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Monthly Archives: May 2018

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US-N. Korea meetings in New York aimed at salvaging summit

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NEW YORK (AP) — Top American and North Korean officials are holding a full day of meetings in New York on Thursday aimed at deciding whether a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can be salvaged.

Ahead of the meetings, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the North’s former military intelligence chief, Kim Yong Chol, had dinner Wednesday night. Kim had flown in from Beijing and Pompeo from Washington.

It’s the highest-level official North Korean visit to the United States in 18 years.

Kim, the former military intelligence chief and one of the North Korean leader’s closest aides, landed midafternoon Wednesday on an Air China flight from Beijing.

During his unusual visit, Kim had dinner for about an hour and a half with Pompeo. The two planned a “day full of meetings” Thursday, the White House said. Their talks will be aimed at determining whether a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, originally scheduled for June 12 but later canceled by Trump, can be restored, U.S. officials have said.

“Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight,” Pompeo tweeted Wednesday. “Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting with a top North Korean official in New York. (May 30)

The talks come as preparations for the highly anticipated summit in Singapore were barreling forward on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, despite lingering uncertainty about whether it will really occur, and when. As Kim and Pompeo met in New York, other U.S. teams were meeting with North Korean officials in Singapore and in the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone.

“If it happens, we’ll certainly be ready,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the Singapore summit. Regarding the date for the meeting, she added, “We’re going to continue to shoot for June 12th.”

North Korea’s flurry of diplomatic activity following a torrid run in nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests that Kim Jong Un is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and the international legitimacy the summit with Trump would provide. But there are lingering doubts on whether Kim will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.

Pompeo, Trump’s former CIA chief, has traveled to Pyongyang twice in recent weeks for meetings with Kim Jong Un, and has said there is a “shared understanding” between the two sides about what they hope to achieve in talks. South Korean media speculated that Pompeo could make a third trip to Pyongyang and that Kim Yong Chol was carrying a personal letter from Kim Jong Un and might push to travel to Washington to meet with Trump.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York is its sole diplomatic presence in the United States. That suggests Kim might have chosen to first go to New York because it would make it easier for him to communicate with officials in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. North Korea and the United States are still technically at war and have no diplomatic ties because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Trump views a summit as a legacy-defining opportunity to make the nuclear deal that has evaded others, but he pledged to walk away from the meeting if he believed the North wasn’t serious about discussing dismantling its nuclear program.

After the North’s combative statements, there was debate inside the Trump administration about whether it marked a real turn to belligerence or a feint to see how far Kim Jong Un could push the U.S. in the lead-up to the talks. Trump had mused that Kim’s “attitude” had changed after the North Korean leader’s surprise visit to China two weeks ago, suggesting China was pushing Kim away from the table. Trump’s open letter to Kim last week canceling the summit, the aides said, was designed to pressure the North on the international stage for appearing to have cold feet.

White House officials maintain that Trump was hopeful the North was merely negotiating but that he was prepared for the letter to mark the end of the two-month flirtation. Instead, the officials said, it brought both sides to the table with increasing seriousness, as they work through myriad logistical and policy decisions to keep June 12 a viable option for the summit.

Kim Yong Chol is a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s central committee. The last official of his stature to visit the United States was Jo Myong Rok, the late first vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, who visited Washington in 2000, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

The White House emphasized that it has remained in close contact with South Korean and Japanese officials as preparations for the talks continue. Sanders said Trump will host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan on June 7 to coordinate their thinking ahead of the summit. Trump hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week.

Moon, who has lobbied hard for nuclear negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong Un, held a surprise meeting with the North Korean leader on Saturday in an effort to keep the summit alive.

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Lederman reported from Washington and Bodeen from Beijing. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucey in Washington and Hyung-Jin Kim and Kim Tong-Hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

AP source: Ex-FBI deputy McCabe wrote memo on Comey firing

(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT)    —   WASHINGTON — The former acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, wrote a confidential memo last spring recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of Mr. McCabe’s predecessor, James B. Comey, according to several people familiar with the discussion.

Mr. Comey’s firing is a central focus of the special counsel’s investigation into whether President Trump tried to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. Mr. McCabe has turned over his memo to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

In the document, whose contents have not been previously reported, Mr. McCabe described a conversation at the Justice Department with the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, in the chaotic days last May after Mr. Comey’s abrupt firing. Mr. Rosenstein played a key role in the dismissal, writing a memo that rebuked Mr. Comey over his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton.

But in the meeting at the Justice Department, Mr. Rosenstein added a new detail: He said the president had originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo, the people familiar with the conversation said. Mr. Rosenstein did not elaborate on what Mr. Trump had wanted him to say.

To Mr. McCabe, that seemed like possible evidence that Mr. Comey’s firing was actually related to the F.B.I.’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and that Mr. Rosenstein helped provide a cover story by writing about the Clinton investigation.

One person who was briefed on Mr. Rosenstein’s conversation with the president said Mr. Trump had simply wanted Mr. Rosenstein to mention that he was not personally under investigation in the Russia inquiry. Mr. Rosenstein said it was unnecessary and did not include such a reference. Mr. Trump ultimately said it himself when announcing the firing.

a man standing in front of a curtain: Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, oversees the special counsel’s investigation. © Tom Brenner/The New York Times Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, oversees the special counsel’s investigation. Mr. McCabe’s memo, one of several that he wrote, highlights the conflicting roles that Mr. Rosenstein plays in the case. He supervises the special counsel investigation and has told colleagues that protecting it is among his highest priorities. But many current and former law enforcement officials are suspicious of some of his other actions, including allowing some of Mr. Trump’s congressional allies to view crucial documents from the investigation.

In conversations with prosecutors, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have cited Mr. Rosenstein’s involvement in the firing of Mr. Comey as proof that it was not an effort to obstruct justice, according to people familiar with the president’s legal strategy.

That argument has only made Mr. Rosenstein’s position even more peculiar: He oversees an investigation into the president, who points to Mr. Rosenstein’s own actions as evidence that he is innocent. And Mr. Rosenstein could have the final say on whether that argument has merit.

The people who discussed the meeting and the memo did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matters. A spokeswoman for Mr. McCabe declined to comment. Mr. McCabe was fired in March after a finding that he was not candid in an internal investigation. Mr. McCabe has said the firing was a politically motivated effort to discredit him as a witness in the special counsel investigation.

A Justice Department spokeswoman also declined to comment. Mr. Rosenstein has consulted departmental ethics advisers about whether to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and has not done so.

“I’ve talked with Director Mueller about this,” Mr. Rosenstein told The Associated Press last year. “He’s going to make the appropriate decisions, and if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation then, as Director Mueller and I discussed, if there’s a need from me to recuse, I will.”

Removing Mr. Rosenstein from the investigation, though, would only add uncertainty to the process. He is regarded, even among his critics, as a bulwark against an effort by Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Mueller and shut down the investigation. Mr. Trump has openly mused about doing so, and has considered firing Mr. Rosenstein, too.

Mr. McCabe’s memo reflects the F.B.I.’s early efforts to discern Mr. Trump’s intentions in firing Mr. Comey, an effort that continues today. Mr. Trump and his advisers have issued conflicting and changing explanations for the termination.

At first, they pointed to Mr. Rosenstein’s reasoning, which criticized Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation. He was unusually public about the inquiry in ways that Democrats say contributed to Mrs. Clinton’s defeat.

But Mr. Trump quickly undercut that statement, telling NBC News that he had planned to fire Mr. Comey even before receiving Mr. Rosenstein’s memo. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’” Mr. Trump said. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Mr. Trump also told Russian diplomats in the Oval Office that firing Mr. Comey had relieved “great pressure” that he had faced because of Russia.

Mr. Rosenstein’s comments to Mr. McCabe were made against a backdrop of those shifting explanations. After their meeting, Mr. Rosenstein gave Mr. McCabe a copy of a draft firing letter that Mr. Trump had written, according to two people familiar with the conversation. Mr. McCabe later gave that letter, and his memos, to Mr. Mueller.

Mr. McCabe’s memo reflects the anxiety of the early months of the Trump administration and presaged a relationship with law enforcement that has only grown more strained. Just as Mr. Comey kept memos on interactions with Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr. McCabe documented his own conversations with the president and others.

Mr. Trump has injected himself into Justice Department operations in ways that have little precedent. While most presidents who have faced federal investigations have assiduously avoided discussing them for fear of being seen as trying to influence them, Mr. Trump has shown no hesitation. He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” declared that a “deep state” was trying to undermine his presidency, and encouraged the Justice Department to provide sensitive details about the special counsel inquiry to Congress.

Most recently, Mr. Trump has publicly demanded that the Justice Department investigate the Russia investigation itself.

In response, Mr. Rosenstein has walked a perilous line. Faced with threats on his job, he told Republicans in Congress that he would not be “extorted.” But he has also relented to pressure in some instances, providing information to Congress that would not normally be shared amid an investigation.

And in response to the president’s calls for an investigation into whether the F.B.I. used informants to infiltrate his campaign — a charge for which there is no public evidence — Mr. Rosenstein referred the matter to the inspector general and issued a public statement that some current and former officials said was too tepid.

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Mr. Rosenstein said.

Mr. Rosenstein has said little about his strategy for dealing with the political crosswinds. But he has defended his memo about Mr. Comey. “I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it,” he said in a statement last year. He added that it was never intended to “justify a for-cause termination.”

Recently, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, added a new explanation for Mr. Comey’s firing. He said Mr. Trump was upset that Mr. Comey would not publicly clear him in the Russia investigation.

“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Mr. Giuliani said.

Saving Sessions: Inside the GOP effort to protect the AG

WASHINGTON (AP) — Days after President Donald Trump deemed Jeff Sessions “beleaguered” and threatened to fire him last July, members of the president’s inner circle made a desperate case to save the attorney general’s job.

The White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, pleaded with Trump during a heated Oval Office meeting to keep Sessions, warning that his dismissal would only pour gasoline on the Russia investigation. And, they said, it could alienate those in Trump’s conservative base, supporters enamored with the attorney general’s tough stances on law enforcement and immigration.

Priebus and Bannon both were out of their jobs within the month. But Sessions survived, his reprieve delivered by John Kelly as one of his first acts as chief of staff.

Ten months later, the Republican campaign to save Sessions has continued and — at least for now — succeeded. In private meetings, public appearances on television and late-night phone calls, Trump’s advisers and allies have done all they can to persuade the president not to fire a Cabinet official he dismisses as disloyal. The effort is one of the few effective Republican attempts to install guardrails around a president who delights in defying advice and breaking the rules.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani says special counsel Robert Mueller must turn in a report on his investigation by September or risk meddling with the midterm elections. Giuliani spoke to reporters outside the White House on Wednesday. (May 31)

It’s an ongoing effort, though not everyone is convinced the relationship is sustainable for the long term.

As recently as this month, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the president had raised the issue again, wondering aloud if he’d made a mistake in not firing Sessions. And both Giuliani and influential Republican lawmakers have hinted that, once special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe wraps up, Sessions could be in danger again.

“There’s no doubt he’s complained about him, there’s no doubt he has some grievances. I don’t know they’ve aired them out yet. He’s not going to fire him before this is over,” Giuliani told reporters Wednesday. “Nor do I think he should.”

Trump showed Wednesday the campaign to save Sessions hasn’t tempered his anger at the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, an act the president believed birthed the Mueller investigation, which is imperiling his presidency. In a tweet, Trump again declared he regretted appointing the former Alabama senator to the job in a familiar, but no less stunning, public rebuke of a sitting Cabinet official.

Despite the withering complaints, Trump appears to comprehend the potential consequences of firing Sessions and seems resigned to the idea that he’s stuck with him for the time being, according to nearly a dozen people close to the decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The case that Sessions’ protectors have outlined to Trump time and again largely consists of three components: Firing Sessions, a witness in Mueller’s investigation of obstruction of justice, would add legal peril to his standing in the Russia probe; doing so would anger the president’s political base, which Trump cares deeply about, especially with midterm election looming this fall; and a number of Republican senators would rebel against the treatment of a longtime colleague who was following Justice Department guidelines in his recusal.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said that he will not schedule a confirmation hearing for another attorney general nominee if Sessions is fired.

Giuliani told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Trump has asked him multiple times, before and after the former New York mayor joined the president’s legal team last month, about whether Sessions should have been fired.

Giuliani said Trump consulted him last summer during the height of his rage about Sessions’ recusal. More recently, he said, Trump has not actively considered firing Sessions but has wondered if he made the right decision in not doing so previously.

“And when he asks, ‘Should I have done that?’ I say, ’No, the way it is now has worked out,’” Giuliani said, adding that he did not believe Trump would fire Sessions. Later, speaking to reporters at the White House, he compared the president’s temper to that of the late George Steinbrenner, the mercurial owner of the New York Yankees.

Influential conservatives have also heard Trump lash out about Sessions and, though some have sympathy for the concerns, have repeatedly talked him out of doing anything drastic, said one person in touch with both men who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. The person recalled a venting session after a meeting at the White House last fall, when the president aired his frustrations with the attorney general about his recusal. The person expressed sympathy but argued against firing Sessions, in part because of his success in carrying out the president’s agenda.

Trump’s complaints about Sessions have at times won sympathy from some friends who believe Sessions’ recusal was too broad and ill-timed and undercut the positive attention from a State of the Union address the president had recently delivered.

While the recusal remains Sessions’ original sin in Trump’s eyes, the president has also fumed that he sees Sessions as failing to get a handle on immigration and not placing enough emphasis on combating transnational criminal organizations.

