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    President Donald Trump will seek on Monday to rally support in the largest Venezuelan community in the U.S. for opposition leader Juan Guaido, saying Venezuela's 'current path toward democracy is irreversible.' White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that Trump will express 'strong support' for Guaido, whom the U.S. recognizes as the country's rightful president, and condemn President Nicolas Maduro's government and its socialist policies. As the monthslong political crisis continues, Trump is to make a public case to Venezuela's military, which could play a decisive role in the stalemate, to support Guaido's government. The Venezuelan military has largely remained loyal to Maduro. Sanders said Trump would warn the Venezuelan military that they 'have a clear choice — work toward democracy for their future and the future of their families, or they will lose everything they have.' She adds Trump will state that the U.S. 'knows where military officials and their families have money hidden throughout the world.' The military has blocked the U.S. from moving tons of humanitarian aid airlifted in recent days to the Colombian border with Venezuela. The aid shipments have been meant in part to dramatize the hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine that are gripping Venezuela. Critics say Maduro's re-election last year was fraudulent, making his second term illegal. Trump is set to deliver remarks at Florida International University in Miami. South Florida is home to more than 100,000 Venezuelans and Venezuelan-Americans, the largest concentration in the country. Earlier the White House said Trump would use the speech to warn of 'the dangers of socialism.' Trump is to be joined by local officials and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Trump is also looking to draw a contrast with the policies of progressive Democrats, which he brands as 'socialist,' as he gears up for re-election. Trump has been spending the holiday weekend at his private club in West Palm Beach, Florida.
  • Kamala Harris had the best campaign roll-out. Amy Klobuchar's snowy debut showed grit. Elizabeth Warren's opening campaign video was a bit odd. Take it from an unlikely armchair pundit sizing up the 2020 Democratic field: President Donald Trump. In tweets, public remarks and private conversations, Trump is making clear he is closely following the campaign to challenge him on the ballot. Facing no serious primary opponent of his own — at least so far — Trump is establishing himself as an in-their-face observer of the Democratic Party's nominating process — and no will be surprised to find that he's not being coy about weighing in. Presidents traditionally ignore their potential opponents as long as possible to maintain their status as an incumbent floating above the contenders who are auditioning for a job they already inhabit. Not Trump. He's eager to shape the debate, sow discord and help position himself for the general election. It's just one more norm to shatter, and a risky bet that his acerbic politics will work to his advantage once again. This is the president whose 240-character blasts and penchant for insults made mincemeat of his 2016 Republican rivals. And Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, said the president aims to use Twitter again this time to 'define his potential opponent and impact the Democrat primary debate.' But often Trump's commentary reflects a peculiar sense of disengagement from the events of the day, as though he were a panelist on the cable news shows he records and watches, rather than their prime subject of discussion. He puts the armchair in armchair punditry. In an interview with The New York Times, Trump assessed Harris' campaign like a talk show regular, declaring her opening moves as having a 'better crowd, better enthusiasm' than the other Democrats. Crowd size was also at play last week when he held a rally in El Paso, Texas, that was countered a few blocks away by one led by former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a potential 2020 candidate. 'So we have let's say 35,000 people tonight, and he has 200 people, 300 people,' Trump observed, wildly exaggerating both numbers. 'Not too good. In fact, what I would do is, I would say, that may be the end of his presidential bid.' When Sen. Klobuchar announced her candidacy on a frigid day in her home state of Minnesota, Trump anointed her with a nickname of sorts, and a benign one at that: 'By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!' Inside the West Wing and in conversations with outside allies, Trump has been workshopping other attempts to imprint his new adversaries with lasting labels, according to two people on whom the president has tested out the nicknames. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with the president. He is also testing out lines of attack in public rallies, exploring vulnerabilities he could use against them should they advance to the general election. No candidate has drawn more commentary and criticism from Trump than Sen. Warren, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat. Warren's past claims of Native American heritage prompted Trump to brand her 'Pocahontas' and he has shown no qualms about deploying racially charged barbs harking back to some of the nation's darkest abuses. Wading into a Twitter frenzy over an Instagram video Warren posted after she announced her exploratory committee while sharing a beer with her husband at their kitchen table, Trump jeered: 'Best line in the Elizabeth Warren beer catastrophe is, to her husband, 'Thank you for being here. I'm glad you're here' It's their house, he's supposed to be there!' 'If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!' Trump tweeted. Even in the midst of the partial government shutdown, those tweets mocking Warren were widely joked about by White House staff weary from the protracted closure, according to one aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations. The person said the president repeatedly ridiculed Warren's video in private conversations with aides and outside advisers. Attention from Trump can drive up fundraising and elevate a candidate above a crowded field. But responding to attacks also distracts from a candidate's message. Trump's rivals in the 2016 GOP primary learned that lesson as he bedeviled them with name-calling. Trump goaded Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida into making a thinly veiled insult of his manhood that quickly backfired, and weeks later he sucked Texas Sen. Ted Cruz into a brutal back-and-forth about an insult he had leveled at Cruz's wife. 'The president has an ability to use social media to define his opponents and influence the primary debate in a way no sitting president before him has,' said former White House spokesman Raj Shah. 'I expect him to take full advantage.' On Friday, hours after declaring a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump tweeted a video made by a supporter that featured the president's Democratic critics in Congress. Harris, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker were shown sitting dourly during the State of the Union address, set to the R.E.M. ballad 'Everybody Hurts.' The mocking video may have been taken down later in the day after a copyright complaint by the band, and re-cut using Trump-supporter Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the U.S.A.' But the message to Trump's would-be 2020 rivals, and people girding for another wild presidential cycle, remained anchored to the lyrics of that R.E.M. song: 'Hold on.
