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National Politics

    Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made a trade betting that the stock in a shipping company with Russian-government ties would fall, a transaction coming just days after he learned of a possible negative news story about his investment in the company. Ross reported on a government form released Monday, as required by federal ethics rules, that he shorted stock in Navigator Holdings in October. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the transaction came three business days after a Times reporter submitted questions to Ross about Navigator. The transaction, listed as worth between $100,000 and $250,000, was first reported Monday by Forbes. Ross rebuffed any suggestions that he shorted the Navigator stock based on confidential information to make a profit. He said the transaction was part of his effort to divest from Navigator and that he did not stand to gain if the stock fell, or lose if it rose, at the time. In short selling, a person borrows shares of a stock and sells them. The aim is to then replace the borrowed shares with others bought later at a lower price, reaping a profit from the difference. Navigator counts a Russian gas producer with ties to the Kremlin among its major customers. President Donald Trump tapped Ross, a billionaire investor in distressed companies, to be his administration's point man on trade and manufacturing as Commerce chief. His spokesmen said in November that Ross planned to completely divest from Navigator, although he wasn't required to do so under his ethics agreement as an incoming Cabinet member, because he wanted to avoid any possible perception of a conflict of interest. Ross says now that he has completely divested his Navigator holdings. In a statement Tuesday, Ross said it would be 'completely false' to imply that the transactions involved insider trading using nonpublic information. The Times reporter 'contacted me to write about my personal financial holdings and not about Navigator Holdings or its prospects,' he said. 'I did not receive any nonpublic information due to my government position, nor did I receive any nonpublic information from a government employee. Securities laws presume that information known to or provided by a news organization is by definition public information,' Ross' statement said. Ross said he had been in the process of selling off his holdings in the company when he learned in late October that there were additional shares belonging to him in an account opened by the company. Because the shares were 'in electronic form' and he didn't have physical access to them to deliver them to the broker on time, he said he 'technically sold them short.' When he received the physical shares on Nov. 16, Ross said he delivered them to the broker to close the transaction. 'Therefore, it made no economic difference to me whether the shares went up or down between the sale date and the date I delivered them,' he said. The owners of Sibur, the Russian gas producer that is a major customer of Navigator, have included two Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin and a businessman believed to be Putin's son-in-law. Navigator ships products from Sibur. Navigator is one of a few companies in the world that can transport liquefied petroleum gas in cold and icy conditions. Russia is known for its brutal winters as well as its giant, state-controlled oil and gas producers.
  • President Donald Trump took a dig at Rep. Mark Sanford, a South Carolina Republican who has been critical of the president, during a meeting with House Republicans on Tuesday night. Trump told the lawmakers in a closed-door Capitol Hill meeting that he wanted to 'congratulate Mark on a great race,' according to two attendees. Another attendee said Trump's remarks elicited some boos from members of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group in the House. The three attendees spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting focused on immigration. Sanford, a Freedom Caucus member, said he was unable to attend because his flight was delayed at the Charleston, South Carolina, airport. 'The president has his own style. You gotta give him credit. He's an equal opportunity insulter. He gets just about everybody,' said Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas. Sanford lost his primary bid last week to South Carolina state Rep. Katie Arrington and blamed his defeat on Trump, who urged Republicans to dump the former South Carolina governor. Trump tweeted on the day of the primary that the congressman had been unhelpful to him, adding, 'He is better off in Argentina.' That was a reference to Sanford's surprise disappearance from the state when he was governor, which he later revealed was to continue his affair with an Argentine woman. Sanford had called Trump untrustworthy and culturally intolerant, prompting Arrington's primary challenge. The congressman later said support for Trump had become a litmus test in GOP primaries. __ Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Matthew Daly contributed.
  • California would lead the U.S. in significantly changing the standard for when police can fire their weapons under legislation that cleared its first hurdle Tuesday after an emotionally charged debate over deadly shootings that have roiled the country. It's time to change a 'reasonable force' standard that hasn't been updated in California since 1872, making it the nation's oldest unchanged use-of-force law, said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat who introduced the measure. 'It must be guided by the goals of safeguarding human life,' she said. A state Senate committee advanced the legislation that would allow police to use deadly force only in situations where it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious injury or death to the officer or another person. Now, California's standard makes it rare for officers to be charged after a shooting and rarer still for them to be convicted. Frequently it's because of the doctrine of 'reasonable fear': if prosecutors or jurors believe that officers have a reason to fear for their safety, police can use deadly force. Law enforcement lobbyists said the stricter standard could make officers hesitant to approach suspects out of fear their actions could be second-guessed. Democrats on the committee acknowledged that officers have difficult and dangerous jobs but argued the bill would make everyone safer by promoting de-escalation and fostering trust between police and people of color. 'It always blows me away when law enforcement only fear for their life only when they're facing black and brown people,' said Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford of Gardena, who is black. 'We don't have a problem with law enforcement, we've got a problem with racism.' Dozens of advocates lined up to list the names of young men killed by police across California, including Stephon Clark, who was shot this year when Sacramento officers say they mistook his cellphone for a handgun. The shooting sparked protests, and a prosecutor says it may be months before her office decides if police broke the law. It comes as police killings of black men have stirred upheaval nationwide. David Mastagni, a lobbyist for the California Peace Officers Association, said the proposed language creates 'a hindsight, second-guessing game that puts not only the officers at danger but puts the public at danger as well.' Randy Perry, representing several rank-and-file police unions that encompass 90,000 officers, called it 'a radical departure from criminal and constitutional law.' Critics could almost always argue that deadly force wasn't necessary because officers could have considered alternatives such as 'tactical repositioning,' which Perry called 'a euphemism for retreat.' Republican Sen. Jeff Stone of Temecula, the only senator on the committee who spoke in opposition, said the measure could stop people from becoming police officers and deter officers from responding to calls for help. Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara pointed to 'troubling' statistics about California's high incidence of police shootings and the disproportionate use of force against black men. She and fellow Democrat Scott Wiener of San Francisco said they believe the changes clarify when police can use lethal force and adequately address concerns raised by law enforcement opponents. 'We all agree that we don't want to put police officers in harm's way, but we also don't want to put the public in harm's way,' Jackson said. The measure now heads to another committee.
