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    First they cooperated. Then they stonewalled. Their television interviews were scattershot and ridiculed, their client mercurial and unreliable. But President Donald Trump's legal team, through a combination of bluster, legal precedent and shifting tactics, managed to protect their client from a potentially perilous in-person interview during special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation . His lawyers are taking a victory lap after a redacted version of Mueller's findings revealed politically damaging conduct by the president but drew no conclusions of criminal behavior. 'Our strategy came to be that when we weren't talking, we were losing,' Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers, told The Associated Press in a recent interview. Given that Mueller could not indict a sitting president, Giuliani said, the team kept its focus on Mueller's 'capacity to report, so we had to play in the media as well as legally.' The aftershocks from the Mueller report released Thursday will help shape the next two years of Trump's administration. But while the report may cause some Democrats to take a renewed look at impeachment despite long odds of success in Congress, the legal threat to Trump that seemed so dangerous upon Mueller's appointment in May 2017 has waned. At the outset, that appointment led Trump to predict 'the end of my presidency.' The White House struggled to recruit top Washington attorneys, many of whom were reluctant to work for a temperamental, scandal-prone president who repeatedly claimed he would be his own best legal mind. The initial strategy of the Trump legal team, including White House attorney Ty Cobb and personal defense lawyer John Dowd, was to be as cooperative as possible with Mueller's prosecutors and ensure that investigators got access to the documents they requested and the witnesses they wanted to interview. The Trump lawyers hoped to bring about a quick conclusion to the investigation. Believing he could exonerate himself, Trump initially expressed a willingness to sit for an interview with Mueller's team. A date was set for that to take place at Camp David. But then the president's lawyers moved away from the plan, in part by arguing that the special counsel already had gotten answers to his questions. 'It became the most transparent investigation in history,' Jay Sekulow, one of the president's personal lawyers, said in an interview. Still, there was internal tumult along the way, including the March 2018 departure of Dowd, a veteran and experienced criminal defense attorney, and the additions of Giuliani and the husband-wife team of Martin and Jane Raskin. Even as the legal team professed cooperation with Mueller's prosecutors, the lawyers expressed impatience, frustration and skepticism in a series of private letters that challenged the credibility of the government's witnesses and the demands to interview the president. In a November 2018 correspondence, one of a series of letters obtained by news outlets, the president's legal team attacked the questions Mueller wanted to ask the president as 'burdensome if submitted to a routine witness, let alone presented to the president of the United States, more than two years after the events at issue while he continued to navigate numerous, serious matters of state, national security and domestic emergency.' Those private complaints were dwarfed by louder public protests. Trump spent months engaging in daily, sometimes hourly, attacks on Mueller's team, declaring the investigation a 'Witch Hunt' and questioning the integrity of the investigators. Giuliani, in many ways more of a television spokesman than conventional lawyer, amplified those attacks. He went so far as to accuse the investigators of misconduct and to portray Mueller, who as a Marine officer had led a rifle platoon in Vietnam, as unpatriotic. The former New York City mayor became a human smoke screen, making accusations and offering theories often meant to distract and obfuscate. He was a punch line on cable news channels, and his interviews were mocked as blunder-filled performances. But there was a method to Giuliani's shtick, at least at times. More than once he let slip revelations that initially were perceived as gaffes but later were recognized as efforts to get out ahead of potentially damaging news stories. Two examples include payments to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who claimed an affair with Trump, and a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower Moscow. There were missteps, too. The interviews granted by White House staffers filled the pages of the Mueller report with stories of West Wing chaos. At least one interaction caught Mueller's attention as a possible effort to discourage a witness from cooperating against the president. Trump's lawyers communicated regularly with attorneys for other people under scrutiny in the investigation as part of a joint-defense agreement that enabled them to swap information. But the report reveals that after former national security adviser Michael Flynn withdrew from the agreement and began cooperating with the government, an unidentified Trump lawyer left a message with Flynn's attorneys reminding them that the president still had warm feelings for Flynn and asking for a 'heads-up' if Flynn knew damaging information about the president. While Giuliani, with an eye toward the members of Congress who might eventually decide the president's fate, focused on the public relations battle, the legal team also worked behind the scenes to argue that Mueller could not use a subpoena to compel Trump to give an in-person interview, which carried potentially grave risks for a president prone to making false statements. 'I think they were right to think that it would hurt him to speak to Mueller's team, and as it turns out, they were right to think that he could get away with refusing to speak with Mueller's team,' said Stanford law school professor David Alan Sklansky. Mueller's team, which spent about a year negotiating with Trump's lawyers over a potential interview, ultimately agreed to accept written answers on Russia-related questions but never spoke with the president in person. Making the move to block an interview was 'defense lawyering 101' because defense lawyers as a matter of course don't like to let clients in legal jeopardy speak to investigators, said Duke law professor Samuel Buell. Mueller never acted to subpoena Trump. The special counsel did not conclude that Trump's campaign colluded with Russians. With an eye on following a Justice Department legal opinion that prohibits indicting a sitting president, Mueller did not rule on whether Trump obstructed justice. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declared that Trump did not. 'We're very, very happy. I mean, it's a clear victory. I think any lawyer would say when you get a declination, you just won,' Giuliani told Fox News after the report came out. Buell said it is hard to know how much credit belonged to Trump's lawyers. 'I think that's where the real lawyering in a situation like this goes on, is the client management piece,' he said. 'Trump doesn't like to be managed, clearly ... but the Mueller report won't tell you what went on with the president's private lawyers and the president.' ___ Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Tucker at http://twitter.com/@etuckerAP ___ For complete coverage of the Mueller report, go to https://www.apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
