ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
58°
Sunny
H 64° L 39°
  • clear-night
    58°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 64° L 39°
  • clear-day
    64°
    Today
    Sunny. H 64° L 39°
  • clear-day
    68°
    Tomorrow
    Sunny. H 68° L 42°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

National Govt & Politics

    Within minutes of receiving notification that special counsel Robert Mueller had turned over his report on the Russia investigation, congressional Democrats were calling for the report to be fully released, including the underlying evidence. They have threatened subpoenas if it is not. The demands are setting up a potential tug of war between congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump's administration that federal judges might eventually have to referee. Six Democratic committee chairmen wrote in a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Friday that if Mueller has any reason to believe that Trump 'has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct,' then the Justice Department should not conceal it. 'The president is not above the law and the need for public faith in our democratic institutions and the rule of law must be the priority,' the chairmen wrote. It's unclear what Mueller has found related to the president, or if any of it would be damning. In his investigation of whether President Donald Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the 2016 election, Mueller has already brought charges against 34 people, including six aides and advisers to the president, and three companies. Lawmakers say they need the underlying evidence — including interviews, documents and material turned over to the grand jury — because the Justice Department has maintained that a president cannot be indicted, and also that derogatory information cannot be released about people who have not been charged. So if the investigation did find evidence incriminating against Trump, they may not be able to release it, under their own guidelines. The Democrats say that it could be tantamount to a cover-up if the department did not let Congress and the public know what they found. Barr said in the letter advising the top lawmakers on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees Friday that he had received Mueller's report that he intends to share its 'principal conclusions' with lawmakers soon, potentially over the weekend. He also said he will consult Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about what other parts of the report can be shared with Congress or the public. Barr testified at his confirmation hearings that he wants to release as much information as he can about the inquiry. But the department's regulations require only that the attorney general report to Congress that the investigation has concluded and describe or explain any times when he or Rosenstein decided an action Mueller proposed 'was so inappropriate or unwarranted' that it should not be pursued. Barr said Friday there were no such instances where Mueller was thwarted. But anything less than the full report won't be enough for Democrats. 'If the AG plays any games, we will subpoena the report, ask Mr. Mueller to testify, and take it all to court if necessary,' said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. 'The people deserve to know.' House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff told CNN Friday that he's willing to subpoena Mueller and Barr, if needed, to push for disclosure. Though Trump himself has said the report should be made public, it's not clear whether the administration would fight subpoenas for testimony or block the transmission of grand jury material. If the administration decides to fight, lawmakers could ask federal courts to step in and enforce a subpoena. A court fight could, in theory, reach the Supreme Court. But few tussles between Congress and the White House get that far. They often are resolved through negotiation. In both the Clinton and Obama administrations, even when talks failed and courts got involved in assessing claims of executive privilege, the White House decided not to take the fight to the high court and complied with lower court rulings against it. The Democrats, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, could also formally ask Mueller to send his committee evidence that could be used in possible impeachment proceedings against Trump, as suggested by Benjamin Wittes, a senior Brookings Institution fellow and editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog. That's the course one of Nadler's predecessors followed during Watergate, although an impeachment inquiry against President Richard Nixon had already started by that point. Grand jury material from special counsel Leon Jaworski, provided through the federal judge who presided over the Watergate trials, became the road map that the House committee used to vote for articles of impeachment. Nixon resigned before the full House acted on his impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said recently that she's not for impeaching Trump, at least for now.