After being berated by Trump over the recusal decision last spring, Sessions offered his resignation, but the overture was rejected. He is widely viewed as determined to stay in the job because he believes in the president’s agenda, which largely mirrors his own interests, and is reluctant to leave a job for which he gave up a Senate seat. Hours after the president’s attack on Wednesday, Sessions visited the White House for a routine litigation issue, a Justice Department official said.

There may be a limit to how long the campaign to save Sessions can hold on. Giuliani on Wednesday only offered assurances Trump would not fire Sessions during the Mueller investigation, because of the “distraction” it would cause.

And a number of Republican senators who have supported Sessions have indicated in recent days that they are warming to Trump’s complaints.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who in March said firing Sessions would “blow up” the Senate Judiciary Committee, struck a different tone Wednesday, noting that Cabinet positions are “not lifetime appointments.” Looking ahead to fall elections, he has reinforced to Trump that the best approach now “is to keep focused on good governance in the midterms.”

At some point, Graham said, Sessions will “have to make a decision” that if “you don’t have the confidence” of the president, “that will affect your ability to be effective.”

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Associated Press writers Chad Day and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

Puerto Rico grid ‘teetering’ despite $3.8 billion repair job

CAIN ALTO, Puerto Rico (AP) — After months of darkness and stifling heat, Noe Pagan was overjoyed when power-line workers arrived to restore electricity to his home deep in the lush green mountains of western Puerto Rico. But to his dismay, instead of raising a power pole toppled by Hurricane Maria, the federal contractors bolted the new 220-volt line to the narrow trunk of a breadfruit tree — a safety code violation virtually guaranteed to leave Pagan and his neighbors blacked out in a future hurricane.

“I asked the contractors if they were going to connect the cable to the post and they just didn’t answer,” said Pagan, a 23-year-old garage worker.

After an eight-month, $3.8 billion federal effort to try to end the longest blackout in United States history, officials say Puerto Rico’s public electrical authority, the nation’s largest, is almost certain to collapse again when the next hurricane hits this island of 3.3 million people.

“It’s a highly fragile and vulnerable system that really could suffer worse damage than it suffered with Maria in the face of another natural catastrophe,” Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello said.

Another weather disaster is increasingly likely as warmer seas turbocharge the strongest hurricanes into even more powerful and wetter storms. Federal forecasters say there’s a 75 percent likelihood that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins Friday, will produce between five and nine hurricanes. And there’s a 70 percent chance that as many as four of those could be major Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes, with winds of 111 mph (179 kph) or higher.

“It’s inevitable that Puerto Rico will get hit again,” said Assistant Secretary Bruce Walker, head of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity, which is planning the long-term redesign of the grid run by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Despite the billions plowed into the grid since Maria hit on Sept. 20, 2017, Puerto Rican officials warn that it could take far less than a Category 4 storm like Maria to cause a blackout like the one that persists today, with some 11,820 homes and businesses still without power.

“The grid is there, but the grid isn’t there. It’s teetering,” said Hector Pesquera, Puerto Rico’s commissioner of public safety. “Even if it’s a (Category) 1, it is in such a state that I think we’re going to lose power. I don’t know for how long.”

Federal officials and Puerto Rican leaders blame decades of mismanagement that left the island’s power authority more than $9 billion in debt after declaring bankruptcy last year. Expensive projects were launched then cancelled. Politicians approved cheap power for well-connected corporations. By the time Maria hit, wooden power poles were rotted, transmission towers had rusted through and overgrown trees menaced thousands of miles of power lines.

In many places across Puerto Rico, federal emergency funds allocated in the aftermath of the disaster made up for years of neglected maintenance, replacing decaying infrastructure with tens of thousands of new poles and hundreds of miles of power lines rushed from the U.S. mainland at a steep premium.

But in other areas, crews without adequate supplies patched together damaged poles and power lines in a desperate push to restore power. In the western highlands, power cables were spliced together and woven haphazardly through trees in blatant violation of basic safety codes. In Pagan’s town of Cain Alto and at least one other location, trees were used as makeshift power poles in the absence of proper equipment.

“We patched things up. We worked with the little material that was available and we recycled material. We took the 1,000 feet of wire that was on the ground and we strung it up in another area,” one power authority worker said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from management. “We took the post that had fallen over or broken and we put it up somewhere else. A lot of the work is defective.”

Fredyson Martinez, vice president of the power authority workers’ union, said he estimates that roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of the repair work done over the last eight months did not meet basic quality standards.

“The logistics were terrible. I give it an F,” he said. “Things need to be fixed.”

Federal and Puerto Rican officials are preparing for another catastrophe that cuts power for weeks or month. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is leaving some 600 generators installed in key sites such as hospitals and water pumping stations, more than six times the number before Maria. FEMA has stockpiled 5.4 million liters of water and more than 80,000 tarps, and is distributing them and other emergency supplies to towns across the island so they will be in place for the next disaster.

Still, few people believe the island is truly ready.

“If a hurricane comes tomorrow it will leave the island completely without power again,” said Juan Rosario, a community activist and former member of the power authority’s board of directors.

Up to 4,645 more deaths than usual occurred in Puerto Rico in the three months after Maria, contends a new study published this week by the New England Journal of Medicine, an estimate that far exceeds the official government death toll of 64.

Officials now are warning Puerto Ricans to stockpile enough emergency supplies to survive as long as 10 days without help. Tens of thousands of homes still don’t have roofs. FEMA distributed 59,000 enormous plastic sheets to homeowners who lost their roofs in Irma or Maria. More than 100,000 more received smaller tarps to protect specific rooms or belongings. Only 21,000 households have received federal aid to carry out permanent repairs.

Juana Sostre Vasquez’s wooden house in the central highlands was ripped off its foundation by Maria. With the help of a son-in-law, the 69-year-old rebuilt, using cinderblocks and cement bought with $14,000 in FEMA reconstruction aid. Her roof is metal sheeting nailed onto wooden two-by-fours because she couldn’t afford to build stronger. She says she’s hopeful the next hurricane won’t send that sheeting flying.

“The money didn’t let us do the roof,” she said. “I’m doing it little by little as I save a couple of dollars.”

Mike Byrne, the head of FEMA’s Caribbean office, says he expects the federal government will eventually have spent a total of $17.5 billion in emergency funds on fixing the hurricane damage and making Puerto Rico’s grid more resilient to future storms.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ended its power restoration work in May, so future funding is expected to pass through Puerto Rico’s bankrupt power company. After receiving $945 million in federal funds for repairs to the island’s electric grid, Oklahoma-based Mammoth Energy Services announced Monday that the power authority had awarded its subsidiary, Cobra Energy, another $900 million to finish the job and begin fortifying the grid against future storms.

Last week, Cobra’s crews were working to rebuild one of a pair of 230-kilo-volt transmission lines climbing from Puerto Rico’s main power plants on its southern coast across high mountains to the main users of energy in the capital, San Juan, and other industrial sites and population centers in the north. Because of a decision years ago to stretch the island’s main transmission lines through a narrow path across the rugged mountains, one of the transmission lines must be turned off so its powerful current doesn’t energize equipment and workers laboring a few feet away.

Cobra transmission director Alan Edwards had more than 50 linemen working on the repair, at nearly $4,000 per worker per day in federal funds from the Puerto Rico power authority, when he got the call to stop. A flaw was causing a transmission line to overheat dangerously elsewhere in the system, so the line alongside where Edwards’ men were working would have to be returned to service, forcing the crews to stop for at least the rest of the day.

“Maybe we’re back at it tomorrow, I don’t know. May be next week before we can get back out there,” Edwards said.

The already staggering reconstruction costs will rise by billions more if another hurricane hits. And many billions worth of those federally funded improvements could eventually pass into private hands: Puerto Rico’s Senate could approve the sale of much of the island’s power grid to a private power company or companies as early as this week.

The potential sale won’t affect the federal government’s decision to spend billions of dollars on repairing and improving the grid, said Byrne, the head of FEMA’s operations in the Caribbean.

“I can’t wait, because these are U.S. citizens that are at risk. U.S. citizens deserve every ounce of effort that I can bring to this, and that’s what they’re going to get,” Byrne said.

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Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

Trump plans to go ahead with steel, aluminum tariffs on EU

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration is planning to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports after failing to win concessions from the European Union, a move that could provoke retaliatory tariffs and inflame trans-Atlantic trade tensions.

U.S. and European officials held last-ditch talks in Paris on Thursday to try to reach a deal, though hopes are low and fears of a trade war are mounting.

“Global trade is not a gunfight at the OK Corral,” France’s finance minister quipped after meeting U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “It’s not about who attacks whom, and then wait and see who is still standing at the end.”

The tariffs are likely to go into effect on the EU with an announcement before Friday’s deadline, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The administration’s plans could change if the two sides are able to reach a last-minute agreement, said the people, who spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Ross told Le Figaro newspaper that the announcement would come Thursday, likely after markets close.

Trump announced in March that the United States would slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, citing national security interests. But he granted an exemption to the EU and other U.S. allies; that reprieve expires Friday.

“Realistically, I do not think we can hope” to avoid either U.S. tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum, said Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s trade commissioner. Even if the U.S. were to agree to waive the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, Malmstrom said, “I expect them nonetheless to want to impose some sort of cap on EU exports.”

Malmstrom is meeting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Paris on Thursday among other international trade chiefs.

If the U.S. moves forward with its tariffs, the EU has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter and other goods in return.

Fears of a global trade war are already weighing on investor confidence and could hinder the global economic upturn. European officials argue that tit-for-tat tariffs will hurt growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the U.S. tariffs “unjustified, unjustifiable and dangerous.”

“This will only lead to the victory of those who want less growth, those who don’t think we can develop our economies across the world. We think on the contrary that global trade must have rules in a context of multilateralism. We are ready to rebuild this multilateralism with our American friends.”

Tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. can help local producers of the metals by making foreign products more expensive. But they can also increase costs more broadly for U.S. manufacturers who cannot source all their needs locally and have to import the materials. That hurts the companies and can lead to more expensive consumer prices, economists say.

“Unilateral responses and threats over trade war will solve nothing of the serious imbalances in world trade. Nothing,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an impassioned speech Wednesday.

In a clear reference to Trump, Macron added: “These solutions might bring symbolic satisfaction in the short term. … One can think about making voters happy by saying, ‘I have a victory, I’ll change the rules, you’ll see.’”

But Macron said those “who waged bilateral trade wars … saw an increase in prices and an increase in unemployment.”

Besides the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, the Trump administration is also investigating possible limits on foreign cars in the name of national security.

Ross criticized the EU for its tough negotiating position. But German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier insisted the Europeans were ready to negotiate special trade arrangements, notably for liquefied natural gas and industrial goods, including cars.

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Charlton reported from Paris. Alex Turnbull in Paris and Paul Wiseman and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

Business: Asian and European shares rise on promising Chinese data

(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)   —   Global shares rose Thursday on the back of promising Chinese data and fresh signs that Italy may avoid imminent elections after all.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.4 percent to 5,446.54 while the FTSE 100 index gained 0.2 percent to 7,708.06. The DAX in Germany dropped 0.2 percent to 12,754. Italy’s FTSE MIB jumped 1.2 percent to 22,050.37. U.S stocks are set for an optimistic start, with Dow futures up by 0.1 percent and the broader S&P 500 futures almost flat.

CHINA MANUFACTURING: Chinese factory activity grew at its fastest rate in eight months on stronger demand, a survey showed Thursday, in a positive sign for the world’s No. 2 economy despite trade tensions with the U.S. The official purchasing managers’ index, or PMI, rose to 51.9 in May from 51.4 the previous month. Readings above 50 indicate expansion, while lower numbers indicate contraction on the index’s 100-point scale.

ANALYST’S VIEWPOINT: “Today’s strong set of official PMIs tell a reassuring story about current growth momentum. However, we will have to wait for more reliable indicators to be published in order to get a clearer picture of the health of China’s economy,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a commentary.

ITALY: Italy’s president gave populist politicians another chance Wednesday to try to form a coalition government AND Carlo Cottarelli, the former International Monetary Fund official tapped Monday to be a neutral, temporary premier, said “new possibilities” had emerged for a government based on the results of the March election. That alleviated worries that another election might be required that would amount to a referendum on the euro.

CHINA TRADE: Beijing criticized the U.S. for renewing a threat to raise duties on some imports from China. At the same time, officials from the U.S. and European Union held talks on tariffs the Trump administration has proposed on European steel and aluminum. European Union negotiators seemed pessimistic and said they expected the U.S. to announce a final decision Thursday. China and the EU have both said they will react to new tariffs imposed by the U.S. with duties of their own, which has raised the prospect of greater tensions and the possibility of trade wars.

ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.8 percent to 22,201.82 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 1.4 percent to 30,468.56. The Shanghai Composite index rebounded 1.8 percent to 3,095.47 and Australia’s S&P ASX 200 climbed 0.5 percent to 6,011.90. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.6 percent to 2,423.01. Shares rose in Taiwan and were mostly higher in Southeast Asia

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1708 from $1.1664. The dollar rose to 108.96 yen from 108.89 yen.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil slipped 41 cents to $67.80 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped 2.2 percent on Wednesday to $68.21 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 38 cents to $77.34 per barrel. It added 2.8 percent to $77.50 a barrel in London.

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– Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Thursday, May 31:

1. European Markets Rebound As Italy Fears Subside

European stocks pushed higher for the second day in a row, as Italian parties renewed attempts to form a government, easing concerns about the wider impact of a political crisis in Europe’s third-largest economy.

