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National Politics

    The Latest on primaries on Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas (all times local): 6:25 p.m. Hillary Clinton is urging Democrats in Georgia to support Stacey Abrams for governor. Clinton recorded a 60-second endorsement used by the Abrams campaign in direct phone calls to Georgia voters. Tuesday's primary ballot election has Abrams facing fellow Atlanta Democrat Stacey Evans. Clinton notes Abrams was the first black woman to serve as House Democratic leader in the Georgia legislature. Clinton also says Abrams has 'a proven track record' of supporting public schools, gun safety, voting rights and Medicaid expansion. A victory in the Democratic primary and in the November election would make Abrams the first black woman governor in the U.S. Clinton's message also acknowledges the potential confusion caused by two Democratic rivals with the same first name. Twice, Clinton urges voters to support 'Abrams with an 'A.'' __ 6 p.m. Polls in eastern Kentucky have closed on another multi-state primary day ahead of the November midterms. Arkansas and Georgia also are holding primaries. Texas has runoffs after an initial round of voting in March. Georgia Democrats are set to nominate a woman for governor for the first time in state history. Republicans in the state are likely going to have a runoff that some in the party fear could be a harmful turn to the right. Kentucky voters in one county could choose a gay man to run against the clerk who denied him a same-sex marriage license. Texas has Democratic runoffs in three districts that will be key to determining House control in the new Congress. __ 6 a.m. Four states are casting ballots Tuesday as the 2018 midterm elections take shape. Voters in Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky hold primaries, while Texans settle several primary runoffs after their first round of voting in March. Texans will settle an all-female congressional runoff between liberal activist Laura Moser and Houston attorney Lizzie Fletcher in a Houston-area House race that has become a proxy for the Democratic Party's battle over style and substance. In Georgia, Democrats will tap either Stacey Abrams or Stacey Evans as the state's first female nominee for governor from either major party. Georgia's Republican candidates for governor have engaged in a sprint to the right on everything from immigration to bear-hugging Trump.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday his department's inspector general is looking into whether banking records of President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen were leaked from an agency database, as well as whether any of the records were improperly blocked from view. Mnuchin said the department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, does have the power to 'suppress important information' at the request of law enforcement agencies. But he says he does not know whether that happened in this case. The New Yorker magazine reported last week that a law enforcement official leaked information about Cohen's bank records to several media organizations. That information showed a Cohen company getting large payments from organizations seeking to curry favor with the incoming Trump administration. The payments included money from pharmaceutical giant Novartis, telecommunications company AT&T and from a company associated with a Russian billionaire. The magazine said the leak came from a law enforcement official who was worried that some information dealing with Cohen's banking records had been removed from the FinCEN database and the missing data might indicate an effort to cover up the payments. The information about the payments to a shell company being used by Cohen was first revealed by Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump. Avenatti has refused to say how he got the information, but the New Yorker reported that the details on the payments came from a single document, a Suspicious Activity Report, filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen's shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, maintained an account. The magazine said the law enforcement official who leaked the report had grown concerned after he was unable to find two other reports on Cohen's financial activity that he believed should have been in the FinCen data base. Banks must file suspicious activity reports, or SARs, with FinCEN when they spot transactions that raise questions about possible financial misconduct such as money laundering. Mnuchin was quizzed about the issue by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., during an appearance Tuesday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. Mnuchin said he had not been involved with the collection or review of the specific reports in question and he said his comments should not be construed as confirmation that the leaked information related to Trump's lawyer. But as a general rule, Mnuchin said, 'We do have the ability to suppress important information and for different law enforcement reasons as you can appreciate, this is often done.' He did not spell out the reasons, but presumably they would include protecting ongoing investigations. Mnuchin said Treasury's inspector general was reviewing various issues involving the leak of the information and also the process used to suppress details related to the case. 'There is no excuse whatsoever for anybody who has access to these important systems to release information on an unauthorized basis, and I can assure you that our inspector general is reviewing these issues very carefully,' Mnuchin told Coons. When Coons pressed Mnuchin about whether the investigation would also look into whether there had been any 'inappropriate interference' with the documents that were alleged to have gone missing, Mnuchin said that would also be part of the investigation. 'I can assure you that they are doing a thorough review because this system ... is absolutely critical to our entire FinCEN effort and we need to make sure it is in no way at risk,' Mnuchin told the subcommittee.