  • Calling the shots as his West Wing clears out, President Donald Trump sees his hard-line immigration stance as a winning issue heading into a midterm election he views as a referendum on his protectionist policies. 'You have to stand for something,' Trump declared Tuesday, as he defended his administration's immigration policy amid mounting criticism over the forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The chorus of condemnation includes Democrats, as well as Republicans, who are increasingly worried that reports about bereft children taken from their parents could damage the GOP's chances in November. Still, Trump believes that his immigration pledges helped win him the presidency and that his most loyal supporters want him to follow through. He made a rare trip to Capitol Hill late Tuesday to meet with GOP legislators and endorse a pair of bills that would keep detained families together, among other changes, but he remains confident that projecting toughness on immigration is the right call, said five White House officials and outside advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. 'It's amazing how people are surprised that he's keeping the promises he made on the campaign trail now,' said Trump political adviser Bill Stepien. While the White House signaled Trump may be open to a narrow fix to deal with the problem, the president spent the day stressing immigration policies that he has championed throughout his surprise political career. He has resisted calls to reverse the separation policy, saying any change must come through Congress. In a speech to a business group earlier Tuesday, Trump said he wanted to see legislation deal with family separation, which, he said, 'We don't want.' He also emphasized border security and again made the false argument that Democrats are to blame for the family separation problem. Said Trump: 'Politically correct or not, we have a country that needs security, that needs safety, that has to be protected.' Several White House aides, led by adviser Stephen Miller, have encouraged the president to make immigration a defining issue for the midterms. And Trump has told advisers he believes he looks strong on the matter, suggesting that it could be a winning culture war issue much like his attacks on NFL players who take a knee for the national anthem. Former Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon said the president is emphasizing the policies that brought him to the White House. 'I think this is one of his best moments. I think this is a profile in courage. This is why America elected him,' Bannon said. 'This is not doubling down, it is tripling down.' Still, Trump, a voracious watcher of cable news who is especially attuned to the power of images, appeared to acknowledge later Tuesday that the optics could be doing damage. During his closed-door meeting with lawmakers on the Hill, Trump said his daughter Ivanka had encouraged him to find a way to end the practice, and he said separating families at the border 'looked bad,' according to several attendees. 'He said, 'Politically, this is bad,'' said Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas. 'It's not about the politics. This is the right thing to do.' Trump's immigration standoff comes as he escalates his nationalist trade moves, imposing new tariffs on imports and threating more. With few powerful opposing voices remaining in the West Wing, Trump is increasingly making these decisions solo. Some key advisers have left, and chief of staff John Kelly appears sidelined. Republicans, particularly those in more moderate districts, are worried they will be damaged by the searing images of children held in cages at border facilities, as well as by audio recordings of young children crying for their parents. The House Republicans' national campaign chairman, Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, said Monday that he's asking 'the administration to stop needlessly separating children from their parents.' Other conservatives also raised concerns, but many called for Congress to make changes instead of asking Trump to directly intervene. Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom coalition of evangelical voters, added to the drumbeat to end the child separation policy Tuesday, calling on Congress to pass legislation that would end the process as part of a broader immigration overhaul. But asked if the border policy was bad for Trump politically, Reed suggested core supporters remain on the president's side. He said the group's members are 'more than willing to give the president and his administration the benefit of the doubt that this is being driven by a spike in people crossing the border, a combination of existing law and court decisions require this separation, and the fact that the Democrats refused to work with the administration to increase judges so that this can be dealt with more expeditiously.' Trump on Tuesday mocked the idea of hiring thousands of new judges, asking, 'Can you imagine the graft that must take place?' Worried that the lack of progress on his signature border wall will make him look 'soft,' according to one adviser, Trump has unleashed a series of tweets playing up the dangers posed by members of the MS-13 gang — which make up a minuscule percentage of those who cross the border. He used the loaded term 'infest' to reference the influx of immigrants entering the country illegally. As the immigration story becomes a national flashpoint, Trump has been watching the TV coverage with increasing anger, telling confidants he believes media outlets are deliberately highlighting the worst images — the cages and screaming toddlers — to make him look bad. The president has long complained about his treatment by the media, but his frustrations reached a boiling point after he returned from his Singapore summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un to face news reports questioning his negotiating skills. He complained to one adviser that the media had not given him enough credit after the summit and was continuing to undermine him on immigration, according to a person familiar with the conversation but not authorized to speak publicly. On Tuesday, Trump argued that sticking by his policies was a winning political strategy as he took a fresh shot at Democrats. 'They can't win on their policies, which are horrible,' he said. 'They found that out in the last presidential election.' ___ Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