  • An investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into an elaborate Russian operation that sought to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and try to help Donald Trump win the White House has cast a spotlight on more than a dozen Russian nationals, including billionaires, an elusive linguist, an ambassador and a pop star. A look at some of the cast of characters: PUTIN'S CHEF Yevgeny Prigozhin, 57, earned the nickname of 'Putin's chef' for hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign dignitaries at his restaurant and catering important Kremlin events. A former convict, he now runs companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars, thanks to his willingness to do favors for Putin that others would find too risky. Prigozhin was indicted in the U.S. last year in an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 election. The indictment said he funded the Internet Research Agency, a 'troll factory' in Russia's St. Petersburg that used social media accounts to 'sow discord in the U.S. political system.' But he also is the suspected mastermind of a company called Wagner that has been sending private military contractors to fight in Syria, Ukraine and African countries. Putin has dismissed charges against the St. Petersburg native and his employees as 'ridiculous,' mocking the West for falling 'so low' to be suspecting 'a restaurateur from Russia' of influencing the U.S. election. THE ELUSIVE LINGUIST Konstantin Kilimnik worked for Paul Manafort starting in the early 2000s. He is described as a fixer, translator or office manager and helped the political consultant formulate his pitches to clients in Russia and Ukraine. The FBI says Kilimnik has ties to Russian military intelligence, but he has denied that. U.S. officials regarded Kilimnik as Manafort's key aide during their work on behalf of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, who became the president of Ukraine in 2010. Born in what was then Soviet Ukraine, Kilimnik got a degree in linguistics from a military university and in 1995 began working as a translator for the International Republican Institute in Moscow, a U.S.-government-funded nonprofit that promotes democracy. Court documents filed by attorneys with Mueller's office showed Manafort shared polling data from the Trump campaign with Kilimnik. The two also discussed a Russia-Ukraine peace plan several times including during an August 2016 meeting at a cigar bar in New York. A Mueller prosecutor has said that meeting goes to the 'heart' of the Russia investigation, but additional details have been blacked out in court documents. Even after Manafort lost his campaign job and was indicted by Mueller on charges related to his foreign lobbying work, U.S. prosecutors alleged, Kilimnik helped ghost-write an op-ed defending Manafort. Kilimnik was indicted alongside Manafort on witness tampering charges. He reportedly lives in Russia, where he keeps a low profile and refuses to talk to reporters. THE AMBASSADOR Career diplomat Sergey Kislyak was Russia's ambassador in Washington from 2008 until 2017, when he was called home amid scrutiny of his recurrent meetings with the Trump campaign staff as the Mueller probe gained speed. The low-key official with 40 years of diplomatic service was thrust into the limelight in December 2016 when Michael Flynn, who would become Trump's national security adviser, held conversations with Kislyak and asked him not to escalate a diplomatic fight with the U.S. over punishment levied by the Obama administration on Moscow. Kislyak also had conversations with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner at Trump Tower that year and also met with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, later Trump's attorney general. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak. The 68-year-old Kislyak, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, has vehemently denied that he or any embassy staff tried to disrupt the 2016 election. He currently sits in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. THE PROPERTY DEVELOPER & THE POP STAR Property developer Aras Agalarov, 63, and his 39-year-old pop singer son, Emin, have had a relationship with Trump dating to their bid to host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. The elder Agalarov told AP in 2017 that he first met Trump in the U.S. when he and Emin flew in to negotiate the rights to hold the pageant. They hit it off and have had a friendly relationship ever since. Agalarov told the Russian edition of Forbes that his company spent about $20 million on the pageant. Agalarov also said that he offered the future U.S. president a site for a Trump tower in Moscow, but 'it didn't come to signing any deals.' The Agalarovs maintained ties with Trump, and it was Emin who, through his British publicist, helped arrange a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian government-connected lawyer who was purported to have documents that could 'incriminate' candidate Hillary Clinton in support of the Trump campaign. The meeting was attended by Donald Trump Jr., along with Manafort and Kushner. The American participants would later say the meeting was a bust in terms of gathering derogatory information on Clinton, consumed by a lengthy discussion of Russian adoption and U.S. sanctions. The younger Agalarov last month canceled his upcoming shows in the U.S., citing 'circumstances beyond my control.' His father continues to operate a successful real estate and construction business. Neither father nor son is accused of any wrongdoing. THE LAWYER Moscow lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was thrust into the Russia probe when it emerged that she attended the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Leaked documents suggested that the 43-year-old