TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-MANAFORT Senator: Pardoning Manafort would be an ‘abuse of power’ WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee says if President Donald Trump pardons his former campaign chairman it would be…
Senator: Pardoning Manafort would be an ‘abuse of power’
WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee says if President Donald Trump pardons his former campaign chairman it would be a “blatant and unacceptable abuse of power.”
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia says in a tweet that the presidential pardon power is not a “personal tool” that the president can use to protect “himself and his friends.” The comments came in response to an interview Trump granted to the New York Post.
Trump told the newspaper he hasn’t discussed pardoning Paul Manafort but it’s “not off the table.” The president also says three of his associates are “very brave” for resisting the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
The president’s comments come just days after Manafort’s cooperation agreement fell apart after prosecutors accused him of repeatedly lying to them.
CONGRESS-SAUDI ARABIA-THE LATEST
The Latest: Senators move to act against Saudi Arabia
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators are sending a strong signal that they want to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting to move forward with legislation that would end U.S. involvement with a Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The 63-37 vote was to consider a bipartisan resolution to halt U.S. support for the war, a rebuke to Saudi Arabia and President Donald Trump’s administration, which had issued a veto threat. The procedural vote sets up the beginning of a floor debate on the resolution next week.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to lobby against the resolution. Emerging from the briefing, Pompeo said the vote would be “poorly timed” as diplomatic efforts to end the conflict are underway.
PELOSI-HOUSE LEADERSHIP-THE LATEST
The Latest: House Dems re-elect Hoyer, Clyburn to top roles
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats have re-elected Rep. Steny Hoyer in their No. 2 spot and Rep. Jim Clyburn as the third-ranking Democrat, reinstating their entire leadership team for the new Congress.
Hoyer of Maryland is set to become majority leader, while Clyburn of South Carolina will become the whip. They both ran unopposed despite the desire among some Democrats for new leadership.
Democrats also nominated Nancy Pelosi as their choice for speaker. The California Democrat had no challenger, but will need a majority of votes from the full House to become speaker when the new Congress convenes in January.
The three Democrats, all in their 70s, are pledging to bring up the next generation of Democratic leaders. It’s an acknowledgement their time at the helm of the new House majority could be limited.
MISSING GIRL-NORTH CAROLINA
Police: Body found in North Carolina is kidnapped teen girl
LUMBERTON, N.C. (AP) — Investigators believe a body found in North Carolina is a 13-year-old girl kidnapped from her home three weeks ago.
Authorities said at a news conference Wednesday that preliminary tests show the body found a day earlier is that of Hania Aguilar.
The body was found in a body of water in Robeson County about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of the mobile home park where she was kidnapped on Nov. 5 after going outside to start a relative’s SUV before school.
Police say a man forced the teenager into an SUV and drove off. The SUV was found several miles south of her mobile home park. The body was found a few miles farther away.
ROCKEFELLER CHRISTMAS TREE
Sprucing up NYC: Rockefeller Center lights Christmas tree
NEW YORK (AP) — A massive Norway spruce has been lit up in a tradition that ushers in Christmastime in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio flipped the switch Wednesday night to light the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree following a televised extravaganza that featured performances by Diana Ross and Tony Bennett.
The 72-foot-tall tree is decorated with 5 miles (8 kilometers) of multicolored LED lights and a 900-pound Swarovski crystal star. Rockefeller Center has hosted the ceremony since 1931.
Police officers were plentiful, and spectators were funneled through security.
The 75-year-old tree was donated by a couple in Wallkill, 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of the city.
It will remain on display until Jan. 7. Then it will be given to Habitat for Humanity to help build homes.
BORDER PROTECTION-USE OF FORCE
Border clash with migrants spotlights use of force
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — U.S. Border Patrol agents faced a choice near San Diego. Do they respond with force against a crowd of migrants that include men throwing rocks and barefoot children? And if so, what kind?
The circumstances at the San Ysidro border crossing on Sunday were exceptional. But the question facing the agents was not. It’s a split-second choice more often made in the remote desert.
The agents fired tear gas. It triggered widespread outrage and rekindled complaints that the Border Patrol is too quick to use force.
Government statistics show use of force by Customs and Border Protection officers and agents is declining from a high during the 2013 budget year. There are high-profile exceptions. Still, experts say policies have improved following a major audit five years ago.
Alumni pressure Dartmouth over handling of sex abuse claims
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — There is growing anger among Dartmouth College alumni following allegations in a lawsuit that three professors harassed and abused female students in their department for years without being sanctioned.
The federal lawsuit filed this month alleges that William Kelley, Paul Whalen and Todd Heatherton harassed and touched women inappropriately, often while out partying at bars or at their homes.
The professors were forced to retire or resign.
Some alumni are calling for the withholding of donations until the college provides greater accountability on the way it handles sexual misconduct claims. Others are calling for the removal of Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon.
Dartmouth disputes that it ignored the complaints and says that it did a thorough investigation into the allegations against the professors.
TRUMP PLANE-PARKING MISHAP-THE LATEST
The Latest: Trump’s private plane clipped at LaGuardia
NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s private jet has been involved in a fender bender at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
The Trump Organization confirmed that a corporate jet maneuvering into a parking spot struck the wing of Trump’s parked Boeing 757. It said the plane was parked and not in use.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says the incident happened around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday as ground workers were guiding the Bombardier Global Express corporate jet. It said nobody was injured and airport operations continued normally.
Trump used the jet throughout his 2016 run for the White House but hasn’t done so since taking office, opting for Air Force One instead.
Possible resolution appears near in Russian agent case
WASHINGTON (AP) — A woman accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government appears to be coming closer to a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors or other resolution of her criminal case.
Court documents filed Wednesday say Maria Butina’s lawyers and federal prosecutors “remain optimistic about a pretrial resolution” of her case. A hearing is scheduled for next month.
The 30-year-old gun-rights activist is accused of relaying intelligence on American officials and political organizations to a Russian government official. She’s pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia.
Butina has denied any wrongdoing and mounted an aggressive defense since she was jailed in July.
Her lawyer has said Butina is a student interested in American politics and in better U.S.-Russian relations.
Rita Moreno joins Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ film
NEW YORK (AP) — Rita Moreno’s portrayal of Anita in the classic 1961 film “West Side Story” won her an Oscar. Now, she has a different part in a remake directed by Steven Spielberg.
The publicist for the 86-year-old Moreno confirmed Wednesday that she’ll play Valentina, a reworked version of the character of Doc, the owner of a corner store where Tony works. Ansel Elgort has been cast as Tony.
The story follows two star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, who are each associated with rival New York street gangs. The Pulitzer-winning playwright Tony Kushner is adapting the script. Moreno will also serve as an executive producer.