  • As Democratic rivals for governor, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spent months belittling each other: To believe it, Newsom was selling snake oil, and Villaraigosa was a shifty corporate shill. But now they can't stop trading compliments, with the race behind them and Newsom headed for a fall showdown with Republican John Cox. The two former opponents staged a show of party unity in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, sounding at times like best friends. They shared a breakfast, and chatted about their kids along with politics. 'I have extraordinary respect and admiration for the former mayor,' Newsom said. Villaraigosa said 'this wasn't personal.' 'We agree on a lot more than we disagree on,' Villaraigosa added. 'I think it's really important that in these times, that we move beyond whatever differences we might have had and work together.' There were hugs and handshakes, jokes and smiles. It was a long way from the scrum of debates and the campaign trail. The primary contest that ended earlier this month saw a stream of attack lines and verbal jabs from the two former mayors and their campaigns — Newsom's time on the job in San Francisco overlapped with Villaraigosa's run at City Hall in Los Angeles. Villaraigosa had depicted Newsom as a wealthy elitist, out of touch with Californians left behind by the surging economy. Newsom's campaign ads recalled a six-figure ethics fine paid by Villaraigosa, and his time as adviser to supplements and weight loss company Herbalife, which the ads called a 'pyramid scheme.' That was all forgotten Tuesday. 'You look forward, you don't look back,' Newsom said. Democrats dominate California politics, but Newsom and Villaraigosa agreed the party needs to do more to win in November — up and down the ballot. Latinos, a key piece of the Democratic base, mostly stayed away in the June 5 election. The wealthy Cox has been mostly financing his own campaign, and has the backing of President Donald Trump. The Democratic-run state is facing a long list of problems, from homelessness to a growing gap between the rich and poor. As a reminder, a man who appeared homeless pushed a shopping cart along the street during the event outside a cafe, a familiar site in downtown. 'We both agree that this state has got to do a better job at lifting more people up,' Villaraigosa said. ___ Sign up for 'Politics in Focus,' a weekly newsletter showcasing the AP's best political reporting from around the country leading up to the midterm elections: http://apne.ws/3Gzcraw
  • The Latest on the U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations' main human rights body (all times EDT): 6:35 p.m. The European Union says the Trump administration's decision to pull the United States out of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council 'risks undermining the role of the U.S. as a champion and supporter of democracy on the world stage.' EU spokeswoman Maia Kocijancic says the 28-member bloc remains 'steadfastly and reliably committed' to the 47-country Geneva body. The EU says the United States has 'always been at the forefront' of protection of human rights and has been a 'strong partner' of the bloc at the council. It says it shares the aim to make the council 'more efficient,' noting this year's 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration was championed in part by former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. ___ 6:15 p.m. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office is praising the 'courageous' decision by the Trump administration to pull out of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council. The statement came minutes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced the U.S. withdrawal from the 47-member Geneva body. Echoing U.S. criticisms, the statement from Netanyahu's office said the council 'has proven to be a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights.' Israel has been the subject of more council resolutions than any other country in the world by far, and it is the only country to have its rights record examined at every session of the council, which meets three times each year. ___ 5:55 p.m. The president of the U.N. Human Rights Council is acknowledging the 'prerogative' of the United States to leave the 47-member body, while the U.N. human rights chief called it 'disappointing, if not really surprising,' that the U.S. was pulling out. Vojislav Suc of Slovenia, who holds the council annually rotating presidency, defended the council on Tuesday after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced the United States is quitting the Geneva body. The council opened its second of three annual sessions on Monday. On Twitter, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein — the U.N. human rights chief — said it was 'Disappointing, if not really surprising, news. Given the state of #HumanRights in today's world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back.' ___ 5:10 p.m. Ambassador Nikki Haley says the United States is withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council, calling it 'an organization that is not worthy of its name.' Haley is President Donald Trump's envoy to the United Nations. She says a year ago she made clear the U.S. would stay in the council only if 'essential reforms were achieved.' She says it's clear those calls for change were not heeded. Haley is decrying the membership of countries like China, Cuba and Venezuela that are themselves accused of rights violations. She says the council also has a 'chronic bias against Israel.' But Haley says that if the council does reform, the United States 'would be happy to rejoin.' Haley is announcing the withdrawal at the State Department alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. ___ 1:35 p.m. The Trump administration is set to announce Tuesday its departure from the United Nations' main human rights body in its latest withdrawal from an international institution. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will deliver the verdict on the U.N. Human Rights Council in a joint appearance at the State Department, according to four officials familiar with the matter. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly preview the decision, the specifics of which are to be laid out by Haley. Haley threatened the pull-out last year, citing longstanding U.S. complaints that the 47-member council is biased against Israel.
