AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

16 states sue Trump over emergency wall declaration

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California and 15 other states filed a lawsuit Monday against President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released a statement Monday saying the suit alleges the Trump administration’s action violates the Constitution.

“President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt,” Becerra said. “He knows there is no border crisis, he knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court.”

Joining California in filing the lawsuit are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. All the states involved in the lawsuit have Democratic attorneys general.

Trump declared a national emergency to fulfill his promise of completing the wall.

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Trump pleads with Venezuela’s military to back Guaido

MIAMI (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday pleaded with Venezuela’s military to support opposition leader Juan Guaido and issued a dire warning if they continue to stand with President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“You will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything,” Trump said in a speech at Florida International University in Miami before large American and Venezuelan flags.

Trump added: “We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open.”

The Venezuelan military could play a decisive role in the stalemate but has largely remained loyal to Maduro.

In remarks broadcast on state television, Maduro accused the U.S. president of speaking in an “almost Nazi style” and lashed out at Trump for thinking he can deliver orders to Venezuela’s military.

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Official: Deputy AG Rosenstein expected to depart in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Justice Department official says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave his position in the middle of next month.

The official was not authorized to discuss the move by name and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday night.

The White House is expected to name a replacement for Rosenstein this week.

Rosenstein’s departure had been expected with the confirmation of William Barr as attorney general last week.

Rosenstein has been on the job for nearly two years.

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3 children among 4 found dead after west Michigan shooting

SOLON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say three children and a woman were found dead of apparent gunshot wounds at a home in western Michigan.

Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young says authorities responded Monday to a property near Cedar Springs, a community about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Grand Rapids. She says someone discovered the bodies and called 911.

LaJoye-Young said the three children were elementary school-aged and younger but declined to provide further information about the victims’ relationships to one another. She said authorities were still confirming the victims’ identities.

LaJoye-Young called the scene “a horrific thing to be called to” and said “my heart goes out to the families involved here and the community.”

Authorities don’t believe there is a shooter at large. An investigation is ongoing.

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Tense standoff spells endgame for IS militants in Syria

BAGHOUZ, Syria (AP) — The collection of tents was largely silent on a sunny winter Monday afternoon. Few people were visible, but the few out and about were calm: Two men in long robes and pants walked slowly together through the grass, a woman leisurely came out of her tent to look around, a man on a motorcycle drove toward the river.

This is the last speck of land held by the Islamic State group — a patch along the Euphrates River in eastern Syria where an estimated 300 militants are mixed in with hundreds of civilians, refusing to surrender and trying to negotiate an exit with the U.S.-backed forces surrounding them.

An Associated Press team got a rare glimpse of the IS-held settlement, standing on a rooftop about a kilometer (half mile) away during a media tour to the front lines organized by the Syrian Democratic Forces. The roof looked out over a flat, green landscape with scattered palm trees, to an earthen berm and a line of pickup trucks put up by the militants at the edge of the camp.

At one point, gunfire crackled in the distance. An SDF commander on the roof with a number of fighters said it isn’t always so quiet. Only days earlier the militants surprised the soldiers with an attempted night raid. The SDF can’t assault the site or call in airstrikes because of the civilians, he said, adding that his fighters have seen the militants moving civilians around at gunpoint as protection.

“They try a psychological war. But that is it! The war is over, and we won,” said the commander, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his nom de guerre, Baran, in line with SDF rules.

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W.Va. teachers’ unions call for strike over education bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia teachers’ unions on Monday called a statewide strike over an education bill that they view as lacking their input and as retaliation for a walkout last year.

The strike is scheduled to start Tuesday, leaders of three unions for teachers and school service workers said at a news conference, almost a year to the day after teachers started a nine-day walkout.

“We are left with no other choice,” said Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter.

The 2018 walkout launched the national “Red4Ed” movement that included strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington state, and more recently, Los Angeles and Denver. Teachers in Oakland, California, have authorized a strike starting Thursday.

Now the movement has come full circle.

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N Carolina elections head says ballots handled illegally

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Republican operative conducted an illegal and well-funded ballot-harvesting operation, North Carolina’s elections director said Monday, but the first session of a days-long hearing produced scant evidence that the GOP congressional candidate he worked for knew about it or even benefited.

The director’s testimony came at the opening of a state elections board hearing into whether mail-in ballots were tampered with in the race for the state’s 9th congressional district seat that saw Republican Mark Harris narrowly defeat Democrat Dan McCready.

The race wasn’t certified, leaving the country’s only congressional election without a declared winner. The elections board is expected to either declare a winner or order a new election after the hearing.

“The evidence that we will provide today will show that a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme operated in the 2018 general election” in rural Bladen and Robeson counties, which are part of the congressional district, state elections director Kim Strach said.

Harris held a slim lead over McCready in unofficial results following November’s election, but the state elections board refused to certify the contest after allegations of potential ballot manipulation surfaced. There wasn’t evidence presented Monday that the election irregularities were so widespread that it would overturn Harris’ 905 vote lead. The hearing will continue Tuesday and could continue beyond then.

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Lisa Borders steps down as head of Time’s Up organization

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lisa Borders says she has resigned as president and CEO of Time’s Up, the gender equality initiative formed last year in response to sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood.

Borders says in statement Monday that she is stepping aside “with deep regret” due to family issues. She didn’t elaborate.

Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Goldman will serve as interim CEO while the organization conducts an executive search.

Borders, former president of the WNBA, was named head of Time’s Up last year.

The organization was formed in January 2018 in response to sexual misconduct allegations leveled against powerful men in the entertainment industry including Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.

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Roger Stone apologizes to judge for Instagram post about her

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone has apologized to the judge presiding over his criminal case for an Instagram post featuring a photo of her with what appears to be the crosshairs of a gun.

Stone and his lawyers filed a notice Monday night saying Stone recognized “the photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted.”

Earlier Monday, Stone posted a photo of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson with what appeared to be crosshairs near her head.

Stone later said that the picture had been “misinterpreted” and that any suggestion he intended to threaten Jackson was “categorically false.”

Stone is charged with lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering related to discussions he had during the 2016 election about WikiLeaks. He has denied guilt.

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No plan for Smollett to do follow-up police interview Monday

CHICAGO (AP) — Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett say there are no plans for him to meet with Chicago detectives Monday for a follow-up interview about his reported assault.

Anne Kavanagh is a spokeswoman for Smollett’s lawyers. She says in an emailed statement that his lawyers “will keep an active dialogue with Chicago police on his behalf.”

Smollett reported last month that he was physically attacked by two men who yelled homophobic and racial slurs. He said they also yelled he was in “MAGA Country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.

Police said Saturday that the investigation had “shifted” after detectives questioned two brothers about the attack and released them without charges. Police say they’ve requested a follow-up interview with Smollett.

Smollett’s lawyers say the actor feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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