Matteo Salvini, the head of the right-wing League, has said he would “seriously consider” an offer on Wednesday from 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio to resurrect their bid to govern together.

Italy’s FTSE MIB added to gains from the previous session, rising roughly 1%.

Highlighting the degree of calm that has returned to the market, the yield on Italy’s two-year bonds fell to as low as 0.816% from a high of 2.7% earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the euro rallied further, hitting a daily high of 1.1724 (EUR/USD). It surged 1.1% the previous day, its second-biggest daily gain so far this year. The currency had sunk to 1.1510 on Tuesday, its lowest since late July 2017.

Upbeat inflation data, which was likely to add to the dilemma facing the European Central Bank as it debates unwinding its stimulus program, provided additional support.

2. U.S. Stock Futures Point To Quiet Open

U.S. stock futures pointed to a quiet open, as investors looked ahead to a fresh batch of corporate earnings and economic data.

At around 5:15AM ET, the blue-chip Dow futures tacked on around 7 points, or less than 0.1%, the S&P 500 futures inched up 1 point, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a gain of 9 points.

On the earnings front, notable companies expected to report Thursday include discount retailers Dollar General (NYSE:DG) and Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR), both due ahead of the opening bell, while Costco (NASDAQ:COST), Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU), GameStop (NYSE:GME) and VMware (NYSE:VMW) are scheduled to report after the close.

In the previous session, U.S. stocks closed up sharply higher, with the Dow Jones industrial average finishing up more than 300 points, while the small-cap Russel 2000 hit an all-time peak.

3. Fed’s Preferred Inflation Metric in Focus

Thursday’s calendar features a closely-watched report on personal income and spending for April, which includes the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) inflation data – the Federal Reserve’s preferred metric for inflation – at 8:30AM ET (1230GMT).

The consensus forecast is that the report will show that the core PCE price index inched up 0.1% last month, after rising 0.2% a month earlier.

On an annualized basis, core PCE prices are expected to rise 1.8%, compared to a 1.9%-increase in the preceding month.

The Fed uses core PCE as a tool to help determine whether to raise or lower interest rates, with the aim of keeping inflation at a rate of 2% or below.

At the same time, investors will also get the weekly report on initial jobless claims, followed by the May reading on manufacturing activity in the Midwest at 9:45AM ET (1345GMT).

A number of speeches by members of the Federal Reserve are scheduled to take place Thursday. Topping the agenda will be remarks from Fed Governor Lael Brainard, who will be in New York, taking part at a Forecaster’s Club of New York luncheon, where she is expected to comment upon the outlook of monetary policy.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was down 0.3% on the day at 93.79, pulling further away from Tuesday’s seven month highs of 94.98.

4. Oil Prices Slip Ahead Of U.S. Inventory Data

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release its official weekly oil supplies report for the week ended May 25 at 11:00AM ET (1500GMT), amid forecasts for an oil-stock gain of 2.2 million barrels.

The report comes out one day later than usual because of the federal Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

After markets closed Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute said that U.S. oil inventories rose by 1 million barrels last week.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate WTI crude was down 41 cents, or 0.6%, at $67.80 a barrel, while Brent crude futures were down 39 cents, or 0.5%, at $77.33 a barrel.

5. U.S. To Slap Tariffs On EU Steel And Aluminum

Trade issues remained at the forefront as Washington is expected to announce plans to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union as early as Thursday morning, sources said.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told French daily Le Figaro it would be announced either before markets opened or after they closed.

Ross added that any escalation of their trade dispute would depend on the bloc’s reaction.

In March, the Trump administration imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum, but granted temporary exemptions to the EU, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Argentina to allow for further discussions.

Top North Korean official heads to US for pre-summit talks

BEIJING (AP) — A top North Korean official headed to New York on Wednesday for talks aimed at salvaging a summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump on the future of Kim’s nuclear program, in the North’s highest-level mission to the United States in 18 years.

Associated Press reporters saw Kim Yong Chol at Beijing’s airport just after noon. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited diplomatic sources as saying that Kim was on an Air China flight to New York that departed later Wednesday afternoon.

Yonhap said Kim, who had arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, was traveling with five other North Korean officials.

Kim, one of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s most trusted aides, is a former military intelligence chief and now a vice chairman of the ruling party’s central committee.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York is its sole diplomatic presence in the United States. That suggests Kim might have chosen to first go to New York because it would make it easier for him to communicate with officials in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. North Korea and the United States are still technically at war and have no diplomatic ties because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty

Trump confirmed Tuesday that Kim was to hold talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But it wasn’t immediately known what else he would do in the United States. South Korean media speculated that he was carrying a personal letter from Kim Jong Un and may push to travel to Washington to meet with Trump.

Pompeo has traveled to Pyongyang twice in recent weeks for meetings with Kim Jong Un, and has said there is a “shared understanding” between the two sides about what they hope to achieve in talks. South Korean media speculated that Pompeo could make a third trip to Pyongyang after Kim Yong Chol’s U.S. trip.

Trump and Kim Jong Un were set to hold their summit June 12 in Singapore, but Trump announced last week that he was pulling out of the meeting. Since then, he has suggested the summit could be back on, and Kim Yong Chol’s trip to the U.S. seems to imply that preparations for a meeting could be in the final stages.

Kim Yong Chol’s trip comes amid two sets of other pre-summit talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

A team of U.S. officials led by former U.S. nuclear negotiator Sung Kim began talks with North Korean officials at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on Sunday to set the agenda for the summit.

A North Korean delegation led by another of Kim Jong Un’s trusted aides, Kim Chang Son, flew to Singapore on Monday night for talks with U.S. officials to discuss logistical issues for the summit. Details of those talks hadn’t emerged yet.

North Korea’s flurry of diplomatic activity following a torrid run in nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests that Kim Jong Un is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and the international legitimacy the summit with Trump would provide. But there are lingering doubts on whether Kim will every fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.

While there have been a few instances in which countries were persuaded to abandon their nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief and compensation, none of the cases are directly applicable to North Korea, which has advanced its nukes further and with greater zeal than any of the others. The North’s arsenal now includes purported thermonuclear warheads and developmental long-range missiles potentially capable of reaching mainland U.S. cities.

But South Korea, which has lobbied hard for the talks between Trump and Kim, has insisted that Kim can be persuaded to abandon his nuclear facilities, materials and bombs in a verifiable and irreversible way if offered credible security and economic guarantees.

China, North Korea’s longtime ally and chief trading partner, has sought to position itself as a key intermediary in talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Beijing backs the North’s proposal for a phased and synchronized denuclearization process, while the United States insists on a comprehensive one-shot deal in which North Korea eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards later.

Russia said Wednesday that its foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, will travel to North Korea for talks on Thursday.

Kim Yong Chol would be the highest-level North Korean official to travel to the United States since 2000, when Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok visited Washington and met President Bill Clinton amid warming ties between the wartime foes. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a historic reciprocal visit to Pyongyang later in 2000 in a bid to arrange a North Korea visit by Clinton. Ties turned sour again after President George W. Bush took office in early 2001 with a tough policy on the North.

Kim Yong Chol’s official title is a vice chairman of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party. Previously, he was a four-star army general and a military intelligence chief who is thought to have been behind two deadly attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans and an alleged 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures. Both Seoul and Washington imposed sanctions on him in recent years.

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Kim reported from Seoul, South Korea.

In the time it takes to tweet, Roseanne Barr loses her job

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NEW YORK (AP) — In the time it took to compose a 53-character tweet, Roseanne Barr went from a hero that ABC was banking upon to unemployed.

The network canceled its hit reboot of “Roseanne” Tuesday after Barr’s racist tweet that referred to Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama, as a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Planet of the Apes.” Her agent dropped her, and other services pulled “Roseanne” reruns.

The swift developments rendered President Donald Trump at least temporarily mum.

Trump, who reveled in the success of “Roseanne” after Barr’s character in the show came out as a supporter of his presidency, made no mention of the firing in a campaign-style rally in Tennessee on Tuesday evening.

“We have a lot bigger things going on in the country right now, certainly, that the president is spending his time on,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Jarrett, a black woman who said she was “fine” after the slur, urged in an MSNBC special Tuesday about racism that the incident become a teaching moment. She said that Robert Iger, chief executive of ABC parent Walt Disney Co., called to apologize and told her before it became public that the show was being canceled.

ABC has canceled ‘Roseanne’ following star Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett. (May 29)

“Tone does start at the top, and we like to look up to our president and feel as though he reflects the values of our country,” Jarrett said. “But I also think that every individual citizen has a responsibility too, and it’s up to all of us to push back. Our government is only going to be as good as we make it be.”

Barr showed no signs of abandoning Twitter, engaging in a series of tweets late Tuesday that apologized to those who lost their jobs because of the “Roseanne” cancellation, expressing remorse she was being branded a racist, and also retweeting posts that attacked ABC and a meme that included Jarrett.

The supporters’ tweets included posts that criticized ABC, “The View” co-host Joy Behar and ESPN’s Keith Olbermann. She later asked supporters not to defend her.

“I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me,” Barr wrote. “It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but…don’t defend it please.”

Barr was resoundingly condemned Tuesday, including from many who helped make her show successful.

The executive producer of “Roseanne,” which came back this spring after being gone for two decades and instantly became television’s second most popular comedy, said he supported ABC’s decision.

“Our goal was to promote constructive discussion about the issues that divide us,” said Tom Werner. “It represented the work of hundreds of talented people. I hope the good work done is not totally eclipsed by those abhorrent and offensive comments, and that Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs.”

ABC canceled the show in a one-sentence statement from Channing Dungey, the network’s entertainment president, who called it “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”

ABC and Disney had taken notable steps to be more inclusive in its entertainment, and Dungey is the first black to be entertainment president of a major broadcast network. But much of its progress would have been threatened if it looked the other way at Barr’s tweet.

She has a history of diving into political conspiracy theories on Twitter, and that’s how she ended her Memorial Day weekend. She criticized Democratic financier George Soros and tweeted that Chelsea Clinton was “Chelsea Soros Clinton,” implying she was married to a nephew of Soros. Clinton herself corrected Barr online. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted two of Barr’s statements about Soros, although not the remark about Jarrett.

Jarrett’s name came up in response to Twitter commentary that raised her name in relation to an Obama conspiracy theory. Barr tweeted: “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

Three weeks earlier, “Roseanne” was the toast of ABC’s annual presentation of its programming plans to advertisers. Dungey’s boss, network chief Ben Sherwood, even joked then: “If anyone came to play a drinking game based on how many times we mention ‘Roseanne,’ you’re welcome.”

“Roseanne” earned an estimated $45 million in advertising revenue for ABC through its nine episodes that started airing in March, according to Kantar Media. The firm estimates that the 13 episodes that had been ordered for next season would have brought in as much as $60 million, with more through repeat episodes.

One of the few network shows about a working-class family, “Roseanne” attracted 25 million viewers to its first show back in March. Many conservative commentators — and the president himself — attributed at least some of that success to the lead character’s backing of Trump.

The cancellation has no clear precedent in television history, said David Bianculli, professor at Rowan University in New Jersey. The closest analogy is CBS pulling the plug on the Smothers Brothers variety show due to their anti-war views in the late 1960s and the same network not renewing “Lou Grant” at its peak, which star Ed Asner always contended was due to his outspoken political beliefs.

But “Roseanne” was different, he said.

“It’s like taking off ‘All in the Family’ or ‘I Love Lucy’ or Andy Griffith at their zenith,” he said.

There was also CBS’ firing of Charlie Sheen from “Two and a Half Men” during his bizarre spate of behavior. Sheen, for one, saw an opportunity in Tuesday’s events.

“Good riddance,” he tweeted about the “Roseanne” cancellation. “Hashtag NOT Winning. The runway is now clear for OUR reboot.”

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AP writers Mark Kennedy, Jocelyn Noveck and Leanne Italie in New York and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Soggy Alberto triggers mudslides, threatens dam failure

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Mudslides triggered by the soggy remnants of Alberto forced evacuations below a dam and closed an interstate highway in the western mountains of North Carolina on Wednesday.

Forecasters warned that the leftovers of the Atlantic hurricane season’s first named storm are still capable of causing treacherous flooding as heavy precipitation spreads deeper into the nation’s midsection. Flash flood watches were in effect for parts of several states from Alabama through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, the Carolinas and Virginia and West Virginia.

About 2,000 people were evacuated after emergency managers said the Lake Tahoma dam in western North Carolina was in danger of “imminent failure.” Heavy rain triggered landslides at the dam, and the National Weather Service said “evacuees are being asked to flee.”

Just before dawn Wednesday, McDowell County Emergency Management deputy director Adrienne Jones told The Associated Press that the dam had not failed, but an engineer who had inspected the scene was concerned enough to order the evacuation until the dam could be examined in daylight.

Jones said about 200 residents were in three shelters, set up in Marion, Old Fort and Glenwood. She said five minor injuries have been reported during water rescues as creeks and streams overflowed their banks and rock slides closed roads.

The soggy remnants of Alberto are spreading rain deeper into the nation’s midsection after downing trees, triggering power outages and scattered flooding around the South. Some evacuations are reported in North Carolina. (May 30)

The big, messy storm caused more than 25,000 power outages in Alabama on Tuesday, a day after making landfall on the Florida Panhandle. Many of the outages were caused by trees rooted in soggy soil falling across utility lines.

“We’ve had a lot of rain, but we got lucky. It was a constant rain but not a heavy rain,” said Regina Myers, emergency management director in Walker County northwest of Birmingham.