  • Calling on the Trump administration to end its 'insensitive policy,' the Rev. Al Sharpton and a coalition of social justice leaders announced Tuesday that they plan to visit immigrant children separated from their families at the U.S. border with Mexico. In a Capitol Hill news conference, Sharpton accused U.S. officials of applying a different standard to the children 'because these are children of color.' 'There is a different policy here, and that is playing hardball with the future of these young people,' Sharpton said. He said if Congress does not act soon, clergy and humanitarian groups would begin 'waves of visits' to check on children at the border in Texas as early as Thursday, 'to show the world that America has not lost its conscience or soul.' When asked for details on the border visits, Sharpton's spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger, said the logistics were still being worked out. Sharpton spoke with reporters amid national outrage over the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' approach to illegal border crossings that has resulted in immigrant children being separated from their parents. Over the past several days, media have reported the sounds and images of weeping children being held at border facilities, some crying out for their parents. 'I cannot get the sounds of those children crying out of my head, because they were torn away from their mothers and their fathers,' said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. President Donald Trump defended his policy during a speech Tuesday at the National Federation of Independent Business' 75th anniversary celebration. While the separation of families needs to stop, Trump said, 'we can't let people pour in.' 'Politically correct or not, we have a country that needs security, that needs safety,' Trump said. In addition to Gupta, Sharpton was joined by Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla. ; UnidosUs president Janet Murguia; National Coalition of Black Civic Participation president Melanie Campbell; Anti-Defamation League director Jonathan Greenblatt; Lawyers' Committee on Civil Rights Under Law president Kristen Clarke; National Urban League president Marc Morial; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. president Sherrilyn Ifill; and League of United Latin American Citizens' chief operating officer Sindy Benavides. Trump is under mounting pressure to reverse an immigration enforcement policy that has led to the separation of more than 2,300 migrant children from their families in recent weeks. Murguia said the activists intend to continue pressing the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security to change the policy.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump and the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election (all times local): 4:20 p.m. President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign manager is calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be dismissed. Brad Parscale tweeted Tuesday that it was 'time to fire Sessions.' The attorney general has become a flashpoint amid harrowing images of migrant children being separated from their parents at the southern border. But Parscale's focus appeared to be on Sessions' role with special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The campaign manager tweeted that it was time to 'end the Mueller investigation.' Parscale, who led the campaign's digital efforts in 2016, called the probe 'phony.' He also claimed a recent Justice Department watchdog report cleared Trump, which it does not. Sessions recused himself from the probe last year, a decision that incurred Trump's wrath. ___ 4:05 p.m. House Republicans are escalating their monthslong standoff with the Justice Department, saying the FBI hasn't adequately addressed bias within the agency and threatening to hold top department officials in contempt — or even impeach them. The stepped-up criticism comes after the department's internal watchdog released a report last week that criticized the FBI's handling of the 2016 probe into Hillary Clinton's emails but said political bias didn't affect the outcome of the investigation that eventually cleared her. Bolstered by President Donald Trump, some Republicans say there's no way that bias against then-candidate Trump found among some employees didn't taint the Clinton probe — and by extension special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's Republican campaign and Russia.
  • House Republicans are escalating their monthslong standoff with the Justice Department, saying the FBI hasn't adequately addressed bias within the agency and threatening to hold top department officials in contempt — or even impeach them. The stepped-up criticism comes after the department's internal watchdog released a report last week that criticized the FBI's handling of the 2016 probe into Democrat Hillary Clinton's emails, but said political bias didn't affect the outcome of the investigation that eventually cleared her. Bolstered by President Donald Trump, some Republicans say there's no way that bias against then-candidate Trump found among some employees didn't taint the Clinton probe — and, by extension, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's Republican campaign and Russia. At a House hearing Tuesday, Republicans angrily asked Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz how anti-Trump texts found between some employees who worked on the Clinton probe didn't influence the outcome. They also complained that they have not yet received some of the documents they have demanded from the department. 'We can't survive with a justice system we don't trust,' said Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Horowitz said in the report and repeated at the hearing that he had concluded the outcome of the investigation was determined by prosecutors' assessment of the facts, not by bias. Democrats accused the Republicans of trying to distract from or undermine the Mueller investigation by focusing on a few employees who were biased. Several Democrats talked about children separated from their parents at the border, asking why the committee's focus was still on the candidate who lost the presidency in 2016 instead of on current crises. Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said Republicans were stuck in a 'time warp.' Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California noted that the Judiciary Committee oversees immigration issues and should be focused on that. Trump, who falsely claimed last week that the report exonerated him in the Russia probe, took the opposite view. In a speech to the National Federation of Independent Business on Tuesday, Trump said Democrats 'want to focus on immigration because they want to keep the cameras away from the hearings.' The inspector general report did not touch on the Russia investigation. The outrage in the wake of the inspector general's report is the latest in a series of complaints from Republicans about the FBI. Multiple committees are investigating the agency's actions in 2016 related to the Clinton email probe and the beginning of the investigation into Russian election meddling and whether Trump's campaign was involved. Mueller took over the Russia investigation last year and is also investigating whether Trump obstructed justice. As part of their investigations, Republicans have requested more than a million documents. The Justice Department has provided some of them, but GOP lawmakers say they haven't provided enough — leading to the threats of contempt or impeachment. House Speaker Paul Ryan has backed the document requests, and he led a meeting last week with three committee chairmen and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to try to resolve the issue. A person familiar with the speaker's meeting said Ryan and the other Republicans made clear to the Justice Department that they need to comply with the requests or 'face consequences from the whole House.' The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not public. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview Sunday with Maria Bartiromo of the Fox Business Network that the deadline is 'this week' and that if they don't get the documents in time, 'there's going to be hell to pay.' The relationship between the Justice Department and Nunes has been particularly tense. Nunes has demanded multiple sensitive documents as he has investigated, among other things, whether the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when prosecutors and agents in 2016 applied for and received a secret warrant to monitor the communications of a Trump campaign associate. Recently Nunes requested documents related to an informant who spoke to members of the Trump campaign during the election as the FBI's Russia investigation began. Rosenstein has now held three classified briefings with congressional leaders on that topic, and the department says it has provided those members with documents during those briefings. But Nunes is still unsatisfied, telling The Associated Press after the third briefing last week that he wants the entire intelligence committee to see the documents and 'my patience is out.' The documents he is requesting are classified, so Nunes has not described them publicly.