  • Several Democratic presidential candidates are closing out the long holiday weekend on the campaign trail, with stops planned across states key to securing their party's nomination. On Presidents Day, much of the campaign trail spotlight moved to New Hampshire, home to the first presidential primary. Three candidates, Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, planned to campaign in the state. The three senators are crisscrossing the state, making their first trips to it since launching their 2020 presidential bids. Booker has been in the state for a few days and will wrap up his trip with a house party in Nashua. House parties are a staple of campaigning in the state. Harris planned an afternoon town hall in Portsmouth and will participate in the Politics & Eggs breakfast on Tuesday. Klobuchar will hold a meet-and-greet in Goffstown on Monday before a CNN town hall. Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was back in Iowa, the leadoff caucus state, with plans to meet voters in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who also is running for president, was campaigning in Iowa as well.
  • President Donald Trump is lashing out at key officials involved in the Russia probe, namely former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the current deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. In an interview with CBS's '60 Minutes,' McCabe, who was fired last year by the FBI, described Rosenstein as having raised the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Trump says McCabe and Rosenstein 'look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught.' Trump tweets: 'This was the illegal and treasonous 'insurance policy' in full action!' Rosenstein issued a denial of McCabe's account last year. He said any suggestion that he had ever advocated for the removal of the president 'is absolutely false.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump's demand that European countries take back their citizens fighting in Syria received a mixed reaction Monday, as nations voiced concerns about how to bring home-grown Islamic State extremists to trial. The question of such foreign fighters has been a conundrum for the Europeans for several years. Islamic State prisoners could be exposed to torture or the death penalty if they remain in jail in Syria or Iraq, and the EU opposes the death penalty. But few European countries have embassies in Syria or Iraq, let alone extradition treaties to get their citizens back. Proving who is who and gathering solid evidence against suspects that would stand up in European courts is virtually impossible. Then there is the question of what to do with the wives and children of European jihadis. The case of a British teenager who ran away to join IS, has given birth to a baby boy and now wants to return to the U.K. has ignited debate in Britain about how to deal with citizens trying to leave Syria now the extremist group is collapsing. 'It is certainly not as easy as they think in America,' German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters Monday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. 'German citizens have the right to return, but we have little ability in Syria at present to check whether German citizens are actually affected.' Maas said authorities would have to 'check to what extent they were involved in fighting for IS, which would result in criminal proceedings having to be opened against them.' 'These people can come to Germany only if it is ensured that they can immediately be taken into custody,' he said. Security experts have warned that convicted terrorists will walk free from European prisons by the dozens over the next two years, many of them jihadis who trained or fought in Syria and Iraq but never faced serious charges due to insufficient evidence. French jihadis made up the largest contingent of European recruits. French officials are concerned because in 2015 and 2016, an Islamic State cell of French and Belgian fighters crossed from Syria into Turkey, eventually launching deadly attacks on Paris and Brussels. 'The last territorial bastions of Daesh (IS) are falling, which doesn't mean that the action of Daesh is finished. On the contrary,' said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Britain refuses to take back citizens who joined IS and has stripped them of their citizenship. Belgium has said previously that it would not make any great effort to secure the release of 12 citizens imprisoned in Syria and two in Iraq. Other European countries have remained largely silent about the fate of men and women whom many see as a security threat. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the issue is 'one of the greatest challenges ahead of us for the upcoming months.' 'Our major endeavor now should be not to allow them to come back to Europe,' said Szijjarto, whose staunchly anti-migrant government has linked extremist attacks to migration. But Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, also part of an anti-migrant government, said 'I would certainly be in favor' of Europe taking foreign fighters back. 'There is clearly a need to define ... the European position on this issue,' Lajcak told reporters. 'Whether we like or dislike the U.S. position, they make no secret of it. It's very clear,' he said. 'This is the key partnership for the European Union. But the rules of this partnership have changed and we need to be able to react to it.' U.S. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, on a visit to Brussels, said the Europeans have to find a way to deal with the challenge. 'If we have someone who we have well established under law as someone who is an ISIS fighter then we should be able to prosecute them whether at home or abroad' he said at the German Marshall Fund think tank. ___ Moulson reported from Berlin. AP writer Lori Hinnant in Paris and video reporter Sylvain Plazy in Brussels contributed.