Subtropical storm Alberto rolled ashore Monday afternoon in the Florida Panhandle before quickly weakening to a depression. By Tuesday morning, beachcombers had returned to the white sands of the Northern Gulf.

In Cuba, flooding damaged an oil refinery and caused crude oil to spill into Cienfuegos Bay as the remnants of Alberto continued to drench the island in heavy rain. State-owned TV showed authorities using barriers Tuesday to try to contain the spill from the Cienfuegos refinery in central Cuba about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of Havana.

In North Carolina, a television news anchor and a photojournalist were killed Monday while covering the weather, when a tree became uprooted from rain-soaked ground and toppled onto their SUV, authorities said. WYFF-TV of Greenville, South Carolina, said news anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were killed.

“Two journalists working to keep the public informed about this storm have tragically lost their lives, and we mourn with their families, friends and colleagues,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.

Alberto was more of a rainstorm than a wind threat, but the National Weather Service said at least one tornado had been confirmed.

The weather service said its meteorologists confirmed a weak tornado with maximum winds of 85 mph (147 kph) hit an area around Cameron, South Carolina, on Monday afternoon. No one was hurt.

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Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay in Miami Beach, Florida, Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Jeffrey S. Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers say cease-fire reached with Israel

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza’s Hamas rulers said Wednesday they had agreed to a cease-fire with Israel to end the largest flare-up of violence between the sides since a 2014 war.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said Egyptian mediators intervened “after the resistance succeeded in warding off the aggression.” He said militant groups in Gaza will commit to the cease-fire as long as Israel does.

Israeli Cabinet minister Arieh Deri told Israel’s Army Radio that he expected calm to be restored.

“If it will be quiet, we will respond with quiet. We’ve given Hamas a chance to prove that we can return to routine … If they release the reins there will be a very painful strike,” he said. “There is a good chance that the routine will be restored after the blow the army unleashed on them.”

The Israeli military struck dozens of militant sites in Gaza overnight as rocket fire continued toward southern Israeli communities into early Wednesday morning, setting off air raid sirens in the area throughout the night.

The military said it hit drone storage facilities, military compounds, and rocket and munition workshops across the Gaza Strip. The overnight Hamas rocket fire reached the city of Netivot for the first time since the 2014 war. A home was struck, but no one was wounded.

With neither side interested in a full-blown conflict, a tense calm appeared to be holding Wednesday as Israeli children went to school in the morning.

The border area has been tense in recent weeks as Palestinians have held mass protests aimed at lifting an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007.

Israeli fire has killed more than 110 Palestinians, most of them during the Hamas-led protests, which climaxed on May 14.

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007.

The last war, in 2014, was especially devastating, with over 2,000 Palestinians killed, including hundreds of civilians, and widespread damage inflicted on Gaza’s infrastructure in 50 days of fighting. Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side.

A crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed when Hamas took power, has meanwhile brought the local economy to a standstill.

Hamas initially billed the weekly border protests as a call to break through the fence and return to homes that were lost 70 years ago during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment. But the protests appear to be fueled primarily by a desire to ease the blockade. Gaza’s unemployment rate is edging toward 50 percent, and the territory suffers from chronic power outages.

After Gaza militants fired some 30 mortars shells early Tuesday, Israel responded fiercely, threatening to set off another round of confrontations.

The Israeli military said most of the projectiles fired Tuesday were intercepted, but three soldiers were wounded. One mortar shell landed in a kindergarten shortly before it opened, wounding one person.

Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief military spokesman, threatened tougher action and said it was up to Hamas to prevent the situation from escalating.

Italian turmoil hits global markets, sending stocks plunging

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Stocks fell in Asia on Wednesday after turbulent sessions in the U.S. and Europe as Italy’s political predicament stoked fears of instability in the euro bloc.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index dropped 1.5 percent to 22,013.86. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.8 percent to 2,412.06. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 1.2 percent to 30,101.98 and the Shanghai Composite index fell 2 percent to 3,058.12. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 5,979.50. Shares fell in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

WALL STREET: Prices for U.S. government bonds surged as investors shifted money from stocks into lower-risk investments. Bond yields dropped, and with them, interest rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans, hitting bank stocks on expectations lenders would earn thinner profits. The S&P 500 index 1.2 percent to 2,689.86. The Dow Jones industrial average turned negative for the year, losing 1.6 percent to 24,361.45. The Russell 2000 index fell far less than the Dow, giving up 0.2 percent to 1,623.65. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.5 percent to 7,396.59. In Europe, the German DAX lost 1.5 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 and the French CAC 40 both sank 1.3 percent.

ITALY: Investors dumped Italian government bonds, driving borrowing costs sharply higher for that country and rekindling fears of more financial strain for Europe’s third-largest economy. The political upheaval will likely lead to new elections, and investors are interpreting the new vote as a referendum and that Italy could move closer to abandoning the euro if populist parties win the election. That could have major implications for the European financial system and its economy.

ANALYST’S VIEWPOINT: “Worries over geopolitics look set to hit Asia after sweeping through Europe and also the U.S. at the start of the week. That being said, a heavy data calendar from Wednesday could shift some attention back to economic growth and monetary policy,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.

CURRENCIES: New jitters about the stability of the euro sent the currency’s value against the dollar to its lowest level in almost a year. The dollar fell to 108.60 yen from 109.77 yen. The euro sank to $1.1529, its lowest since July, from $1.1537.

TREASURIES: U.S. government bond prices jumped as investors moved money into lower-risk assets. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.78 percent, its lowest since early April, from 2.93 percent. By mid-day Asia time it was at 2.83 percent.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil fell 27 cents to $66.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It dropped 1.7 percent to $66.73 a barrel in New York. Oil prices have slumped in the last week following reports that OPEC countries and Russia could start pumping more oil soon. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 49 cents to $75.00 a barrel in London.

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– Italy searched for a last-minute exit from almost three months of political turmoil on Wednesday, with its biggest party looking to make a renewed attempt to form a coalition government with the right-wing League.

The two anti-establishment parties, the 5-Star Movement and League, had abandoned plans to jointly take power at the weekend after the president blocked their proposed cabinet lineup.

President Sergio Mattarella’s veto of 81-year-old eurosceptic Paolo Savona as economy minister appeared to tip the country back towards repeat elections and triggered a dramatic speculative attack on Italian financial markets.

The parties are now trying to find “a point of compromise on another name” for the economy ministry, said the source close to 5-Star, the single-biggest party in the new parliament.

The sense that a resolution of the stalemate might be at hand came from Prime Minister-designate Carlo Cottarelli, who was tasked by the head of state this week to calm the turmoil and plan for repeat elections after the summer.

“New possibilities have emerged for the birth of a political government,” Cottarelli was quoted as saying by ANSA news agency, implying that a government headed by politicians rather than technocrats like himself could be in the offing.

“These circumstances, also considering the market tensions, have caused me to wait for further developments.”

However, League leader Matteo Salvini, who is surging in opinion polls, appeared to throw cold water on the notion that his party and 5-Star could try again to take power, saying Italy should return to an election as soon as possible.

“The earlier we vote the better because it’s the best way to get out of this quagmire and confusion,” Salvini told reporters.

He did, however, appear open to an interim administration to govern for a few months, saying an election at the end of July would be “disruptive” for Italian seasonal workers.

He invited Mattarella to make the first move, to “explain to us how we can get out of this situation”. A League source said the party would not block any quick political solution that would enable Italy to deal with possible “emergencies”.

Currently, Prime Minister-designate Cottarelli has no major parliamentary support for a stopgap government of technocrats.

Despite the softer tone from 5-Star and hopeful remarks from Cottarelli, a top adviser to Salvini said the League was not prepared to abandon Savona, the sole obstacle to the League and 5-Star winning the president’s blessing for a coalition.

“If it wasn’t possible three days ago, then it’s hard to see why it would be now,” Giancarlo Giorgetti was quoted as saying to online news site Il Fatto Quotidiano.

“It is difficult because … the people who want to sort out problems affecting everyday citizens have their hands tied by stronger political forces,” Mauro Ciarpagnini, a retired Rome resident, who said the president should not have rejected Savona.

A surprise breakthrough between the president and 5-Star/League would ease uncertainty but still usher in a coalition planning to ramp up spending in the heavily indebted nation and push for changes to European Union and euro-zone fiscal rules.

In the event of continued stalemate, Italy will go back to elections, with most major parties calling for the president to dissolve parliament and hold a vote as soon as July 29.

A new opinion poll showed the League, which argues that fiscal rules governing the euro zone are “enslaving” Italians, would boost its share of the vote to a quarter, from around 17 percent on March 4.

The IPSOS poll, in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, showed support for the League’s would-be coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement, steady at about 32.6 percent — implying a much more comfortable majority if the pair were to try again to govern.

That prospect has rocked financial markets, with the euro sinking to multi-month lows on fears that snap elections would lead to a eurosceptic government in Rome.

“I am worried by the direction things are moving in,” said Diego Galli, a Rome resident interviewed on the street. The anti-establisment coalition “seems extremist, against Europe,” he added.

Italian government bonds, which suffered one of its most dramatic speculative attacks in years on Tuesday, found some support from local investors on Wednesday.

The yield on 10-year bonds edged away from four-year highs and two-year yields, the focus of earlier attacks, also fell.

Shares in Italian banks also recovered a little ground after five straight days of losses.

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https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jayAP Markets Writer Marley Jay in New York contributed to this report. He can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP . His work can be found at

Business: European shares mixed after downbeat day in Asia

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(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)   —   European shares were mixed Wednesday following a downbeat day in Asia, as markets were rattled by Italy’s political turmoil and renewed trade friction between the U.S. and China.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany’s DAX climbed 0.2 percent to 12,693.16 and the CAC 40 in France slipped 0.7 percent to 5,400.64. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged less than 0.1 percent lower to 7,626.59. S&P 500 futures climbed 0.2 percent and Dow futures also were up 0.2 percent, auguring early gains in New York.

ITALY: Italy’s premier-designate Carlo Cottarelli returned to the presidential palace for informal consultations early Wednesday amid continued market turmoil and uncertainty about the prospects of his proposed government. Milan’s stock index opened slightly higher, after markets were rattled Tuesday by concern that a new election could become a referendum on whether Italy will stick with the euro currency. A departure could have major implications for the European financial system and its economy.

CHINA TRADE: A U.S. business group said American companies in China are uneasy about Washington’s threat of export and investment controls in a trade dispute with Beijing but see them as a possible way to achieve fairer operating conditions. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was due in Beijing on Saturday after the White House renewed its threat of 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods. Washington proposed curbs on Chinese investment and purchases of high-tech goods.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index dropped 1.5 percent to 22,018.52. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 2.0 percent to 2,409.03. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 1.4 percent to 30,056.79 and the Shanghai Composite index fell 2.5 percent to 3,041.44. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 fell 0.5 percent to 5,984.70. Shares fell in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 108.66 yen from 108.77 yen. The euro rebounded to $1.1608 from $1.1537.

TREASURIES: U.S. government bond prices jumped Tuesday as investors moved money into lower-risk assets. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.78 percent, its lowest since early April, from 2.93 percent. By early Wednesday in Europe, it was at 2.84 percent.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil climbed 6 cents to $66.79 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It dropped 1.7 percent to $66.73 a barrel in New York. Oil prices had slumped in the last week following reports that OPEC countries and Russia could start pumping more oil soon. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 1 cent to $75.50 a barrel in London.

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– Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Wednesday, May 30:

1. Italian political uncertainty remains in focus

After political uncertainty in Italy rattled global markets a day earlier, causing a selloff in stocks and pushing the euro to 10-month lows against the dollar, a pause seemed to ensue on Wednesday, while markets continued to follow developments.

Last-ditch efforts to form a government in Italy showed little sign of succeeding on Wednesday, with major parties calling instead for repeat elections in July, a vote investors fear could become a de facto referendum on the single currency as euro sceptics remained strong in polls.

Prime minister-designate Carlo Cottarelli, tasked by the head of state with calming political turmoil and overseeing fresh elections after the summer, has failed so far to find support from any major party for even a stopgap administration.

The major parties in Italy were reportedly calling instead for President Sergio Mattarella to dissolve parliament immediately and send the euro zone’s third-largest economy back to the polls on July 29, less than four months after the inconclusive March 4 vote.

However, some recent reports suggested that the two anti-establishment parties, the 5-Star Movement and League, were working on trying to find “a point of compromise on another name” for the economy ministry. Any agreement could lead to a a renewed attempt to form a coalition government.

Providing some relief, an auction of Italian 10-year bonds saw the strongest demand since December, although it was unclear how much of that may have been attributed to the European Central Bank’s asset purchase program.

2. U.S.-China trade tensions on watch

Market participants are also keeping a close eye on developments surrounding trade between the U.S. and China after President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would move ahead with $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports. The White House indicated that the list of targeted products should be produced by June 15 and implementation should be undertaken “shortly thereafter”.

China’s commerce ministry responded quickly overnight that it was surprised by the announcement and remains confident the country can protect its interests.

China’s foreign ministry followed the same script on Wednesday, stating that it did not want a trade war with the U.S., but insisting it was not afraid of one.

The noise comes before U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross heads to China for trade talks on June 2-4.

3. Global stocks struggle to recover

Following Wall Street’s negative close a day earlier, Asian shares extended the global selloff on Wednesday as Italy’s political crisis rippled across financial markets. Japan’s Nikkei 225 ended with losses of 1.5% while Chinas Shanghai composite tumbled 2.5%.

European stocks were showing mixed trade with Italy’s stock market notably at the head of the gainers as the benchmark recovered from five straight days of losses.

