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National Politics

    A federal judge in Hawaii who temporarily blocked President Donald Trump's revised travel hours before it was set to take effect issued a longer-lasting order Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson held a hearing Wednesday on Hawaii's request to extend his temporary hold. Several hours later, he issued a 24-page order blocking the government from suspending new visas for travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and halting the U.S. refugee program. Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin argued that even though the revised ban has more neutral language, the implied intent is still there. He likened it to a neon sign flashing 'Muslim Ban,' which the government hasn't bothered to turn off. Chad Readler, a Department of Justice attorney defending Trump's executive order, told the judge via telephone that Hawaii hasn't shown how it is harmed by various provisions, including one that would suspend the nation's refugee program. Watson disagreed. Here's a look at Watson's ruling and what comes next: ___ THE PREVIOUS RULING This month, Watson prevented the federal government from suspending new visas for people from six countries and freezing the nation's refugee program. The ruling came just hours before the ban was to take effect. Watson, nominated to the bench by former President Barack Obama in 2012, agreed with Hawaii that the ban would hurt the state's tourism-dependent economy and that it discriminates based on nationality and religion. Trump called the ruling an example of 'unprecedented judicial overreach.' The next day, a judge in Maryland also blocked the six-nation travel ban but said it wasn't clear that the suspension of the refugee program was similarly motivated by religious bias. The federal government appealed the Maryland ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and sought to narrow the Hawaii ruling. ___ THE LATEST RULING Like his temporary order, Watson notes that Hawaii has shown the state's universities and tourism industry will suffer from the ban. A plaintiff in Hawaii's lawsuit, the imam of a Honolulu mosque, will be harmed if the ban is enforced, Watson said: 'These injuries have already occurred and will continue to occur if the Executive Order is implemented and enforced; the injuries are neither contingent nor speculative.' Government attorneys have tried to convince the judge not to consider comments Trump has made about the travel ban. 'The court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has,' Watson wrote. Watson also refused to narrow his ruling to only apply to the six-nation ban, as the government requested. The ruling won't be suspended if the government appeals, Watson said. 'Enforcement of these provisions in all places, including the United States, at all United States borders and ports of entry, and in the issuance of visas is prohibited, pending further orders from this court,' he wrote. ___ WHAT'S NEXT FOR HAWAII'S LAWSUIT? Watson's ruling allows Hawaii's lawsuit challenging the ban to work its way through the courts. 'While we understand that the President may appeal, we believe the court's well-reasoned decision will be affirmed,' the Hawaii attorney general's office said in a statement. Ismail Elshikh, the imam of a Honolulu mosque who joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff, argues that he's harmed by Trump's order because it prevents his Syrian mother-in-law from visiting family in the U.S. It's not clear how Watson's ruling will affect the mother-in-law's ability to obtain a visa. The Department of Justice didn't immediately comment after Watson issued his decision. ___ DEFENDING TRUMP'S EXECUTIVE ORDER The Department of Justice opposed Hawaii's request to extend Watson's temporary order. But the department said that if the judge agrees, he should narrow the ruling to cover only the part of Trump's executive order that suspends new visas for people from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. Other provisions of the order have little or no effect on Hawaii, including a suspension of the nation's refugee program, Department of Justice attorney Chad Readler said Wednesday. In an attempt to downplay the effect suspending the nation's refugee program would have on Hawaii, Readler said only a small amount of refugees have been resettled in Hawaii. But Watson questioned that reasoning by noting that the government said there have been 20 refugees resettled in Hawaii since 2010. Other parts of Trump's order allow the government to assess security risks, which don't concern the plaintiffs in Hawaii's lawsuit, Readler said. The revised order removes references to religion, he said. ___ CAN AN APPEALS COURT AFFECT THE HAWAII RULING? The president is asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put the ruling by the judge in Maryland on hold while it considers the case. The Richmond, Virginia-based appeals court will hear arguments May 8. If the court sides with the federal government, it would not have a direct effect on the Hawaii ruling, legal experts said. The Trump administration's best bet for saving the travel ban is to have the case go before the U.S. Supreme Court, said Richard Primus, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan law school. 'What a ruling in 4th Circuit in favor of the administration would do is create a split in authority between federal courts in different parts of the country,' he said. 'Cases with splits in authority are cases the U.S. Supreme Court exists to resolve.