  • North Carolina's elections board is holding a hearing Monday on ballot fraud allegations in the nation's last undecided congressional election. The hearing, slated to last at least two days, will include the results of a monthslong investigation into allegations that a political operative tampered with mail-in ballots in a rural county. Republican Mark Harris holds a slim lead over Democrat Dan McCready in unofficial results, but the state has refused to certify the election. At the end of the process, the State Board of Elections is expected to either certify a winner in the race or order a new election in the 9th Congressional District that runs from the Charlotte area through several counties to the east. Unofficial results have shown Harris leading McCready by only 905 votes out of nearly 278,000 cast. But the state has twice refused to declare Harris the winner after hearing reports of irregularities just before the November 2016 election in rural Bladen County, home of a political operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr . One of the methods participants said Dowless used was to hire workers to collect absentee ballots from voters who received them and then turn them over to Dowless, according to an elections board investigation of the 2016 campaign. State election law prohibits anyone other than a guardian or close family member to handle mail-in ballots. Harris' team said in a legal briefing submitted to the elections board last week that the board should certify him the winner no matter what Dowless did for the campaign. 'Technical irregularities —like ballot harvesting — do not provide enough reason to order a new election,' the attorneys said. The elections board also is expected to hear about the unusual number of absentee ballots that voters requested but never returned. A Harvard University elections expert is expected to testify that absentee ballots in Bladen and neighboring Robeson counties disappeared at a rate 2 ½ to three times higher than the rest of the congressional district or elsewhere in North Carolina. Four of the five members on the board — composed of three Democrats and two Republicans — would need to agree a new election is necessary. If that doesn't happen, McCready's lawyers said state officials should send their findings to the Democrat-dominated U.S. House and let it decide whether Harris should be seated — arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the House authority over the elections and qualifications of its members. ___ Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio .
  • When President Donald Trump visited Beto O'Rourke's hometown to argue that walling off the southern border would make the U.S. safer, the former Democratic congressman and possible 2020 presidential hopeful was ready. As the president filled an El Paso arena with supporters, O'Rourke helped lead thousands of his own on a protest march past the barrier of barbed-wire topped fencing and towering metal slats that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. O'Rourke clearly hopes to make his personal experience with the border a strength if he runs for president — and the battle over billions of dollars in new fortifications may well shape the 2020 campaign. But O'Rourke's history with the barriers that have lined the Rio Grande since he was a child actually could be a bit of vulnerability, too. As the 2020 campaign is joined, other top Democrats can oppose Trump's call for more and larger walls as a straightforward wedge issue — something they say shows anti-immigrant feeling, intolerance and even racism. But O'Rourke's record on border walls is complicated. In March, he supported a spending package that other leading Democratic contenders opposed and included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. Buried in that was $44.5 million for repairs of existing fencing elsewhere — including El Paso. O'Rourke later explained the vote as a compromise to win approval of another proposal he backed, expanding access to mental health care for military veterans who had received other-than-honorable discharges. But his action attracted criticism from people who know the border best. Scott Nicol, co-chairman of the Sierra Club's Borderlands team, called it 'very disappointing.' 'The things that he has said have been dead on,' Nicol said. 'The next step becomes what do you do.' O'Rourke's nuanced position on border barriers, sometimes willing to use them as a bargaining chip, could be politically awkward in a national campaign but it's shared in El Paso. Here, many people accept dozens of miles of existing walls as a fact of life, objecting mostly to structures so intrusive they suggest a war zone. 'People in El Paso live with the border and the ambiguities and contradictions of the border,' said Josiah Heyman, director of the University of Texas at El Paso's Center for Interamerican and Border Studies. In an interview Thursday night on MSNBC, O'Rourke said he would 'absolutely' tear down El Paso's existing walls and that he believed a majority of residents would back doing so. That somewhat contradicts his past statements about opposing entirely open borders, but O'Rourke has previously backed having them porous enough to promote trade and immigrant culture. In an interview in 2006, he decried President George W. Bush's proposal for bolstering the existing walls with more surveillance technology. Bush's barrier 'didn't seem like a meaningful suggestion at all, but maybe that's because we already have it and it doesn't seem to be working,' he said. City Council member Peter Svarzbein said El Paso's character isn't based on keeping people out, but rather on tens of thousands who legally cross every day for work, school, shopping or to see bi-national relatives. Democratic analyst Colin Strother noted, 'There are places that physical barriers make sense, but it does not make sense everywhere and that seems to be the big disconnect.' O'Rourke's attempts to explain his record could be difficult in a hotly contested primary campaign. His 2020 rivals could run into their own complications on the issue soon, however, after Congress approved $1.4 billion in new border wall money as part of a deal to avoid the latest government shutdown. In the end, O'Rourke 'may have some firsthand knowledge, but I don't know if it's a winning argument,' said Democratic political consultant James Aldrete, who helped conduct Hispanic outreach for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. El Paso had only limited border security before 1978 when, facing an influx of immigrants looking for work in the U.S., Congress approved chain-link fencing later dubbed the 'Tortilla Curtain.' A 1986 federal law granting legal status to about 2 million Mexicans in the U.S. made the prospect of heading north even more attractive. Eventually, thousands of people were pouring into El Paso every day, sometimes paying as little as a quarter for rides on makeshift rafts over the Rio Grande. 'People could cross whenever they wanted,' said Silvestre Reyes, who was chief of the Border Patrol's El Paso sector in 1993 and won a congressional seat in 1996. 'The city was tired of it.' Reyes ordered around-the-clock patrols and authorities repaired 100-plus holes in nine miles of fences downtown. But when O'Rourke, then an upstart ex-City Council member, ran against Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary, he didn't make Reyes' border crackdown an issue. Instead, O'Rourke more frequently complained of long wait times for cars crossing into El Paso from Juarez. O'Rourke now opposes pumping any money into new walls. Instead, he'd like to see a coalition of border Democrats and Republicans in Congress hammer out a broader immigration overhaul. 'We know that there is no bargain where we can sacrifice some of our humanity to gain a little more security,' O'Rourke told an emotional El Paso rally he headlined after the Trump protest march. 'We know that we deserve to, and will, lose both of them if we do.' Reyes doesn't agree with O'Rourke on much but also opposes erecting concrete walls, which Trump has supported in the past. 'We have a lot of slats where you can still see through it,' he said of El Paso. 'That helps Border Patrol agents, but it also is supported by people living at the border.
