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The Latest: Gorsuch confirmation vote expected by April 10

The Latest on Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley says the Senate is aiming to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch before a two-week break that starts April 10.

The committee expects a vote on Monday, April 3. Grassley told reporters after the first day of Gorsuch's confirmation hearings that the nomination would go immediately to the floor after that.

He said that he believes Democrats will have a hard time voting against Gorsuch after the hearings, but "I assume he'll have a lot of votes against him."

Grassley said Gorsuch "stated a very independent view" in his opening statement Monday and that the hearings are off to a good start.

Senators begin questioning Gorsuch on Tuesday.

___

3:25 p.m.

Of all the testimonials about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, this is the one that counts in Colorado — a letter of support from former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway.

In a letter dated Monday and sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Elway writes that Gorsuch "has demonstrated tremendous intelligence, character and fairness" as a federal appeals court judge based in Denver.

The letter says Gorsuch's "credentials, integrity and sound moral compass are major reasons why he's already received so much bipartisan support for his nomination."

The admiration is mutual.

In his opening statement on Monday, Gorsuch said: "In Colorado today there is God and John Elway and Peyton Manning."

Elway is general manager of the Broncos and revered after the football team won the Super Bowl in February 2016.

___

3:10 p.m.

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is promising to be independent if confirmed to the high court.

In his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, President Donald Trump's nominee said it is for Congress to make laws, for the executive to enforce them, "and for neutral and independent judges" to apply them.

He said that in his decade as a federal appeals court judge he tried to treat all fairly and with respect. He said he has decided cases for disabled students, prisoners and workers alleging civil rights violations.

Gorsuch said: "Sometimes, I have ruled against such persons too."

He said his decisions never reflected a judgment about the people before me, "only my best judgment about the law and facts at issue in each particular case."

___

2:20 p.m.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal is calling on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to publicly defend the independence of the federal judiciary.

At Gorsuch's confirmation hearing, Blumenthal said judicial independence is "more important than ever, and your defense of it is critical."

He noted a separate hearing Monday in which FBI Director James Comey said the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump, who nominated Gorsuch.

"If you fail to be explicit and forthcoming we have to assume you will pass the Trump litmus test," Blumenthal said.

Gorsuch has shown some willingness to be independent from Trump, telling Blumenthal in a private meeting that he found the president's attacks on the judiciary demoralizing. But Democrats have called on him to say it publicly.

___

1:40 p.m.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is criticizing Democrats, complaining that they didn't ask former President Bill Clinton's Supreme Court nominees about a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him.

Cruz said Gorsuch is being asked to answer for "the actions and statements and even the tweets of the president who appointed him" — Republican Donald Trump.

In his courtesy calls with senators prior to the hearing, Gorsuch was asked about Trump's tweets about the judiciary after the president lashed out at the courts for blocking his travel and immigration ban.

Paula Jones filed suit against Clinton in 1994, the year after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed and just as Justice Stephen Breyer was nominated.

__

1:10 p.m.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is criticizing the increasing partisanship in Senate consideration of judicial nominations.

Speaking at the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Graham said he voted for both of Democratic President Barack Obama's choices.

He said he thought they "lived exemplary lives, quite frankly."

As Democrats have criticized Gorsuch's rulings, Graham said "now the shoe is on the other foot." He challenged Democrats to say Gorsuch isn't qualified.

He noted that in the past, justices were confirmed unanimously or with little dissent.

The current partisan climate "is going to destroy the judiciary over time," Graham said.

__

12:05 p.m.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is criticizing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch because of his support from conservative interest groups that the Vermont lawmaker called "anti-choice, anti-environment and pro-corporate."

Gorsuch was recommended for the nomination by the conservative Federalist Society and others during last year's presidential campaign after Senate Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016 and the seat has remained vacant.

President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch in February.

At the start of confirmation hearings on Monday, Leahy complained that Republicans had "made a big show last year about respecting the voice of the American people in this process."

Leahy said Republicans are now pressing to "rubber stamp a nominee selected by extreme interest groups." The Democrat also noted Gorsuch was nominated by Trump, who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

___

11:50 a.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee says she is "deeply disappointed" that the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is beginning in the shadow of Republicans' decision to block the previous nominee for the seat.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. Then-President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, but Republicans blocked him. Donald Trump then won the presidency and nominated Gorsuch.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein says Garland was "a mainstream moderate nominee," and Democrats' job now is "to decide whether Judge Gorsuch is a reasonable, mainstream conservative, or is he not."