Veselnitskaya went to the meeting as part of efforts to help her clients try to overturn U.S. sanctions — one of the Kremlin's strategic goals. While Veselnitskaya has denied acting on behalf of Russian officials, scores of emails and documents shared with the AP show she served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel. In January, Veselnitskaya was indicted by federal prosecutors in New York on one count of obstruction of justice in an unrelated tax fraud case that alleged she teamed up with a senior Russian prosecutor and submitted deceptive declarations in a civil proceeding. THE ALUMINUM MOGUL Oleg Deripaska made his billions in the aluminum industry in the rags-to-riches privatization era that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and was involved in infrastructure development for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, one of Putin's pet projects. Deripaska once hired Manafort as a consultant, and prosecutors disclosed he provided a Manafort company with a $10 million loan around 2010. Manafort offered to provide Deripaska with private briefings during the 2016 election campaign, but there is no evidence such briefings ever occurred. The 51-year-old was trained as a physicist in the late years of the Soviet Union and became a major player on the Russian metals market even before his 30th birthday. Even among Russian billionaires, Deripaska is notable for his closeness to Putin. Deripaska and his companies were hit with crippling U.S. sanctions last year over Russia's 'malign activity' including Moscow's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. But the U.S. Treasury last month lifted sanctions on three Russian companies owned by Deripaska, reversing a move that wreaked havoc on global aluminum markets, after the oligarch restructured the companies and reduced his share in them. THE OLIGARCH AT THE INAUGURATION Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg has long ties to the U.S. including a green card he once held and homes in New York and Connecticut. The 61-year-old Ukrainian-born businessman, estimated to be worth $13 billion, heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets. Vekselberg built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era. As of mid-February, a company controlled by Vekselberg and a group of partners owned 22.5 percent in Deripaska's Rusal, a metals company that was hit with the U.S. sanctions, according to a letter sent by Senate Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Mark Warner to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Deripaska subsequently agreed to cede control of Rusal in exchange for the sanctions relief. As a rich and powerful Russian, Vekselberg is presumed to operate with Putin's tacit approval. He has used his wealth to exert influence in the U.S., including the Skolkovo Foundation, a Russian government-backed nonprofit aimed at winning U.S. and Western tech investment in Russia. Vekselberg has worked closely with his American cousin, Andrew Intrater, who heads the New York investment management firm Columbus Nova. Media attention zeroed in on Vekselberg and Intrater when the attorney for the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels released a memo claiming the cousins routed about $500,000 through Columbus Nova to a shell company set up by Trump's attorney Michael Cohen. Columbus Nova denied that Vekselberg played any role in its payments to Cohen. Several days before Trump's inauguration, Vekselberg and Intrater met with Cohen at Trump Tower, one of several meetings between Trump intimates and high-level Russians during the 2016 campaign and transition. Vekselberg also was targeted with U.S. Treasury Department sanctions, which cited his ties to Putin, after he was questioned by Mueller's staff on a visit to the U.S. All of Vekselberg's assets in the U.S. are frozen and U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business with him and his entities.
  • Representatives for Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams say that rumors the former vice president planned to choose the onetime Georgia gubernatorial candidate as his 2020 running mate are 'false' and that there was 'no grand plan hatched.' Biden spokesman Bill Russo tweeted Friday that the ex-vice president 'has an enormous amount of respect for' Abrams, noting Biden endorsed her in the gubernatorial race. 'But,' Russo tweeted, 'these rumors about discussions on a pre-cooked ticket are false, plain and simple.' Abrams' spokeswoman Lauren Groh-Wargo responded by saying Abrams 'enjoyed meeting' with Biden but 'there was no grand plan hatched' and she was keeping her options for 2020 open. Both Biden and Abrams are considering 2020 Democratic presidential runs, and Biden advisers had reportedly discussed options to mitigate concerns about his age.
  • Democrats on Friday quickly called for the release of details in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any ties to the campaign of President Donald Trump, as U.S. Attorney General William Barr told key lawmakers he could release some of the findings to Congress as soon as this weekend. 'Now that Special Counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the Attorney General, it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer in a joint statement. 'The Special Counsel's report must be provided to Congress immediately, and the Attorney General should swiftly prepare a declassified version of the report for the public,' said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.  'Nothing short of that will suffice,' Warner added, as Democrats quickly piled on to join that point of view. “The Attorney General should make the report public and let the American people learn the facts Mueller uncovered,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL).