  • In the summer of 2010, reporters at South Dakota's Argus Leader newspaper decided to request data about the government's food assistance program, previously known as food stamps. They thought the information could lead to a series of stories and potentially help them identify fraud in the now $65 billion-a-year program. They sent a stream of what they thought were routine requests for information to Washington. Government officials eventually sent back some information about the hundreds of thousands of stores nationwide where the food program's participants could use their benefits. But the government withheld information reporters saw as crucial: how much each store received annually from the program. Trying to get that data has taken the paper more than eight years and landed it at the Supreme Court, which will hear the case Monday. Argus Leader news director Cory Myers, who directs a staff of 18 at the Sioux Falls paper, says getting the information is about 'knowing how our government is operating' and 'knowing what government is doing with our tax money.' A supermarket trade association opposing the information's release argues that the information being sought is confidential. The Supreme Court's decision in the case could be narrow or could significantly affect the interpretation of a law that grants the public access to government records. The Argus Leader is owned by USA Today publisher Gannett and is the largest newspaper in South Dakota. It wrote about the government's initial release of information. But Jonathan Ellis, one of the reporters behind the requests, said there's more to learn if the paper gets what it's seeking. Ellis said he would like to write about the companies who profit the most from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program , called SNAP. He would like to analyze how successful efforts to involve farmers' markets in the program have been. And he is still hoping to use the data to identify stores that seem like outliers, an indication of potential fraud. Megan Luther, the other reporter behind the requests, said the paper has been fighting for the information for reasons beyond 'there's a good story there.' Luther, who now works for InvestigateTV, said it's 'transparency 101' that 'taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going.' The paper has gotten close to getting the data before. After initially opposing the information's release, the federal government reversed course after the Argus Leader took it to court and won. But the Virginia-based Food Marketing Institute , a trade association representing grocery stores and supermarket chains, stepped in to continue the fight. The group lost an appeal, and the paper hoped it would soon get the data. Then the Supreme Court took the case. The Food Marketing Institute, which declined interviews before Monday's arguments, has said in court papers that the public already has access to a lot of data about SNAP. But SNAP sales data by store is confidential 'much the same way how much business grocers do in cash, credit, debit, checks or even gift cards is confidential,' wrote Food Marketing Institute president and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin in a blog post last month. To decide whether the information should be released, the Supreme Court will have to interpret the federal Freedom of Information Act . It gives citizens, including reporters, access to federal agencies' records with certain exceptions. In the Argus Leader's case, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP, argued that disclosing the data the paper sought was barred by FOIA's 'exemption 4.' It tells the government to withhold 'confidential' ''commercial or financial information' obtained from third parties. It will be up to the court to determine whether what the paper is seeking counts as 'confidential.' The Trump administration is backing the grocery stores in arguing against the information's release. The Associated Press is among dozens of media organizations that have signed a legal brief supporting the Argus Leader. Myers, the Argus Leader's news director, said that in the years it has taken for the paper's case to reach the Supreme Court, the paper has continued to do the kind of investigative reporting it was attempting to do in seeking the SNAP data. In South Dakota, he said, 'there are more stories and more malfeasance than one newsroom can root out, but we certainly try.' The case is 18-481 Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media. ___ Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko
  • By now, most Democratic presidential candidates have polished their stump speeches. But when they're in South Carolina, they may need to add in a sermon. In a large and diverse primary field, White House hopefuls are angling to develop relationships with black churches. That's because success in South Carolina, home to the nation's first Southern presidential primary, could come down to connecting with politically influential churchgoing African Americans. 'Candidates recognize that black churches are the places to be seen and heard,' said Bobby Donaldson, a professor of civil rights history at the University of South Carolina. 'If you're trying to find a captive and captivating audience, then the black church is the perfect place to get your message across.' Some 2020 candidates are already working to build their relationships with this community. Sen. Kamala Harris of California will attend an Easter service on Sunday in Columbia at a church whose pastor is a lawmaker who recently endorsed her campaign. She swung through a fellowship hall in North Charleston earlier this year and visited churches last fall to rally voters ahead of the midterms. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont attended a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at a historic black church in Columbia, and both have held campaign events in fellowship halls at black churches around the state. In the past week, Sanders held a town hall in a black church in Spartanburg with members of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke have also visited black churches. And in one of her visits to three Charleston-area black congregations in February, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York gave a sermon of sorts, summoning a fiery cadence that spurred shouts of 'Amen!' from the crowd of several hundred. 'I love the fact that your Bibles are under your seat,' she told congregants at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist. 'When you go on a plane and they say your life preserver is under your seat — OUR life preservers are under our seat!' Gillibrand said she felt she had been well received, but some observers say such moments can be awkward. 'It seems very, for lack of a better term, inauthentic,' said Jalen Elrod, a black voter and first vice chairman of the Greenville County Democratic Party. 'She'd be better served if she came and said, 'Here's what I'm about. Here's what I'm trying to support.'' Still, the visits allow candidates to introduce themselves to voters. They can also potentially elevate their standing with voters if they secure an official endorsement from church leaders. That may be part of Harris' calculus, with her announcement last month of an endorsement from Darrell Jackson. The longtime state senator is also pastor of Bible Way Church of Atlas Road, a Columbia congregation that's seen as among the most influential in the black community. That's where she'll attend Easter services on Sunday. But Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina political consultant and fifth-generation member of the African Methodist Episcopal church, notes that an endorsement from a pastor is no guarantee of securing his parishioners' support. 'Just because the pastor endorses doesn't mean the congregation follows,' Seawright said. 'The sheep don't always follow the shepherd because people have evolved, and they've become more independent in their thought.' While the pathway through the black church is a tricky one to navigate, it's hard to avoid. Jaime Harrison, who chaired the state party in the 2016 presidential cycle and is mulling a challenge to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, said that as candidates get past their introductory visits to South Carolina, voters will be watching their moves carefully. 'You expect people to come and visit your church or come to the local NAACP and be the keynote speaker,' said Harrison, also associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Regardless of their approach, Seawright urged white candidates to strive to make authentic connections and develop policy proposals that back up whatever overtures they're making as they visit the state's parishioners. 'People want authenticity, people want genuineness, and they want honesty,' Seawright said. ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
  • Without close friends in Asia, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to be using every opportunity, even the emperor's accession, to court President Donald Trump. Abe is scheduling a rushed visit to Washington to meet with Trump and celebrate first lady's birthday, and then is inviting him to be first foreign leader to meet the new emperor, the two countries announced Friday. Tokyo and Washington said that Trump and first lady Melania Trump will make a state visit to Japan at the end of May, just weeks after Crown Prince Naruhito ascends Japan's Chrysanthemum throne. Naruhito's 85-year-old father, Emperor Akihito, is ending his three-decade reign on April 30 by abdicating. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said receiving Trump as the first state guest of the new imperial era would 'symbolize the unshakable bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance.' Japanese officials are also arranging for Trump to watch the final day of a sumo wrestling tournament on May 26 so he can present a trophy to the winner. Trump may also travel to a Japanese naval base in Yokosuka west of Tokyo to see a destroyer that is planned for refitting as Japan's first postwar aircraft carrier, and play a round of golf with Abe, Japanese officials and media reports said. Abe, experts say, is taking every opportunity to court Trump as Japan tries to stay out of the U.S. leader's crosshairs, unlike some other world leaders who have upset him on trade and other issues. 'I'm not sure what other choices this administration, or any Japanese administration, has except to try to build the best relationship possible with Washington through face-to-face interaction,' said Stephen Nagy, a politics and international studies professor at International Christian University in Tokyo. 'I think Mr. Trump being the first to meet the emperor is a good example of that.' Relations between Japan and two of its closest neighbors, South Korea and China, remain strained over their war history and territorial disputes. In February, Trump said Abe had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to denuclearize North Korea. Abe did not deny the claim, triggering criticism from opposition lawmakers that his apparent effort to please Trump was embarrassing. Abe has managed to largely stay on good terms with Trump by assiduously avoiding criticism of the U.S. leader. 'You never hear criticisms out of Japan ... that has been very characteristic of the Abe administration,' Nagy said. 'I think he has done well because he hasn't insulted Mr. Trump to cause problems.' Abe was also the first foreign leader to meet Trump after his election in November 2016, not even waiting until he officially took office as is normal diplomatic practice, and gave him a special golf driver. Hiro Aida, professor of global studies at Aoyama Gakuin University and an expert on Japan-U.S. relations, said Abe is jumping at the opportunity of the emperor's succession after his ties with Trump were seen to be weakening as the U.S. leader came down hard on trade issues, demanding that Japan do more to reduce the countries' trade imbalance. 'Inviting Trump in May to meet the new emperor would be a perfect chance for Abe to show how much he cares about Trump, while also showing their relationship off to the world,' Aida said. Abe may be also demonstrating his political power over Naruhito by sending the message that he can decide whom the emperor meets. Aida, however, said the choice of Trump amid continuing investigations into his administration's ties with Russia may hurt Naruhito's image. Abe will travel to Washington on April 26-27, just ahead of the busy imperial succession. He and Trump are also expected to meet for a third month in a row in June when Japan hosts the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, western Japan, where the economy and trade will be the main issues. The White House said Friday that Abe and Trump will discuss North Korean nuclear disarmament, trade and other issues during this month's visit. After talks at the White House, Abe and his wife Akie are to have an informal dinner with Trump and Melania to celebrate the first lady's 49th birthday. The next day, the two leaders are expected to play golf in the outskirts of Washington, following several previous rounds they have shared in each country. ___ Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