U.S. futures also pointed to slight recovery at the open on Wall Street. At 5:54AM ET (9:54GMT), the blue-chip Dow futures gained 105 points, or 0.43%, S&P 500 futures rose 11 points, or 0.39%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures traded up 21 points, or 0.30%.

4. Investors prep to respond to U.S. data deluge

A slew of top-tier economic data including the second estimate of U.S. first quarter GDP could refocus the narrative on underlying U.S. economic strength as markets struggle to recover from euro zone political concerns. The reading at 8:30AM ET (12:30GMT) is expected to show the economy expanded 2.3%, in-line with the preliminary estimate seen last month.

ADP nonfarm employment data due 8:15AM ET (12:15GMT), which often serves as a precursor to the monthly nonfarm payrolls data slated for Friday, is expected to show 190,000 private sector jobs were created in May, slightly below the 204,000 jobs created in the prior month.

Also on the docket, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, a report that includes anecdotal evidence on the health of the U.S. economy from its 12 regions, will be released at 2:00PM ET (18:00GMT).

While investors are still pricing in a rate hike for the June meeting, they have all but ruled out that there will be a total of four increases this year.

5. Oil prices recover while waiting on inventory data

Oil prices recovered from a week-long decline on Wednesday as investors finally took a break from punishing black gold over worries that OPEC and Russia could increase output as early as June in order to counter potential supply shortfalls from Venezuela and Iran.

U.S. crude oil futures gained 0.40% to $67.00 at 5:56AM ET (9:56GMT), while Brent oil advanced 0.68% to $76.00.

The recovery arrived as market participants turned their attention to fresh data on U.S. commercial crude inventories to gauge the strength of demand in the world’s largest oil consumer.

Industry group the American Petroleum Institute is due to release its weekly report at 4:30PM ET (2030GMT). Official data from the Energy Information Administration will be released Thursday, amid forecasts for an oil-stock gain of 2.2 million barrels.

Both reports come out one day later than usual because of the federal Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

Alberto, now a depression, dumps heavy rains across South

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(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)    —   Alberto is a still-menacing depression after its Memorial Day landfall on the Gulf Coast, scattering heavy rains around the South and raising risks of flash floods.

As the first named storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Subtropical Storm Alberto lumbered ashore Monday afternoon in the Florida Panhandle and then weakened overnight to a depression centered over Alabama. Now it’s a vast, soggy system dumping the warm water it gathered over the Gulf of Mexico in bursts of rain across the southeast.

Forecasters said that rain could still kill people caught in flash floods in the coming hours or days in Alabama and large areas of Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

In North Carolina, a television news anchor and a photojournalist were killed instantly on Monday while covering the weather, when a tree became uprooted from rain-soaked ground and toppled onto their SUV, authorities said.

“Two journalists working to keep the public informed about this storm have tragically lost their lives, and we mourn with their families, friends and colleagues,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.

“North Carolina needs to take Alberto seriously. I urge everyone to keep a close eye on forecasts, warnings and road conditions, especially in western North Carolina where even heavier rain is predicted.”

Alberto has been downgraded to a tropical depression. The storm came ashore in western Florida on Monday, causing big waves and tides. A falling tree killed two TV journalists who were covering the storm in North Carolina. (May 29)

Between 2 and 8 inches (10-25 centimeters) of rain could soak Alabama and western Georgia on Tuesday, and isolated deluges of 12 inches (30 centimeters) also are possible as the system heads into the Tennessee Valley on its way to the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region.

Alberto dumped between 2 and 5 inches (2 and 13 centimeters) of rain over parts of the Florida Panhandle, according to the National Weather Service. Double-red flags along the white sandy beaches kept most people out of the rough waters, and some low-lying areas experienced minor flooding, officials said.

“Most of the issues we’re having right now are downed trees and downed limbs,” Walton County spokesman Louis Svehla told the Northwest Florida Daily News. “Our beaches did good. There was not a lot of erosion. The surge was not that large.”

Santa Rosa County officials had put out many piles of sand several days ago in case people wanted to mitigate any flooding in their homes. People who took those supplies will be better prepared as the hurricane season gets its official start on Friday, said county spokeswoman Brandi Whitehurst.

“What Alberto has done for us is to have people dust off their hurricane plans and stock up on supplies,” Whitehurst said.

The pelting rain soaked the uniform and socks of Lt. Andy Husar with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, who watched surf get kicked up along Panama City Beach on Monday.

“It’s not a good sign, getting hit by a storm before hurricane season,” Husar told the Panama City News Herald.

As a subtropical storm, Alberto had a less defined and cooler center than a tropical storm, and its strongest winds were found farther from its center.

The large tree that crushed the TV news vehicle Monday afternoon near Tryon, North Carolina, killed news anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer of WYFF-TV of Greenville, South Carolina, the station said.

They had just interviewed Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant as they covered storms in North Carolina.

“Ten minutes later we get the call and it was them,” Tennant said at a news conference, his voice cracking.

Tennant said the roots of the large tree tore loose from ground saturated by a week’s worth of rain. The men died instantly, their vehicle’s engine still running, he said.

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Kay reported from Miami Beach, Florida. Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Jeffrey S. Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

Israeli jets bomb Gaza after mortar shells fired from strip

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli jets bombed Gaza hours after militants from the territory on Tuesday fired more than 25 mortar shells toward communities in southern Israel in what appeared to be the largest single barrage since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

The Israeli military said no one was hurt and that most of the mortar shells were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, though one of the shells landed near a kindergarten shortly before it opened.

The high volume of projectiles came as tensions have been running high along the Israel-Gaza border and a fierce Israeli response was expected.

“Israel will exact a heavy price from those who seek to harm it and we see Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the barrage.

Shortly after that warning, Israeli jets began dropping bombs at what security officials in Gaza called Islamic Jihad militant training site. Smoke was seen rising near the town of Deir al-Balah in the coastal strip and the Israeli military said the explosions there were related to its activity. No injuries were reported.

Islamic Jihad was believed to be behind the attacks with a green light from Hamas, the militant Islamic group that runs the Gaza Strip.

Gaza militants fired over 25 mortar shells toward communities in southern Israel Tuesday, the Israeli military said. No one was hurt. The military said the Iron Dome defense system intercepted most of the shells. (May 29)

“We are sticking to the right of return as well as responding to the Zionist crimes,” said Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza.

Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official, said the barrage proved that the “resistance is capable of hurting the occupation and it proved this today by responding to its crimes.”

Radwan spoke as a two fishing boats carrying students and medical patients set sail out of Gaza City’s port, aiming to break 11 years of naval blockade that Egypt and Israel imposed after the militants violently took control of the coastal territory.

The expedition would be a new way of challenging the blockade but also raises the possibility of more confrontation and violence as Israel bars any boats from Gaza reaching farther out than a six-nautical-mile radius into the Mediterranean Sea. Hamas acknowledged it was mostly a symbolic act.

It also marks eight years since Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine pro-Palestinian Turks and sparking an international outcry against the blockade.

In southern Israel, angry residents complained about how vulnerable they felt after 15 years of rocket fire threats from neighboring Gaza, which will likely put pressure on the government to retaliate harshly.

Adva Klein, a resident of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, said she only got about two hours of sleep because of the frequent incoming fire and the sirens warning of them. Other residents reported machine gun fire from Gaza as well.

“It’s been a really scary morning,” said Adele Raemer, a resident of Kibbutz Nirim.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he was convening the top military brass at his Tel Aviv headquarters to discuss the situation.

The border area has been tense in recent weeks as the Palestinians have held mass protests aimed at lifting a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized power in 2007.

Israeli fire has killed more than 110 Palestinians, most of them during the Hamas-led protests, which climaxed on May 14.

On Sunday, Israeli shelling killed three Palestinian militants from the smaller Islamic Jihad group after the troops found a bomb planted along the border. The Islamic Jihad vowed retaliation.

On Monday, a tank fired at a Hamas position in the Gaza Strip, killing one man and wounding another, after Israeli troops came under fire on the frontier while apprehending two armed Palestinians.

Hamas has vowed to continue the border rallies. Israel says it is defending its border as well as its communities nearby. It accuses Hamas of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of protests.

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Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

Starbucks to close over 8,000 stores for anti-bias training

(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)    —-   Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores nationwide on Tuesday to conduct anti-bias training, the next of many steps the company is taking to try to restore its tarnished image as a hangout where all are welcome.

After the arrests of two black men in Philadelphia last month at one of its stores, the coffee chain’s leaders apologized and met with the two men, but also reached out to activists and experts in bias training to put together a curriculum for its 175,000 workers.

That has put a spotlight on the little-known world of “unconscious bias training,” which is used by many corporations, police departments and other organizations to help address racism in the workplace. The training is typically designed to get people to open up about implicit biases and stereotypes in encountering people of color, gender or other identities.

The Perception Institute, a consortium of researchers consulting with Starbucks, defines implicit bias as attitudes — positive or negative — or stereotypes someone has toward a person or group without being conscious of it. A common example, according to some of its studies, is a tendency for white people to unknowingly associate black people with criminal behavior.

Many retailers including Walmart and Target said they already offer some racial bias training. Target says it plans to expand that training. Nordstrom has said it plans to enhance its training after issuing an apology to three black teenagers in Missouri who employees falsely accused of shoplifting.

Anti-bias sessions can incorporate personal reflections, explorations of feelings and mental exercises. But one expert says training of this kind can have the opposite effect if people feel judged.

According to a video previewing the Starbucks training, there will be recorded remarks from Starbucks executives and rapper/activist Common. From there, employees will “move into a real and honest exploration of bias” where, in small groups, they can share how the issue comes up in their daily work life.

Starbucks has described it as a “collaborative and engaging experience for store partners to learn together.” ″

Developed with feedback from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Perception Institute and other social advocacy groups, Tuesday’s four-hour session will give workers a primer on the history of civil rights from the 1960s to present day. Workers will also view a short documentary film.

Alexis McGill Johnson, Perception’s co-founder and executive director, says anti-bias training is about awareness.

“The work that we want to do is not say you’re a bad person because you have a stereotype about a group, but say this is why your brain may have these stereotypes,” she said.

Johnson declined to elaborate on the details of the Starbucks training. But she said Perception’s workshops typically include mental exercises to show participants how bias creeps into situations. A session can include personal reflections, she said, such as, “I was socialized to think about a group this way.”

Johnson said the real work is for employees to apply what they learn in their everyday lives. She likened it to exercising a muscle. Some ways to practice counter-stereotyping, she said, are to look for something unique about a person that is beyond their social identity.

“It could be having a question that elicits something more interesting than, say, the weather or the traffic,” Johnson said, stressing the need to “go well beyond the superficial.”

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave after one was denied access to the bathroom. They were arrested by police minutes after they sat down to await a business meeting. The incident was recorded by cellphones and went viral.

Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free education. They also reached a deal with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to establish a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Starbucks has since announced anyone can use its restrooms even if they are not buying anything. According to documents Starbucks sent to store workers, employees should also think carefully when dealing with disruptive customers. A guide advises staff to consider whether the actions they take would apply to any customer in the same situation. They should dial 911 only if the situation seems unsafe.

Starbucks said the arrests never should have occurred and announced the mass closures of its stores for the afternoon of training.

Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, said people should not place high expectations on this one day.

“We find that oftentimes diversity training has mixed effects, and in some cases it can even backfire and lead people who are kind of already reactive to these issues to become even more polarized,” Lai said.

One afternoon wouldn’t really be “moving the needle on the biases,” especially when it’s a company with as many employees as Starbucks, he said. “A lot of those employees won’t be here next year or two years or three years down the line.”

Starbucks has said Tuesday’s sessions serve as “a step in a long-term journey to make Starbucks even more welcoming and safe for all.” It is working with volunteer advisers including Heather McGhee, president of social advocacy organization Demos, and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“One of the things Starbucks has to wrestle with is how to incorporate this kind of training into the onboarding of every employee,” Ifill said.

That takes a sustained effort, McGhee added.

“We have really made it clear that one training is not enough, and this needs to be part of an ongoing review of their policies,” McGhee said. “They really need to commit.”

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AP Retail Writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed to this report.

Business: Shares fall in Europe, Asia as Italy crisis lingers

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Shares were lower in Europe and Asia on Tuesday as investor confidence was undermined by political uncertainty in Italy. U.S. markets were poised to reopen lower after a holiday.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 sank 1.3 percent to 7,633.28 and France’s CAC 40 slumped 1.6 percent to 5,417.16. Germany’s DAX tumbled 1.6 percent to 12,655.21. Wall Street was due for a weak start, with S&P futures down 0.8 percent and Dow futures also retreating 0.8 percent.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Italian politics dominated overnight as the geographical divide between northern Europe wealth and Southern Europe economic struggles plays out in the emotionally charged Italian political front,” said Stephen Innes of OANDA. “Things appear to be moving in a positive tangent in North Korea, and given the all the noise this ruckus has created over the past fortnight, global markets are happy to see this summit happen.”

ITALIAN POLITICS: Italy’s president vetoed a euroskeptic candidate for economy minister proposed by leaders of two populist parties that were trying to form a government. President Sergio Mattarella said Sunday he was refusing to appoint Paolo Savona, whose policies could rattle nervous markets and further inflate the country’s staggering debt load. Instead, he named an economist, Carlo Cottarelli, to lead the country until new elections. While avoiding a populist government that investors had worried about, the move means more political uncertainty.