  • North Carolina leaders reached an agreement Wednesday on the repeal of House Bill 2, popularly known as the 'bathroom bill,' lawmakers said. >> Read more trending news Sources told WSOC-TV earlier in the day that Gov. Roy Cooper reached a deal with Republican leadership to repeal HB2. 'I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow,” Cooper said in a statement sent out late Wednesday. “It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.' >> Watch the news report here Republicans and Democrats spent several hours Wednesday in closed-door meetings.  Republican Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore addressed reporters Wednesday night saying there was an agreement, but did not take any questions. Details of the agreement were not immediately available. The new bill, HB142, will be voted on Thursday. HB2 blocks expansion of LGBT rights in local ordinances and requires transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate. The NCAA has said North Carolina won't be considered for championships from 2018 to 2022 unless HB2 is changed. The group has said site decisions would begin getting made this week. – Visit WSOCTV.com for the latest on this story.
  • Republican political operative Roger Stone is so busy preparing for a possible grilling by the U.S. Senate intelligence committee about Russian hacking, that he does not have time to attend the opening of his civil defamation trial in New York City, according to his lawyer. Stone, a longtime political provocateur and adviser to President Donald Trump, is being sued over a flyer sent to 150,000 New York households during the state's 2010 election that called the Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Warren Redlich, a 'sick twisted pervert.' 'This man constitutes a public danger,' said the mailing, which included Redlich's photo and the header 'Sexual Predator Alert.' It purported to come from an organization called People for a Safer New York. 'If you see this man in your neighborhood, CALL THE POLICE!' it warned. Redlich's lawsuit claims that Stone and several accomplices were responsible for the flyer. At the time, Stone was advising two other candidates for governor: Kristin Davis, a former madam of a prostitution ring, and the Republican nominee, Carl Paladino. Redlich also is suing Paladino and his former campaign manager, Michael Caputo. Stone was subpoenaed to testify in the trial this week, but his lawyer, Benjamin Burge, told the judge Wednesday that he would prefer to appear Monday or Tuesday because he is busy complying with a notice from the U.S. Senate intelligence committee asking him to retain any documents that might be related to its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone has said he communicated with Guccifer 2.0, the shadowy hacker credited with breaking into the Democratic National Committee's email servers. 'He can't be here until next week,' Burge said of Stone during Wednesday's court hearing. Justice Richard Braun declined to give him more time, saying Stone must appear whenever he is called as a witness. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Thursday morning, so opening statements in the trial could start as early as Thursday afternoon. If Stone does not appear, he could face sanctions including a warrant directing a sheriff to bring him to court. Stone has said in interviews that he was not behind the anti-Redlich flyer. He did not answer calls to his cellphone Wednesday. Redlich, who is representing himself at the trial, and is seeking unspecified damages, said he wants to call Stone as his first witness. He said Stone's failure to appear Wednesday was part of a defense strategy to prolong what should be a speedy trial. 'I'm seeing a pattern — delay, delay, delay, delay,' Redlich said. Stone, 64, got his start in politics working as a political operative for President Richard Nixon, where he developed a reputation as someone who specialized in campaign trickery and spreading dirt on opponents. He is the subject of an upcoming Netflix documentary, 'Get Me Roger Stone.