  • The Latest on congressional reaction to special counsel Robert Mueller's report (all times local): 5:15 p.m. The Justice Department says the subpoena issued by House Democrats for the full special counsel report is unnecessary. Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec says Attorney General William Barr released the report with 'minimal redactions.' Kupec says the department is working with Congress to view more of the report and the subpoena issued Friday by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is 'premature and unnecessary.' The department offered Friday to have a select group of congressional leaders view some of the redacted information from the report. But Democrats rejected that offer as insufficient. __ 5 p.m. Top congressional Democrats are rejecting a Justice Department offer to let 12 leading lawmakers see a more complete version of the special counsel's report because they say the suggested ground rules are too limiting. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and four other leading Democrats said in a letter Friday that lawmakers must see Robert Mueller's entire report so Congress can 'fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.' They offered to negotiate a workable agreement. The Justice Department is offering to let the legislators see much of the information that was redacted in the report released Thursday. It says only information censored because it pertains to grand jury proceedings would still be withheld. The department said lawmakers could view the less-censored version at the agency and would have to pledge to keep the information confidential. __ 4:30 p.m. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney says he's 'sickened' by the level of dishonesty the special counsel found in President Donald Trump's administration. Romney also said Friday he was 'appalled' that, according to special counsel Robert Mueller's findings, Americans working on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign welcomed election help from Russia. The one-time GOP presidential nominee tweeted that it's 'good news' Trump was not charged with wrongdoing in the investigation. But Romney, who's now a senator from Utah, was critical of what he called the 'pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection' at the highest levels of the administration, 'including the president.' __ 9:45 a.m. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller's report as Congress escalates its investigation of President Donald Trump. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York say, 'It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward.' He expects the Justice Department to comply by May 1. While Mueller declined to prosecute Trump on obstruction of justice, he did not exonerate the president, all but leaving the question to Congress.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday became the first 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to make a full-throated call for the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report. Mueller, who investigated whether Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election and whether the president tried to interfere with the inquiry, found no evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and made no verdict on obstruction of justice. Mueller did find, however, that Trump made numerous attempts to interfere with the investigation but was largely foiled by those around him. In a series of tweets, Warren said it would be damaging to 'ignore a President's repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior' and would give license to future presidents to act in the same way. 'The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States,' Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, tweeted. Other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, while supportive of the idea of impeachment, were more circumspect in their responses. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said Friday on CNN that it would be 'perfectly reasonable for Congress to open up those proceedings.' Both Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and Rep. Eric Swalwell of California said the question of impeachment should not be taken off the table. Other Democratic candidates, including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, indicated it was too soon to initiate impeachment proceedings. 'We don't have an unredacted version of the report. We don't have the underlying materials that that report was written upon. We haven't had yet an opportunity to have hearings where we interview Mueller,' Booker said during a campaign stop in Reno, Nevada. Sen. Kamala Harris of California was asked Thursday night on MSNBC to comment on House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's remarks that impeachment hearings against Trump would not be 'worthwhile' because the 2020 election is coming up and voters can decide if they want to keep Trump in office. 'I think that's there definitely a conversation to be had on that subject,' Harris said, referring to impeachment, 'but first I want to hear from Bob Mueller and really understand what exactly is the evidence that supports the summary that we've been given.' Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said the best recourse for Trump's actions as president would be to vote him out. 'If we really want to send Trumpism into the history books, the best thing we can do is defeat it decisively at the ballot box in 2020,' Buttigieg said on NBC's 'Late Night with Seth Meyers.' ___ Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet has been successfully treated for prostate cancer, clearing the way for a possible 2020 presidential campaign, his office says. The Colorado Democrat's office said Friday that Bennet underwent surgery last weekend and is recovering at home. He will require no further treatment, his office said. The three-term senator, 54, has said he'd run for the White House if he was cancer-free after treatment. Bennet is the former head of Denver Public Schools who has carved out a reputation as a policy-oriented centrist in the Senate.