  • In the nation's capital, it can be hard for protesters to stand out. A group of 50 people — or even 500 — holding signs and shouting hardly merits a second glance in this city of protests. That's why Washington activists have to get creative. There's an ethos of performative prankster-style protest wired into the District of Columbia's history, dating back decades. This confrontational street-theater school is flourishing with the Trump administration as its nemesis. Each month brings new acts of political theater — some confrontational, some deliberately absurdist. 'It can take a serious issue into more of a playful place,' said Robin Bell, who regularly projects disparaging messages onto the outside of the Trump International Hotel. 'Oftentimes we visualize the absurdity of the situation.' In January, a group of activists associated with political pranksters The Yes Men passed out dozens of fake Washington Posts , with detailed articles depicting President Donald Trump resigning and fleeing the White House. For about a month last fall, a Robert Mueller investigation-themed ice cream truck roamed Washington, passing out free scoops with names like IndictMint Chip and Rocky Rod Rosenstein. While some protests are designed to get attention, others hide in plain sight like Easter eggs for the observant. Within sight of the White House, a realistic-looking street sign declares the street Khashoggi Way, after Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. About 10 of these signs have been scattered around Washington. Activist Claude Taylor said he planted his first sign in front of the Saudi Embassy, where it lasted 24 hours before being removed. But he's pleased the sign outside the White House has lasted so long — more than a month — since his protest is against both Khashoggi's murder and what he considers Trump's soft response. Taylor also drives around town carrying an inflatable effigy depicting the president as a giant rat . 'It's got to be art, it's got to be creative. That's what gets people hooked,' said Adam Eidinger, perhaps Washington's most high-profile political provocateur. Eidinger is one of the District's public faces for marijuana legalization and is known for disruptive protests. In 2017, his group passed out 1,000 joints on Capitol Hill, but only to ID-carrying congressional staffers. He says he still owns a small jail cell on wheels for use in political stunts. Eidinger lists the advantages to this sort of theatrical approach. It's more enjoyable and inspiring for the participants, more likely to garner media attention and go viral. Equally important, it's more likely to annoy opponents. 'One of the goals is to have a psychological impact, to get into their heads,' he said. He says he's been arrested 23 times, although he emphasizes that usually isn't the point. 'Just getting arrested is not creative. You should be willing to get arrested doing something else transgressive,' he said. The Trump administration is not the only target for these sorts of protests. On Thursday, two female activists disrobed inside the National Gallery of Art to protest what they say is a lack of diversity in the artists being featured. One led security on a brief chase before being subdued. The National Gallery of Art did not respond to a request for comment. A day earlier, activists targeted the Philippine Embassy with a protest that was deliberately obscure. Around 7 a.m., several people strung swaths of red jute fabric on every tree, sign and lamp post surrounding the embassy, including the nearby statue of Daniel Webster. Last month, this group wrapped an enormous stretch of jute around the entire embassy fence, blocking both driveways. It's an elaborate protest against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, in which human rights groups estimate more than 10,000 people have been killed by police and militias. But there were no signs indicating that. In fact, given the date, most passers-by probably assumed it was related to Valentine's Day. 'There's a deliberate mystery to what we're doing' said an organizer, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid prosecution. 'Our audience is the embassy. Hopefully the guy at the embassy is going to be like 'I don't know what this is about, but I better tell my boss.'' An embassy spokesman said local authorities had been contacted, but that all forms of 'peaceful freedom of expression are all welcome.' The godmother of this local protest ethos is Nadine Bloch, a resident of the historically liberal hotspot of Takoma Park, Maryland, located just over the Washington line. Bloch's activism goes back to captaining a ship for Greenpeace in the 1990s seeking to disrupt French nuclear tests. Both Eidinger and Bell credit her with helping form their own sensibilities as part of the Washington Action Group. 'Nadine gathered all these people in the late '90s and now they're out there on their own doing it,' Eidinger said. Bloch speaks of the 'artist-activist' and trains activists in a school of creative revolution known as 'beautiful trouble.' She said simple public weirdness is not enough and counsels activists to think through their goals, their message and their audience. 'A lot of people are in love with their clever tactics,' Bloch said. 