  • Top Republicans responded Tuesday to the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border, a “zero tolerance” policy implemented six weeks ago. Many Republicans responded publicly to the harsh criticism over the policy, saying they support keeping migrant children and parents together. >> Read more trending news Update 8:30 p.m. EDT June 19: Protests unfolded in several U.S. cities Tuesday against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has resulted in the separation of at least 2,000 children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past six weeks. In New York, opponents of the policy marched from Union Square to Lower Manhattan, demanding an end to the separation policy. In San Francisco, protesters marched to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, demanding that the agency stop separating children from their parents at the border. Protesters also gathered in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square to protest the administration’s immigration policy during an appearance by Vice President Mike Pence at a GOP fundraiser. Update 6:30 p.m. EDT June 19: As President Donald Trump meets with Congressional Republicans this hour over immigration, it’s unclear whether lawmakers can agree on immigration legislation and whether the meeting will address the controversial policy of separating undocumented families at the U.S. border. Trump is reportedly urging House Republicans to pass “the compromise bill and the Goodlatte bill,” according to The Hill, which is citing GOP sources. Senior Trump administration officials are doubling down on the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, calling out opponents of the plan, according to a new statement, the Huff Post reported on Twitter. “The administration’s zero tolerance policy is a response to a humanitarian crisis brought about by loopholes in federal immigration law that encourage human trafficking and smuggling. As a result of these loopholes, the only two options for the U.S. government are to either release into the country illegally all illegal Central American migrants who show up at our border with a minor, or to prosecute them for illegal entry. There is no policy of family separation,” the statement said. “The Trump administration has repeatedly asked Congress to give us the authority to detain families together and promptly return families together. Members of Congress who are pushing to give immunity for child smuggling will only increase the crisis ten-fold.” The statement urges Congress to close the loopholes so the government can return “illegal alien families in a fair, expeditious and humane fashion.” Update 4:42 p.m. EDT June 19: An undocumented child with Down syndrome was separated from her parents while illegally trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, according to The Wall Street Journal. The 10-year-old girl was separated from her parents, even though her father is a legal U.S. resident, and sent to an immigration facility in McAllen, Texas, the Journal reported, while her mother was sent to a facility in Brownsville. The separation occurred while the mother was trying to get the girl and her brother across the border.    The newspaper learned of the situation after an interview with Mexico’s Foreign Prime Minister Luis Videgaray. During a speech at a small business event Tuesday, Trump blamed Mexico for contributing to the crisis at the U.S. southern border, saying the Mexican government could help end the stream of people traveling to the U.S. if it wanted to.  Update 3:09 p.m. EDT June 19: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Tuesday that Republicans support creating a plan to keep migrant children and parents together amid criticism of a Trump administration policy that separates families suspected of coming into the country illegally at the border. “I … and all of the other senators of the Republican conference support a plan that keeps families together,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, has passed a letter around to colleagues calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop separating families, The Hill reported. “I’m asking for a pause,” Hatch said. “I think we ought to pause and look at this very carefully.” Update 2:07 p.m. EDT June 19: A pair of Florida Democrats was barred Tuesday from going inside a Miami-area facility housing immigrant children as the national debate raged around the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from parents at the border. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wassermn Schultz and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson attempted to enter the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children Tuesday, but Wasserman Schultz said they were told that they needed to put in a request to visit the facility two weeks ahead of time. The lawmakers said that they were told by the company that runs the facility that they would be able to visit Tuesday, but they were stopped by the a representative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “This is not a good day for our country, where a U.S. senator and a U.S. congressman have been turned away from a federal facility because the Trump administration does not want us to check on the welfare and the care of the children inside -- children who have been taken from their moms and dads,” Nelson said. Update 1:30 p.m. EDT June 19: President Donald Trump once again blamed laws passed by Democrats for his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from parents suspected of coming into the country illegally while speaking Tuesday at a meeting of the National Federation of Independent Business. Trump said the policy is necessary because loopholes in the immigration laws mean families “cannot  be detained together or removed together, only released.” “These are crippling loopholes that cause family separations,” Trump said. “Child smugglers exploit the loopholes and they gain illegal entry into the United States, putting countless children in danger.” There is no law that mandates the separation of children and parents at the border. “We've got to stop the separation of the families, but politically correct or not we have a country that needs safety, that needs security, that has to be protected,” Trump said. “We don’t want people pouring into our country, we want them to come in through the process, through the legal system and we want ultimately a merit-based system where people come in based on merit.” Update 11:40 a.m. EDT June 19: More than 20 state attorneys general are calling for an end to the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which has led to children being separated from their parents at the border and has sparked national outrage. The 21 Democratic state attorneys general, from states including Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “Put simply, the deliberate separation of children and their parents who seek lawful asylum in America is wrong,” the attorneys general said in the letter. “This practice is contrary to American values and must be stopped. We demand that you immediately reverse these harmful policies in the best interests of the children and families affected.” The group is led by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, who on Tuesday called the immigration policy “inhumane” and “draconian.” “The Justice Department is ignoring its legal and moral obligations for the sake of a political agenda at the expense of children and the efforts of state law enforcement officials,” Balderas said. “The latest move to unnecessarily separate families is cruel and another example of this administration putting politics ahead of people.” Update 10:15 a.m. EDT June 19: President Donald Trump insisted on Twitter that “Democrats are the problem” in the immigration debate as criticism of his administration’s policy of separating children from parents at the border continues. Trump wrote Tuesday morning that Democrats “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.” The president has blamed Democrats for the recent surge in family separations, saying that laws need to be changed in order to change the separation policy. >> Recording of crying immigrant children separated from parents at border sparks outrage “Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration,” Trump said Tuesday in a tweet with the hashtag #CHANGETHELAWS.   