  • President Donald Trump may soon be able to claim a sweet victory for his deregulation push, with officials preparing to get rid of the decades-old rules for frozen cherry pies. Emails show the Food and Drug Administration planned to start the process for revoking the standard for frozen cherry pies this week, followed by a similar revocation of the standard for French dressing. Plans to get rid of the obscure rules had been tucked into the Trump administration's deregulation agenda . Standards for an array of foods including cottage cheese and canned peas were put in place decades ago partly to ensure a level of quality. They spell out how products with specific names can be made, including ingredients that are required or not allowed. The rules for frozen cherry pies say they must be 25% cherries by weight with no more than 15% of the cherries being blemished. It's not always clear why some food terms have standards and others don't. The rules are seen as arcane by many and are a sore spot in the food industry, with companies saying they prevent innovation or prompt lawsuits. The FDA under Trump has said it plans to update the standards. Lee Sanders of the American Bakers Association said she's hopeful the cherry pie standard will finally be revoked, but that it would not make a big difference for the industry. 'I feel confident our members are producing cherry pies with more than enough cherries,' she said. The FDA also plans to take another look at milk, which federal regulations define as coming from a cow. The dairy industry has called for a crackdown on soy, rice and almond drinks makers that use the term. While any changes to the milk rule are likely to be contested, getting rid of the standard for frozen cherry pie is unlikely to be controversial. The frozen cherry pie standard is an outlier because other fruit pies don't have similar rules. The same is true for French dressing: The Association for Dressings and Sauces, which once went after a vegan spread for violating the mayonnaise standard, notes other dressings are not subject to such standards. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who stepped down this month, said in an October tweet that it was among the FDA's priorities to 'de-regulate frozen cherry pie.' He apparently wasn't entirely joking. In a June email , the FDA noted plans to post a proposal to revoke the frozen cherry pie standard on April 18. It said the proposal to revoke the French dressing standard would be posted May 3. In a statement this week, the FDA said the dates were for 'long range internal planning purposes' and that the timing could shift. Updates to the standards will be publicly noted, the agency said. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • Democrat Kimi Cole is tired of excuses from presidential candidates who say it's too expensive and time-consuming to visit areas of rural Nevada like her town of Minden, population 3,400. To get there from Washington, D.C., however, would likely mean at least a seven-hour, multi-stop flight to Reno, followed by an hour's drive. It's a unique challenge for Nevada, which sits much farther west than the other two early voting states. To overcome the logistical challenges and ensure those living in rural communities play a key role in vetting candidates, Cole told The Associated Press that she and other Nevada Democrats are setting up a series of virtual visits with the presidential campaigns. They hope to launch the first series of online video conferences with the 2020 contenders within a month. It could be a nationwide model as presidential candidates expand the traditional campaign map to seek support in places where Democrats have struggled, including rural America. 'You can drive 300 miles and 400 miles (480 to 640 kilometers) across the state and you may not get in front of very many people,' said Cole, chairwoman of the Rural Nevada Democratic Caucus. 'I understand all that, and I'm respectful of all that. But doggone it, we have modern technology.' Cole said she's working with other organizers to ensure their internet connections can handle the virtual visits. The cyber-campaigning could give presidential candidates a chance to reach thousands of scattered Nevada Democrats whose votes they need to court to gain an advantage in a crowded field. 'I know so many people, especially out in rural counties, that feel like they're not being heard, that they're not being represented,' Cole said. 'This is a step to meet in the middle.' The videoconferences allow rural residents to ask about issues like natural resources, water rights and gun rights that may not get as much attention in Las Vegas or Reno. Judy Zabolocky, chairwoman of the Lyon County Democrats who lives in the small community of Dayton, said many Democrats in her county might have to drive an hour or more to Reno if they want to see a candidate. 'In the past years, if they're really, really hot on a particular candidate, they will make an attempt to go see them. But most of them don't,' she said. Nevada, which votes third in the U.S. on a Democratic presidential nominee, is already farther away than the other early nominating states. In South Carolina, where most areas can be reached within a few hours' drive, candidates have made a point to visit rural areas. Iowa is much more spread out, but almost all the Democratic presidential candidates have made a point of hitting rural areas before its first-in-the-nation caucuses. Cole said organizers are aiming to set up simultaneous video conferences in eight to 10 far-flung locations across Nevada. One after the other, Democratic presidential candidates would hop on a video conference and speak with a couple hundred people gathered in libraries or other community centers hundreds of miles apart. At least six candidates have expressed interest in participating, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, whose campaigns confirmed they have been in talks with Cole. Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur seeking the presidential nomination, also has floated a novel technological approach to overcome limited time and resources. He told the Carroll Times Herald in Iowa last week that he's working to start campaigning virtually with a 3D hologram. 'Rural engagement via video conference strikes me as a great idea and something that candidates should do more of,' said David Cohen, who served as Nevada director for Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008. 