'But if you don't know what your goal is, then good luck if your message actually delivers.' In the institutional memory of Washington's activists, December 1987 stands as an iconic moment. That's when posters suddenly appeared across town with a brutal assessment of President Ronald Reagan's attorney general, Edwin Meese: 'Experts Agree: Meese is a Pig.' Their origin was a local mystery at first, eventually revealed to be the work of Jeff Nelson, drummer for the Washington-based political hardcore band Minor Threat. Nelson said his posters weren't particularly clever or constructive but more like a vulgar scream of frustration. 'I was just looking for some sort of megaphone to shout back,' said Nelson, now 56 and living in Toledo, Ohio. 'Basically I did what I knew how to do, which was silkscreen posters.' But Nelson's legacy lingers. When Bell, the projectionist, started targeting the Trump hotel after the 2016 election, he paid homage to his forebears. His first projection said: 'Experts Agree: Trump is a Pig.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kept quiet Monday over President Donald Trump's claim that he had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, but praised him and emphasized he did not deny doing so. Trump's assertion Friday that Abe had nominated him for the honor and sent him a copy of the letter has raised questions and criticism in Japan. Questioned in parliament, Abe praised Trump for his dealings with North Korea but said, 'In light of the Nobel committee's policy of not disclosing recommenders and nominees for 50 years, I decline to comment.' Neither the prime minister nor his spokesman denied Trump's comment. 'I never said I didn't' nominate him, Abe said in response to a follow-up question by Yuichiro Tamaki, a lawmaker for the opposition Democratic Party for the People. Tamaki said in a tweet Monday that he was concerned such a nomination would 'send the wrong message to North Korea and the rest of international society.' Junya Ogawa, another opposition lawmaker, cited various policies and actions by Trump that he said ran contrary to the spirit of the peace prize, calling the nomination 'an embarrassment for Japan.' In responding to Tamaki's questions in parliament, Abe lauded Trump for meeting with Kim and working to resolve the crisis over North Korea's nuclear program and missile tests. Trump had also addressed Japan's concerns over past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea, Abe said, adding 'he and the entire White House also actively cooperated in resolving the issue.' 'I highly praise President Trump's leadership,' Abe said. Trump's claim that Abe had sent him a 'beautiful copy' of a letter sent to the Nobel committee could not be immediately verified. Nor could a report Sunday by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, citing unidentified government sources, that Abe had nominated Trump at the U.S. president's request. The government's top spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, echoed Abe's remarks in refusing further comment. The situation is awkward for Abe at a time when his government is under fire for allegedly manipulating data on wages to suggest his economic policies were yielding better results than was actually the case. 'Being Trump's closest friend among world leaders has not worked out too well for Abe,' said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan. 'He's not making Abe look very good.' The U.S. is Japan's ally and anchor for national defense and Abe has assiduously cultivated cordial ties with Trump. He was the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after he won the 2016 presidential election. The two share a love for golf and have teed off together both in Japan and the U.S. The halt to North Korean nuclear and missile tests since early last year has been a relief for Japan, which sits well within the range of its missiles and has sometimes had test rockets land in its territorial waters. Abe has been keen to claim progress in resolving the abduction dispute with North Korea, an important issue for his nationalist political base. The deadline each year for Nobel Peace Prize nominations is midnight, Jan. 31. The Nobel committee's website says there are 304 candidates for the 2019 prize, 219 individuals and 85 organizations. Former U.S. President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, his first year in office, for laying out a U.S. commitment to 'seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.' Trump complained Friday that Obama was there 'for about 15 seconds' before he was awarded the prize. Trump's landmark June 2018 summit with Kim in Singapore was replete with pomp but thin on substance. The two leaders are due to meet later this month in Hanoi, Vietnam. The president's comments Friday drew speculation that South Korean President Moon Jae-in might have been the one who nominated the president, but his spokesman said he had not. Kim Eui-kyeom, Moon's spokesman, said Moon believed Trump 'has sufficient qualifications to win the Nobel Peace Prize' for his work toward peace between North and South Korea, which have yet to sign a peace treaty after their 1950-53 war. The Nobel committee chooses the recipient of the prize in early October by a majority vote. The prize is awarded on Dec. 10, in Oslo, Norway. __ Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Elaine Kurtenbach in Bangkok contributed to this report.