There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border. The president also wrote Tuesday morning that “if you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country,” and reiterated a claim that crime has risen in Germany since the country started accepting migrants, despite government numbers that show crime at its lowest rate since 1992. Update 9:44 a.m. EDT June 19: The executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund called stories of children being separated from their parents as a result of the Trump administration’s immigration policy “heartbreaking,” saying in a statement Monday that “such practices are in no one’s best interests, least of all the children who suffer their effects.” “Detention and family separation are traumatic experiences that can leave children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and can create toxic stress which, as multiple studies have shown, can impact children’s long-term development,” said Henrietta Fore, an American who has headed UNICEF since earlier this year. She noted that the U.S. government has long supported UNICEF’s efforts to help uprooted children in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Haiti. >> Clergy group brings church charges of child abuse, immorality against Jeff Sessions over zero-tolerance policy “Children -- no matter where they come from or what their migration status -- are children first and foremost,” she said. “I hope that the best interests of refugee and migrant children will be paramount in the application of U.S. asylum procedures and laws.” Update 8:40 a.m. EDT June 19: Sen. John McCain called the Trump administration’s family separation policy “an affront to the decency of the American people” in a tweet Monday night. The Arizona Republican said the policy is “contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded.” “The administration has the power to rescind this policy,” he wrote. “It should do so now.” >> Is the immigration separation policy new, where did it come from, where are the detention centers? McCain is among a growing number of Republican lawmakers voicing concern over the administration's 'zero tolerance' approach to illegal border crossings. Under the policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution. With adults detained and facing prosecution, any minors accompanying them are taken away. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May. Update 7:15 p.m. EDT June 18: The nonprofit news organization ProPublica released an eight minute audio recording of wailing children, who were separated from their parents last week. >> All 5 living first ladies speak out on separation of immigrant children, parents at border A U.S. border patrol agent can be heard laughing in the background as the 10 children from Central America are separated from their families. Update 6:00 p.m. EDT June 18: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, during a briefing Monday afternoon, said there’s nothing new about the current policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. >> Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy: 4 things to know 'This entire crisis is not new, Nielsen said, pointing to 'loopholes' in federal immigration laws from the past, but that could change this week with the introduction of several immigration measures in the U.S. House and Senate, including one from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz is expected to introduce the “Protect Kids and Parents Act,” according to news reports. The measure would double the number of federal immigration judges from 375 to 750. It would authorize new temporary shelters to better accommodate families.  The bill would mandate that immigrant families remain together, unless there’s criminal conduct or a threat to the children, and it would require that asylum cases are heard within 14 days of application.   Update 5:35 p.m. EDT June 18:  The head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, addressed the growing backlash over the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy at the southern U.S. border, which is separating undocumented children from their parents. Nielsen defended the policy and urged  Congress to fix the system and close the loopholes. >> Before Trump policy, immigrant families arrested at the border were detained together Update 5:30 p.m. EDT June 18: Two more first ladies have weighed in on the widening controversy over the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern U.S. border. Michelle Obama retweeted comments Laura Bush made that Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.” >> Trump border policy: How to help immigrant children separated from families Former first lady Rosalynn Carter also released a statement Monday, according to The New York Times. 'The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents' care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country,' Carter said. Update 4:30 p.m. EDT June 18: The Department of Health and Human Services has released photos of the “tent city” in the Texas border outpost of Tornillo, just outside of El Paso, where the U.S. government is sending children separated from their parents at the border. There are already dozens of children at the facility, according to news reports. Update 3:10 p.m. EDT June 18: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, called Monday for the resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen amid the ongoing debate over the Trump administration’s immigration policy. The demand came one day after Nielsen said in a tweet that, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Nielsen echoed President Donald Trump’s claims that a law is behind the recent spike in separations of migrant children and their parents at the border. “We will not apologize for enforcing the laws passed by Congress,” Nielsen said. “We are a nation of laws. We are asking Congress to change the laws.” However, as Harris and numerous fact checkers have noted, there is no law that mandates the separation of children and parents at the border. Harris said in a statement Monday that Nielsen’s “misleading statements ... are disqualifying.” “We must speak the truth,” Harris said. “There is no law that says the Administration has to rip children from their families. This Administration can and must reverse course now and it can and must find new leadership for the Department of Homeland Security.” Update 2:30 p.m. June 18: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that President Donald Trump is telling an “outright lie” when he claims that Democrats are behind the recent surge in separations of children from their parents on the border. “This is not happening because of the 'Democrats' law,' as the White House has claimed,” Clinton said. “Separating families is not mandated by law at all.” Clinton, who ran as a Democrat against Trump during the 2016 presidential election, also appeared to chastise U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who cited a Bible verse last week while justifying the Trump administration’s immigration policy. “Those who selectively use the Bible to justify this cruelty are ignoring a central tenant of Christianity,” Clinton said. “Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children unto me.’ He did not say, ‘Let the children suffer.’” Update 2 p.m. EDT June 18: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged President Donald Trump to end the policy that’s allowed authorities to separate migrant children from their parents on the border, writing Monday on Twitter that 'children shouldn't be used as a negotiating tool.” “(Trump) should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers,” he wrote. The president has repeatedly called for Democrats to negotiate with Republicans to address illegal immigration after falsely claiming that the party is behind laws that mandate the separation of child from parent at the border. No such law exists.  Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush, ran against Trump in 2016 for the Republican presidential nomination. In an op-ed published Sunday by the Washington Post, former first lady Laura Bush called the Trump administration policy “cruel.” 'I live in a border state,' Bush wrote. 