  • A look at the key players entangled in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. PAUL MANAFORT The former chairman of Trump's campaign has been convicted in Washington and Virginia of crimes related to years of Ukrainian political consulting work, including allegations he concealed his foreign government work from the United States and failed to pay taxes on it. Though the charges don't directly touch Trump, he's nonetheless remained a figure of considerable intrigue and enjoys the continued sympathy of the president, who has left open the door for a pardon. He is now serving a more than seven-year prison sentence. MICHAEL FLYNN Trump's former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI just days after Trump took office by telling agents that he had never discussed sanctions with the then Russian ambassador to the United States. The White House said Flynn had misled administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about the conversation and ousted him weeks later. He's since become a vital cooperator for Mueller. MICHAEL COHEN Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer is at the center of not only Mueller's investigation but also a separate, and rapidly mushrooming, investigation into hush-money payments. In Mueller's investigation, Cohen has admitted lying to Congress about a proposed real estate development in Moscow. He told lawmakers the negotiations were done in January 2016 when in fact they stretched deep into the campaign. He also pleaded guilty in New York to campaign finance violations stemming from the payments, with prosecutors saying last week that he 'acted in coordination and at the direction of Individual 1' — or Trump. GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS The former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser served a 14-day prison sentence after admitting lying to the FBI about a 2016 conversation with a Maltese professor who told him that Russia had 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton in the form of stolen emails. Information about Papadopoulos' contacts during the campaign started the FBI's Russia investigation. RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE Twelve Russian military intelligence officers were charged in July with hacking into email accounts of Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic Party and then facilitating the release of tens of thousands of private communications. It remains perhaps the most direct example of what intelligence officials say was a broad conspiracy by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 election on Trump's behalf. RUSSIAN ONLINE TROLLS A separate indictment charges 13 Russians with funding a covert social media propaganda campaign to sow discord among Americans in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors say the scheme was run by a Russia-based troll farm that used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to try to influence the race. ROGER STONE A longtime Trump confidant, and self-proclaimed 'dirty trickster' of Republican politics, Stone is charged with witness tampering and lying to Congress about his efforts to gain advance knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans to release damaging information on Clinton during 2016. Though a Stone tweet from 2016 — 'Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel' — appeared to presage the disclosure of hacked emails, Stone has said he had no inside knowledge about the content, source or timing of WikiLeaks' disclosure. He has also pleaded not guilty to the federal charges brought by Mueller. JULIAN ASSANGE The WikiLeaks founder, under Justice Department scrutiny for years for the group's role in publishing government secrets, has been an important figure in the Mueller investigation as investigators examine how WikiLeaks obtained emails stolen from Clinton's campaign and Democratic groups. Prosecutors have also investigated whether any Americans were involved in coordinating that effort. Separately, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently disclosed the existence of a sealed criminal complaint against the WikiLeaks founder, though no details have been publicly announced. DONALD TRUMP JR. The president's eldest son has attracted scrutiny for his role in arranging a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 — also attended by Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — at which he expected to receive damaging information on Clinton. He has said the meeting was a waste of time because he didn't receive anything interesting from the attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Both he and his father have suggested that anyone in that position would have taken such a meeting in hopes of getting dirt on a political opponent. The meeting has been of interest to investigators, who have called multiple participants before the grand jury. ___ Read AP's coverage of the Russia probe: https://apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
  • The Latest on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation (all times local): 7:20 p.m. The Democratic chairs of six House committees are demanding that the Justice Department release 'without delay' the full report it has received from special counsel Robert Mueller. They say they expect Attorney General William Barr also to turn over all evidence Mueller has uncovered. The Democrats say since the Justice Department asserts a sitting president can't be indicted, Barr's failure to release evidence of criminal or other misconduct by President Donald Trump 'would raise serious questions about whether the Department of Justice policy is being used as a pretext for a cover-up of misconduct.' The six chairs are Jerrold Nadler of Judiciary and Eliot Engel of Foreign Affairs; Elijah Cummings of Oversight and Reform; Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Maxine Waters of Financial Services and the Ways and Means Committee's Richard Neal. ___ 6:40 p.m. President Donald Trump's lawyers want an early look at special counsel Robert Mueller's findings before they are made public. That's according to Rudy Giuliani, Trump's attorney. He says Trump's legal team hasn't received any assurances that they'll get the early look they want, though. Mueller notified Attorney General William Barr on Friday that he had concluded his probe of Russian election interference and any possible coordination with Donald Trump's campaign. Now, Barr will review the findings and determine how much to make public. ___ 6:38 p.m. Special counsel Robert Mueller will be concluding his government service in the 'coming days.' That's according to special counsel spokesman Peter Carr. Carr says in a statement that a 'small number' of the office's staff will remain 'to assist in closing the operations of the office.' He did not provide a specific timeline for when that might occur. As of Friday, 11 prosecutors were still employed by the special counsel's office. The statement comes just hours after Mueller turned in his confidential report closing his probe of Russian election interference and possible coordination with Donald Trump's campaign. ___ 6:35 p.m. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff says his panel will issue subpoenas if special counsel Robert Mueller's report — and its underlying evidence — are not released to Congress for further review. The California Democrat said on CNN that Congress needs to know 'and so does the country.' He said he's willing to subpoena Mueller as well as Attorney General William Barr, if needed, to push for disclosure. House Democrats now see the Mueller investigation as a starting point for their own probes of President Donald Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller delivered his final report to Barr on Friday. ___ 6:15 p.m. One top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, says the findings of the special counsel's Russia investigation must be made public to end the 'speculation and innuendo' that hangs over President Donald Trump's administration. The former Judiciary Committee chairman says while it's clear the Russians 'tried to meddle in our democratic processes,' he still hasn't seen any evidence of collusion. Grassley says Attorney General William Barr Attorney General must provide the findings from special counsel Robert Mueller's report to Congress and the American people 'to finally put an end to the speculation and innuendo that has loomed over this administration since its earliest days.' ___ 5:58 p.m. Special counsel Robert Mueller is not recommending any further indictments in the Russia investigation. That's according to a Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the confidential recommendation. Mueller notified Attorney General William Barr on Friday that he had concluded his probe of Russian election interference and any possible coordination with Donald Trump's campaign. —By Eric Tucker ___ 5:57 p.m. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham expects that he and the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, will be briefed 'in the coming days' about special counsel Robert Mueller's report. The South Carolina Republican says he was notified by the Justice Department that Mueller's report has been turned over and that Attorney General William Barr 'will pursue as much transparency as possible.' Graham says he expects to be 'more thoroughly' briefed. He says he believed it was important for Mueller to do his job 'without interference, and that has been accomplished.' ___ 5:55 p.m. Attorney General William Barr says the Justice Department did not block special counsel Robert Mueller from taking any action during his Russia investigation. Barr is required to disclose to Congress any instance in which he or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided an action Mueller proposed should not be pursued. Barr said in his letter to members of Congress on Friday that 'there were no such instances during the Special Counsel's investigation.' The attorney general notified four key lawmakers that he may update them over the weekend. ___ 5:50 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he welcomes news that special counsel Robert Mueller has completed his investigation into Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections. McConnell says he and other Republicans have long believed that Russia poses a significant threat to American interests, adding that he hopes Mueller's report will 'help inform and improve our efforts to protect our democracy.' The Kentucky Republican says he hopes that Attorney General William Barr, who received Mueller's report on Friday, will 'provide as much information as possible' on the findings, 'with as much openness and transparency as possible.' Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said he expects the Justice Department to release the report to the committee without delay 'and to the maximum extent permitted by law.' ___ 5:40 p.m. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer say it's 'imperative' to make the full report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller public. The top congressional Democrats say, 'The American people have a right to the truth.' In a joint statement, they say Attorney Gneral William Barr must not give President Donald Trump his lawyers or staff any 'sneak preview' of the findings or evidence. 'The White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public,' they say. __ 5:39 p.m. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says Congress should receive the full report from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler says in a statement that 'We look forward to getting the full Mueller report and related materials.' He adds that 'transparency and the public interest demand nothing less' because the public needs to have faith in the rule of law. Attorney General William Barr wrote in a letter to Nadler and other committee chairmen that Mueller had finished his investigation and delivered his report to Barr. The attorney general said he would update Congress as soon as this weekend, but it wasn't clear now much of the report would be shared with lawmakers or with the public. __ 5:38 p.m. Democratic presidential candidates are demanding that Attorney General William Barr make Robert Mueller's report on Russia public. Minutes after Barr notified members of Congress Friday that Mueller had delivered his report, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted that the attorney general should 'release the Mueller report to the American public. Now.' Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey tweeted that the report 'should be made public immediately.' The Trump administration's handling of Mueller's report foretells big fights to come, from the presidential campaign trail to, in all likelihood, the federal courts. __ 5:25 p.m. President Donald Trump's lawyers say they are 'pleased' that special counsel Robert Mueller has delivered his report on the Russia investigation. Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow issued their joint statement within minutes of Attorney General William Barr's letter to key members of Congress confirming the delivery and suggesting he could update lawmakers as soon as this weekend. They say: 'We're pleased that the Office of Special Counsel has delivered its report to the Attorney General pursuant to the regulations. Attorney General Barr will determine the appropriate next steps.' Mueller's report, still confidential, sets the stage for big public fights to come, including in all likelihood, in federal court. It's not clear how much of the report will become public or provided to Congress. __ 5:20 p.m. Responding to the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, the White House says the next steps are 'up to Attorney General (William) Barr.' White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says 'we look forward to the process taking its course.' She adds, 'The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel's report.' For 22 months, Mueller has probed allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election and other potential misdeeds by those in President Donald Trump's orbit. Barr has said he will provide updates on Mueller's still-confidential findings to Congress as soon as this weekend. __ 5:15 p.m. Special counsel Robert Mueller's report concluding the Russia investigation was delivered by a security officer early Friday afternoon to the office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That's according to Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec. It was then delivered within minutes to Attorney General William Barr. The White House was notified around 4:35-4:40 p.m. that the Justice Department had received the report. The letter was scheduled to be delivered at 5 p.m. to staff members on Capitol Hill. Rosenstein was expected to call Mueller on Friday to thank him for his work in the last two years. __ 5:07 p.m. Attorney General William Barr says he could update Congress as early as this weekend about special counsel Robert Mueller's findings in the Russia investigation. The Justice Department confirmed late Friday that Barr received Mueller's final report. The report concludes Mueller's nearly two-year-long investigation of Russian election interference and possible coordination with President Donald Trump's campaign. __ 5:03 p.m. Special counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with associates of President Donald Trump. The Justice Department says Mueller delivered his final report Friday to Attorney General William Barr, who is reviewing it. Mueller's report, still confidential, sets the stage for big public fights to come. The next steps are up to Trump's attorney general, to Congress and, in all likelihood, federal courts. It's not clear how much of the report will become public or provided to Congress. Barr has said he will write his own report summarizing Mueller's findings. The nearly two-year probe has shadowed Trump's presidency and resulted in felony charges against 34 people including six people who served on Trump's campaign.
  • When the top lieutenant to a presidential contender phoned Georgia Democratic Party chairwoman Nikema Williams recently to ask for a one-on-one meeting, Williams declined. 'I'm sorry, but I talk to candidates; I don't talk to surrogates,' she said, recalling the conversation in an interview. Williams got what she wanted. By her count, she's had conversations with at least nine Democrats seeking the party's 2020 presidential nomination, and she expects the number to climb. That kind of attention is a testament to the growing influence that Georgia and the rest of the South has in presidential politics, beyond the first-in-the-South primary state of South Carolina. It starts with the hundreds of delegates at stake — about a third of what's required to win the nomination — in primaries that will quickly play out from Virginia to Texas in the weeks after the traditional early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina being the process. And with a significant black population and diversifying metro areas in many Southern states, the region is testing ground for candidates to demonstrate whether they can build the type of diverse coalition any Democratic nominee would need to defeat President Donald Trump. 'We're going to be right in the thick of it,' Williams said. Sen. Kamala Harris of California will be in Atlanta this weekend and has raised money from friends in the city since she first sought local office. Several candidates have been in Louisiana for recent national political conferences and to Selma, Alabama, for a commemoration of the 1965 voting rights march. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts took a multiday swing through Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama this week following a trip to Georgia in February. Meanwhile, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have ventured to Plains, Georgia, to sit down with Jimmy Carter, the 94-year-old former president who'd been all but forgotten in Democratic politics. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has campaigned for political allies in Alabama and Mississippi since his last presidential run in 2016, and he's expected to return. The South is still mostly Republican-controlled, with Democrats in the governor's mansion of just three states: Virginia, North Carolina and Louisiana. Democrats Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum grabbed the national spotlight but came up short last fall in their bids to win governors' races in Georgia and Florida, respectively. And a rejection this week of a proposed tax hike to extend mass transit into suburban Atlanta was another reminder of the hurdles still facing progressives in the region. Southern Democrats welcome the interactions with presidential candidates and say they've earned it based on previous cycles: Barack Obama's early delegate lead in 2008 and Hillary Clinton's eventual winning margin in 2016 were built from wins across the region. But now, Southerners are seeing the candidates