The Latest: Trump declares win over Islamic State in Syria
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is declaring victory against the Islamic State group in a new White House video explaining his sudden decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.
Trump says in the video, “We have won against ISIS.” And he says, “Now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
Officials announced Wednesday Trump would be pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, sparking alarm and outrage from Republican lawmakers.
The president’s sudden declaration of victory also contradicts his own experts’ assessments of the situation on the ground.
Trump says it is “heartbreaking” to have to write letters and make calls to the loved ones of those killed in battle.
He says, “They’re all coming back and they’re coming back now.”
TRUMP-BORDER WALL-THE LATEST
The Latest: Senate approves stopgap spending bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has approved legislation to temporarily fund the government and avoid a federal shutdown over President Donald Trump’s border wall.
Senators passed the measure on voice vote Wednesday without a roll call. It goes next to the House. Congress faces a Friday deadline when funding for part of the federal government expires.
Trump has not yet said he will support the measure, but the White House says he’ll take a look.
It does not provide $5 billion Trump wanted for the wall. Instead, it funds border security and other agencies at current levels through Feb. 8.
Without resolution, more than 800,000 federal employees could be furloughed or ordered to work without pay days before Christmas.
Voting was pushed back to late Wednesday and some senators sang Christmas carols in the chamber.
Black leaders forged alliance with Trump on sentencing deal
WASHINGTON (AP) — A rare bipartisan deal in Congress to overhaul federal sentencing laws passed after a few black ministers, leaders and lawmakers forged an alliance with President Donald Trump.
The reforms could offer a path to freedom for hundreds of blacks and Latinos who were imprisoned by a justice system that critics say has long been stacked against minorities.
Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League. He says the effort was “like threading a needle politically.”
Bishop Harry Jackson is a pastor in Beltsville, Maryland. He says he still gets questions from African-Americans asking why he and other conservative black ministers went to the White House over the summer to talk about the issue with Trump.
The bill is expected to go to Trump soon for his signature.
TRAVEL BAN-DYING SON
Yemeni mom wins fight to fly to US to give dying son kiss
After a yearlong legal battle, a Yemeni mother will get to come to the U.S. to give her dying son one last kiss.
Shaima Swileh is expected to arrive to San Francisco on Wednesday on her way to see her 2-year-old son Abdullah, who is on life-support at an Oakland hospital.
The U.S. granted her a visa after lawyers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations sued.
The boy’s father is an American citizen who brought his son to California to get treatment for a genetic brain disorder.
Citizens from Yemen and four other mostly Muslim countries, along with North Korea and Venezuela, are restricted from coming to the United States under the travel ban.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 5-4 ruling in June.
The Latest: Victims’ attorney hails Illinois AG abuse report
CHICAGO (AP) — A Minnesota attorney who represents victims of clergy sex abuse is applauding Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for uncovering cases of Catholic clergy accused of sexually abusing children.
Attorney Jeff Anderson said in a statement Wednesday that Madigan’s finding of allegedly unreported cases is “alarming.”
Anderson also called on Illinois bishops to release the names of accused clergy “so that survivors can heal and no other kids are harmed.”
Madigan reported Wednesday that her office has found accusations of abuse against 500 more clergy than Illinois’ six dioceses have reported. Catholic dioceses in Illinois are defending their handling of clergy abuse.
Anderson’s law firm is representing three men and one woman seeking to force Illinois bishops to disclose the names of all clergy accused of sexually abusing minors.
AP Investigation: Migrant kids held in mass shelters
Decades after the U.S. stopped institutionalizing kids because large and crowded orphanages were causing lasting trauma, it is happening again. Confidential data obtained by The Associated Press shows the federal government has placed most of the 14,300 migrant toddlers, children and teens in its care in detention shelters and residential facilities packed with hundreds, or thousands, of children.