'I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.' First lady Melania Trump has also criticized the policy, telling CNN in a statement through her spokeswoman that “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.” Update 12:46 p.m. EDT June 18: President Donald Trump again accused Democrats of obstructing efforts to deal with illegal immigration and the separation of children and parents at the border, telling reporters Monday that “we’re stuck with these horrible laws” because Democrats refuse to sit down with Republicans. There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border. “We have the worst immigration laws in the entire world,” Trump said. “Nobody has such sad, such bad – and in many cases, such horrible and tough – you see about child separation. You see what’s going on there.” “The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said. Update 12 p.m. EDT June 18: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said authorities don’t want to separate children from their families but that officials have a duty to prosecute people who illegally cross the border. “When we ignore our laws at the border we obviously encourage hundreds of thousands of people a year to likewise ignore our laws and illegally enter our country, creating an enormous burden on our law enforcement, our schools, our hospitals and (our) social programs,” Sessions said Monday during the National Sheriffs’ Association Annual Conference in New Orleans. He framed the issue as a debate over “whether we want to be a country of laws or whether we want to be a country without borders.” “President Trump has said this cannot continue,” Sessions said. “We do not want to separate parents from their children. If we build the wall, if we pass legislation to end the lawlessness, we won’t face these terrible choices. We will have a system where those who need to apply for asylum can do so and those who want to come to this country will apply legally.” Sessions’ arguments echoed those of President Donald Trump, who has blamed Democrats for passing laws that he said led to the separations. There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said earlier Monday that officials will not apologize for enforcing immigration laws. 'We have to do our job,' she said. Original report: President Donald Trump defended his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy on Monday, writing in a series of tweets that children are being used “by the worst criminals on earth” to get into America as critics slammed the policy for separating children from their parents. “Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country,” Trump wrote. “Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.” The president pointed to a rise in crime in Germany as an example of the chaos caused by illegal immigration, writing in a tweet that it was a “big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture.” However, Germany’s internal ministry reported last month that criminal offenses in the country were at their lowest since 1992, according to Reuters. This spring, the Trump administration ordered prosecutors to charge every person illegally crossing the border. Children traveling with the adults have been separated and placed in detention centers, prompting protests nationwide. The president has blamed Democrats for not fixing the law that allows for the separations. “Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration,” the president wrote. “Change the laws!” Despite his claim that Democrats are at fault for the situation, The Associated Press reported that the Trump administration “put the policy in place and could easily end it.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.

News

  • Two brothers accused of at least seven robberies across metro Atlanta in May are no ordinary criminals: they’re identical twins. Marquavious and Juntavious Burton, 20, were arrested in early June. According to Fulton County jail records, the twins have been arrested multiple times since 2015 on charges such as aggravated assault and theft by receiving stolen property. The latest charges include seven counts of armed robbery and a charge of participating in criminal street gang activity. Police believe they may be responsible for even more recent robberies. The Burton twins have also been accused of shooting at some of the robbery victims, Channel 2 Action News reported.  In other news:
  • Two Cobb County siblings were killed after their 17-year-old sister allegedly lost control of the family’s SUV on a South Carolina interstate, police said Monday.  Jessica Wolwark was driving a Chevrolet northbound on I-85 in Anderson County when she ran off the highway and the SUV overturned Saturday morning, according to police.  Wolwark and her mother, Natalia Anggraeni, were both wearing seat belts and were seriously injured in the crash. Two other family members died from their injuries after being ejected, police said.  Kirana “Kiki” Wolwark, 15, and 12-year-old Nate Wolwark were both killed, a family friend posted on a Go Fund Me page. The family was traveling from their Kennesaw home to Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., where the girls were to attend a religious retreat, according to Chrissy Concepcion, who set up the fundraising page for the family. The family does not have medical insurance, she said. The South Carolina medical examiner was unable to confirm the identities of those killed, but family friends confirmed the names and ages of the Wolwark siblings.  “Kiki was a joy to be around, and spread her love for animals to everyone she knew,” Concepcion posted. “Nate was the perfect boy; always helpful, caring, and accepting of everyone around him.” The driver and her mother were both taken by helicopter to a Greenville hospital, where both remained Monday. Anggraeni has a broken neck and several broken ribs, Concepcion said. Jessica Wolwark has torn ligaments in her arm, but is expected to be released from the hospital this week.  The South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.  In other news: 
  • A Clayton County mother whose 12-year-old daughter was killed in an accidental shooting two weeks ago is concerned law enforcement officials still haven't found the gun. Channel 2 Action News has learned the teen boys charged in her death could get out next month. 'Why on Earth would you let them out if they could go back to the gun,' the mother asked. The District Attorney said a 13-year-old and 14-year-old admitted to involuntary manslaughter in court. How they're connected to a gang, on the Channel 2 Action News Nightbeat at 11.  TRENDING STORIES: Sole witness to deadly shooting says Tex McIver 'needs to be in hell' 2 dead, others injured in I-285 crash in South Fulton County Man arrested after beating, stabbing 15-year-old sister to death, police say  
  • Documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News say a popular high school physics teacher resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behavior. Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik received a tip that Matt Odom had abruptly left his post at Chattahoochee High School, just weeks before school let out for the summer, so Petchenik filed an open records request for Odom’s personnel file. According to documents Petchenik obtained, an investigation by the Fulton County School District determined Odom had acted unprofessionally around female students. “Witnesses reported that Mr. Odom was touchy feely with students and makes inappropriate comments to students about their clothing. By Mr. Odom’s own admission, he is flirtatious with students,” the report said. The report said students had complained to the administration about feeling uncomfortable around the physics teacher. “Although there is no video of the incidents, there is enough evidence to support the allegations of unprofessional conduct,” the report said. In interviews, Odom denied any wrongdoing. “I do put my hands on their shoulders or back and say ‘hey’ sometimes,” he said. “Yeah, I’m kind of flirtatious. It’s kind of my personality. It’s not like directly flirtatious. I’m just kind of fun and relaxed with my student generally. If I see that a student is uncomfortable or not comfortable with the interaction, I’m generally, like scale it back or whatever.” Petchenik spoke to a rising senior at the school who said she experienced the teacher's behavior first-hand. “I would sit in class and he’d look at me weird and sometimes just rub my shoulder a little bit weird,” she said. “It’s embarrassing to have to resign because you know that it’s true.” There were no documents in Odom’s file to indicate he resigned due to the allegations or the investigation. Petchenik attempted to reach Odom by phone and e-mail over the course of two weeks, but never heard back from him.