  • Democrat Elizabeth Warren used her first visit to Nevada as a presidential candidate to describe a squeeze on working families and a political system that she says fails to protect homeowners, including the residents of Las Vegas who were pummeled by the mortgage crisis a decade ago. The Massachusetts senator spoke about her work as a consumer activist and her role overseeing the bailout of banks and insurers a decade ago, a job that brought her to the city to hear from residents struggling to keep their homes. Warren said her own family almost lost their home when she was growing up and recalled one man she met in her Las Vegas visit a decade earlier who was one of millions around the country losing his home. 'You better believe one reason that I am in this fight is we can never let this happen again. Never,' Warren told about 500 people at a botanical garden and event center northeast of the Las Vegas Strip. Warren, fresh off a Saturday swing through South Carolina and Georgia, was bundled up in a puffy coat for the unusually chilly Las Vegas weather as she appeared on an outdoor stage with an American flag backdrop and a faux sandstone formation. Nevada's early presidential caucus is the first in the West and is seen as a key test of a candidate's ability to appeal to a state with powerful labor groups and diverse demographics, including a population that's about 29 percent Latino. In her speech, Warren condemned predatory mortgages targeted to minorities and said income inequality disproportionately affects communities of color. She also said unions need strengthening and that the country needs comprehensive immigration reform. The senator described Washington, D.C., as a place that works well for corporations and lobbyists but not families, saying that when a government 'only works for the rich and the powerful, that is corruption, plain and simple, and we've got to call it out for what it is.' She called President Donald Trump's administration 'the most corrupt administration in living memory' but didn't focus on the president during her speech. Speaking to reporters afterward, Warren said she was ready to take on the president in 2020. 'I think I've been going toe-to-toe with President Trump for a while,' she said with a laugh. 'I'm not afraid of him.' In response to Warren's visit, the Republican National Committee released a statement calling her campaign a 'full-fledged apology tour' for her past claims of Native American heritage. The statement referred to her as 'Fauxcahontas,' a reference to Trump's use of the slur 'Pocahontas.' Warren's event was about 10 miles away from the site a Las Vegas Strip country music festival that became the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in 2017 when 58 people were killed and hundreds were wounded. Warren was introduced by a local activist with Moms Demand Action, a nonprofit that works to change gun laws, and the senator used part of her speech to praise Nevada for passing an expanded firearm background check law this past week — the first gun-control move by the state Legislature since the mass shooting. 'We need background checks. Not just in Nevada,' Warren said. 'We need them all over this country.' Warren also pitched a catalog of progressive ideas, from her 2 percent wealth tax on those with more than $50 million in assets to Medicare for all, universal child care and early preschool, and a need to lower student debt. She also dismissed what she called 'poo-pooing' of the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to address climate change that she and at least five other senators eyeing the White House are supporting. Warren said the plan is important and time is running out to tackle climate change. She that while the Green New Deal will be 'a big, noisy debate,' Congress needs to start tackling it and passing it in pieces over the next few years. Near the stage, the campaign debuted a large, white lighted sign that read 'Warren 2020' and offered attendees a spot to pose for selfies. Carolyn Sakamoto and Helen Henson, 75-year-old retired teachers, took selfies in front of Warren's new lighted sign. Sakamoto said Warren's message on health care and making people pay 'their rightful taxes' has put the senator at the top of her list of those she's interested in backing, but mainly she wants to ensure a Democrat is elected in 2020. 'We just want somebody that can win,' Sakamoto said. 'A lot of people might be good, but they may not have what it takes to win.' Henson said Warren is in her top tier of 2020 candidates but has some reservations about supporting the senator because of the stumbles she's made over her claims of Native American heritage. 'I think that it was an honest mistake on her part, but I think that that's provided a lot of bad publicity,' Henson said. 'She's just spoken out so strongly from the very beginning about the recession and financial crisis and I just feel like she has a lot to offer on that.' Henson said it will be hard for Warren to move past the heritage controversy. 'With anyone else, maybe she could,' she said. 'But with Trump, I think he's going to pound it to the ground.

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  • A marriage proposal in a room filled with swine may not seem ideal, but a Texas man was perfectly willing to hog the attention away from the pigs Sunday morning. >> Read more trending news  Will Hussey made his “pig-posal” to Kate Jimerson at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, KSAT reported. Hussey’s marriage proposal came four years after they met at the show’s swine barn, the television station reported. Jimerson thought her family was at the Stock Show to watch her younger sister compete in the barrow show, but Hussey surprised her. 'He got down on one knee and said, 'This is where I met you four years ago. I knew then I wanted to marry you.'” Jimerson told KSAT. “So then he asked me and I started crying.” 'The Stock Show already holds a special place for both of us, so why not make it something we can tell our kids about someday,' Hussey told the television station. The couple has not set a wedding date, but they already have next year’s Stock Show on their calendar, KSAT reported.
  • When he made the announcement he was declaring a national emergency, President Donald Trump said he expected to be sued over the move. So far, a handful of activists and even state attorneys general have said they are looking at taking the president to court or have filed a lawsuit already.  Take a look at the lawsuits that are currently pending or will soon be filed. Public Citizen Public Citizen is an advocacy group that filed a suit Friday after the president’s Rose Garden announcement. The group is filing on behalf of three Texas landowners and an environmental group to block the emergency decree. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., The Washington Post reported. >>Read: Can Congress repeal the national emergency declaration? Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington hasn’t filed suit directly on Trump but instead is suing the Justice Department, claiming documents were not provided, including legal opinions and communications, related to Trump’s decision, USA Today reported. The group is using a Freedom of Information Act request submitted concerning the proposed border barrier. Center for Biological Diversity Center for Biological Diversity is an environmental group. It claims the president did not identify a legal authority to declare the emergency. The group said the wall will block wildlife from its natural habitat “and could result in the extirpation of jaguars, ocelots and other endangered species within the United States,” according to the Post. >>Read: Trump signs funding bill to avoid government shutdown, declares emergency to build border wall American Civil Liberties Union The ACLU has not yet filed but is preparing a suit that says that Trump can’t redirect the money paid by taxpayers unless it is for construction that directly supports the military, the Post reported. ACLU officials said the suit will be filed early this week, saying, “There is no emergency. Members of Congress from both parties, security experts, and Americans who live at the border have all said so. What the president is doing is yet another illegal and dangerous power grab in the service of his anti-immigrant agenda.” The group called the declaration an “abuse of power” and says it “violates the constitutional checks and balances that protect us.” >>Read the latest from our Washington Insider Jamie Dupree The ACLU is using the president’s own words against him from when he said, “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.” >> Read more trending news  California attorney general Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, will be joined by New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii and Connecticut in trying to stop the emergency declaration from proceeding. >>Read: National emergency likely to be blocked by courts, DOJ tells White House: reports “We’re confident there are at least 8 billion ways that we can prove harm. And once we are all clear, all the different states are clear, what pots of money that taxpayers sent to D.C. he’s going to raid, which Congress dedicated to different types of services -- whether it’s emergency response services or whether it’s fires or mudslides in California or maybe tornadoes and floods in other parts of the country or whether it’s our military men and women and their families who live on military installations that might -- that might have money taken away from them, or whether it’s money taken away from drug interdiction efforts in places like California, a number of states, and certainly Americans, will be harmed. And we’re all going to be prepared,” Becerra said on ABC News’ “This Week.”  >>Read: Trump's border wall: What is a national emergency? A spokesperson for the attorney general of Colorado, Phil Weiser, said his state will also be joining the suit, KDVR reported. The spokesperson said Weiser decided that the state will be hurt if money is transferred from military installations to the wall, according to KDVR.