'Primary candidates need the exposure and Nevadans need to kick the tires. But they've also go to get out there to meet folks in person.' Nevada Democrats allocate their delegates based on congressional districts, giving those living in sparsely populated areas a prominent voice. In addition to facilitating the virtual visits, Cole is working to persuade campaigns to visit rural Nevada in person. Booker on Friday will become the first candidate to make that journey, stopping in Cole's town of Minden during a three-day swing through the state. Cole said she hopes it will set a precedent for other 2020 Democratic candidates. 'We want to meet you, and we want to hear from you. Ignore us at your own risk,' Cole said. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Des Moines, Iowa and Meg Kinnard in Charleston, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday rejected a North Korean demand that he be replaced as President Donald Trump's top negotiator, as the United States and Japan vowed to continue to enforce tough sanctions on North Korea until it dismantles its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Pompeo's refusal to step down and the joint U.S.-Japanese pledge made at a meeting of their foreign and defense ministers at the State Department threw more uncertainty over the possible resumption of stalled denuclearization talks. The talks have been at an impasse over sanctions since Trump's second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended without any agreement in late February, and the North has warned it may not return to the table without immediate sanctions relief. 'Nothing changed, we're continuing to work. I'm still in charge of the team,' Pompeo told reporters, insisting that he and his special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun would remain on the job. 'President Trump is obviously in charge of the overall effort, but it will be my team and special representative Biegun who will continue to lead the U.S. efforts to achieve what Chairman Kim committed to do,' he said. 'He's made that commitment to President Trump multiple times, he's made it to me personally half a dozen times and I am convinced we still have a real opportunity to achieve that outcome and our diplomatic team will continue to remain in the lead.' Pompeo's comments — at a news conference with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya — were his first response to the North Korean demand, which followed an announcement by Pyongyang on Thursday that it had tested a new tactical weapon. The test, along with the North's criticism of Pompeo for 'talking nonsense' and misrepresenting Kim's positions, signaled a hardening stance and cast doubt on a quick resumption of negotiations. Pompeo, Shanahan, Kono and Iwaya all said that they would not bow to North Korea's sanctions relief demands. 'We will continue to press North Korea to abandon all of its weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles and related programs and facilities,' Pompeo said, speaking on behalf of the group. 'We will continue to enforce all sanctions against North Korea and encourage every country to do so.' Kono said Friday's meeting came at 'a critical time to align the response to the North Korean situation,' noting that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will travel to the U.S. to meet Trump next week and that Trump will soon visit Japan. 'Japan and the United States will continue to cooperate on full implementation of all U.N. Security Council resolutions,' he said in reference to international sanctions the world body has imposed on the North. The U.S. is refusing to ease major sanctions until North Korea completely and verifiably dismantles its nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles while the North wants significant sanctions to be lifted before the process is completed. Japan has also advocated a tough approach to the North in contrast to South Korea, which has pushed for a step-by-step approach that would lift some international sanctions as incentives. Pompeo has said some minor relief, including the possible easing of travel restrictions, could be considered in the short- to medium-term but that the crippling sanctions the North most wants removed will not be lifted until it fulfills what he says have been Kim's repeated pledges to Trump to completely denuclearize. On Thursday, North Korea said it had test-fired a new type of 'tactical guided weapon,' its first such test in nearly half a year, and demanded that Pompeo be excluded from future negotiations. Although the test didn't appear to be of a banned mid- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle chances of resuming the negotiations, it allowed North Korea to show its people it is pushing ahead with weapons development and reassuring hardline military officials worried that diplomacy with Washington is a sign of weakness. North Korea's foreign ministry accused Pompeo of playing down the significance of comments by Kim, who said last week that Washington has until the end of the year to offer mutually acceptable terms for an agreement to salvage the high-stakes nuclear diplomacy. In a statement, the director general of the American Affairs Department Kwon Jong Gun said that Pompeo was 'talking nonsense' and misrepresenting Kim's comments. During a speech at Texas A&M University on Monday, Pompeo said Kim promised to denuclearize during his first summit with President Donald Trump and that U.S. officials were working with the North Koreans to 'chart a path forward so we can get there.' 'He (Kim) said he wanted it done by the end of the year,' Pompeo said. 'I'd love to see that done sooner.' The North Korean statement said Pompeo was 'misrepresenting the meaning of our requirement' for the negotiations to be finalized by the year's end, and referred to his 'talented skill of fabricating stories.' It said Pompeo's continued participation in the negotiations would ensure that the talks become 'entangled' and called for a different counterpart who is 'more careful and mature in communicating with us.' Last week, in a speech before his rubber-stamp parliament, Kim said he is open to a third summit with Trump, but only if the United States changes its stance on sanctions enforcement and pressure by the end of the year.

