AP News in Brief at 12:03 a.m. EDT



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    Comey: FBI probing Trump-Russia links, wiretap claims bogus

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is investigating whether Donald Trump's associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, Director James Comey said Monday in an extraordinary public confirmation of a probe the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats.

    In a bruising five-hour session, the FBI director also knocked down Trump's claim that his predecessor had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an assertion that has distracted White House officials and frustrated fellow Republicans who acknowledge they've seen no evidence to support it.

    The revelation of the investigation of possible collusion with Russians, and the first public confirmation of the wider probe that began last summer, came in a remarkable hearing by one branch of government examining serious allegations against another branch and the new president's election campaign.

    Tight-lipped for the most part, Comey refused to offer details on the scope, targets or timeline for the FBI investigation, which could shadow the White House for months, if not years. The director would not say whether the probe has turned up evidence that Trump associates may have schemed with Russians during a campaign marked by email hacking that investigators believe was aimed at helping the Republican defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    "I can promise you," the FBI director vowed, "we will follow the facts wherever they lead."

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    Analysis: Reality catching up with Trump on Russia

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Reality is catching up with President Donald Trump.

    Hours after Trump dismissed reports that his campaign associates were being scrutinized for colluding with Russia as "fake news," FBI Director James Comey confirmed the investigation is real.

    The FBI chief also repeatedly insisted there was no evidence to back up Trump's explosive claim that his predecessor wiretapped his New York skyscraper.

    And Adm. Michael Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, knocked down a report about Britain helping President Barack Obama with the alleged surveillance, although the White House had pointed to the report to try to boost Trump's case.

    Taken together, the disclosures in Monday's lengthy House intelligence committee hearing amounted to an extraordinary undercutting of a president, whose headline-grabbing accusations and Twitter-friendly attacks crumbled quickly under the weight of sworn congressional testimony from some of the nation's top security officials.

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    10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

    1. FBI PROBING TRUMP-RUSSIA LINKS

    The agency director presents an extraordinary confirmation of an investigation the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats.

    2. REALITY CATCHING UP WITH TRUMP ON RUSSIA

    The president's headline-grabbing accusations and Twitter-friendly attacks crumble under the weight of sworn congressional testimony from some of the nation's top security officials.

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    GOP leaders propose health bill changes to help older people

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Top House Republicans hunting votes for their health care overhaul are proposing amendments aimed at providing more help for older people, curbing Medicaid and accelerating the repeal of some tax increases.

    The bill would let people deduct more medical costs from taxes. It would repeal many tax increases boosted by President Barack Obama's 2010 statute this year instead of 2018.

    Older and disabled Medicaid recipients would get more generous benefits. But states could impose work requirements on the program.

    The bill would let the Senate approve tax credits more generous to people age 50 to 64. Congressional analysts say the current GOP legislation would hit many with big cost increases.

    GOP leaders released the changes late Monday, three days ahead of a planned House vote on the bill.

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    High court nominee: I'll be unbiased or 'hang up the robe'

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch pledged to be independent or "hang up the robe" as the U.S. Senate began rancorous hearings Monday on President Donald Trump's conservative pick to fill a Supreme Court seat that has been vacant for more than a year.

    Gorsuch sought to take the edge off Democratic complaints that he has favored the wealthy and powerful in more than 10 years as a federal judge. The 49-year-old Coloradan told the Senate Judiciary Committee he has tried to be a "neutral and independent" judge and has ruled both for and against disabled students, prisoners and workers alleging civil rights violations.

    "But my decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me, only my best judgment about the law and facts at issue in each particular case," Gorsuch said. That was his opening statement a day ahead of expected pointed questioning from committee Democrats.

    A Supreme Court confirmation hearing is a major occasion on Capitol Hill — the last one was in 2010 — but Monday's was overshadowed by a separate event in the Capitol complex. On the House side, FBI Director James Comey was testifying that the bureau is investigating Russian meddling in last year's election and possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of Trump.

    Blending the two hearings, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut referred to "a looming constitutional crisis" that the Supreme Court might need to resolve. The court's eight current justices are roughly divided ideologically between conservatives and liberals.