  • The United States and China are working toward an agreement that would ease U.S. sanctions that were imposed on ZTE Corp. and let the Chinese telecommunications giant stay in business. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the deal might require ZTE to revamp its board and to pay a fine of $1 billion or more. The ZTE talks occur after the U.S. and China over the weekend suspended plans to impose tariffs on as much as $200 billion in each other's goods, pulling back from the brink of a trade war. China on Tuesday made a conciliatory gesture by cutting the tariff on imported vehicles to 15 percent from 25 percent, effective July 1. In the face of congressional criticism, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday denied that the U.S. is offering relief for ZTE in exchange for trade concessions. 'This is not a quid pro quo or anything else,' Mnuchin told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. The Commerce Department last month blocked China's ZTE from importing American components for seven years, accusing it of misleading U.S. regulators after it last year settled charges of violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The ban was a virtual death sentence for ZTE, which relies on U.S. parts. 'The objective was not to put ZTE out of business,' Mnuchin said. 'The objective was to make sure they abide by our sanctions program.' On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats alike criticized the administration for seeming to go easy on a company that had violated U.S. sanctions. Citing media accounts about ZTE talks, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted: 'If this is true, then administration has surrendered to #China and #ZTE. Making changes to their board & a fine won't stop them from spying and stealing from us.' 'Putting our national security at risk for minor trade concessions is the definition of short-sighted,' Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted at Trump. 'This the exactly the type of deal you'd have called 'weak' or 'the worst deal ever' before you were @POTUS.' On the eve of talks last week with a Chinese trade envoy, Trump barged into the ZTE case by tweeting that he was working with President Xi Jinping to put ZTE 'back in business, fast' and save tens of thousands of Chinese jobs. He later tweeted that the ZTE talks were 'part of a larger trade deal' being negotiated with China. On Tuesday, Trump said a resolution of the ZTE sanctions would also help U.S. companies that supply the Chinese firm: ZTE 'can pay a big price without necessarily damaging all these American companies ... you're talking about tremendous amounts of money and jobs to American companies.' Amanda DeBusk, a former Commerce Department official who chairs the international trade practice at the law firm Dechert LLP, said it's not unusual for governments to use sanctions against foreign companies as leverage in trade negotiations. But it's usually done behind closed doors. 'What's different is the way it's all been done in public, on Twitter,' she said. 'It's hanging out there for everyone to see.' ___________ AP Writers Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
  • Like actors rehearsing a script, Missouri lawmakers on Tuesday publicly read aloud the previously secret criminal case transcripts of a woman who accused Gov. Eric Greitens of sexual misconduct and asserted that his attorney suggested she should deny it. The unusual scene played out in a Capitol committee room, livestreamed for the public, as a special Missouri House investigatory panel gathers evidence for an eventual decision on whether to try to impeach the Republican governor in an attempt to remove him from office. The bipartisan panel endorsed rules Tuesday that would prohibit Greitens' attorneys from cross-examining witnesses, as they have asserted is essential for a fair process. Those rules would still need approval from the full House. By reading transcripts of the woman's lengthy depositions taken by Greitens' criminal defense attorneys, lawmakers essentially were working around their concerns by including their previous cross-examination of the woman in the mountain of evidence they will consider. The transcripts were provided in response to a legislative subpoena after St. Louis prosecutors dropped a felony invasion-of-privacy charge last week alleging Greitens had taken and transmitted a nonconsensual photo of the nude woman in the basement of his home in March 2015. It will be up to a newly appointed special prosecutor to decide whether to refile that charge or to bring other charges against Greitens stemming from the extramarital affair that ended more than a year before his November 2016 election. Greitens has said the affair was consensual and denied that he acted violently toward the woman or broke the law. He has not directly answered questions about whether he bound the woman's hands, blindfolded her, removed her clothes and took a picture as she has alleged. Lawmakers read aloud the transcripts of the woman's two grand jury sessions from Feb. 18 and Feb. 22, the day Greitens was indicted. Her account of events tracked closely with her eventual March testimony to the House committee, which already has been made public, but it contained at least one apparently additional element. The woman, identified as only as K.S., told grand jurors that an attorney for Greitens had called her attorney in January, shortly after news of the affair broke, and asked what she wanted out of it. When her attorney said she didn't want to be part of this, the woman testified that Greitens' lawyer responded, 'Well, I know a way that she could do that. She could come out and say that none of this is true.' Greitens' attorney, Ed Dowd, told The Associated on Tuesday that the testimony was 'double hearsay.' 'We never gave her any suggestion of what she should say,' Dowd told the AP. Lawmakers later began reading the previously secret transcript of the woman's April 6 deposition taken by Greitens' attorneys. The lawyers began that interview by trying to portray the woman as a liar — a label she rejected while acknowledging that she for a while had not been truthful with her husband and had lied to Greitens by telling him she hadn't told her husband about the affair. In her grand jury testimony, the woman said she was afraid of Greitens' reaction if he found out she had told her husband. She said Greitens is 'kind of an aggressive guy.' Lawmakers took turns reading the parts of the woman, prosecutors and defense attorneys, often speaking with inflection as though they were characters in a theatrical play. Greitens' attorneys said that simply reading the transcripts wouldn't satisfy their desire for a public cross-examination. They noted that rules for impeachment procedures in several other states did allow cross-examination of witnesses, though Missouri lawmakers also barred it during their last impeachment of Secretary of State Judi Moriarty in 1994. 'All the office of the governor is looking for is a process that gets to the truth and does it in a reliable and open way,' said attorney Ross Garber, who his representing Greitens' office. By not allowing cross-examination, he said, 'the public will not have confidence in either the process or the results.' By contrast, some lawmakers raised concerns that allowing the governor's lawyers to call and question witnesses during legislative proceedings would infringe on the state constitution's separation of powers. Phillips said Greitens' lawyers 'already had ample time to basically cross-examine everybody' during the criminal case proceedings. 'So I don't think the cross-examination would be much more than probably just an attempt to almost filibuster our committee, for lack of another way to put it,' said Phillips, the panel's vice chairman. In addition to sexual misconduct allegations, Greitens faces accusations that he misused a donor list from The Mission Continues to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign without the permission of the St. Louis-based veterans' charity he founded. During a brief court hearing Tuesday, a judge scheduled Greitens' next court appearance for July 2 on a felony charge of tampering with computer data for allegedly disclosing the donor list to his political fundraiser in 2015. A Greitens' attorney said the delay could allow time for a grand jury to issue an indictment superseding the original charge, which is standard procedure. ___ Associated Press writers Jim Salter in St. Louis and Summer Ballentine in Jefferson City contributed to this report.