  • From a court watcher’s perspective it’s apparent to most that the upcoming trial of Ryan Duke, charged with the 2005 murder of South Georgia high school teacher Tara Grinstead is sure to be nothing short of a spectacle of epic proportions. We got a preview of things to come during - of all things - a bond hearing where Duke asked, for the first time in two years, to be released on bond. It wasn’t the denial of bond, nor the fact that Duke asked for bond that is particularly noteworthy. It’s what the bond hearing devolved into that raised eyebrows. Despite losing the motion, the defense unexpectedly was able to depose the lead GBI investigator on a wide range of topics in a dress rehearsal for what promises to be a most controversial trial.  To start, let’s have a look at what a bond hearing is supposed to be.  It’s uncommon for bond to be set in murder cases but it’s not unheard of. Courts are supposed to consider the following factors in making bond decisions and the burden of proof is on the defendant to show that he:  Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required;  Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community;  Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial; and  Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.  Probable cause is not an issue and of course neither is guilt or innocence. A bond hearing is not a trial.  The Duke bond hearing started out as most bond hearings do. The defense called Duke’s brother to testify regarding each of the factors set out above. But then it started a downward spiral into the surreal when the prosecutor called the lead GBI case agent as a witness - presumably as a rebuttal to the defense. A state’s witness, such as an investigator, can occasionally testify - to a point - about “what happened” because that’s relevant - to a point - for the court to determine whether the person poses a danger to the community. But in this case, the testimony was literally all over the place and went into minute detail about many things that have never been heard before. The “bond hearing” was effectively transformed into a deposition - a legal luxury not normally available to a criminal defendant in Georgia.  So just what did we learn from this “bond” hearing? We learned that DNA from the bodily fluid of a police officer was mixed with the victim’s blood on some bedding and that “touch DNA” from Grinstead and Duke (along with DNA from at least two other people) was on a latex glove found outside her residence. “Touch DNA” has its own share of problems in terms of reliability and we can safely expect the defense to explore those problems at trial. Some of that other unidentified DNA from the glove could have come from Bo Dukes - the person accused of helping cover up the murder - and who the defense claims is the actual killer.  We learned there were many investigative steps that could have been taken to verify statements made by both Duke and Dukes. The defense will argue that these follow up steps point to a biased investigation. This could have a huge impact in a trial where the defense will claim that the defendants confession was a false confession.  We learned the GBI, in a breach of protocol and constitutional law, interviewed / talked with Duke twice after he had a lawyer. These interviews were undocumented in the GBI case file. They were not recorded. The DA apparently was unaware at the time that this tactic was being employed by the GBI until the defense raised it with them. The agent didn’t even sign in at the jail. We can only speculate as to why not.  On top of all this, an abundance of otherwise inadmissible evidence consisting of hearsay and innuendo managed to come out publicly at a bond hearing. Most of this wouldn’t have seen the light of day at a trial. As the prosecution correctly pointed out “hearsay” may be admissible at a bond hearing, but it still has to be reliable evidence - not a regurgitation of all the salacious rumors from 2005. And it must be relevant to the issue of bond. It may turn out that the DA made a great tactical mistake by calling their lead case agent to testify and turn this bond hearing into an evidentiary free-for-all with no apparent boundaries. At a minimum it was surely heartbreaking for friends and family of the victim to have to re-live all the pain of the last 13 years by having old wounds reopened in such painful detail.  I’ve previously written about why the venue for this trial really needs to be changed. Now more than ever the jury pool is really tainted - as if it weren’t already. Philip Holloway, WSB legal analyst, is a criminal lawyer who heads his own firm in Cobb County, Georgia. A former prosecutor and adjunct professor of criminal justice, he is former president of the Cobb County Bar Association's criminal law section. Follow him on Twitter: @PhilHollowayEsq The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 
  • Police in Kansas City, Kansas, arrested a man Sunday suspected of carjacking a vehicle, stealing the driver’s phone and taking off with two children in the car, the The Kansas City Star reported. >> Read more trending news  Police said a woman was making a delivery in the area when the suspect, armed with a rifle, took the vehicle, WDAF reported.  The woman ran to a store to call police, the Star reported. “It was as bad as you would think if someone had your kids,” the store manager, Robert Edwards, told the newspaper. “She was as stressed as you would imagine. I’m glad she got the kids back.” The two children, 4 and 7, had been taken out of the car and were found by a neighbor, who called police the Star reported. The children were not injured and were returned to their mother, the newspaper reported. According to Kansas City police, the suspect returned to the scene, leaving the original vehicle and then stole a second car at gunpoint, WDAF reported. Police were able to catch the suspect, who was driving a blue SUV, and returned it to its owner, the Star reported.