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    Ban aimed at electronics in cabins of some US-bound flights

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government is temporarily barring passengers on certain flights originating in eight other countries from bringing laptops, iPads, cameras and most other electronics in carry-on luggage starting Tuesday.

    The reason for the ban was not immediately clear. U.S. security officials would not comment. The ban was revealed Monday in statements from Royal Jordanian Airlines and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia.

    A U.S. official told The Associated Press the ban will apply to nonstop flights to the U.S. from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt; Amman in Jordan; Kuwait City in Kuwait; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul in Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The ban was indefinite, said the official.

    A second U.S. official said the ban will affect nine airlines in total, and the Transportation Security Administration will inform the affected airlines at 3 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday.

    The officials were not authorized to disclose the details of the ban ahead of a public announcement and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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    The countdown begins: Britain to start EU exit on March 29

    LONDON (AP) — Britain will begin divorce proceedings from the European Union on March 29, starting the clock on two years of intense political and economic negotiations that will fundamentally change both the nation and its European neighbors.

    Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, informed European Council President Donald Tusk of the exact start date on Monday morning.

    "We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation," Brexit Secretary David Davis said. "The government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the U.K. and indeed for all of Europe - a new, positive partnership between the U.K. and our friends and allies in the European Union."

    The trigger for all this tumult is the innocuous-sounding Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, a never-before-used mechanism for withdrawing from the bloc. British Prime Minister Theresa May, under the Article, will notify Tusk of her nation's intentions to leave the 28-nation bloc.

    The article stipulates that the two sides will have until March 2019 to agree on a divorce settlement and — if possible — establish a new relationship between Britain, the world's No. 5 economy, and the EU, a vast single market containing 500 million people.

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    Macron, Le Pen clash in first French election TV debate

    PARIS (AP) — The two front-runners for the French presidency clashed spectacularly in the campaign's first televised debate between leading candidates Monday night.

    All five candidates landed punches during vigorous discussion on the big issues for France: jobs, terrorism, immigration, Europe.

    But the faceoff between independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen provided political theater, even moments of high drama in pitting two opposing visions of France.

    Macron's performance, in particular, was being closely watched. One of the big surprises of the election has been the success of the former economics minister's new-look campaign, positioning himself as a centrist alternative to France's traditional left-right politics.

    But Le Pen, the anti-immigration, anti-European Union leader of the National Front, was looking for opportunities to pounce. With polls suggesting that she and Macron could be direct rivals in the decisive May 7 runoff of the two-round election, both sought to score points against each other.

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    Fox pulls Napolitano from air after Trump report

    NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel has pulled legal analyst Andrew Napolitano from the air after disavowing his on-air claim that British intelligence officials had helped former President Barack Obama spy on Donald Trump.

    A person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because it was a personnel matter said Napolitano has been benched and won't be appearing on the air in the near future. Fox had no immediate comment Monday.

    Napolitano's report last week on "Fox & Friends," saying he had three intelligence sources who said Obama went "outside the chain of command" to watch Trump, provoked an international incident. Britain dismissed the report as "nonsense" after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer quoted it in a briefing, part of the administration's continued defense of Trump's unproven contention that Obama had wiretapped him at Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    FBI Director James Comey, testifying before Congress on Monday, became the latest official to state that no evidence has been found to support Trump's charge.

    The president, when asked about the incident, said that "all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn't make an opinion on it. You shouldn't be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox."

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    Police: Brady's missing Super Bowl jerseys tracked to Mexico

    BOSTON (AP) — Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey has been found in Mexico six weeks after it vanished from the Patriots' locker room — but the mystery isn't over.

    The NFL said the jersey was found in "possession of a credentialed member of the international media," and authorities were investigating Monday whether a former Mexican tabloid newspaper executive played a role in the theft.

    It wasn't the only piece of memorabilia recovered: Authorities found a Brady jersey that had gone missing after the Patriots' 2015 Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks. A helmet belonging to a Denver Broncos player was also discovered, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

    The stolen jersey — and the investigation that stretched from Boston to the border — captivated Patriots fans and social media for several days after the Patriots' 34-28 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons.

    "If it shows up on eBay or something, somebody let me know," Brady said after the game.
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