News

  • “Boyz n the Hood” director John Singleton suffered a stroke last week and remains hospitalized, according to his family. >> Read more trending news In a statement released Saturday, Singleton’s family announced that the 51-year-old filmmaker was in a hospital intensive care unit and “under great medical care.” “On Wednesday, April 17th our beloved son/father, John Singleton, suffered a stroke while at the hospital,” the statement reads. “We ask that privacy be given to him and our family at this time and appreciate all of the prayers that have been pouring in from his fans, friends and colleagues.” Author Neil deGrasse Tyson and actor Omar Epps have been among those tweeting wishes Saturday for a quick recovery. Singleton became the first black filmmaker to receive an Oscar nomination when he was cited for his debut feature, “Boyz n the Hood,” which was set in his native Los Angeles and released in 1991. His other films include “Poetic Justice,” which starred Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, and “Rosewood.” Singleton’s recent projects include the TV series “Snowfall,” a crime drama set in 1980s Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A former football coach and fitness instructor in Bellingham, Washington, pleaded guilty last month to the November 2017 murder of his wife in Park City, Utah.  >> Read more trending news According to a story posted in March by KSTU in Salt Lake City, Anthony Darnel McClanahan’s guilty plea was part of a plea bargain in which prosecutors agreed to remove a domestic violence designation and an enhanced penalty for the use of a dangerous weapon. Prosecutors also agreed to drop a child kidnapping case against him 30 days after his sentencing, according to KSTU. McClanahan is expected to be sentenced on April 29.  McClanahan’s wife, Keri Colleen McClanahan, was found dead at the Park Regency Resort in Park City on Nov. 2, 2017.  “Nothing will ever bring her back,” Heather Gauf, Keri McClanahan's sister, told The Bellingham Herald. “That’s the unfortunate part of this. We have to continue without her, and her children have to grow up without her. He murdered her in a brutal and savage way.” Police found Anthony McClanahan covered in blood and crawling on his stomach outside early in the morning on Nov. 2, according to charging documents. He lifted himself up just enough to flag down a police officer, and then dropped back down and began convulsing, his arms making a 'snow angel motion,' the officer at the scene told prosecutors. Click here to read more.  Originally from Bakersfield, California, McClanahan played four years with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in the mid-1990s after a collegiate football career at Washington State University. He was in training camp with the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL in 1994 but never played in a game. McClanahan started 41 sports fitness boot camps in Bellingham in 2009 and hosted youth football camps in Whatcom County from 2012 to 2016, according to The Bellingham Herald.  Keri McClanahan, who went by KC, had been planning to leave her husband but wanted to help him get on his feet first, Gauf said in 2017. The couple had met when he was working as a personal trainer in Bellingham, and he pushed for a fast wedding, Gauf said. 'It worried me a lot,'' she said, but 'he kind of had us fooled.' After the January 2017 wedding, the McClanahans moved to Arizona together and began traveling to volunteer in areas that had been affected by hurricanes. But his jealousy began to emerge and, in September 2017, he got frustrated about a missed donation and punched his wife, Gauf said. He'd sometimes refer to the effects of head injuries he'd suffered during his football career, though Gauf said she doubts they were the root cause of the violence. After the punch, Keri McClanahan returned home to Washington, but her husband continued to contact her even as he left Arizona with his son. Anthony McClanahan ended up in Utah because he has family there and wanted his son to be an extra in a Disney TV production, Gauf said. Keri McClanahan eventually met him in Utah to help with his son, and stayed to help him get back on his feet after his arrest in October 2017, Gauf said. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report. 
  • A Gordon County youth minister who also managed a frozen yogurt shop was sentenced to eight years in prison for trying to solicit sex from a person he presumed was a teenage boy. Zachary Michael Baker, 29, was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to criminal attempt to commit aggravated child molestation, sexual exploitation of a child by use of a computer and obscene internet contact with a child, the Rome News-Tribune reported.  According to the newspaper, Baker thought he was chatting with a 14-year-old named Aidan, but was actually speaking with Floyd County police Capt. Ojilvia Lom when he arranged to meet the teen for oral sex. Authorities began the undercover sting after Baker reportedly posted a Craigslist ad seeking other men to experiment with. The sweetFrog yogurt shop manager was arrested in January after showing up at a location to have sex with the teen. Prosecutors said Baker didn’t initially ask for sex, but slowly “groomed” the teen by building a relationship with him. At one point, Baker asked “Aidan” if his mom could bring him by the yogurt shop so they could see each other and Baker could make sure the teen wasn’t a law enforcement officer, according to the news report. Baker’s attorney sought a reduced sentence since his client didn’t have previous arrests and there wasn’t actually a minor involved, the paper reported. He argued that Baker works two jobs, attended 16 weeks of group therapy and is a part of a men’s support group.The 29-year-old was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by 17 years on probation. Once he’s released, Baker must register as a sex offender. In other news: 
  • A family camping in a remote area of an Australian island was sleeping in its trailer when two dingoes entered and tried to take off with a 14-month-old boy early Friday. >> Read more trending news  The boy suffered puncture wounds to his head and neck after one of the wild dogs tried dragging the boy into some bushes on Fraser Island, which is off the Queensland coast. The parents awoke to the child’s cries fading in the distance as he was being taken away. The father ran outside and fought off several dingoes. “He was apparently grabbed around the back of the neck area and dragged away. So, if it wasn’t for the parents and their quick thinking and fighting off the dingoes, he probably would have had more severe injuries,” Frank Bertoli, a pilot for RACQ Life Flight, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The boy was flown to a hospital, where he is in stable condition, 9News reported. His parents told 9News he is recovering after undergoing two rounds of surgeries.  This is the third dingo attack on Fraser Island this year. A 9-year-old boy was chased and mauled in February and a 6-year-old boy was bitten on the legs in January, 9News reported. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
  • A driver was pulled over on the way to a job interview and, instead of getting a citation, he was given a ride by the officer. >> Read more trending news  Ka’Shawn Baldwin, 22, was pulled over for expired plates. He also had an expired driver’s license, according to a social media post by the mayor’s assistant.  Baldwin told Cahokia police Officer Roger Gemoules that he was on his way to a job interview and did not have another way to get there.  'I thought it was over,' Baldwin told CNN. 'The main thing that was running through my mind (was): I'm fixin' to miss the job interview and get the car towed that wasn't even mine.' Rather than write a ticket, Gemoules, a high school resource officer, followed Baldwin as he parked the car at a safe location, and then gave him a ride to the interview, CNN reported.  'He was very respectful when I pulled him over and you could just tell. I could feel that he really was wanting to get to this job interview,' Gemoules told CNN. Baldwin got the job as a package handler at FedEx. He also works at McDonald’s, KSDK reported.  Baldwin told KSDK he will be taking the bus to and from work until he gets his license back.
  • A zookeeper at the Topeka Zoo was injured when a tiger attacked her Saturday morning, officials said. >> Read more trending news  The keeper, whose name hasn’t been released, suffered lacerations and puncture wounds to the back of her head, neck and one arm, Topeka Zoo Director Brendan Wiley said. The keeper was awake and alert when she was taken to the hospital, and is in stable condition, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The incident happened around 9:15 a.m. in an outside tiger habitat and involved a 7-year-old male Sumatran tiger named Sanjiv, the Capital-Journal reported. When the keeper entered the space, Sanjiv 'tackled her,' Wiley said. The zoo was open to visitors at the time. 'A few people did see the attack,' city of Topeka spokeswoman Molly Hadfield told ABC News. Other zoo employees were able to lure Sanjiv out of the enclosure with food, Wiley said. If the employees hadn’t done so, 'this could have been a very different outcome,” he said. The zoo was closed for about 45 minutes, but has since reopened, except the tiger exhibit. No action will be taken against the tiger. 'While this incident is very unfortunate, he did what a wild tiger does,' Wiley said. Zoo officials are investigating the incident, Wiley said.