press has not called the contest.
Ryan Mahoney, a top Kemp campaign adviser, told reporters in a conference call that the numbers show Abrams can’t win and a runoff won’t happen — but stopped short of declaring victory until pressed by an Associated Press reporter. Only then did Mahoney say Kemp is certain of victory and preparing to take office in January.
“We are declaring victory,” Mahoney said. Another campaign official, Austin Chambers, added: “The message here is pretty simple: This election is over, and the results are clear.”
Kemp was not on the call but is expected to speak publicly on Thursday, the same day that a federal judge in Atlanta holds the first hearing on an Election Day lawsuit that seeks to have Kemp barred from having any further role in managing the election.
Acting attorney general has questioned Mueller investigation
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The man who will serve at least temporarily as the nation’s top law enforcement official is a relatively inexperienced Republican Party loyalist from Iowa who has called for limiting special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Matthew G. Whitaker, 49, will become the nation’s acting attorney general following the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions. President Donald Trump announced the appointment Wednesday, saying on Twitter that Whitaker “will serve our Country well” and that a permanent attorney general will be nominated later.
The former federal prosecutor served as Sessions’ chief of staff for one year.
The bulk of Whitaker’s relevant experience came when he served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa from 2004 until 2009, a position for which he was recommended by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In that role, the telegenic former college football player managed attorneys who prosecuted federal crimes and represented the government in civil matters in half of Iowa.
Recent acting and permanent attorneys general have been longtime government lawyers or high-ranking politicians with more experience navigating Washington than Whitaker.
In Honduras, most returnees from caravan hope to try again
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (AP) — The Metropolitan Grand Central bus terminal in this city where the migrant caravan traveling through Mexico originated more than three weeks ago is a place of crossing destinies for Hondurans dreaming of seeking a better life in the United States.
Some of the dozens of people sleeping on the concrete floor or outside on the grass underneath palm trees bathed by the light of street lamps are awaiting buses to the Guatemalan border to begin the journey north. Others are arriving after failing to complete the trip and are being ferried back to the precarious lives they left behind.
Hundreds of the mostly Honduran migrants who set out with the caravan that has traversed hundreds of miles through three countries before arriving in Mexico City this week have returned home, according to the Mexican government. Some grew disillusioned. Others simply wore out. Still others were detained and returned, or gave up on waiting for possible asylum in Mexico and accepted bus rides back home.
Disembarking at the bus station in San Pedro Sula, nearly all of those returning said the same thing: Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they intend to try again.
“I would go 30 times more if possible,” said Daniel Castaneda, an 18-year-old from the central city of Comayagua. He was detained shortly after migrants in a caravan following in the footsteps of the first one clashed with police on a bridge on the Mexican border with Guatemala late last month.
Smartphone makers bet on foldable screens as next big thing
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — For the past few years, the smartphone industry has been searching for a breakthrough to revive a market mired in an innovation lull and a sales slump. A potential catalyst is on the horizon in the form of flexible screens that can be folded in half without breaking.
Samsung and several rivals are preparing to roll out such screens to make devices more versatile for work and pleasure. The foldable screens could increase display space to the size of a mini-tablet, but fold like a wallet so they revert to the size of regular phones. But there are questions about price and durability.
If the new phones fulfill their makers’ ambitions, they will become a leap ahead for an industry whose origins can be traced to the old flip phones that consumers once embraced as cool and convenient. Foldable-screen phones, though, won’t need hinges because they have continuous displays that can bend.
In an indication of how difficult it is to make a flexible screen that’s also durable, Samsung first announced plans to build a folding-screen phone five years ago. It wasn’t until Wednesday, though, that Samsung finally provided a glimpse at what it’s been working on.
“We have been living in a world where the size of a screen could only be as large as the device itself,” said Justin Denison, Samsung’s senior vice president of mobile product marketing. “We have just entered a new dimension.”
Report: Google planning big New York City expansion
NEW YORK (AP) — The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is planning a major expansion in New York City.
The newspaper reported Wednesday that the company plans to add space for more than 12,000 additional New York workers. The Journal cited anonymous people familiar with the plans.
The paper said Google has New York real estate deals in the works that would give it room for nearly 20,000 workers. Those include buying or leasing a 1.3 million-square-foot building in the city’s West Village neighborhood due to be completed by 2022.
The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Seattle-based Amazon is reportedly considering dividing a new second headquarters between New York’s Long Island City and Crystal City in northern Virginia. That would potentially add 25,000 jobs to each place.
Saints sign ex-Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant has found a new team, agreeing to join the already prolific offense of the surging New Orleans Saints.
The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, who has been looking for an NFL home since becoming a free agent in April, will now have a chance to catch passes from one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history in New Orleans’ Drew Brees.
“There is certainly a skillset that he has that is going to be beneficial. So I look forward to getting to work with him. I look forward to building a rapport with him. I look forward to getting him involved in this offense and just become a complement to all the guys that we already have,” Brees said. “He’ll be a great addition.”
The 30-year-old Bryant and the Saints agreed to contract terms on Wednesday, and it remains unclear to what extent Bryant will play when New Orleans visits Cincinnati on Sunday.
Bryant spent his first eight years in the NFL with Dallas and last season caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns, including a 50-yard scoring play, for the Cowboys.
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