NORTH KOREA: Diplomacy accelerated Tuesday ahead of a potential summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a team of American diplomats involved in preparatory discussions left a Seoul hotel, possibly to continue talks with their North Korean counterparts. In Beijing, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol planned to head to the United States. He would be the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States in 18 years.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.6 percent to finish at 22,358.43 while South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.9 percent to 2,457.25. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index plunged 1 percent to 30,484.58. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 0.5 percent to 3,120.46. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 6,013.60. Stocks in Taiwan and the Philippines were lower. Most Southeast Asian markets were closed for holidays.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude plunged $1.31, or 1.9 percent, to $66.57 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $67.88 per barrel, down $2.83, on Monday and dropped 4 percent on Friday, battered by reports that OPEC countries and Russia could start pumping more oil soon. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 25 cents to $75.57 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 108.90 yen from 109.42 yen while the euro fell to $1.1548 from $1.1624.

___

– Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Tuesday, May 29:

1. Sea Of Red In Europe As Italy Risk Rocks Markets

A deepening political crisis in Italy provoked a second day of heavy selling on European financial markets, with the euro cut to a 6-1/2 month low, stocks punished and short-term borrowing costs surging for the government in Rome.

Italy’s FTSE MIB led losses across the continent, with the index down around 3%.

Investors also fled Italian debt, as the 2-year bond yield soared by 172 percentage points to 2.42%, the biggest one-day rise since 1992.

Italy’s anti-establishment parties abandoned plans to form a coalition government after the country’s president, Sergio Mattarella, refused to accept their euroskeptic candidate for economy minister.

Mattarella then asked Carlo Cottarelli, a former International Monetary Fund official, to try to form a new government, with snap elections expected.

Financial markets fear that the elections, which could take place as early as August, may become a de facto referendum on Italian membership of the currency bloc and the country’s role in the European Union.

That sparked the euro to slip below the $1.16 level for the first time since late 2017, while the gap between Italian and German 10-year bond yields – a measure of Italian risk – widened to its highest in over four years.

Meanwhile, political uncertainty in Spain hit Madrid-traded stocks, as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s struggle to stay in power raised fears of new elections.

2. Dow Futures Drop 200 Points

U.S. stock futures pointed to a sharply lower open, as investors returning to their desk after a long weekend monitored political turmoil in Italy, while awaiting fresh data and earnings.

At 5:50AM ET, the blue-chip Dow futures sank 200 points, or about 0.8%, the S&P 500 futures slumped 21 points, or nearly 0.8%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a decline 47 points, or roughly 0.7%.

U.S. stocks were closed Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday.

On the earnings front, Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE:BAH) and Momo (NASDAQ:MOMO) are scheduled to publish their latest corporate results ahead of the open, while Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) and HP (NYSE:HPE) are due after the bell.

In data, the S&P/Case-Shiller house price index (HPI) is set to be released at 9AM ET, followed by consumer confidence at 10AM ET and the Dallas Fed’s manufacturing survey at 10:30AM ET.

3. Treasurys Rally Amid Risk-Off Mood

In another sign that investors were flocking to safer bets, U.S. government debt prices posted sharp gains.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to a six-week low of 2.799%. It last stood at around 2.85%, down 8.6 basis points.

The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond was also deep in the red at 3.02%.

Core European bond prices also rallied amid the risk-off atmosphere across global markets.

Germany’s 10-Year dipped 6.0 basis points to 0.27%, hitting the lowest in more than five months with its fifth straight decline.

4. Dollar Jumps To Near 7-Month Highs

The lack of risk appetite ploughed cash into the U.S. dollar, lifting the dollar index, which benchmarks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, to 94.91, the highest since November 7.

But against safe haven yen, it dipped 0.6% to a three-week trough of 108.75 (USD/JPY).

The euro sank 0.9% against the dollar to 1.1519 (EUR/USD), the weakest in almost seven months.

The British pound fell 0.5% to 1.3240 (GBP/USD), the weakest in about six months.

5. Oil Prices Stay Under Pressure

Crude prices continued to struggle near their lowest levels in around six weeks, amid expectations that Saudi Arabia and Russia would pump more oil to ease a potential shortfall in supply.

Brent crude futures were up 20 cents, or around 0.3%, at $75.50 a barrel, within sight of their lowest since May 8 at $74.53 reached in the last session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate WTI crude was down $1.36, or 2%, at $66.53 a barrel, sitting around its lowest since April 17.

The U.S. benchmark did not settle on Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday.

“This Is RICO 101”: Why Robert Mueller Isn’t Taking Rudy’s Bait

(PhatzNewsRoom / Vanity Fair)    —-   The Trump camp’s witch-hunt talking points are now dominating the news—but the media battle may be the wrong way to beat Mueller. “It’s exactly what Mueller has been doing his whole goddamn life,” a former F.B.I. senior official says. “It’s just that this time the boss of the family happens to be the leader of the free world.”
Photo Illustration by Jordan Amchin. Left, by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images; Right, by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.

Rudy Giuliani has played a multitude of parts in public life: Tenacious federal prosecutor of the mob. Two-term mayor leading the revival of New York City—and consoler-in-chief when the city was attacked by terrorists. Giuliani has also been an enthusiastic drag queen and a failed Republican presidential candidate. Now he has taken on his least-likely role: spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller. Unofficially, that is, but energetically and craftily. One week ago, Giuliani declared to CNN that Mueller had told him the special counsel “acknowledged” that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Three days ago Giuliani announced to The New York Times that Mueller’s timeline has the special counsel wrapping up the investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice by September 1. All of which may be true—or not. Hours after Giuliani’s most recent declaration, Reuters ran a story saying the September 1 deadline was “entirely made-up” by Trump’s new lawyer, attributing the pushback cryptically to a “U.S. official.” Mueller’s actual spokesman, Peter Carr, did what he has done for more than a year, however: quickly and politely decline to comment.

It may soon become much harder for Mueller’s office to maintain its silence as Trump’s team works to shape the political context for the results of the Russia investigations, and to destroy the special counsel’s credibility. Giuliani, for all his different guises, is at heart a politician, and one trained in the hand-to-hand combat of New York’s tabloid-media culture. So he has been quick to exploit a weakness in his current adversary. “There are serious Department of Justice rules and guidelines about what Mueller can talk about publicly, in regards to an open investigation,” says Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor. “If there were a trial in progress and Giuliani tried to make these statements to poison the well or to influence jurors, a judge could issue sanctions. Giuliani’s getting away with it because there’s no pending court case right now. But it’s equally as problematic, if not more, because the jury pool here is the American public. And whatever else you can say, this whole strategy of calling it a witch hunt and attacking the prosecution is extremely effective with some part of the public.”

Mueller is not completely prohibited from responding to Giuliani—he could issue press releases to correct the factual record. And other special prosecutors have been much more talkative. When pursuing Bill Clinton, Ken Starr was a chatterbox to the media, for reasons both tactical and personal. Not yet 50, Starr was a man on the rise. “He cared about his image, his ambition, his media strategy,” said Lanny Davis, one of Clinton’s lawyers.

There are good strategic reasons for Mueller not to engage, however. “If Mueller responds to one thing, and then doesn’t respond to the next thing, does that mean the second thing Giuliani said was true?” Rocah says. Matthew Miller, a top Justice Department spokesman during the Obama administration, maintains an optimistic view of Mueller’s lack of visibility. “He has to worry about getting the facts right. And if he gets the facts right, when he releases them publicly, it will have enough of an impact that it won’t matter what Giuliani said in advance,” Miller says. “Mueller’s job is not to worry about the politics. The minute you start doing that, you start making mistakes. The best example of that is Jim Comey. Or maybe Ken Starr.”

Perhaps. Giuliani clearly recognizes that the Russia investigation is unfolding in a new media and political landscape where a lot of the norms don’t apply. Mueller’s keep-your-head-down, just-the-facts strategy is rooted in his own ascetic, disciplined personal style, and what is quickly becoming an antiquated tradition. His approach isn’t likely to change. But it isn’t oblivious to modern reality, either. “Oh, Mueller is critically aware of everything that’s being written or said. He reads his papers. He listens to the radio. He’s not missing anything,” a former top F.B.I. colleague says. “But he completely tunes it out. It’s a discipline. This is his way of flying above the fray, because once you get into it, you’re all in. There’s an old expression: ‘It’s like mud-wrestling with a pig. You’re both going to get dirty. The difference is that the pig likes it.’ But the very fact that Mueller refuses to respond to the most outrageous criticisms and claims is the reason the pig is wrestling with itself in its own mud.”

The former F.B.I. senior official recognizes something more substantive going on with his old boss as well. “This investigation is classic Mueller: he is doing a classic, organized crime case. This is RICO 101, working your way up and sideways. You pop a few guys for gambling, and no one is going to do a million years for gambling, but you’re gonna get their scratch pads, then you move on to their associates. You flip one guy who you arrest with no fanfare. It’s exactly what Mueller has been doing his whole goddamn life. It’s just that this time the boss of the family happens to be the leader of the free world. Mueller doesn’t care if he gets Trump. He doesn’t care if he doesn’t get Trump. He has no political agenda. He is digging through the layers and bringing back the truth, and the truth is going to be whatever it is going to be.”

Analysis: After Trump pullout, NKorea changes tune on summit

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TOKYO (AP) — President Donald Trump’s decision to walk away from a plan to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month in Singapore caught a lot of people off guard, including, it appears, Kim Jong Un.

Every indication is that Pyongyang still wants to make the meeting happen. And as soon as possible.

Pyongyang made that clear Friday with a surprisingly conciliatory response to Trump’s sudden breakup letter, suggesting North Korean officials may now be thinking they overplayed their hand with defiant rhetoric and by deliberately missing preparatory meetings over the past couple of weeks. That presents an opening for diplomacy to continue if Washington is still game.

But the question remains: Should it be?

Kim has lots of reasons for wanting the summit. Sitting down as an equal with the U.S. president would go a long way toward legitimizing his regime on the world stage and weakening the rationale for continued trade sanctions, particularly by neighboring China. It also lowers the chances of military conflict, at least as long as talks are underway, and if Kim plays his cards right it could give him de facto recognition as the leader of a nuclear power.

Trump also appears to still want the summit to go through at some point. But his position is a bit more complicated.

Well before he decided to pull the plug on the June 12 summit plan, concerns were growing that the gap between the two leaders on the most fundamental issues was so wide that the potential danger of a major breakdown outweighed the whatever benefits might come from simply sitting down together for what would be a historic first.

It’s not even clear if Kim intends to give up his nuclear arsenal any time soon.

The Washington-Pyongyang rift widened dramatically after national security adviser John Bolton suggested the North must unilaterally give up its nuclear arsenal before it can expect any easing of U.S. economic and political pressure. For added impact, he said Libya, whose leader agreed to give up his nuclear program only to be deposed and killed, would be a good model.

One of the loudest voices protesting Bolton’s hard line was Kim Kye Gwan, a senior nuclear negotiator and first vice minister of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

But it was in his name the North issued its response to Trump’s decision Friday.

In a major tone shift, he not only left the door open to more talks, he virtually begged Trump to walk on through.

He said the North “inwardly highly appreciated” Trump’s decision to have the summit, “which any other U.S. presidents dared not.” He added he had hoped what he called the “Trump formula” would pave the way for substantial progress.

He even made the highly unusual move of playing down the significance of a statement of another top Foreign Ministry official who on Thursday called Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” and threatened Pyongyang would be just as willing to have a nuclear showdown with Washington as meet to negotiate.

That statement was apparently too much for Trump, compounding the North’s failure to show up for preparatory meetings in Singapore or, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, answer the phone when U.S. officials called.

Such tactics are frustratingly familiar for anyone who has dealt with North Korean officials.

North Korean verbal barrages are a staple of its external propaganda — note its labeling of Trump as a “dotard” at the height of tensions last year. Just last week, Pyongyang abruptly cut off high-level contact with Seoul over an ongoing round of military exercises with U.S. troops and then refused until the last minute to allow South Korean journalists onto a pre-arranged media trip to observe the closing of its nuclear test site, which took place on Thursday.

North Korea’s switch to a tougher stance may reflect some behind-the-scenes influence by China, as Trump has suggested. Kim has already had two summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping. But it is also quite likely Pyongyang miscalculated that Trump was so invested in going through with the summit as planned that such tactics would drive a wedge between him and the hard-liners in his Cabinet.

For the moment, at least, they seem to be regretting that misstep.

“The U.S. side’s unilateral announcement of the cancellation of the summit makes us think over if we were truly right to have made efforts for it and to have opted for the new path,” Kim said in the statement. “But we remain unchanged in our goal and will to do everything we could for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and humankind, and we, broad-minded and open all the time, have the willingness to offer the U.S. side time and opportunity.”

So is Pyongyang now ready to make a deal Trump can brag about?

That’s not so clear.

Change in overall tone notwithstanding, Kim didn’t cave on Pyongyang’s demand that Washington drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearization before it lifts Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure.”

“The first meeting would not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way would make the relations get better rather than making them get worse,” he said. “The U.S. should ponder over it.”

No doubt, Washington will. But with hard-liners like Bolton and Pence by the U.S. president’s side, the answer may not be what Kim Jong Un is hoping for.

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Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @EricTalmadge

Dealmaker Trump takes page from own playbook and walks away

WASHINGTON (AP) — For President Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un may be the deal that got away.

Trump and his team weathered insults, tolerated unanswered phone calls and waited hours for negotiating partners who never showed up as they sought to keep the planned Singapore summit with Kim on track.

With prospects dimming and aides increasingly skeptical, Trump at first clung to his plans to meet with the North Korean leader, seeking to pull off what the president saw as a history-making nuclear deal. A self-professed master negotiator, Trump could envision Nobel laurels in the offing of the unprecedented one-on-one meeting.