  • After months of debate, the Defense Department approved Monday new restrictions for the use of cellphones and some other electronic devices in the Pentagon where classified information is present or discussed. But officials stopped far short of imposing an all-out ban. The memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press, largely clarifies current procedures and calls for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas where sensitive matters are discussed. But it makes clear that cellphones can still be used in common areas and other offices in the Pentagon if classified information is not present. The memo was signed by Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Pentagon officials said they do not yet have a cost estimate for the construction of storage areas where the phones can be left without creating a threat to security. 'In this day and age, with the level of threat-based technologies, most of those devices should never get anywhere near a classified workspace,' Garry Reid, the Pentagon's director for defense intelligence, told The Associated Press in an interview. 'We know that mobile wireless devices have recording capabilities and cameras and it's not appropriate for those to be in secure workspaces. So we have to put control procedures in place.' More than 25,000 people work in the Pentagon, ranging from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to restaurant workers and cleaning crews, and many use their phones for family emergencies and other needs. Fitness trackers that don't have wireless or cellular technology or contain microphones are not covered by the memo, but will be addressed in a separate policy that is still being developed by defense officials. And medical devices with cellular technology must be approved on an individual basis. The memo covers 'laptops, tablets, cellular phones, smartwatches, and other devices' that are portable, can wirelessly transmit information and have 'a self-contained power source.' The technology reviews were launched in late January after revelations that fitness trackers and other electronic devices can be used to pinpoint troop locations, military bases and other sensitive areas and can be tracked on an interactive, online map. The Global Heat Map, published by the GPS tracking company Strava, uses satellite information to map the locations of subscribers to Strava's fitness service. The map showed activity from 2015 through September 2017, and scattered areas in warzones such as Iraq and Syria were illuminated, suggesting they could pinpoint military or government personnel using fitness trackers. Published stories about the heat map raised concerns in the Pentagon, setting off lengthy reviews on the use of all electronic devices. Initial fears that the department would ban cellphones in the massive five-sided building were not realized. But the memo makes clear that secure areas must have storage containers located outside the room, and that mobile devices must be turned off and placed inside the box. There will be random security inspections in classified areas and violators will be punished — including with the possible loss of their security clearance or access to the Pentagon. The new rules, which take effect immediately and must be fully implemented within six months, are likely to trigger the installation of more large, metal, multi-sectioned lock-boxes for phones. For years, rolling wooden containers with multiple slots for phones have been used around the building, including in the hall outside the Tank — the Joint Staff's conference room on the Pentagon's E Ring, where senior leaders routinely meet and hold secure video-conferences. Those are not likely to be used as much due to fire safety and other potential evacuation concerns. The size and complexity of the Pentagon workforce — which includes thousands of commuters, and a wide range of employees, including some who may occasionally work from home, contributed to the lengthy deliberations over the plan. 'You can start out saying no phones in the building at all,' said Reid. But he said the discussions eventually centered on how to set up effective and pragmatic restrictions on mobile devices in classified areas. 'The Pentagon is a bit of a unique environment - where you have everything from public tours to varying levels of classified workspaces.' Throughout the day, workers can be seen huddled in unclassified or non-secure areas near doorways, in the courtyard or in outer-ring offices where they can get a wireless signal and make calls or scroll through emails. The memo allows for a variety of exceptions. For example, some senior officials have government-issued mobile devices, and those can be approved for use in secure spaces if the camera, microphone and wireless capabilities can be disabled. Exceptions won't be granted for personal phones. The policy doesn't apply to any devices that have minimal storage and transmission capabilities such as key fobs used for medical alert, motor vehicles or home security systems.