  • The Trump administration told Congress on Wednesday it plans to approve a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the Obama administration. If finalized, the approval would allow the Gulf island to purchase 19 of the jets from Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp., plus improvements to other jets in Bahrain's fleet. Though Congress has opportunities to block the sale, it is unlikely it will act to do so, given the Republican majority's strong support for the sale. The decision is the latest signal that the Trump administration is prioritizing support for Sunni-led countries seen as critical to opposing Iran's influence in the region over human rights issues that President Barack Obama had elevated. Under Obama, the U.S. withdrew approval before the deal was finalized because it said Bahrain hadn't taken steps it had promised to improve human rights. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker's office said the committee was told Wednesday by the State Department that it plans to proceed with the sale. The State Department declined to comment. The notice triggers a 40-day 'consultation' period in which committee staff can review a draft of the Bahrain approval, ask questions about the sale and raise any concerns. Then the State Department will send a formal notification to Congress, setting off a final, 30-day review period, during which Congress could pass a joint resolution or take other steps to stop the sale. Lockheed had lobbied strenuously for the sale's approval, even as rights groups and pro-democracy activists urged the administration not to jettison human rights conditions. Brian Dooley of the Washington-based group Human Rights First said decoupling the sale from such conditions would 'encourage further repression' and fuel instability during a tense period for Bahrain. 'The sale will send exactly the wrong signal to the dictatorship: that the White House thinks the political crackdown is not just morally acceptable but also not dangerous, when in fact it's what's fueling the country's instability,' Dooley said. But Corker, R-Tenn., praised the move and said the caveats would have been 'unprecedented and counterproductive' for security and human rights. 'There are more effective ways to seek changes in partner policies than publicly conditioning weapons transfers in this manner,' Corker said in a statement. Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base, is a predominantly Shiite island off the coast of Saudi Arabia ruled by a Sunni monarchy. Government forces, with help from U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, crushed the 2011 uprising by Shiites and others who sought more political power. Among the steps the Obama administration had sought from Bahrain was the release of Nabeel Rajab, a famed human rights activist who helped lead the 2011 protests. Rajab, whose trial has been repeatedly delayed, awaits sentencing on a charge of spreading 'false news' via Twitter over his posts about the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen, as well as allegations of torture by authorities at a local prison. The State Department said as recently as this week that it was calling for Rajab's release. The U.S. has said Bahrain lacks evidence against him. Since the beginning of a government crackdown nearly a year ago, activists have been imprisoned or forced into exile. Bahrain's main Shiite opposition group has been dismantled. Lawmakers recently approved military tribunals for civilians while its feared domestic spy agency regained some arrest powers. Independent news gathering on the island also has grown more difficult. Meanwhile, a series of attacks, including a January prison break, have targeted the island. Shiite militant groups have claimed some of the assaults. Bahrain has accused Iran's Revolutionary Guard of training and arming some militants, something the Shiite regional power has dismissed as a 'futile and baseless lie.' Bahrain's government and Lockheed could not be immediately reached for comment. ___ Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
  • President Donald Trump gained his first ambassador Wednesday when attorney David Friedman was sworn in as America's envoy to Israel. Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Friedman and hailed Trump's decision to nominate his former bankruptcy attorney for the sensitive diplomatic post as 'one of the clearest signs' of the president's commitment to the state of Israel and the Jewish people. 'The president of the United States of America is a lifelong friend of Israel and the Jewish people and, under his leadership, if the world knows nothing else the world will know this: America stands with Israel,' Pence said as Friedman's wife, Tammy, their five children and most of their grandchildren watched. Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., also attended the ceremony. Friedman, whose nomination faced resistance from Democrats and some Jewish groups, said he was 'humbled' by the trust Trump had placed in him. He also noted his standing as the first of Trump's ambassador nominees to win Senate confirmation and be sworn in to office. 'Those facts speak volumes about how highly the Trump-Pence administration prioritizes our unbreakable bond with the state of Israel,' Friedman said. He said he recently resigned from the law firm in which he was a founding partner. The Senate approved Friedman's nomination last week by a vote of 52-46, largely along party lines. Republican lawmakers brushed aside complaints from Democrats that the combative Friedman lacked the temperament to represent the U.S. with such a key Middle Eastern ally. The son of an Orthodox rabbi, Friedman has been a fervent supporter of Israeli settlements, an opponent of Palestinian statehood and a defender of Israel's government. Friedman tried to use his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February to repair the damage from his past verbal attacks on individuals who hold opposing views on Israel. He assured senators that he regretted his choice of language and pledged to be 'respectful and measured' if confirmed. Friedman acknowledged to the committee that he deserved criticism for comments that targeted former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, liberal Jewish advocacy groups and others. Friedman had called one group, J Street, 'worse than kapos' — a reference to Jews who helped the Nazis imprison other Jews during the Holocaust. He had also accused Obama of 'anti-Semitism.' Republicans said Friedman's atonement satisfied them. But Democrats argued that his record of divisive statements couldn't be erased and would compromise his effectiveness as an ambassador. All 11 Republicans and one Democrat on the committee supported Friedman's nomination. The panel's remaining nine Democrats opposed him. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • The companies that provide you with internet service may soon be able to sell your web browser and app history to advertisers without your consent. >> Read more trending news The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to repeal rules preventing internet-service providers from doing so. The Senate already voted in favor of the repeal. Now the legislation is being sent to President Donald Trump, who is a strong supporter of the move, according to Reuters. If the president signs the repeal, companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon can sell the personal browsing habits of their customers to advertisers, who can then use that trove of data to create ads targeted to that user. This is similar to what Facebook already does, but it would be on a larger scale and wouldn’t require someone to give IPSs permission to use their information, according to The Guardian.  Cox Media Group, which owns the site this story is displayed on, generally does not disclose that information. “We will not disclose personally-identifying information collected through our website to third parties except as provided in this privacy policy,” according to CMG’s website. While the House and Senate are supporters of the move, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the American people are not.  “Overwhelmingly, the American people do not agree with Republicans that this information should be sold, and it certainly should not be sold without your permission,' said Pelosi, D-Calif. 'Our broadband providers know deeply personal information about us and our families.' So if the privacy laws are repealed, what can you do to protect their browsing history? Unfortunately, not much unless the person is tech-savvy. The Guardian suggests encrypting internet traffic. This can be done through a VPN service, which requires a subscription cost, or using Tor, a software program that enables anonymous communication.
  • Pledging cooperation, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said Wednesday they would steer clear of politics in their panel's probe of Russian interference in last year's election. They made a point of putting themselves at arm's length from the House investigation marked by partisanship and disputes. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the GOP chairman of the Senate committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill he would not even answer questions about the House probe. 'We're not asking the House to play any role in our investigation. We don't plan to play any role in their investigation,' Burr said ahead of his panel's open hearing Thursday. Standing alongside his committee' ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Burr said: 'Mark and I work hand in hand on this. ... We're partners to see that this is completed and that we have a product at the end of the day that we can, in bipartisanship, support.' The senators' comments came the same day an attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general has not been interviewed by the Senate intelligence committee. One of Flynn's lawyers, Robert K. Kelner, said they have had discussions with committee staff members, but Flynn has not been contacted directly. So far, the committee has requested 20 individuals to be interviewed. Five have been scheduled, and the remaining 15 are likely to be scheduled within the next 10 days. Additional witnesses could also be interviewed. During a news conference, Burr identified just one of the witnesses: President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The White House has said Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, has volunteered to answer questions about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials. Asked whether the committee had spoken to Flynn or his representatives, Burr told reporters, 'It's safe to say that we have had conversations with a lot of people, and you would think less of us if General Flynn wasn't in that list.' Trump asked Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to step down last month from his post as national security adviser. The president said he made the decision because Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Flynn's ties to Russia have been scrutinized by the FBI. They also are part of the House and Senate committee investigations into contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians. On the House side, Democrats have called for intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself because of his previous ties with Donald Trump's team before Trump took office. Nunes, R-Calif., met with a secret source on the White House grounds last week to review classified material, which he says indicates that Trump associates' communications were captured in 'incidental' surveillance of foreigners. Trump has used Nunes' revelations to defend his claim that former President Barack Obama tapped phones at Trump Tower in New York, though Nunes and his committee's top Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, say there is no such evidence. In response to a reporter's question, Burr said he had not personally coordinated with the White House in shaping the scope of the Senate committee's investigation. Asked if he could promise to oversee an impartial probe, Burr responded: 'Absolutely. I'll do something I've never done. I'll admit I voted for him (Trump). ... But I've got a job in the U.S. Senate and ... it overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have.' Warner said he had seen no evidence the White House was interfering and would complain publicly if he did. Ahead of Thursday's Senate hearing, Warner pledged to keep the investigation focused on the reason it was started. 'An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack our most critical democratic process — the election of the president — and in the process decided to favor one candidate over another,' Warner said. 'I can assure you, they didn't do it because it was in the vested interest of the American people. 'Russia's goal, Vladimir Putin's goal, is a weaker United States — weaker economically, weaker globally — and that should be a concern to all Americans, regardless of party affiliation.' Burr said the investigation's mission is to look at all activities Russia might have undertaken to alter or influence the election and to examine contacts any campaign had with Russian government officials that could have influenced the process. He said committee staff members have been provided with an 'unprecedented amount' of documents, including some that, up until now, have been shared only with the so-called Gang of Eight — the Republican and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate and the four leaders of the intelligence committees, plus their staff directors. Warner said some intelligence agencies have not been as cooperative as others in providing materials, and he declared, 'We cannot tell the American people our conclusions unless we have access to all the pertinent information.' Burr said the committee was in constant negotiations with intelligence officials about access to additional documents. ___ Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.