earlier in the process. Warren's visit 'shows that she cares about all Americans and not just those whose vote matters' in the Electoral College, said Valerie Latawiec, a 52-year-old Alabamian who was one of about 500 people who attended the senator's rally in Birmingham, Alabama. The trend highlights African-Americans' influence in Democratic politics, with black voters likely being a majority of primary voters in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and large portions in Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The primary already includes two black candidates — Harris and Booker — and could feature a third if Abrams decides to get in the race. And all the candidates, regardless of race, are working to tie their discussions of many issues, from reparations for the descendants of African slaves and criminal justice overhaul to environmental justice and health care access, to the black community. But Bobby Moak, the chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, also emphasized that the region's makeup, even in heavily Republican states like his, gives candidates a chance to craft appeals that cross racial, ethnic and philosophical lines. 'It's important for them to hear us and for us to hear them,' Moak said. Certainly, there are strategic complexities for candidates to weigh as they decide where to spend their time. California has as many delegates at stake as Georgia, Florida and Virginia combined. And with early voting and Harris enjoying a possible home-state advantage, some candidates may decide to spend more time there. Sanders, for instance, kicks off a series of California rallies this weekend and considers the state vital to his prospects. For now, Georgia may be the biggest Southern counter to California. It offers more than 100 delegates, a diverse electorate and the deep donor pool of metro Atlanta. Texas and Virginia also are wellsprings of money and votes. But Texas has two local candidates: Julian Castro, a Cabinet member in the Obama administration, and Beto O'Rourke, a former congressman. 'I'm telling them all to come,' says state Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, 'but if they're still in the race (on the March 3rd Super Tuesday), I think Beto and Julian will dominate Texas.' Virginia could add its own local favorite, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, but more importantly, the state is still reeling after its Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, admitted wearing blackface as a young man and after sexual assault allegations against Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who denies wrongdoing. Nearly all the 2020 contenders — including McAuliffe — have called on Northam and Fairfax to step down, but state party chairwoman Susan Swecker said that shouldn't stop them from coming to the state. 'Ignore Virginia Democrats at your peril,' she said, noting that the state has become part of Democrats' presumed path to 270 electoral votes. 'And if they can't handle questions' about controversial topics, Swecker added, 'then they shouldn't be our nominee.' ___ Associated Press reporter Elana Schor contributed to this report from Birmingham, Ala. ___ Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP
  • A Texas flight attendant who was enrolled in the government's program for 'Dreamers' flew to Mexico for work and was stopped by immigration authorities who forced her to spend more than a month in detention, her attorney said. Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, who immigrated illegally to the U.S. as a child, was released Friday from a detention center in Conroe, Texas, according to a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 'Being released is an indescribable feeling,' she said through a spokesman. 'I cried and hugged my husband and never wanted to let go. I am thankful and grateful for the amazing people that came to fight for me, and it fills my heart. Thank you to everyone that has supported. I am just so happy to have my freedom back.' Originally from Peru and married to an American citizen, she raised concerns with Mesa Airlines about her immigration status after being assigned to an international flight, attorney Belinda Arroyo said. The airline assured her she would be fine, but she was stopped by U.S. authorities on Feb. 12, when she returned to Houston, and was sent to detention, where she remained for more than five weeks, Arroyo said. Soon after her lawyer, her husband, the airline and a flight attendants' group publicly demanded her release, Saavedra Roman called to tell her husband she was getting out. 'She was crying and she said, 'Please come get me,'' her husband, David Watkins, told reporters. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency was looking into her status. Earlier, the agency said Saavedra Roman did not have a valid document to enter the country and was being detained while going through immigration court proceedings. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — the agency that oversees the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — declined to discuss the case. But the agency says on its website that participants who travel outside the country without a special document allowing them to do so are no longer covered by the program. The agency no longer issues the document to the program's enrollees, according to the website. People enrolled in the program are commonly referred to as 'Dreamers,' based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act. The Trump administration sought to end the Obama-era program but was blocked by litigation. New applications have been halted, but renewals continue for hundreds of thousands of immigrants already enrolled. In a joint statement with the Association of Flight Attendants, Mesa Airlines chief executive Jonathan Ornstein apologized to Saavedra Roman and asked U.S. authorities to release her, arguing that it was unfair to continually detain someone 'over something that is nothing more than an administrative error and a misunderstanding.' 'She should have never been advised that she could travel,' Arroyo said. 