  • A recent and rare prosecution of a Pakistani man in Maryland under a relatively obscure lobbying law has many in the multimillion dollar world of foreign influence bracing for more. The prosecution of Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry reflects what current and former Justice Department officials say is an aggressive enforcement strategy against unregistered foreign agents that began even before special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation exposed a shadowy world of international influence peddling. The effort comes amid revelations about Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election and a stream of high-profile foreign-agent filings from President Donald Trump's associates. In the last two years, the former White House national security adviser has had to register, as have Trump's former campaign chairman and a top Democratic lobbyist and brother of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. Officials say they're not interpreting any differently the little-known law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people to disclose to the Justice Department when they lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments or political entities. But they've been taking a more aggressive approach, asking more probing questions of people and firms they suspect need to register, requesting more documents and conducting investigations with an eye toward bringing criminal charges when appropriate. 'Wherever we were before, it is a statute that should be enforced using all of our tools, and in circumstances where someone has willfully failed to register or there are indications of that, we should be pursuing it criminally,' Adam Hickey, a deputy assistant attorney general for national security, said in an interview. The stepped-up enforcement coincides with a special counsel investigation that has underscored how foreign entities have worked behind the scenes to influence the agenda of lawmakers and shape public thinking, often with average Americans being none the wiser. Mueller charged former campaign chairman Paul Manafort with failing to register as a foreign agent despite being paid millions from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, and court papers show ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn did undisclosed work directed in part by Turkish government officials. An indictment against a Russian troll farm accused of interfering in the election through bogus Facebook posts has also revealed how foreign entities can weaponize social media to sway political opinion. 'That should worry and anger any American who cares about protecting the integrity of our political system and the integrity of our political discourse,' said David Laufman, who until earlier this year led the Justice Department's counterintelligence section and oversaw its FARA enforcement. It's essential, he added, 'for the American people and lawmakers to know when a foreign government or political party is behind any efforts to sway their opinion or decision making.' The FARA law was enacted in 1938 to expose Nazi propaganda. Since then it's been a relatively esoteric corner of law, with the Justice Department long emphasizing voluntary compliance over criminal convictions. Though high-profile FARA investigations of Trump advisers have been well-publicized, they're still rare. Criminal cases have been so unusual that the recent one against Chaudhry was only the ninth since 1966, officials say. Prosecutors say Chaudhry, who held himself out as president of the Pakistan American League, organized roundtable discussions aimed at influencing U.S. policy even as he insisted that his work was educational and not affiliated with the Pakistani government. He admitted this month to secretly working as an unregistered agent on behalf of the Pakistani government and faces up to five years in prison at his July sentencing, though prosecutors have agreed to recommend home detention and probation. FARA specialists say the case is likely just the beginning. 'We've been saying for some time to our clients that there's an ongoing Department of Justice FARA enforcement push underway,' said Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, who handled his FARA registration last year. 'This public announcement of a new prosecution is some of the first public evidence of that rapidly escalating initiative.' Attorney Thomas Spulak said clients are also getting the message, reaching out about whether they need to register and whether they might qualify for an exemption. 'It may be in the past that people thought they understood,' he said. 'Now they want to make sure they understand.' Justice Department data supports the view. As the investigations of Manafort and Flynn drew public attention, FARA registrations spiked in 2017 with 102 new registrants, the highest since 1995 when Congress passed the Lobbying Disclosure Act. That law carved out an exemption to FARA allowing some lobbyists representing foreign companies to register with Congress instead of the Justice Department. The data show the department also opened 34 inquiries into people it suspects of needing to register last year, the most since at least 2013. So far this year, the department is on pace to see even more inquiries opened and more new registrants. The renewed emphasis started as far back as late 2014 and was further accelerated by a 2016 inspector general's audit criticizing the department for uneven enforcement. Outside pressure escalated with the investigations of Flynn, Manafort and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates. Those investigations, which predated Mueller's appointment but were folded into his Russia probe, raised questions of how the men were able to carry out their business without consequence for so long, and whether others were similarly evading scrutiny. The watchdog report concluded that Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents were at odds over the law. Some investigators said prosecutors were slow in reviewing possible cases and reluctant to approve charges. Prosecutors said the law's main purpose was to ensure proper registration and public disclosure. The department accepted the recommendations and has been making changes. For instance, Hickey said, the FARA unit pairs more often with line prosecutors and other parts of the counterintelligence section with experience investigating criminal cases. Officials say the nine-person FARA unit, which oversees more than 400 active registrants representing more than 600 foreign entities, is also doing more to scrutinize companies whose actions appear to align closely with foreign governments. The aim is to expose whether foreign governments or political figures are using such entities as cut-outs to conceal foreign influence operations that would normally have to register under FARA. Part of the effort involves eliminating any perception of FARA as a toothless statute. 'It is not the case,' Hickey said, 'that FARA is merely or only an administrative or a regulatory matter.' ___ Follow Chad Day and Eric Tucker on Twitter: https://twitter.com/@ChadSDay/ and https://twitter.com/@etuckerAP