As the year draws to a close, some 5,400 detained migrant children in the U.S. are sleeping in shelters with more than 1,000 other children. Some 9,800 are in facilities with 100-plus total kids.
That’s a huge shift from just three months after President Donald Trump took office, when the same federal program had 2,720 migrant youth in its care and most were in shelters with a few dozen kids.
ELECTION 2018-NORTH CAROLINA-CONGRESS-THE LATEST
The Latest: Man in ballot probe declines to talk to board
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Newly released correspondence shows the man at the center of a North Carolina absentee ballot probe declined a formal request this week to be interviewed by elections board investigators.
The State Board of Elections released a letter, dated Dec. 16, to an attorney for Leslie McCrae Dowless. The board’s letter to attorney Cynthia Singletary requests an interview with Dowless, but notes that the board isn’t invoking its power to compel testimony.
The letter also informs the attorney that her client’s alleged actions during the 2018 election and before are “under criminal investigation” by the board’s investigators. They are looking into irregularities with the Nov. 6 vote in the state’s 9th District.
Singletary declined the board’s interview request on Tuesday.
Dowless and Singletary didn’t respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday. Singletary has previously said her client didn’t break any campaign laws.
Will Harvey Weinstein charges stick? Judge to rule
NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge is weighing whether to dismiss Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault case or send it to trial.
Judge James Burke is expected to rule Thursday after a flurry of court filings in which Weinstein’s lawyers say the case has devolved into chaos and prosecutors say there’s ample evidence to move forward.
The 66-year-old Weinstein is due in court for the hearing.
Weinstein and his lawyers have been on a fierce campaign to convince the judge to throw out the case.
They’ve seized on allegations of unscrupulous police work and put forth a witness who says his rape accuser pressured her to corroborate her story.
Weinstein is charged with raping a woman he knew in a hotel room and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman.
Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
SIGNING DAY-THE LATEST
The Latest: NCarolina, Brown slip in-state QB from Seminoles
New North Carolina coach Mack Brown landed a big pickup by flipping in-state quarterback Sam Howell from Florida State.
Howell committed to the Seminoles in the spring, but announced he will instead play for the Tar Heels. Howell is a four-star prospect ranked by 247sports as the nation’s No. 3 pro-style quarterback and No. 5 quarterback overall.
Howell’s choice is good news for the Tar Heels considering they’ve had shaky QB play through the two seasons since Mitch Trubisky left for the NFL.
Brown had a lot of instate recruiting success during his first stint with the Tar Heels from 1988-97, building a top-10 program before leaving for Texas. He promised it would again be an emphasis when hired last month for a second stint with the Tar Heels.
The news is also a big hit to Florida State, which finished 5-7 in its first season under coach Willie Taggart but still hoping to put together a top-10 signing class.
Wisconsin might have its next anchor on the offensive line with 6-foot-6 Logan Brown, a five-star prospect out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s a headliner in a good, 19-member recruiting class that is also highlighted by Graham Mertz, a four-star quarterback out of Overland, Kansas.
Coach Paul Chyrst is already talking about how Mertz, the Kansas 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year, has taken a leadership role in the class. The highly-touted Brown could be blocking for him in a year or two. Wisconsin has holes to fill at least at both guard positions with Michael Deiter and Beau Benzchawel leaving after the bowl game as seniors.
Fed boosts key interest rate for 4th time this year
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is raising its key interest rate for the fourth time this year to reflect the U.S. economy’s continued strength but signaling that it expects to slow hikes next year.
The quarter-point hike, to a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent, lifts the Fed’s benchmark rate to its highest point since 2008. The increase will mean higher borrowing costs for many consumers and businesses.
The Fed’s policy statement says “some” further gradual rate increases are likely. But its updated forecast projects just two rate hikes next year, down from the three that the Fed had predicted in September. In another sign of fewer rate hikes in the future, the new forecast trims the long-run level for the Fed’s benchmark rate to 2.8 percent, down from 3 percent.
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