  • The school meal hall never tasted quite like this. PHOTOS: Public School 404 in Atlanta Take a walk back in time to the days of encyclopedias, globes and letter jackets at an Atlanta eatery. It's called Public School 404. It's a Grill Concepts Restaurant Group creation with nine locations across the country. Each location is dubbed Public School, along with the area code where it's located. The restaurant bills itself as a chef-driven gastropub that offers “An Education in the Art of Food & Beer.”  Public School 404's happy hour is known as “Recess.' It's held Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. Public School 404 serves craft beer exclusively. That certainly wasn't available in the meal hall growing up. The menus are composition books and include offerings such as Brown Bag Fries, PB&J Burger, Hot Mess and 'What Came First,' a chicken burger that includes a fried egg. “The overall concept originated in Los Angeles about six years ago,” Phil Kastel, executive vice president of culinary, told AJC.com. “What happened is we were trying to create a gastropub. Something fun. Something for everybody. And the name, Public School, kind of led us in that direction. “We focus on having a seasonal menu. We change the menu about four times a year, though there are some staples that stay around all year. We pride ourselves on serving local beer and keeping things fresh and energetic with the food.” Public School 404 is located on Howell Mill Road in Atlanta. RELATED: See more Things 2 Do around Atlanta RELATED: Get chicken and waffles with a twist at these metro Atlanta restaurants RELATED: Atlanta sushi restaurant named one of best restaurants in America RELATED: Chick-Fil-A unveils 2 seasonal items, testing another
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made a trade betting that the stock in a shipping company with Russian-government ties would fall, a transaction coming just days after he learned of a possible negative news story about his investment in the company. Ross reported on a government form released Monday, as required by federal ethics rules, that he shorted stock in Navigator Holdings in October. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the transaction came three business days after a Times reporter submitted questions to Ross about Navigator. The transaction, listed as worth between $100,000 and $250,000, was first reported Monday by Forbes. Ross rebuffed any suggestions that he shorted the Navigator stock based on confidential information to make a profit. He said the transaction was part of his effort to divest from Navigator and that he did not stand to gain if the stock fell, or lose if it rose, at the time. In short selling, a person borrows shares of a stock and sells them. The aim is to then replace the borrowed shares with others bought later at a lower price, reaping a profit from the difference. Navigator counts a Russian gas producer with ties to the Kremlin among its major customers. President Donald Trump tapped Ross, a billionaire investor in distressed companies, to be his administration's point man on trade and manufacturing as Commerce chief. His spokesmen said in November that Ross planned to completely divest from Navigator, although he wasn't required to do so under his ethics agreement as an incoming Cabinet member, because he wanted to avoid any possible perception of a conflict of interest. Ross says now that he has completely divested his Navigator holdings. In a statement Tuesday, Ross said it would be 'completely false' to imply that the transactions involved insider trading using nonpublic information. The Times reporter 'contacted me to write about my personal financial holdings and not about Navigator Holdings or its prospects,' he said. 'I did not receive any nonpublic information due to my government position, nor did I receive any nonpublic information from a government employee. Securities laws presume that information known to or provided by a news organization is by definition public information,' Ross' statement said. Ross said he had been in the process of selling off his holdings in the company when he learned in late October that there were additional shares belonging to him in an account opened by the company. Because the shares were 'in electronic form' and he didn't have physical access to them to deliver them to the broker on time, he said he 'technically sold them short.' When he received the physical shares on Nov. 16, Ross said he delivered them to the broker to close the transaction. 'Therefore, it made no economic difference to me whether the shares went up or down between the sale date and the date I delivered them,' he said. The owners of Sibur, the Russian gas producer that is a major customer of Navigator, have included two Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin and a businessman believed to be Putin's son-in-law. Navigator ships products from Sibur. Navigator is one of a few companies in the world that can transport liquefied petroleum gas in cold and icy conditions. Russia is known for its brutal winters as well as its giant, state-controlled oil and gas producers.