  • A Pentagon report to Congress says North Korea sees nuclear weapons as central to its security, an assessment that would seem to complicate President Donald Trump's effort to persuade the North's dictator, Kim Jong Un, to give them up. The report was delivered to Congress in April, one month after Trump agreed to meet Kim to discuss the North's denuclearization. It was based on the Pentagon's analysis of North Korea's military capabilities and strategies through 2017, when it was widely believed in the U.S. government that Kim had no intention of surrendering his nuclear weapons. Hope for defusing a longstanding nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula was raised in March when South Korean officials said Kim was open to negotiations over his nuclear weapons and Trump agreed to meet Kim. The outlook has grown cloudier in recent days, and Trump told reporters during an Oval Office appearance Tuesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in that his planned meeting with Kim on June 12 in Singapore could be delayed. Without referring to the Pentagon report, Trump touched on one of its main points, that the North sees nuclear weapons as a means of ensuring its survival and perpetuating the rule of the Kim family dynasty. Trump was asked by a reporter whether the U.S. would 'guarantee the safety' of the Kim regime if it were to relinquish its nuclear weapons. 'I will guarantee his safety, yes,' Trump said. He did not say how he would do that. 'He will be safe. He will be happy. His country will be rich.' A copy of the Pentagon report was posted Tuesday by Steven Aftergood on his Secrecy News blog. Later in the day the Pentagon made it available on its website. It was first reported by Bloomberg News. The report offers little suggestion that the Pentagon anticipated a circumstance in which North would consider giving up its nuclear weapons. It says the North ultimately seeks the capability to strike the continental U.S. with a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, and that nuclear weapons are central to its strategic calculus. 'Pyongyang portrays nuclear weapons as its most effective way to deter the threat from the United States,' it says. 'However, regime propaganda began emphasizing 'final victory' over the United States and Republic of Korea in 2017, suggesting Kim Jong Un has larger ambitions, including use of nuclear weapons to deter interference if it attempts to reunify the Korean Peninsula.' The Republic of Korea is the official name of U.S.-allied South Korea. The report called perpetuation of the Kim dynasty the 'primary strategic goal' of North Korea. The North's goals and motives have come under closer scrutiny since Kim began a peace offensive this year. He announced in April he was suspending nuclear tests and ICBM launches. Earlier this month North Korea said that it will dismantle its northeastern Punggye-ri nuclear test site between May 23 and 25 in the presence of international media.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump and the Russia investigation (all times local): 3:40 p.m. The White House says a briefing for congressional leaders with top FBI and Justice Department officials will happen on Thursday. The purpose is to review highly classified information the lawmakers have been seeking on the handling of the Russia investigation. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Reps. Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Ed O'Callaghan of the Justice Department will be attending. She says no White House staffers — including chief of staff John Kelly — will be present. Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter and head of the House Intelligence Committee, has been demanding information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. Sanders is referring questions about what documents will be reviewed to the DOJ. ___ 1:15 p.m. Conservative House Republicans are demanding a new special counsel to investigate charges of misconduct at the Justice Department and FBI over the Russia probe. Their resolution calls for a new look at whether agency officials were biased against President Donald Trump and whether there were any surveillance abuses committed as part of the investigation. But House Speaker Paul Ryan isn't committing to that idea. He said earlier Tuesday the Justice Department's independent inspector general should have the latitude to follow the investigation 'where it needs to go.' Conservatives led by Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York and Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Ryan has not committed to bringing their 12-page resolution up for a vote. __ 12:35 p.m. President Donald Trump says it would be a 'disgrace' to the country if it's shown that the FBI had 'spies in my campaign.' Trump on Tuesday voiced a sentiment he's expressed on Twitter for the past few days after lending credence to conservative theories that the government spied on his campaign. Trump demanded over the weekend that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign. The Justice Department later said it would expand an open investigation into the ongoing Russia probe by examining whether there was any politically motivated surveillance. The White House also announced that the FBI and Justice Department have agreed to meet with congressional leaders to review highly classified information lawmakers have been seeking on the handling of the probe. __ 12:03 a.m. Top officials at the FBI and Justice Department have agreed to 'review' highly classified information with lawmakers who have been seeking such information on the handling of the Russia investigation. The agreement announced Monday by the White House followed President Donald Trump's extraordinary demand that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign. It remains unclear exactly what the lawmakers will be allowed to review or if the Justice Department will be providing any documents to Congress. White House chief of staff John Kelly will broker the meeting between congressional leaders and the FBI, Justice Department and office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Justice Department inspector general is expanding an investigation into the Russia probe by examining whether there was any improper politically motivated surveillance.