  • Ivanka Trump is officially joining her father's administration as an unpaid employee, after her plans to serve in a more informal capacity were questioned by ethics experts. The first daughter announced Wednesday that she will serve as an unpaid employee in the White House, saying she had 'heard the concerns some have with my advising the President in my personal capacity.' She added that she has been 'working in good faith with the White House Counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role.' The news about Ivanka Trump was first reported by The New York Times. A White House official said her title will be Assistant to the President. In a statement, the White House said it was 'pleased that Ivanka Trump has chosen to take this step in her unprecedented role as First Daughter and in support of the President. ' Trump previously announced she was getting a West Wing office and a security clearance, but would not officially join the administration. That decision had drawn criticism from ethics experts. Several attorneys and government watchdog leaders last week wrote a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn asking him to reconsider his approval of Ivanka Trump serving her father without becoming an official government employee. Such a designation carries with it the requirement to follow an array of transparency and ethical provisions, including a law prohibiting conflicts of interest. Trump had said she'd voluntarily follow such provisions. Norman Eisen, who was President Barack Obama's ethics counselor, was among those who signed the letter. He said that 'for a change in what has largely been an ethics disaster, the White House came to their senses. Let's hope it doesn't turn out to be an isolated moment of sanity.' Fred Wertheimer, president of the government watchdog group Democracy 21 and a co-writer of the letter to McGahn, said he commended Ivanka Trump for formalizing her status. 'Democracy 21 praises Ms. Trump for her decision, which recognizes that it would have been wrong for her to function as a White House employee and not be subject to the same rules that apply to other White House employees,' he said in a statement. Ivanka Trump's attorney Jamie Gorelick said she will file the financial disclosures required of federal employees and will be bound by official ethics rules. 'Ivanka's decision reflects both her commitment to compliance with federal ethics standards and her openness to opposing points of view,' Gorelick said. Trump had already sought to distance herself from her business interests. She continues to own her brand. But she has handed daily management to the company president and has set up a trust to provide further oversight. The business cannot make deals with any foreign state, and the trustees will confer with Gorelick over any new agreements. Ivanka Trump will also be able to veto proposed new transactions. With the Trump Organization, Ivanka Trump has stepped down from a leadership role and will receive fixed payments rather than a share of the profits.