'It was a big mistake.' Saavedra Roman — who is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge in April — attended Texas A&M University, where she met her husband. Watkins said he was not initially worried about her assignment because they already obtained approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for her green card as the wife of an American citizen. She has no criminal record and has long paid her taxes, he said, and she checked with her employer before the trip. Then she was detained. He could visit her only once a week and could only see her through thick glass. She sounded hopeless, he said. 'I told her, 'Even if you get deported to Peru, I'll just go with you,'' he said to reporters. 'Regardless of whatever happens in the future, I am not giving up. I am going to keep fighting.' In a statement, the union representing Saavedra Roman and her colleagues said the event 'highlights the urgency of commonsense immigration reform and resolution for America's children who are part of DACA.' ___ Associated Press Writer Terry Wallace contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump's meeting with leaders from the Caribbean (all times local): 3:45 p.m. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says President Donald Trump is committed to preventing President Nicolas Maduro and his regime from stealing Venezuela's resources for personal gain. Sanders' statement comes after the Trump administration sanctioned a major Venezuelan bank and four subsidiary banks. Sanders says Maduro and his regime are using the banks as slush funds to evade United States sanctions and to move money out of Venezuela. The sanctions were announced by the Treasury Department after the arrest Thursday in Caracas of an aide to opposition leader Juan Guaido. The U.S. views Guaido as Venezuela's interim president. Sanders says the U.S. will continue to take steps to pressure Maduro and his regime until they step out of the way and allow a democratic transition to occur under Guaido. ___ 2:40 p.m. The U.S. Treasury Department says it has sanctioned BANDES, Venezuela's national development bank, and four additional subsidiaries that BANDES owns or controls. The department says the sanctions are in response to the illegal arrest of Roberto Marrero, chief of staff to opposition leader Juan Guaido. It's the latest salvo in the battle for power between in Venezuela between President Nicolas Maduro and Guaido. Treasury made the announcement while the president was meeting Friday with leaders from five Caribbean nations. The U.S. had already sanctioned scores of top Venezuelan officials and has blocked U.S. banks from doing business with Venezuela, putting a financial strangle-hold on the cash-strapped country. ___ 12:10 a.m. The political and economic crisis in Venezuela tops the agenda of President Donald Trump's meeting Friday with leaders from the Caribbean, a region that has been far from united in joining the U.S. call for the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro. Trump is hosting leaders of Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti, Dominican Republic and St. Lucia at his affluent Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida to show his support for Caribbean countries that back democratic transition in Venezuela. The five have either denounced Maduro, or have joined more than 50 countries in recognizing Juan Guaido as the interim leader. The crisis has put some Caribbean nations in a tough spot. For years, Venezuela has provided then with a reliable supply of oil on low-credit terms, leaving them indebted to Caracas.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency wrongly released to a contractor the personal information of 2.3 million survivors of devastating 2017 hurricanes and wildfires, potentially exposing the victims to identity fraud and theft, a government watchdog reported Friday. The Homeland Security Department's Office of Inspector General found the breach occurred when FEMA was working with a contractor that helps provide temporary housing to those affected by disasters. FEMA is one of Homeland Security's many agencies; the sprawling 240,000-person department also includes immigration enforcement, and the U.S. Secret Service. FEMA officials said that since the discovery of the issue, the agency was no longer sharing unnecessary data with the contractor and has conducted a detailed review of the contractor's information system and has found no indication to suggest data has been compromised. The agency said in a statement it is working with the contractor to remove the data from its system and has instructed staff to complete additional privacy training. 'FEMA's goal remains protecting and strengthening the integrity, effectiveness, and security of our disaster programs that help people before, during, and after disasters,' FEMA Press Secretary Lizzie Litzow said in a statement. Some information, like names, last four digits of a Social Security number and how many people live in a household are required to confirm eligibility and locate housing for victims. But FEMA also provided the contractor with bank names electronic funds transfer numbers and bank transit numbers that were not required by the contractor. The 2.3 million people lived through California wildfires and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The watchdog said that FEMA violated both federal privacy laws and also Homeland Security policy by giving the extra data to the contractor, whose name was redacted in the report made public Friday. The contractor also knew that FEMA was providing too much personal data but didn't inform the disaster relief agency. The 2017 hurricane season was particularly brutal. Harvey slammed ashore in Texas on Aug. 25, 2017, as a powerful Category 4 storm. It killed 68 people and deluged much of the Houston metropolitan area — home to more than 6 million people — with 3 to 4 feet of water. Flooding damaged more than 300,000 structures and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage, according to a report from the National Hurricane Center . Irma struck Florida Sept. 10 and battered Georgia and North Carolina, killing 129 and devastating the Florida Keys. Maria made landfall Sept. 20, devastating Puerto Rico and plunging much of the island into darkness for months after, causing major damage and leaving nearly 3,000 people dead. Wildfires in California in 2017 burned some 1.2 million acres of land, destroyed more than 10,800 structures and killed at least 46, and insurance claims topped $3.3 billion. ___ Associated Press writer Adam Kealoha Causey in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.