Eager for a dramatic moment and a bold accomplishment, Trump agreed to Kim’s March overture for a summit in less than an hour, ignoring the warnings of seasoned advisers who said it could backfire.

But on Thursday morning, Trump determined that — for now anyway — the meeting was an unrequited diplomatic dream, his hopes appearing to dissolve in a tale of broken promises.

Late Wednesday, Trump had been briefed on the latest round of increasingly belligerent messages from North Korea, including a threatened “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.” It confirmed the mounting suspicions of the president’s aides that North Korea was not serious about the talks. Before taking action, Trump decided to sleep on it. The next morning, he consulted with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton before deciding to scrap the summit.

He dictated a letter to Kim that at times felt like a wistful plea for what might have been.

“I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me,” Trump wrote. “Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you.”

To Trump, a chance at a nuclear deal was irresistible, offering an opportunity to tackle what his predecessor, Barack Obama, described to him as the most intractable and urgent security threat facing the U.S. North Korea’s advanced nuclear and missile programs have bedeviled American leaders for a generation, and the costs of a potential military strike to force the nation to abandon its atomic weapons has always been sobering.

There had been hopeful signs: Kim welcomed Pompeo to Pyongyang twice, said he did not object to a U.S. military presence in South Korea and indicated he was willing to discuss abandoning the country’s nuclear arsenal. For a time, it seemed that progress was possible and the president’s unpredictable approach could yield historic gains and an only-Trump-could-go-to-Pyongyang moment.

Now, Trump is blaming Kim’s trip to China two weeks ago for bringing about an unwelcome “change in attitude” by the Korean leader. His supposed concessions soon appeared to ring hollow. First, Kim’s government backed out of planned peace talks with South Korea, citing joint U.S.-South Korean military drills. Then, it threatened to call off the Singapore summit over Trump’s insistence that the North give up its weapons.

Still, the Trump administration tried to keep up a positive face, dismissing the shifts as an expected negotiating maneuver by Kim and stressing there had been no official notification from the North of any change to the meeting.

In fact, they weren’t hearing anything.

Senior White House officials who went to Singapore to meet their North Korean counterparts last week were stood up, officials said. And Pompeo, testifying on Capitol Hill, said North Korea had not responded to repeated requests from U.S. officials to discuss logistics for the summit.

“We got a lot of dial tones, senator,” he told Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.

And when North Korea dismantled its nuclear testing site Thursday, just hours before Trump pulled out of the summit, U.S. officials said Kim had reneged on a pledge to allow international observers to verify its destruction.

At a late afternoon briefing Thursday, a senior administration official described the recent interactions between the U.S. and North Korea as “a trail of broken promises.”

Asked why the US didn’t withdraw from the summit after that, the official said the White House had “been willing to give the North Koreans every opportunity within reason to consummate this meeting.”

In recent months, Trump had traded his bellicose threats of “fire and fury” for bouquets of flattery, calling Kim “very honorable” and exuding confidence that he could seal a deal that had eluded his predecessors for generations.

The lengths to which the administration went to keep the meeting on track reflected Trump’s personal interest in seizing the opportunity, but also an effort to shift blame to his mercurial negotiating rival.

Trump believed that bringing detente to the Korean Peninsula could bolster his approval ratings, help inoculate him against the investigations swirling around him and maybe even trickle down to help Republicans in the midterm elections. Drawn to big moments and bigger headlines, Trump viewed the North Korea summit as a legacy-maker, believing that the combustible combination of his bombast and charm could produce warmer relations between North and South.

Trump aides had warned the president that agreeing to a sit-down with Kim was in itself a concession to the leader of an oppressive government that has longed for international recognition. And likewise, they stressed to Trump that pulling out could undercut American assertions that it seeks a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis.

Still, Trump did not come away with nothing. The two-month flirtation helped secure the release of three Americans held in North Korea. Trump himself welcomed them back to the U.S. in a middle-of-the-night ceremony.

The president who has positioned himself as the ultimate deal-maker followed a hard lesson from his own negotiating playbook: he walked away.

At least for now.

“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit,” Trump wrote, “please do not hesitate to call me or write.”

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Lemire reported from New York.

Officials: Weinstein to surrender in sexual misconduct probe

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NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein was expected to turn himself in to police Friday morning to face charges involving an aspiring actress who said he forced her to perform oral sex on him, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

It would be the first criminal case against Weinstein to come out of the barrage of sexual abuse allegations from scores of women that destroyed his career and set off a national reckoning that brought down other powerful men in what has become known as the #MeToo movement.

The two officials said the criminal case involves allegations by Lucia Evans, who told a magazine that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex. She was among the first women to speak out about the 66-year-old film producer. One official said it’s likely the case also will include at least one other victim who has not come forward publicly.

The officials spoke Thursday to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.

Evans confirmed to The New Yorker that she was pressing charges.

“At a certain point, you have to think about the greater good of humanity, of womankind,” she told the magazine.

Rose McGowan reveals she still feels traumatized by seeing Harvey Weinstein’s face in the news but hopes his trial will mark a new beginning for her and his other alleged victims. (May 25)

Weinstein was expected to be charged at least with criminal sexual act, a crime that carries up to 25 years in prison, the officials said. Weinstein’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment, though Weinstein has said repeatedly through his lawyers that he didn’t have nonconsensual sex with anyone.

Evans told The New Yorker in a story published in October that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting at his New York office in 2004, the summer before her senior year at Middlebury College.

“I said, over and over, ’I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’” she told the magazine. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t want to kick him or fight him.”

Evans, who is now a marketing consultant, didn’t report the encounter to police at the time, telling The New Yorker that she blamed herself for not fighting back.

“It was always my fault for not stopping him,” she said.

Brafman said in court paperwork filed this month in a bankruptcy proceeding that the allegations that Weinstein forced himself on women were “entirely without merit.”

“I am trying my very best to persuade both the federal and state prosecutors that he should not be arrested and or indicted, because he did not knowingly violate the law,” Brafman wrote.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had been under enormous public pressure to bring a criminal case against Weinstein. Some women’s groups, including the Hollywood activist group Time’s Up, accused the Democrat of being too deferential to Weinstein and too dismissive of his accusers.

A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for weeks.

In March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the extraordinary step of ordering the state’s attorney general to investigate whether Vance acted properly in 2015 when he decided not to prosecute Weinstein over a previous allegation of unwanted groping, made by an Italian model. That investigation is in its preliminary stages.

More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing around the globe. Several actresses and models accused him of criminal sexual assaults, but many of the encounters happened too long ago for any prosecution. Film actress Rose McGowan said Weinstein raped her in 1997 in Utah, “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra said he raped her in her New York apartment in 1992 and Norwegian actress Natassia Malthe said he attacked her in a London hotel room in 2008.

McGowan told the AP on Thursday that she is gratified but “still in shock” that Weinstein was expected to surrender.

“The justice system has been something very elusive,” McGowan said. “I hope in this case it works. Because it’s all true. None of this was consensual.”

The statute of limitations for rape and certain other sex crimes in New York was eliminated in 2006, but not for attacks that happened prior to 2001.

New York City police detectives said in early November that they were investigating allegations by another accuser, “Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta, who told police in October that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010. She is not one of the victims in the case on Friday; hers was still pending, officials said.

Authorities in California and London also are investigating assault allegations. Britain has no statute of limits on rape cases; some of the allegations under investigation there date to the 1980s.

Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein started his now-bankrupt company after leaving Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and which became a powerhouse in ’90s indie film with hits like “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love.” The Weinstein Co. found success with Oscar winners “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech.”

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Associated Press writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.

Congressional leaders get briefings on Russia probe

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican and Democratic lawmakers have gotten classified briefings about the origins of the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a highly unusual series of meetings prompted by partisan allegations that the bureau spied on Donald Trump’s campaign.

Democrats emerged from the meetings saying they saw no evidence to support Republican allegations that the FBI acted inappropriately, although they did express grave concern about the presence of a White House lawyer at Thursday’s briefings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News he had learned “nothing particularly surprising,” but declined to go into detail.

Still, the extraordinary briefings drew attention to the unproved claims of FBI misconduct and political bias. The meetings were sought by Trump’s GOP allies and arranged by the White House, as the president has tried to sow suspicions about the legitimacy of the FBI investigation that spawned a special counsel probe. Initially offered only to Republicans, the briefings were the latest piece of stagecraft meant to publicize and bolster the allegations. But they also highlighted the degree to which the president and his allies have used the levers of the federal government — in this case, intelligence agencies — to aide in Trump’s personal and political defense.

President Donald Trump says he wants transparency from everyone involved in the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Trump insisted Wednesday, “what I want is total transparency.” (May 23)

Under direct pressure from the president, Justice Department officials agreed to grant Republicans a briefing, and only later opened it up to Democrats. The invite list evolved up until hours before the meeting — a reflection of the partisan distrust and the political wrangling. A White House lawyer, Emmet Flood, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly showed up for both briefings, although the White House had earlier said it would keep a distance, drawing criticism from Democrats.

“For the record, the president’s chief of staff and his attorney in an ongoing criminal investigation into the president’s campaign have no business showing up to a classified intelligence briefing,” Sen. Mark Warner tweeted after the briefing.

The White House said the officials didn’t attend the full briefings, but instead delivered brief remarks communicating the “president’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law” and relaying “the president’s understanding of the need to protect human intelligence services and the importance of communication between the branches of government,” according to a statement.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats attended both meetings — the first at the Department of Justice and the second on Capitol Hill.

Trump has zeroed in on, and at times embellished, reports that a longtime U.S. government informant approached members of his campaign in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election. The president intensified his attacks this week, calling it “spygate” and tweeting Thursday that it was “Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history.”

It was unclear how much information was given to lawmakers. According to a U.S. official familiar with the meeting, the briefers did not reveal the name of an informant. They brought documents but did not share them, and made several remarks about the importance of protecting intelligence sources and methods. The person declined to be identified because the briefing was classified.

In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan wouldn’t say what he learned, but said he looked forward to the “prompt completion” of the House Intelligence Committee’s work now that they are “getting the cooperation necessary.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter, had originally requested the information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. The original meeting was scheduled for just Nunes and Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but the Justice Department relented and allowed additional lawmakers to come after Democrats strongly objected.

Nunes and other Republicans already eager to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation used Trump’s complaints to obtain the briefing from the Justice Department, whose leaders have tried for months to balance demands from congressional overseers against their stated obligation to protect Mueller’s ongoing investigation into ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

Nunes attended both briefings Thursday. According to the U.S. official and another person briefed on the Capitol Hill meeting, Nunes did not speak at all during the briefing. The second person also declined to be named because the meeting was classified.

Democratic lawmakers declined to comment on the substance of the briefing, but gave a joint statement afterward saying their view had not changed that “there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a ‘spy’ in the Trump Campaign, or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.”

The statement was issued by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and the top Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence panels, Warner and Rep. Adam Schiff.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr also attended the briefing but did not comment afterward.

The back and forth between Congress and the Justice Department has simmered for weeks.

The Justice Department had rejected Nunes’ original request, writing in a letter in April that his request for information could put lives in danger.

Negotiations over release of the information stalled but restarted when Trump demanded, via tweet, on Sunday that the Justice Department investigate.

In response to the tweet, the Justice Department immediately asked its inspector general to expand its ongoing investigation to look into whether there was any politically motivated surveillance of the campaign and agreed to hold the classified briefings.

It remained unclear what, if any, spying was done. The White House gave no evidence to support Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama’s administration was trying to spy on his 2016 campaign for political reasons.

It’s long been known that the FBI was looking into Russian meddling during the campaign and that part of that inquiry touched on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian figures. Mueller took over the investigation when he was appointed special counsel in May 2017.

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Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Jonathan Lemire, Lisa Mascaro, Chad Day and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Voting begins throughout Ireland in major abortion decision

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DUBLIN (AP) — Voters throughout Ireland have begun casting votes in a referendum that may lead to a loosening of the country’s strict ban on most abortions.

The referendum Friday will decide whether the eighth amendment of the constitution is repealed, which would open the way for more liberal legislation.

The amendment, in place since 1983, requires authorities to equally protect the right to life of a mother and that of a fetus, from the moment of conception.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted his support for the bill before a moratorium on campaigning took effect Thursday. He urged people to vote “yes” in favor of repeal.

Results are not expected until Saturday afternoon or evening. Voting has already taken place on islands so that paper ballots can be taken to the mainland and counted in time.

There was good weather Friday morning in the capital, Dublin, and much of the country, a factor that could help the “yes” forces in favor of repeal get the heavy turnout they seek.

“Yes” campaigners were handing out stickers at several major pedestrian crossroads Friday morning. Many people voted on their way to work and sported “I voted” buttons.

They didn’t sway Vera Rooney, who voted in favor of keeping the ban in place.

“It is a hard decision but I just feel I don’t have the right to take life. I think life is sacred and for that reason I had to vote no,” said Rooney, who voted early Friday at the North Grand Church polling station in Dublin.

“Trust Women” was scrawled on the pavement outside the polling station in Dublin as voting opened. An opponent of the abortion clause repeal wrote: “Mama, save me, I love you.”

Letters to the editor published Friday in the Irish Independent newspaper contained emotional arguments urging voters to reject the repeal movement.

“If we vote ‘yes’, every unborn, wanted and unwanted, will have zero rights,” wrote Frances Kelleher, from Killarney. “I do not believe the smart people of Ireland want this unrestricted, abortion-on-demand bill. I will be voting no.”