  • A Russian opposition leader sharply critical of President Vladimir Putin told U.S. lawmakers Wednesday that he narrowly escaped death last month after being poisoned with a substance his doctors still haven't been able to identify. In congressional testimony, Vladimir Kara-Murza said his survival shows there are 'near misses' in the Russian government's campaign to silence its political opponents. He told lawmakers the official diagnosis was 'toxic action by an undefined substance.' He said he suffered multiple organ failure and was placed in a medically induced coma for several days after being hospitalized on Feb. 2. The episode was reminiscent of a mysterious poisoning he suffered two years earlier when he nearly died from kidney failure. Kara-Murza's appearance before the Senate Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee is part of a broader inquiry into what the panel's chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has called Russia's 'misadventures throughout the world.' Graham is one of a few congressional Republicans to openly criticize President Donald Trump's push for closer ties with Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election. The purpose of the hearing was to make a case for creating a 'counter-Russia' account in the U.S. government's budget, according to Graham. The money would be used to finance and empower countries and organizations 'that are fighting back against Putin's regime,' he said. 'It's in American taxpayers' interests that we push back against Putin's efforts to dismantle democracy throughout the world,' Graham added. Trump triggered a bipartisan backlash in early February when he repeated his desire to improve relations with Putin during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly called Putin 'a killer.' Trump answered, 'We've got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country's so innocent?' Kara-Murza is the vice chairman of Open Russia, a private foundation run by exiled Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Just a few weeks before his most recent illness, Kara-Murza sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was sharply critical of Putin's government. The letter, dated Jan. 9, came just before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's confirmation hearing. Kara-Murza urged the committee to take his assessment into account when considering Tillerson's nomination and the 'next steps in U.S.-Russia relations.' Putin's 'nearly generation-long rule has been marked by the dismantlement of the nascent democratic institutions that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union,' Kara-Murza wrote. Most Russian media outlets are 'mouthpieces' for government propaganda, he added, and elections are 'marred by intimidation and fraud,' making them largely meaningless rituals. Kara-Murza was a close associate of the murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down in February 2015. In the letter and in his testimony Wednesday, Kara-Murza said the organizers and masterminds of Nemtsov's murder have not been identified or apprehended. Russian state media have targeted Kara-Murza alongside Nemtsov for his lobbying in the West, openly calling him a traitor. Kara-Murza has traveled to the U.S., Canada and eastern Europe, pushing a law that targets Russian officials involved in rights abuses. In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, named for the late Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. It was a precursor for the worsening of U.S.-Russia relations, which hit a post-Cold War low in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. ___ Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner
  • To believe or not to believe? That is the question, when it comes to President Donald Trump's comments about what comes next on health care. Since the Republicans' coverage bill died in the House last week, marking the defeat of Trump's first major legislative initiative, the president has sent conflicting signals about trying again and left people guessing about whether his words on the subject are meant to be taken literally. At a White House reception for senators from both parties and their spouses Tuesday night, he told them: 'I know that we're all going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one.' As Trump learned, health care is a hard one. So hard the legislation to replace 'Obamacare' failed in the Republican-controlled House, without ever going to the Republican-controlled Senate. So hard that in his late February news conference, Trump was moved to say: 'I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.' Sean Spicer, his spokesman, said Wednesday that Trump was only making a lighthearted crack at the reception. 'He was poking fun and making a joke,' he said. Trump, normally not one to practice self-deprecating humor, delivered the comment in a serious tone , without a smile. He also told the reception, regarding a second attempt to make a deal on health care, 'I have no doubt that that's going to happen very quickly.' Whether Trump actually intends to try again soon remains to be seen. After the bill was pulled without a vote, he indicated he would wait indefinitely, predicting that Obamacare would fall apart from problems in the marketplace, that Americans would cry out for a replacement and that lawmakers would then have more appetite for action. Likewise, House Speaker Paul Ryan said ruefully that the law would remain in place for the 'foreseeable future.' They've since suggested they may return to the subject promptly, despite a political climate that remains forbidding. Trump's spokesman did not describe a president in a rush. 'We'll see,' Spicer said, 'but I think the idea that the president has put out there is that if people want to float ideas and suggestions on how we can grow this vote and get to a majority, he'll entertain them.' Spicer said, 'We're not trying to jam that down anyone's throat right now. It's an ongoing discussion.' A look behind the rhetoric of public officials

News

  • Pickens County deputies are searching for an armed fugitive.  Authorities are looking for Nicholas Bishop in the area of Priest Circle in Talking Rock.  Bishop is believed to be armed with a handgun and on foot after he abandoned a stolen vehicle around 2 p.m.  If you see him, call 911 immediately. Officials say do not attempt to approach him. - Please return for updates.
