Trump grounds Pelosi after she imperils his big speech
WASHINGTON (AP) — She imperiled his State of the Union address. He denied her a plane to visit troops abroad.
The shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing out as a surreal game of constitutional brinkmanship, with both flexing their political powers from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the negotiations to end the monthlong partial government shutdown remain stalled.
In dramatic fashion, Trump issued a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, just before she and other lawmakers were set to depart on the previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels. Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event” — even though he had just made a similar warzone stop — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.
“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” wrote Trump, who had been smarting since Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address due to the shutdown.
Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the White House, traveling to a combat region — is very rare. Lawmakers were caught off guard. A bus to ferry the legislators to their departure idled outside the Capitol on Thursday afternoon.
Judge acquits 3 Chicago officers of Laquan McDonald cover-up
CHICAGO (AP) — A judge on Thursday acquitted three Chicago officers of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, dismissing as just one perspective the shocking dashcam video of the black teenager’s death that led to protests, a federal investigation of the police department and the rare murder conviction of an officer.
In casting off the prosecution’s entire case, Judge Domenica Stephenson seemed to accept many of the same defense arguments that were rejected in October by jurors who convicted officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
The judge said the video showed only one viewpoint of the confrontation and that there was no indication the officers tried to hide evidence.
“The evidence shows just the opposite,” she said. She singled out how they preserved the graphic video at the heart of the case.
McDonald’s family questioned how the two cases could produce such different decisions. His great uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, told reporters that the verdict means “that if you are a police officer you can lie, cheat and steal.”
Woman, testifying against El Chapo, details affair
NEW YORK (AP) — Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez was already trapped in an impossible extramarital relationship with Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman when she found herself in an even crazier bind — fleeing with Guzman and others from authorities through an underground tunnel, her outlaw love interest in the buff.
Guzman “was naked,” Sanchez said Thursday. “He took off running. He left us behind.”
The account of the mad dash in 2014 and Sanchez’s tortured romance with Guzman while he was on the run came at a U.S. drug trafficking trial that’s detailed his rise and fall as a near-mythical cartel boss. His lawyers say the allegations have been fabricated by cooperators seeking leniency in their own cases.
Sanchez, 29, a former local politician from Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa, took the witness stand in jail smocks after pleading guilty earlier this year to drug charges following her arrest last year. She told her tale with Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, sitting expressionless in the gallery.
The petite and soft-spoken witness said she met Guzman in 2010 and by 2011 was visiting him at his hideouts in Cabo San Lucas and elsewhere, and texting with him on cell phones protected by encryption he gave her. Over time, they began mixing business with pleasure that caused her distress, she said.
Watchdog: Thousands more children may have been separated
WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands more migrant children may have been split from their families than the Trump administration previously reported, in part because officials were stepping up family separations long before the border policy that prompted international outrage last spring, a government watchdog said Thursday.
It’s unclear just how many family separations occurred at the U.S.-Mexico border; immigration officials are allowed under longstanding policy to separate families under certain circumstances. Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with caring for migrant children, did not adequately track them until after a judge ruled that children must be reunited with their families, according to the report by the agency’s inspector general.
Ann Maxwell, assistant inspector general for evaluations, said the number of children removed from their parents was certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents. Those documents chronicled separations that took place as parents were criminally prosecuted for illegally entering the country under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.
“It’s certainly more,” Maxwell said. “But precisely how much more is unknown.”
Maxwell said investigators didn’t have specific numbers, but that Health and Human Services staff had estimated the tally to be in the thousands.
Was there collusion? Trump lawyer walks back earlier remarks
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Thursday walked back comments from the night before in which he maintained that he had “never said there was no collusion” between Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 White House campaign.
Giuliani issued a statement aimed at clarifying a Wednesday night CNN interview that appeared to leave open the possibility of improper contacts during the campaign, in light of court filings in the past year that have detailed ties between Trump aides and Russia.
“I represent only the president, not the campaign,” he told The Associated Press in an interview. “And I can only speak of what I know, and that is that I have no knowledge that anyone on the campaign illegally colluded with Russia. But I can only speak definitively about the president, as he is my client.”
In a separate statement Thursday, he said that “there was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form” and that he had “no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.”
That was an apparent reversal from the television appearance in which he said, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.” He had previously denied any collusion.