If citizens vote in favor of repeal, new abortion laws will then be discussed in parliament. The government proposes that terminations be allowed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Later abortions would be allowed in special cases.

Explosion in Canadian restaurant wounds 15 people

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TORONTO (AP) — An explosion caused by an “improvised explosive device” ripped through an Indian restaurant in a mall in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, wounding 15 people, Canadian police said.

Peel Region Sergeant Matt Bertram said two suspects with their faces covered to conceal their identity entered the Bombay Bhel restaurant late Thursday, dropped the device and fled.

“We have no indication to call it a hate crime or any kind of terrorism act,” Bertram said.

Peel Region paramedic Joe Korstanje said three people suffered critical injuries and were taken to the hospital while the remaining 12 victims suffered what he described as minor and superficial injuries. Police later updated the condition of the three critically injured patients to stable.

The explosion happened just after 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, and the plaza where the restaurant is located was still sealed off on Friday. Television footage showed an injured woman limping away from the restaurant.

“Nothing was said by these individuals,” Bertram said. “It appears they just went in, dropped off this device, and took off right away.”

Bertram said they couldn’t say what the device was yet.

Fifteen people were injured, three critically, Thursday night when an explosion ripped through a restaurant west of Toronto. Police say two suspects detonated an “improvised explosive device” and fled. (May 25)

“Different callers called in and said it was firecrackers or some said gunshot sort of noises. I don’t think it was an explosion that was rocking anything,” he said. “Until we can get in there and analyze the material after the search warrant we won’t be able to say what it was.”

Rafael Conceicao, a student from Sao Paulo, Brazil, was near the restaurant when the explosion occurred. He said there was a child’s birthday party inside the restaurant at the time.

“Glass was broken in the street … Everything was destroyed. Lots of blood in the floor. Many people were screaming. They were trying to run out from the restaurant,” he said.

Andre Larrivee, who lives in a nearby condo, said he was watching television when he heard a loud explosion.

“It was really loud,” he said, comparing the noise to an electric generator that had exploded at a nearby construction site recently.

Police asked for the public’s help and released a photo of the suspects, both with dark hoodies pulled over their heads and their faces covered.

Peel region police, in a tweet, described the first suspect as in his mid-20s, 5-foot-10 to 6-feet with a stocky build, wearing dark blue jeans and a baseball cap with a light gray peak.

The second suspect is described as a little shorter with a thin build, wearing faded blue jeans, a gray T-shirt and dark colored skate shoes.

The Indian consulate in Toronto tweeted it had opened a helpline for those seeking assistance following the explosion. Vikas Swarup, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, tweeted that India’s Consul General in Toronto visited the injured in the hospital. He also said that the three Indian-Canadians who were reported to be critically injured are stable.

The restaurant describes itself online as an authentic, yet casual, Indian dining experience. Police said the plaza would be sealed off all night.

Business: World stocks mixed as NKorea’s restraint eases concerns

HONG KONG (AP) — World stock markets were mixed Friday after North Korea issued a surprisingly restrained response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel a planned summit.

KEEPING SCORE: European shares rose in early trading. Germany’s DAX rose 0.9 percent to 12,973.47 and France’s CAC 40 added 0.5 percent to 5,577.16. Britain’s FTSE 100 climbed 0.4 percent to 7,745.00. Wall Street was poised to open higher. Dow futures added 0.3 percent to 24,865.00 and broader S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 percent to 2,732.90.

ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.1 percent to close at 22,450.79 but South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 2,460.80. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.6 percent to 30,588.04 and the Shanghai Composite in mainland China slipped 0.4 percent to 3,141.30. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 percent to 6,032.80. Taiwan’s benchmark rose and Southeast Asian indexes were mostly lower.

SUMMIT SCRUBBED: Trump cancelled a June meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, blaming it on “tremendous anger and open hostility” that was expressed in a statement by a North Korean official. Trump later said the meeting could still happen. North Korea said it’s still willing to sit down for talks with the U.S. “at any time, at any format,” a remarkably restrained and diplomatic response that contrasts with Pyongyang’s traditional belligerence.

QUOTEWORTHY: “The reality of the situation is starting to dawn on markets that this is political theater engineered for domestic consumption. The reality is it doesn’t change the economic outlook at all,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. He added that the more likely explanation is that investors are using it as an excuse to pull back after a strong run in the markets.

CHINA-US TRADE: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is due to arrive in Beijing on Saturday for more talks on the dispute between China and the U.S. over trade and technology policy. China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the two sides will “continue negotiations on Chinese-U.S. economic and trade issues” until Monday. Last week China promised to buy more U.S. goods but the two sides made scant progress on a final settlement.

WEEK AHEAD: Investors are anticipating the latest batch of economic data for the U.S. and China due out next week, including a private payroll report and GDP numbers for the U.S. on Wednesday and China’s official monthly manufacturing index for Thursday. The numbers will give fresh insight into the state of the world’s two largest economies.

SAMSONITE SLUMP: The luggage maker’s shares tumbled for a second day in Hong Kong trading after short-seller Blue Orca Capital issued a report questioning its accounting and its CEO’s credentials. Samsonite said in a statement that the conclusions were incorrect. Its shares fell 12 percent after sliding 9 percent on Thursday. Short-sellers profit when a company’s shares fall.

ENERGY: Oil futures extended losses. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 54 cents to $70.17 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 1.6 percent to settle at $70.71 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 89 cents to $77.90 in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 109.54 yen from 109.25 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1723 from $1.1720.

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– Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Friday, May 25:

1. Fed chair Powell in the spotlight

An appearance by Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell Friday will likely garner special attention following the release of dovish Fed minutes on Wednesday. The Federal Reserve’s minutes showed policymakers were content with inflation temporarily overshooting the 2% target, pushing odds for a fourth rate hike this year back below the 50% threshold.

Powell will participate in a panel discussion of “Financial Stability and Central Bank Transparency” sponsored by the Sveriges Riskbank scheduled from 9:15AM ET (13:15GMT) to 10:30AM ET (14:30GMT) in Stockholm, Sweden.

While markets have fully priced in a second hike at the June 12-13 meeting, traders have been considering whether the U.S. central bank may become slightly more aggressive in policy tightening, given recent signs of a pickup in inflation.

The June policy decision will be accompanied by updated economic projections and investors will keep a close eye on the “dot plot” which shows policymakers’ forecasts for interest rates.

Separately, Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic, Chicago Fed chief Charles Evans and Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan will participate in a panel discussion at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas conference entitled “Technology-Enabled Disruption: Implications for Business, Labor Markets and Monetary Policy” in Dallas at 11:45AM ET (15:45GMT).

2. Dollar steady ahead of Powell, durable goods

The dollar showed little movement in early morning trade on Friday, on track for slight weekly gains of around 0.3%, as investors looked forward to any clues on monetary policy from Fed chair Jerome Powell and waited for the day’s economic data.

The Commerce Department will release its preliminary report on April durable goods orders at 8:30AM ET (12:30GMT) with forecasts pointing to a 1.4% decline. The more closely watched core reading is expected to show a 0.5% increase.

The University of Michigan will also provide an updated reading of consumer sentiment in May. Markets are currently expecting no revision to the preliminary reading of 98.8.

At 5:52AM ET (9:52GMT), the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, edged forward 0.11% at 93.82.

3. Output concerns continue to slam oil ahead of U.S. shale output data

Oil slid on Friday amid growing concerns that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could increase output as soon as June and while market participants waited the most recent reading on U.S. shale production.

Saudi Arabia and Russia are discussing raising OPEC and non-OPEC oil output by around 1 million barrels per day (bpd), easing 17 months of strict supply curbs amid concerns that a price rally has gone too far, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.

OPEC and non-OPEC producers led by Russia have been cutting crude output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to prop up oil prices. The pact began in January 2017 and is set to expire at the end of 2018. The organization is set to meet in Vienna on June 22.

U.S. crude oil futures slid 1.91% to $69.36 at 5:57AM ET (9:57GMT), while Brent oil slumped 2.04% to $77.18.

Meanwhile, market participants looked ahead to the weekly instalment of drilling activity from Baker Hughes on Friday that will provide investors with fresh insight into U.S. oil production and demand.

Data last week showed the number of U.S. oil rigs steadied after rising for five weeks in a row.

4. Foot Locker quarterly results on tap

Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) is slated to release first-quarter earnings before U.S. markets open on Friday amid expectations that a stronger domestic performance from Nike (NYSE:NKE) bolstered the sports retailer’s same-store sales.

Foot Locker is expected to report earnings of $1.25 per share on $1.96 billion revenue.

While waiting for Foot Locker’s results, several firms were expected to see big moves after releasing their own earnings after the market close a day earlier.

Gap (NYSE:GPS) saw shares tumble nearly 8% in extended hours after the retailer reported worse-than-expected earnings per share, Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST) sank 5% after the department store chain disappointed with its second quarter same-store sales forecast and Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK) slid more than 5% as the software company also provided a weak outlook.

On the upside, Deckers Outdoor (NYSE:DECK) jumped more than 4% as the apparel retailer smashed consensus expectations on the top and bottom line.

5. Global shares find solace in North Korean response to Trump

Global stocks were trading mostly higher on Friday as markets appeared to take relief in the conciliatory response provided by North Korea after U.S. President Donald Trump cancelled a June 12 summit.

North Korean vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan said Pyongyang still hoped for a “Trump formula” to resolve the standoff over its nuclear weapons program, noting that the country was open to resolving issues with the United States.

European stocks traded mostly higher nearing midday trade on Friday, while Asian shares closed mixed, but off intraday lows thanks to the North Korean announcement.

U.S. futures pointed to a higher open Friday ahead of Powell and the economic data, although trading was expected to be light ahead of the long holiday weekend. Wall Street will remain closed on Monday for Memorial Day. At 5:58AM ET (9:58GMT), the blue-chip Dow futures gained 61 points, or 0.25%, S&P 500 futures rose 6 points, or 0.22%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures traded up 28 points, or 0.40%.

Dem, GOP leaders to get classified briefing on Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — House and Senate lawmakers from both parties are set to meet with top intelligence officials Thursday as President Donald Trump raises new suspicions about the federal investigation into his 2016 campaign.

Trump is calling his newest attempt at discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation “spygate.” In recent days, he has been zeroing in on — and at times embellishing — reports that a longtime U.S. government informant approached members of his campaign during the 2016 presidential election in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that the FBI had been caught in a “major SPY scandal.”

Trump’s latest broadsides set the stage for the unusual decision by the White House to arrange a briefing Thursday about classified documents for just two Republican House members, both Trump allies, as Trump and his supporters in Congress pressed for information on the outside informant.

After Democratic complaints and negotiations that went into the late evening Wednesday, the Justice Department said it would host a second classified briefing the same day and invite the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” — a group that includes the top Republicans and Democrats in each chamber and the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

President Donald Trump says he wants transparency from everyone involved in the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Trump insisted Wednesday, “what I want is total transparency.” (May 23)

There were two other late additions to the list — White House chief of staff John Kelly and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had originally said that no one from the White House would attend the briefing, at which the investigation into Trump’s campaign will be discussed.

Rosenstein will replace another Justice Department official who was originally scheduled to attend. Rosenstein was left off the list as Trump on Tuesday declined to say whether he had confidence in him. Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, and is frequently criticized by Trump.

The two House lawmakers — Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy — were invited to attend both briefings, as were Kelly, Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats.

All were invited to the second briefing, as well, plus Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr was also invited, along with the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, Sen. Mark Warner, and the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, Rep. Adam Schiff.

Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter, had originally requested the information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. And Trump took up the cause as the White House tried to combat the threat posed by Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference and possible obstruction of justice.

Trump escalated his efforts to discredit the investigation Wednesday, tweeting: “Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!”

It remained unclear what, if any, spying was done. The White House gave no evidence to support Trump’s claim that the Obama administration was trying to spy on his 2016 campaign for political reasons. It’s long been known that the FBI was looking into Russian meddling during the campaign and that part of that inquiry touched on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian figures. Mueller later took over the investigation when he was appointed in May 2017.

Trump has told confidants in recent days that the revelation of an informant was potential evidence that the upper echelon of federal law enforcement had conspired against him, according to three people familiar with his recent conversations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. Trump told one ally this week that he wanted “to brand” the informant a “spy,” believing the more nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public.

As Republicans worked to show a Justice Department conspiracy against Trump, Democrats and former law enforcement officials defended the agency. Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, tweeted Wednesday that the agency’s use of secret informants was “tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country.”

“Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our country,” Comey tweeted. “How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?”

In an interview airing Thursday on “Fox & Friends,” Trump referred to Comey as one of the “rotten apples” in FBI leadership and said he would have no problem explaining his actions to his own grandchildren.

“How is he going to explain to his grandchildren all of the lies, the deceit, all of the problems he’s caused for this country?” Trump asked.

The back and forth between Congress and the Justice Department over the Nunes request — one of many over the course of the Russia investigation — has simmered for weeks.

The department originally rejected Nunes’ appeal, writing in a letter in late April that his request for information “regarding a specific individual” could have severe consequences, including potential loss of human life. Negotiations over the information stalled, but restarted when Trump demanded in a tweet Sunday that the Justice Department investigate “whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”

The Justice Department agreed by expanding an open, internal investigation to determine whether there was any politically motivated surveillance. And the White House said Kelly would organize the meeting with House lawmakers to discuss the documents.

The New York Times was the first to report that the FBI had an informant who met several times with Trump campaign officials who had suspicious contacts linked to Russia. No evidence has emerged to show that Obama-era authorities placed an informant inside the Trump campaign.

___

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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