Feinstein set out a list of issues that the Supreme Court could consider, including abortion, campaign finance, voting rights laws and gun control.

___

11:20 a.m.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley says his panel likely will cast a vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's nomination in two weeks, on April 3.

Grassley said the committee will first schedule a vote for next Monday, March 27. But he expects the vote to be held over a week, as committee rules allow any member to push it back.

Republicans have said they would like Gorsuch to be confirmed before Congress leaves for a two-week recess on April 7.

For Supreme Court nominations, the Judiciary panel has traditionally voted to recommend a nominee favorably or unfavorably, giving the full Senate the final say.

Gorsuch's four-day confirmation hearing began Monday morning. Senators will begin questioning the judge Tuesday.

___

11 a.m.

A Senate panel has opened confirmation hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court.

The panel's chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley, opened the first day of hearings on Monday. Colorado's two senators — Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner — are introducing Gorsuch, a highly credentialed and conservative member of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gorsuch's nomination has been cheered by Republicans and praised by some left-leaning legal scholars. Democrats headed into the committee hearings divided over how hard to fight him.

The first day of the hearings will feature opening statements from senators and Gorsuch himself. Questioning will begin on Tuesday.

__

10:10 a.m.

In prepared remarks ahead of Monday's confirmation hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley says Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is the right person to maintain the "preservation of our constitutional order" and the separation of powers under the Constitution.

Grassley says Gorsuch's "body of professional work is defined by an unfailing commitment to these principles."

Republicans have criticized former President Barack Obama for overreach in using executive orders to get around Congress. Grassley says "separation of powers is just as critical today as it was during the last administration."

At the same time, Grassley tries to head off expected Democratic arguments that Gorsuch often ruled in favor of corporate plaintiffs. He says that's "an old claim" from "an even older playbook.".

__

3:30 a.m.

Thirteen months after Antonin Scalia's death created a vacancy on the Supreme Court, hearings get underway on President Donald Trump's nominee to replace him.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, is a respected, highly credentialed and conservative member of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His nomination has been cheered by Republicans and praised by some left-leaning legal scholars, and Democrats head into the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Monday divided over how hard to fight him.

The nomination has been surprisingly low-key thus far in a Capitol distracted by Trump-driven controversies over wiretapping and Russian spying as well as attempts to pass a divisive health care bill. That will change this week as the hearings give Democratic senators a chance to press Gorsuch on issues like judicial independence, given Trump's attacks on the judiciary, as well as what they view as Gorsuch's own history of siding with corporations in his 10 years on the bench.

The first day of the hearings Monday will feature opening statements from senators and Gorsuch himself. Questioning will begin on Tuesday, and votes in committee and on the Senate floor are expected early next month.