  • After striking a delicate deal with the United Arab Emirates this month on rules for airline competition, the Trump administration went to war with itself. It's a story of how a wonky aviation pact became a bitter, lobbyist-fueled international incident when Peter Navarro, President Donald Trump's trade adviser, repeatedly contradicted the State Department's carefully crafted script about what the agreement actually said. The Emiratis complained to the administration. The drama has played out as Navarro, a nationalist who has sought aggressive protections for U.S. businesses, seeks to assert authority from his perch at Trump's recently created White House trade and manufacturing policy shop. Earlier in May, tensions between Navarro and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over Navarro's role in China trade talks erupted into a profanity-laced confrontation in Beijing, Bloomberg and the website Axios reported. In the airlines dispute, the most explosive issue was so-called Fifth Freedom flights, by which Emirati airlines fly directly from the United States to places like Europe, never stopping in the UAE. The major U.S. airlines loathe such flights, which compete with their own lucrative routes. Navarro has insisted that the deal includes a 'freeze' in such flights. The State Department, which overseas international civil aviation agreements, insists it does not. From the start, Navarro sought to exert influence over the negotiations, pushing for stricter limitations on Persian Gulf airlines, according to half a dozen U.S. officials and other individuals involved in the dispute. They weren't authorized to discuss the issue publicly and requested anonymity. After a similar deal with Qatar's airline was reached earlier, Navarro intervened last-minute and demanded changes to the agreed-upon text, two of the individuals said. So concerned was the State Department that the deal would be scuttled that at one point Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh urged parties with a stake in the fight, such as the U.S. cargo airlines, to voice concerns about Navarro directly to the White House, other officials said. Navarro disputed the notion he had undermined the State Department or created discord over the agreement. 'The White House worked collaboratively on this issue through the inter-agency process' with the State Department, Navarro said. A senior State Department official also said the effort had been 'collaborative' and geared toward achieving 'a positive result for as many U.S. stakeholders as possible.' But behind the scenes, the dispute devolved into one-upmanship, word games and subtle subterfuge, magnified by hard-hitting lobby groups that have seized the chance to exploit divisions within Trump's administration. The deal with the Emiratis was reached May 11 after months of negotiations. The agreement itself glossed over Fifth Freedom flights, which were instead resolved in a 'side letter' from the Emiratis. In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, the Emirati economic minister says both of his country's airlines 'voluntarily' informed the UAE that they had 'no current plans in place to make any changes' to the routes. There is no talk of a freeze or commitment not to change those plans in the future. By design, the letter was to be kept private, allowing both sides to save face by staying intentionally vague about its contents. But within hours, both the U.S. airlines and the Emiratis rushed to define the agreement on their terms. The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies — a lobby group for Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines — said the agreement 'will freeze Emirates and Etihad Airways from adding additional direct flights from the United States to Europe and Asia.' An hour later, Emirati Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba said the opposite, insisting his country's airlines were 'free to continue to add and adjust routes and services.' Anticipating that scenario, the State Department had circulated talking points ahead of time to be used by government spokesmen if asked whether the deal included a freeze. 'No,' said the talking points, which were obtained by the AP. But then Singh and Navarro hosted a conference call to brief industry lobbyists about the deal, and the situation deteriorated. Navarro brought up Otaiba's comments and said they 'seemed to undermine the intent of the letter.' Singh replied with a non-answer, saying the letter speaks for itself. So Navarro jumped back in, asserting that there will be no additional routes until further notice and adding, 'that's a promise that will be kept.' A lobbyist for the U.S. Travel Association, funded by the Emirati airlines and others who oppose the U.S. airlines on this issue, asked repeatedly for clarity. Singh said there was no freeze and that the rights to add flights 'do not change. That is correct.' Navarro said the opposite, declaring there was 'a freeze on routes until further notice. So there it is.' By longstanding practice, such briefings are generally considered private and off the record. The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies immediately posted a partial transcript of the call on its website and promoted it on social media with paid ads and a photo of Navarro. The White House was incensed, one official said. A few days later, the transcript was quietly pulled down from the Partnership's website. The AP preserved a screenshot from the original post. The Emiratis, meanwhile, protested to the administration, insisting the mess be fixed. And so began the battle of the written statements. A State Department notice pointed out that 'all rights' to adjust routes remain in place, calling the agreement the 'result of the Department of State-led effort.' Three days later, a White House statement stuck to the 'no current plans' language, but downgraded the State Department's role, saying the deal resulted from 'a White House task force.' The next day, the State Department released the full text of the agreement — but not the side letter addressing the flights issue. At the last minute, Navarro was added as a speaker to an event held Monday at the conservative Hudson Institute. State Department officials called around to groups aligned with the Emirati position and encouraged them to show up and ask questions that would force Navarro to clean up his past statements, three individuals familiar with the calls said. Just as Navarro took the stage, an op-ed under his name appeared online in the Washington Examiner in which he reverted to the State Department talking points about 'no current plans,' while avoiding any mention of a freeze. For his remarks at the event, he read his op-ed word for word. Americans for Fair Skies, a lobby group formed by Delta, paid part of the cost of the event, the Hudson Institute said. ___ Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
  • The Latest on the dispute over immigration in the Housel (all times local): 12:05 p.m. House Republicans leaving a private meeting say a frustrated Speaker Paul Ryan wants them to band together and act more like a majority party. Nevada GOP Rep. Mark Amodei says Ryan expressed exasperation about divisions over immigration. That dispute led to last week's embarrassing House rejection of the GOP's farm bill. Amodei says Ryan 'used the word 'crap' once. For Paul Ryan, 'crap' is pretty blue language.' Leaders told lawmakers they're planning votes on immigration during the third week of June. Asked later about conservatives suggesting he step down soon as speaker, Ryan told reporters it was best for Republicans to work on their legislative agenda and not be distracted by leadership elections. Asked if he'd stay all year as speaker, he said he serves 'at the pleasure of members.' ___ 12:05 a.m. Some conservative House Republicans are warning of consequences for Speaker Paul Ryan if he allows moderate Republicans to push a bipartisan immigration bill through the chamber without strong GOP support. House Republicans split over the immigration issue have been searching for a compromise as centrists gathered support to force party leaders to hold votes on a series of immigration bills. Should they succeed, it would launch a process in which the likely outcome would seem to be passage of a middle-ground measure backed by a handful of Republicans and all Democrats. Ryan has said he will avert that outcome, though it's unclear how, and many conservatives consider it intolerable. Last week bitter Republican divisions over immigration caused an unrelated farm bill to fail.