  • One more time, Doris Payne, the 86-year-old infamous international jewel thief, has pleaded guilty to the usual crime. She admitted Wednesday to stealing a necklace from Von Maur at Perimeter Mall last year, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office said. Payne, who recently said she’s been dealing with a possibly cancerous tumor, was sentenced to 120 days of house arrest and three years of probation.  She was also banned from all Von Maur locations and every mall in DeKalb County. Payne, who’d been free on bond, was arrested last month for missing a court date. Shortly after the would-be appearance, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she wasn’t medically able to attend. “I ain’t runnin’,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve never in my life been late for court. Last month, Payne was deemed too ill to stand trial by the judge presiding over a Fulton County case stemming from a missing set of earrings at Phipps Plaza. Payne has been open about her habits of theft, which she detailed in a documentary called, “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.” RELATED: Huge DeKalb center with (at least) 8 popular chains is opening soon RELATED: Cop helps elderly woman who got kicked out of dentist office in DeKalb RELATED: A DeKalb family’s tale of two dead bodies and a crying baby girl Like DeKalb County News Now on Facebook | Follow on Twitter and Instagram
  • A drunken driver destroyed a row of headstones at a historic Carrollton cemetery, causing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of damage, police said. According to police, the driver was coming down Martin Luther King Street on March 19, ran a stop sign, jumped a curb and crashed into the city-owned cemetery. The broken headstones range in date from the late 1800s to 1950. 'And what we discussed is, if one is damaged beyond repair, we'll put something back that's respectful. It's hard to replace it with the exact same item. The families aren't around anymore, so the city will take on the responsibility,' city manager Tim Grizzard said. TRENDING STORIES: Thousands of Georgians could lose food stamps next week 16-year-old in custody after hoax call about school gunman Food prices at SunTrust Park vs. Mercedes-Benz Stadium: What's the difference? The 35-year-old driver, Ray Antonio Baker, was arrested and charged with DUI. City officials said they will ask his insurance carrier to pay for the damage. 'Our plan is to go after the individual's insurance to pay for repairs. If that doesn't pay for everything, the city will certainly pick up the tab,' Grizzard said. Officials said this isn't the first time a driver has damaged headstones, but it's not a big enough problem to put up a wall. 'It's not something that has happened often enough that we need to put up a barrier. If it was a recurrent spot, we would do something,' Grizzard said. City officials said it could take weeks to repair the damage.
  • President Donald Trump faces one last hurdle to ending nearly seven years of lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University when a judge decides Thursday whether to approve a $25 million settlement with former customers. When attorneys reached a deal 10 days after Trump's election, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said he hoped it would be part of 'a healing process that this country very sorely needs.' A month later, he granted preliminary approval of the deal. Last week, attorneys for former customers said their clients will get at least 80 percent of their money back, based on the roughly 3,730 claims submitted. Trump has paid $25 million into escrow to settle two federal class-action lawsuits before Curiel and a civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. He admitted no wrongdoing. The lawsuits allege that Trump University gave nationwide seminars that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring people to spend more and, in the end, failing to deliver on its promises. Two customers have objected to the settlement. Sherri Simpson, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, attorney, says she wasn't given enough opportunity to opt out of the lawsuit and should have the right to sue the president. Simpson and a partner paid $35,000 in 2010 to enroll in Trump University's 'Gold Elite' program to be paired with a mentor who would teach them Trump's secret real estate investment strategies. Simpson, who appeared in two anti-Trump campaign ads, said they got little for their money — the videos were 5 years old, the materials covered information that could be found free on the internet and her mentor didn't return calls or emails. 'I would like an admission that he was wrong, an admission that, 'Oops, maybe I didn't handle it as well as I should have, I didn't set it up as well as I should have, that I didn't maintain it or oversee it as well as I should have,'' Simpson told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Attorneys for Trump and those suing him say the deadline to opt out was in November 2015 and Simpson missed her chance. Thirteen people opted out before that date, none of whom have shown any desire to sue the president. Another customer, Harold Doe, objected to the settlement because he wants more money, according to court filings by attorneys for Trump and the plaintiffs. Trump University dogged the Republican businessman throughout the campaign as rivals used Trump's depositions and extensive documents filed in the lawsuits to portray him as dishonest and deceitful. Trump brought more attention by repeatedly assailing Curiel, insinuating that the Indiana-born judge's Mexican heritage exposed a bias. The settlement was reached 10 days before a trial was set to begin, sparing Trump what would have been a major distraction. The trial would have been pinned on whether a jury believed Trump misled customers by calling the business a university when it wasn't an accredited school and by falsely advertising that he hand-picked instructors. Trump vowed never to settle but said after the election that he didn't have time for a trial, even though he believed he would have prevailed. ___ Associated Press writer Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.