  • At the same time President Donald Trump was making a Rose Garden announcement Friday declaring a national emergency to fund a wall along the country’s southern border, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced they would fight Trump’s declaration “using every remedy available.” >> Read more trending news Pelosi and Schumer did not lay out specific remedies they might employ to stop the president from diverting funds from other projects to use to construct a border wall, but several Democrats members of Congress have promised a joint resolution of disapproval aimed at repealing the declaration and stopping Trump’s plans. Would Congress be successful in passing a resolution that would hamper the president’s bid to fund border security by declaring a national emergency? It’s possible, but not likely. >>Trump's border wall: What is a national emergency? Here’s a look at what could happen. A resolution of disapprovalCongress could approve a resolution that contests the status of the national emergency Trump has declared. They can do so under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. The resolution, if passed, would stop the plan to divert money from other government programs to build the border wall. The resolution could pass with a simple majority vote in the House and Senate – 218 votes in the House and 51 in the Senate. There is a Democrat majority in the House where a resolution could easily pass. There are 48 Democrat members of the Senate. Democrats would need four Republicans to vote with them to pass a joint resolution. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, have said they will introduce a bill in the House to block the declaration. By Friday afternoon, Castro told The Washington Post he had gathered more than 60 co-sponsors for the resolution. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, told ABC's “This Week” that she believes the Senate has enough votes for such a resolution. 'I think we do,' she said. 'Now, whether we have enough for an override and veto, that's a different story. But frankly, I think there's enough people in the Senate who are concerned that what he's doing is robbing from the military and the DOD to go build this wall.' If a resolution should pass both chambers of Congress, it would go to the president’s desk for a signature. The president would almost certainly veto the resolution, marking the first time in his term he has used the veto power. If he does veto the resolution, it would go back to Congress where it would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate to override the veto. In the House, 290 votes would be needed. In the Senate, the number would be 67. A lawsuit – or several of them The president has broad powers under the National Emergencies Act, so until the provisions of Trump’s declaration are made public, it’s unclear what someone could sue him over concerning the declaration. But sued he will be -- some suits are already in the works  -- and here is where those suits could come from: Congress: It’s likely that House Democrats would sue on grounds that the president overreached his powers by bypassing the power Congress has to control funding for government programs and projects. However, Democrats in Congress would have to first establish that they have the right to sue the White House, and that can be difficult since the president was given the authority to declare a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act in 1976. The House could challenge Trump's definition of an emergency, but the definition in the National Emergency Act is vague, leaving what is a national emergency pretty much up to the president. Activist groups: The American Civil Liberties Union said on Friday it plans to sue the president over what they call his “unconstitutional power grab that hurts American communities.” Landowners: Those who own land along the area where the president has proposed a border wall could file suit over the seizure of their property if that happens. However, the government is generally allowed to buy up private property for public use – such as when privately-held land is taken to make room for a freeway. The practice is called eminent domain. It is often an uphill fight for landowners. States: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has promised that he will file a suit against the White House claiming that his state will be harmed if Trump diverts funds from other projects to build a wall. He said that four other states, New Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii and Minnesota will join his state in the pending lawsuit.Nevada’s attorney general has also threatened a suit.
  • A man has been targeting dessert shops in a Texas town, committing four robberies -- two in the same business, KHOU reported. >> Read more trending news  The Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt shop in Cypress was robbed Jan. 15, the television station reported. Surveillance cameras caught a bald man with a goatee, who walked up to the cash register, yanked it open and took the money, KHOU reported. 'I saw him and I saw what he was doing,' store manager Debra Santos told the television station. 'You just don't know people now a days. I didn't know if he had a gun or a weapon.' On Feb. 14, the bald bandit struck again, robbing a different Orange Leaf in Cypress, KHOU reported. Later that day, the man robbed Shipley’s Donuts in Cypress. The manager chased the thief, but the man sped away in a white car, the television station reported. On Feb. 16, the thief returned to the Orange Leaf he had robbed a month earlier, taking the store’s second cash register, according to KHOU.  'He said, ‘I'm sorry I have to do this,’ and he ripped the cables and took off again,' Santos told the television station. Santos said she hopes the thief’s robbery pattern will trip him up. 'I hope they catch him soon,' Santos told KHOU. 'He seems to be repetitive, so hopefully he'll have a break in his pattern and they'll catch him.