News

  • Northgate High School and Canongate Elementary School in Coweta County were placed on lockdown after school officials said a person with a gun was seen nearby. According to Coweta County School, the school was notified by law enforcement officials that there was somebody walking down Fischer Road in Newnan with a gun Tuesday.  The road is adjacent to the school.  The schools were placed on Code Red Alert, but later downgraded to Code Yellow. Cannongate Elementary was also put on Code Yellow lockdown around 11:20 a.m. Both schools stayed in a Code Yellow lockdown as a precaution until they went home.   Dean Jackson with Coweta County Schools said parents were notified by email, text and letter.  Dean said that some parents came and checked their kids out of school.   The suspect has not yet been caught, officials said.  Northgate High School and Canongate Elementary School are continuing on heightened security at this time, as a precaution only, while law enforcement investigates an incident in northeastern Coweta. Northgate HS moved to a code yellow status at approximately 12:50 p.m.,— Coweta Schools (@CowetaSchools) May 22, 2018 NewsChopper 2 was over the scene. We're working to get updates for Channel 2 Action News starting at 4 p.m. TRENDING STORIES: Patient says she woke up from surgery in hotel room with sandwich in hand 'American Idol' reveals its 2 finalists are dating before announcing winner 2 victims of cougar attack identified, friends grieving death of avid cyclist  
  • Rain and a few storms could put a damper on your Memorial Day plans. Stay weather aware this week with in-depth coverage from Kirk Mellish.
  • The Florida Department of Health has a warning for Florida residents and tourists about a deadly strain of flesh-eating bacteria. Federal health officials have said Vibrio vulnificus infections have increased each year since 2000. As scary as that sounds, though, the likelihood of contracting the bacterium is still pretty small. “You are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to (a) restaurant than from Vibrio,” says University of Florida microbiology professor Paul Gulig. Here are five things to know about flesh-eating bacteria in Florida: 1. It’s the fish, not the water – Most people who die from the bacteria contracted it from eating raw or under-cooked seafood, especially shellfish, like oysters, rather than from swimming in the Gulf. Swimming in salt water with an open wound increases your chances of getting it, but that shouldn’t keep the vast majority of people from getting in the water. 2. Now is the time to be vigilant – Peak season for Vibrio is during the warmer months, between May and October. The warm weather breeds the bacteria, and people are more likely to be swimming in the water and consuming seafood while on vacation or enjoying the scenery.  3. It’s extremely rare, and extremely deadly – According to the CDC, in 2014 there were about 90 total infections of Vibrio in the U.S., including 35 deaths. By comparison, the flu kills between 3,300 and 49,000 people every year. That being said, the bacteria is life-threatening. Vibrio kills one in three people who become infected. 4. It’s not really flesh-eating, it just looks that way – The only bacteria that are officially classified as “flesh eating” belong to the streptococcus A family. Vibrio is called “flesh eating” because it invades the blood stream and causes skin lesions that are similar to streptoccus A.  5. Your risk is pretty low, even if you’re sick – Most people who are truly vulnerable to Vibrio already have a weakened immune system, and suffer from other ailments, like chronic liver disease. There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission. Just to be safe, though, health officials say you should clean any open wounds after you’ve gone swimming in the ocean. 