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  • Almost 5,000 pounds of explosives brought down the Georgia Dome Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in a controlled demolition in Atlanta.
  • Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after masterminding the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday night after nearly a half-century in prison. He was 83.Manson died of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence, his name synonymous to this day with unspeakable violence and depravity.Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, reacted to the death by quoting the late Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who put Manson behind bars. Bugliosi said: 'Manson was an evil, sophisticated con man with twisted and warped moral values.'Today, Manson's victims are the ones who should be remembered and mourned on the occasion of his death,' Hanisee said.A petty criminal who had been in and out of jail since childhood, the charismatic, guru-like Manson surrounded himself in the 1960s with runaways and other lost souls and then sent his disciples to butcher some of L.A.'s rich and famous in what prosecutors said was a bid to trigger a race war — an idea he got from a twisted reading of the Beatles song 'Helter Skelter.'The slayings horrified the world and, together with the deadly violence that erupted later in 1969 during a Rolling Stones concert at California's Altamont Speedway, exposed the dangerous, drugged-out underside of the counterculture movement and seemed to mark the death of the era of peace and love.Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Manson maintained during his tumultuous trial in 1970 that he was innocent and that society itself was guilty.'These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them; I didn't teach them. I just tried to help them stand up,' he said in a courtroom soliloquy.Linda Deutsch, the longtime courts reporter for The Associated Press who covered the Manson case, said he 'left a legacy of evil and hate and murder.'He was able to take young people who were impressionable and convince them he had the answer to everything and he turned them into killers,' she said. 'It was beyond anything we had ever seen before in this country.'California Corrections Department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said it has yet to be determined what happens to Manson's body. It was also unclear if Manson requested funeral services of any sort.Prison officials previously said Manson had no known next of kin, and state law says that if no relative or legal representative surfaces within 10 days, then it's up to the department to determine whether the body is cremated or buried.The Manson Family, as his followers were called, slaughtered five of its victims on Aug. 9, 1969, at Tate's home: the actress, who was 8½ months pregnant, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, Polish movie director Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate's caretaker. Tate's husband, 'Rosemary's Baby' director Roman Polanski, was out of the country at the time.The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were stabbed to death in their home across town.The killers scrawled such phrases as 'Pigs' and a misspelled 'Healter Skelter' in blood at the crime scenes.Manson was arrested three months later. In the annals of American crime, he became the personification of evil, a short, shaggy-haired, bearded figure with a demonic stare and an 'X'' — later turned into a swastika — carved into his forehead.'Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969,' author Joan Didion wrote in her 1979 book 'The White Album.'After a trial that lasted nearly a year, Manson and three followers — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Another defendant, Charles 'Tex' Watson, was convicted later. All were spared execution and given life sentences after the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972.Atkins died behind bars in 2009. Krenwinkel, Van Houten and Watson remain in prison.Another Manson devotee, Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme, tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, but her gun jammed. She served 34 years in prison.Manson was born in Cincinnati on Nov. 12, 1934, to a teenager, possibly a prostitute, and was in reform school by the time he was 8. After serving a 10-year sentence for check forgery in the 1960s, Manson was said to have pleaded with authorities not to release him because he considered prison home.'My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system,' he would later say in a monologue on the witness stand. 'I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.'He was set free in San Francisco during the heyday of the hippie movement in the city's Haight-Ashbury section, and though he was in his mid-30s by then, he began collecting followers — mostly women — who likened him to Jesus Christ. Most were teenagers; many came from good homes but were at odds with their parents.The 'family' eventually established a commune-like base at the Spahn Ranch, a ramshackle former movie location outside Los Angeles, where Manson manipulated his followers with drugs, oversaw orgies and subjected them to bizarre lectures.He had musical ambitions and befriended rock stars, including Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. He also met Terry Melcher, a music producer who had lived in the same house that Polanski and Tate later rented.By the summer of 1969, Manson had failed to sell his songs, and the rejection was later seen as a trigger for the violence. He complained that Wilson took a Manson song called 'Cease to Exist,' revised it into 'Never Learn Not to Love' and recorded it with the Beach Boys without giving Manson credit.Manson was obsessed with Beatles music, particularly 'Piggies' and 'Helter Skelter,' a hard-rocking song that he interpreted as forecasting the end of the world. He told his followers that 'Helter Skelter is coming down' and predicted a race war would destroy the planet.'Everybody attached themselves to us, whether it was our fault or not,' the Beatles' George Harrison, who wrote 'Piggies,' later said of the murders. 'It was upsetting to be associated with something so sleazy as Charles Manson.'According to testimony, Manson sent his devotees out on the night of Tate's murder with instructions to 'do something witchy.' The state's star witness, Linda Kasabian, who was granted immunity, testified that Manson tied up the LaBiancas, then ordered his followers to kill. But Manson insisted: 'I have killed no one, and I have ordered no one to be killed.'His trial was nearly scuttled when President Richard Nixon said Manson was 'guilty, directly or indirectly.' Manson grabbed a newspaper and held up the front-page headline for jurors to read: 'Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares.' Attorneys demanded a mistrial but were turned down.From then on, jurors, sequestered at a hotel for 10 months, traveled to and from the courtroom in buses with blacked-out windows so they could not read the headlines on newsstands.Manson was also later convicted of the slayings of a musician and a stuntman.Over the decades, Manson and his followers appeared sporadically at parole hearings, where their bids for freedom were repeatedly rejected. The women suggested they had been rehabilitated, but Manson himself stopped attending, saying prison had become his home.The killings inspired movies and TV shows, and Bugliosi, the prosecutor, wrote a best-selling book about the murders, 'Helter Skelter.' The macabre rock star Marilyn Manson borrowed part of his stage name from the killer.'The Manson case, to this day, remains one of the most chilling in crime history,' veteran crime reporter Theo Wilson wrote in her 1998 memoir, 'Headline Justice: Inside the Courtroom — The Country's Most Controversial Trials.' ''Even people who were not yet born when the murders took place know the name Charles Manson, and shudder.'___AP writer Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this report. This story contains biographical information compiled by former AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch. Deutsch covered the Tate-La Bianca killings and the Manson trial for The Associated Press and has written about the Manson family for four decades.
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