10 dead in car bombing at police academy in Colombia capital
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A car bomb exploded at a heavily guarded police academy in Colombia’s capital on Thursday, killing 10 people and injuring dozens in an attack that recalled the bloodiest chapters of the country’s drug-fueled guerrilla conflict.
The scene outside the General Santander police academy in southern Bogota was chaotic in the aftermath of the midmorning attack, the biggest against a police or military facility in Bogota in years.
Videos circulating on social media show panicked officers hauling injured colleagues on stretchers with debris and body parts strewn in front of red tile-roofed cadet barracks. In the distance, the skeletal steel remains of the truck used in the attack can be seen still burning while approaching ambulances blare.
President Ivan Duque rushed back to the capital with his top military advisers from a visit to a western state to oversee the police investigation, which points to a possible suicide bombing – something unprecedented in decades of political violence in the Andean nation.
Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez said a 56-year-old man named Jose Aldemar Rojas, driving a 1993 Nissan pick-up loaded with 80 kilograms (175 pounds) of pentolite, carried out the attack. He said the car had its last official mechanical revision some six months ago in the eastern state of Arauca, along the border with Venezuela.
Talks resume in effort to end strike by LA teachers
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A new round of contract negotiations started Thursday between Los Angeles school district officials and a teachers union as thousands of educators picketed in the rain.
The announcement that the two sides would sit down for the first time in nearly a week didn’t indicate whether any new contract offers would be on the table.
Union officials tempered expectations.
“After 21 months of negotiations I think it would be an unrealistic expectation to say that this is going to be over after today because there are hard issues to work through,” said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.
Talks broke off Friday, sending tens of thousands of teachers onto the street. Thursday was the fourth day of the walkout.
Total lunar eclipse meets supermoon Sunday night
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Here comes a total lunar eclipse and supermoon, all wrapped into one.
The moon, Earth and sun will line up this weekend for the only total lunar eclipse this year and next. At the same time, the moon will be ever so closer to Earth and appear slightly bigger and brighter than usual — a supermoon.
“This one is particularly good,” said Rice University astrophysicist Patrick Hartigan. “It not only is a supermoon and it’s a total eclipse, but the total eclipse also lasts pretty long. It’s about an hour.”
The whole eclipse starts Sunday night or early Monday, depending on location , and will take about three hours.
It begins with the partial phase around 10:34 p.m. EST Sunday. That’s when Earth’s shadow will begin to nip at the moon. Totality — when Earth’s shadow completely blankets the moon — will last 62 minutes, beginning at 11:41 p.m. EST Sunday.
Netflix has no plans to cut ‘Bird Box’ scene despite outcry
NEW YORK (AP) — Netflix’s post-apocalyptic survival film “Bird Box” is drawing criticism for using footage of a real fiery train disaster but the streaming giant has no plans to remove it.
The footage concerns a 2013 tragedy in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic when an unattended train carrying crude oil rolled down an incline, came off the tracks and exploded into a massive ball of fire, killing 47 people.
Netflix licensed the footage of the disaster from the stock image vendor Pond 5 and used it in “Bird Box” in an early TV news montage to set up its horrific premise. The Sandra Bullock-led thriller is about monstrous entities that compel any human who sees them to quickly try to kill themselves. To survive, they don blindfolds.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Pond 5 said the footage “was taken out of context” and the company wanted to “sincerely apologize.” Pond 5 footage of the crash was also used in Netflix’s “Travelers.”
But a Netflix spokesman told the AP on Thursday that it wasn’t planning to cut the footage from “Bird Box,” saying, “We will keep the clip in the movie.” But he acknowledged that Netflix will be looking at ways to do things differently moving forward.
Sorry America, team you love to hate headed to Super Bowl
NOT THEM AGAIN!
Sorry America — at least outside of New England — but the team you love to hate is headed back to the Super Bowl.
Sure, there are negatives to point out with these Patriots. They haven’t looked much more than mediocre on the road. Their defense is vulnerable, especially against dynamic passers, and Kansas City certainly has one of those in Patrick Mahomes.
New England’s coaching staff tends to take away an opponent’s biggest threat. Who is that with the Chiefs, though? Mahomes has Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins as dangerous targets. He has a running game that hasn’t really missed Kareem Hunt since he was released.
Oh yeah, Tom Brady also is 41. At times, he’s looked it this season.
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