  • The polls have closed, and Georgia has taken its first steps in voting for a new governor for the first time in eight years.  The Georgia Primary is one of the biggest nights of the election season and will set the stage for the potential runoffs and general election in November.   [CLICK HERE for LIVE real-time election results] Justin Farmer and Jovita Moore will anchor the night’s coverage on Channel 2 Action News, taking viewers to the heart of the political action. Channel 2 reporters and photographers are spread out across metro Atlanta as the results come in for the races that will also narrow down the candidates for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, plus all of Georgia’s 180 House seats and 56 Senate seats. Channel 2 Action News will have every angle covered throughout the evening, on the air and across all digital platforms. SCHEDULE: 10 p.m. - Channel 2 Action News special digital-only coverage on WSBTV.com and in our apps 11 p.m. - The Channel 2 Action News Nightbeat at 11 p.m. with Justin Farmer and Jovita Moore MINUTE-BY-MINUTE:  7 p.m.: Polls close across Georgia
  • A mentally disabled man walked free Tuesday after 20 years in prison for a killing his attorneys say he didn't commit, under a plea agreement that blames him for obstructing justice by falsely confessing to the crime. In exchange for his freedom, Corey Williams accepted a deal that short-circuits a potential U.S. Supreme Court review and requires him to drop all claims against the state of Louisiana, which initially sentenced him to death. 'Moments ago, I had the honor of walking Corey Williams out of prison,' attorney Amir Ali said in a tweet Tuesday morning. 'He spent the last 20 years there, after being wrongfully convicted as a 16 year old child.' Police found Williams hiding under a sheet on a couch at his grandmother's house after Jarvis Griffin was killed after delivering a pizza to another house in 1998. Williams initially denied killing Griffin, but changed his story after police questioned him through the night. 'His confession was brief, devoid of corroborating details,' his lawyers wrote in their March 2 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. 'Having just assumed responsibility for a homicide, Corey told the officers, 'I'm tired. I'm ready to go home and lay down.'' Defense attorneys said there wasn't any physical evidence linking Williams to the killing, and accused prosecutors of withholding 'staggering' evidence of innocence, in part by sharing only summaries of evidence involving other suspects. As it turned out, witnesses saw several older men steal money and pizza from Griffin, and saw Williams running from the house alone with nothing in his hands after the shooting, according to his lawyers. One of the older men, Chris Moore, was the only witness who identified Williams as the shooter. Fingerprints found on the murder weapon belonged to one of the other older men, and the victim's blood was found on clothing worn by a third older man, according to Williams' lawyers. Williams' lawyers said the prosecutors' summaries were falsified. This was one of the reasons cited by a group of 44 former prosecutors and Justice Department officials, including former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in a legal brief filed recently urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The plea 'puts an end to Corey Williams' efforts to get the United States Supreme Court to reverse his conviction,' wrote John Andrew Prime, spokesman for Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart Sr., in a news release emailed Tuesday. Williams signed his plea bargain in inch-high printing with big circles over the i's. His lawyers say that before the shooting, Williams was hospitalized for extreme lead poisoning, still sucked his thumb and frequently urinated on himself. His disabilities were cited by a district court judge in overturning his death sentence in 2004. Williams also pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter. In the agreement, he admits being present when Griffin was killed, that he aided and abetted the shooting, and illegally possessed a stolen firearm. He also agreed that he obstructed justice by removing evidence from the crime scene, and that he 'provided a false inculpatory statement to police.' Williams, now 36, also agreed not to raise any legal claims or seek compensation from the state or anyone else in a long list of people and agencies, including any former district attorney. Because of that, his lawyers hope to raise $10,000 to help him get a new start on life. 'Given the prospect of years more time in prison fighting his conviction, and the uncertainty of justice in the courts, ... Corey pled guilty to lesser offenses in an agreement that allowed him to walk out of prison,' his lawyers wrote on a crowdfunding site. State District Court Judge Katherine Dorroh vacated Williams' murder conviction and sentenced him to 20 years for manslaughter, with credit for time served. Prime said the judge also suspended a seven-year sentence for obstructing justice, putting Williams on supervised probation for three years.
  • The NFL has passed a new rule for this season that says any player who initiates contact with his helmets is subject to ejection after an in-game video review that will be decided in New York. Al Riveron, the league's head of officiating, said a foul can be called regardless of where on the body — not just the head or neck area — that one player hits another with his helmet. The rule is not position-specific, so offensive players will be subject to the same criteria as defensive players. 'This is about eliminating unnecessary use of the helmet,' Riveron said Tuesday at the NFL spring meetings. If a player is ejected, Riveron and his staff in New York will use network camera angles to determine if the ejection is necessary. He promised that games will not become 'an ejection fest' every week. 'Immediately when I learn in New York that there's an ejection, I will ask the network to give me everything you've got,' Riveron said. 'I will take a look at it, I will rule on it and I will say yes, he's ejected, (or) no, leave him in the game. 'Play will stop, and we will expedite it. That's why we won't have the referee come over and we're not going to get the replay official involved,' Riveron said. 'The only way the replay official will be involved is he will call it and immediately tell the command center, we have an ejection on 'No. 22 White.'' Atlanta Falcons CEO Rich McKay, the head of the league's competition committee, said the league had conference calls and a webinar with every coaching staff in the league last week to tell them to begin teaching a new, safer technique. McKay said the rule passed after the league looked at tens of thousands of examples on film to determine how to reduce concussions. Contact that's made by leading with the helmet no longer has a place in the NFL. 'We have always learned don't put your neck at risk and everything else,' he said. 'Now we've taken it a step further and said that we need to teach it out of the game and put a rule in and get it out of the game.' The rule applies to linemen, too. They can no longer lower their helmets to initiate contact. 'It's a culture change, and it's something that we take full responsibility' for, Riveron said. 'Prior to training camp we will have position-specific videos done by head coaches such as offensive line play, defensive line play, defensive backs, linebackers, special teams, runners. Why? Because this rule is all-inclusive for all players in all parts of the field.' ___ For more AP NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL