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Perspective | Federal appeals board: Better defunct or with Trump appointees?

The following editorial appeared in Friday's Japan News-Yomiuri: - - - Even while the need for nursing care services will rapidly increase, the nation's working population will shrink. With limited human resources available, it is vital to craft a nursing care system that will efficiently provide high-quality services. A panel of experts from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has decided on a basic plan for securing human resources to work at nursing care and other facilities. The plan aims to improve operational efficiency so these facilities can better cope with a labor shortage, and also secure and retain personnel by establishing a workplace environment in which employees can work comfortably. The jobs-to-applicants ratio is more than 4-to-1 in the nursing care field, and some operators have even been forced into bankruptcy due to difficulty in securing sufficient manpower. According to labor ministry estimates, 2.45 million nursing care workers will be needed in fiscal 2025, but a shortfall of 340,000 workers is forecast. The situation will become even more severe in the future. Aiming to secure the necessary number of workers is a natural step to take. However, at a time when labor shortages are growing increasingly acute in industries across the board, achieving this will not be easy. There is a need for measures to ensure that care services can be provided amid this labor situation. The basic plan touted breaking down the work done on the front line of nursing care into smaller tasks and clearly laying out a division of roles among workers. Nursing care involves a wide range of tasks that include helping with meals and bathing, toilet assistance and monitoring those requiring care. As things stand, nursing care workers who have specialist skills should...

Analysis | House Democrats’ Mueller report dilemma: To impeach or not?

WASHINGTON - The Mueller report is more damning for President Donald Trump than Attorney General William Barr let on in his summary (or at his news conference Thursday). It turns out House Democrats could make a case to Congress that Trump obstructed justice. Will they consider impeachment? And should they? It's a nearly impossible question, with peril on both sides. When looked at through a legal lens, arguing that Trump obstructed justice seems like an easy case. Mueller shared in great detail how Trump "engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation," like trying to fire Mueller even though the president doesn't have constitutional authority to do so. But politically, attempting to impeach Trump doesn't make much sense. Democrats risk looking like sore losers if they undertake impeachment proceedings, especially without any Republican buy-in. (And no one expects the Republican-controlled Senate to hold a trial based on an investigation that ultimately didn't charge Trump with any crime.) So why stir up a hornet's nest by considering impeachment when Democrats can just try to defeat Trump in 2020? Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean of Cornell Law School, argues it's matter of historical imperative for Congress to do something on the impeachment front, even if it's just holding hearings to consider it. Trump just avoided legal repercussions for attempting to fire the special counsel. For the sake of the rule of law, Congress can't let that go, he said. Congress could "say this conduct is unacceptable, and there is going to be an asterisk in Trump's name in history books," Ohlin said. "He's not going to be removed from power, but he's going to be on this very short list of presidents impeached by the House of Representatives." Democrats are also...

Perspective | ‘It’s a wake-up call for all of us’: Ovechkin fumes as flailing Caps drop Game 4

RALEIGH, N.C. - Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie lay flat on his back with both feet in the air before the pain looked so unbearable that he rolled over on his side and screamed. This first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes is tied at two games apiece, but that lasting image of Oshie down on the ice after a nasty crash into the boards makes it feel as if the Capitals are falling apart after two straight losses. "We just need a sense of urgency in our game," captain Alex Ovechkin said. Now with their 2-0 series lead gone and one of the team's top forwards out for at least the rest of this series - and, even if the Capitals advance, Oshie "won't be playing anytime soon," Coach Todd Reirden said - has that urgency finally arrived? "It has to be," Ovechkin said. "It's a wake-up call for all of us. We can't hope one guy going to make a save or score a goal. You have to go out there and play your game. If you don't want to do it, don't play." This entire postseason has been a wake-up call for talented teams with Stanley Cup aspirations that might have taken the first round for granted. On the nights Washington hasn't been on the ice, the Capitals have watched the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team with far and away the best regular season record, go down to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Pittsburgh Penguins, champions in 2016 and 2017, were swept by the New York Islanders. In the Western Conference, the top-seeded Calgary Flames are one game away from being eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche. Those teams weren't invincible, and neither are the defending champions. "We just want to make sure that we keep pushing," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "We don't have enough right now. We know that, and that's on our group in here to keep pushing forward. And it's something that we've been able to do a lot. We're...

Mueller laid out ‘thorough and compelling’ case of obstruction, but Barr decided Trump wasn’t guilty of a crime

WASHINGTON - In his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, special counsel Robert Mueller III cites instance after instance of President Donald Trump pushing to end the investigation, scale back its scope and influence witnesses involved in the probe - all with an intent that could amount to criminal obstruction of justice. But the special counsel's team stopped short of accusing the president of this crime, in part because it did not believe it had the legal authority to do so. Attorney General William Barr did not feel so inhibited and definitively declared that the president hadn't obstructed justice. He went so far as to suggest during a Thursday morning news conference before the report was released that the president's actions were understandable because he was upset that the investigation and the attention it received were undermining his presidency. "There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks," he told reporters. The gap between Mueller and Barr - both about what the law allows and their conclusions on obstruction - immediately stoked a debate over how to address a sitting president engaging in impropriety and possibly in criminal conduct. On one side are those who agree with Barr - if Trump wasn't guilty of conspiring with Russians, it's hard to prove he had criminal intent in trying to thwart that investigation. On the other side are those who look at the exhaustive evidence laid out in the Mueller report and ask: If this is not obstruction, what is? David Alan Sklansky, a Stanford law professor and expert on prosecutorial restraint, said Mueller tried to carefully thread the needle in his complex assignment -...

Ex-EPA chief Pruitt registers as energy lobbyist in Indiana

WASHINGTON (AP) - Scott Pruitt, the scandal-ridden former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, registered as an energy lobbyist in Indiana on Thursday as fossil-fuels interests there are fighting to block the proposed closure of several coal-fired power plants. A lobbying disclosure report for Pruitt provides little insight into precisely what he's doing in Indiana, but several clues point to work on behalf of the coal industry. The disclosure report lists an address for Pruitt in an office tower in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and says he is a self-employed consultant who will be lobbying on issues involving energy and natural resources. Pruitt's sole client is listed as RailPoint Solutions LLC, a Delaware corporation created in January that has no listed street address or website. But Pruitt's form lists the name Heather Tryon as the company's manager. That's also the name of the chief financial officer of Terre Haute-based Sunrise Coal, which operates four coal mines in the state. Tryon's husband, who answered her home phone, said she was not immediately available to comment. Pruitt, who was Oklahoma's attorney general before being tapped as EPA administrator, did not respond to a voice message or an email seeking comment on Thursday evening. His lobbying filing was first reported Thursday by The Indianapolis Star. Two Indiana utilities recently announced plans to shutter nearly all their coal-fired power plants in the state. The Indiana Coal Council has filed appeals with state regulators seeking to block the plant closures. Meanwhile, some Republicans in the state House have been pushing a measure that seeks to put a moratorium on the construction of new gas-fired power plants or wind farms. Although Pruitt's disclosure form lists him as self-employed, state records indicate the paperwork was...

Barr deepens critics' concerns in handling of Mueller report

WASHINGTON (AP) - It may be special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation report , but the spotlight Thursday belonged just as much to the attorney general who made it public. The report had not yet been released when William Barr, by turns testy and defensive, took the Justice Department podium to face questions about the now-concluded probe. He was there not only to detail the main conclusions of Mueller's investigation but also to explain his handling of the report following a reputation-bruising month that has fueled skepticism from Democrats about whether the attorney general is functioning as a Donald Trump loyalist. "It seems puzzling for someone with a long career at the department," said Arun Rao, a former federal prosecutor in Maryland who served under Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. "Particularly today, his behavior seems to be more of an advocate for a client rather than representing the department." At his press conference, Barr stressed a half-dozen times that Mueller did not find evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a point Trump has seized on to try to claim vindication. He acknowledged that Mueller closely scrutinized the president for obstruction of justice but said he and Rosenstein disagreed with some of Mueller's legal theories. He also praised the White House's cooperation with the investigation and appeared to justify the president's anger over it, saying Trump "faced an unprecedented situation" and people must bear in mind the context. "(T)here is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks," Barr said. He gave a terse "no" when asked by a reporter if he was concerned that it might...

Redactions heavier on Russian meddling than on obstruction

WASHINGTON (AP) - Across nearly 450 pages, blocks of black interrupt parts of Robert Mueller's careful, dry narrative recounting Russian election meddling and President Donald Trump's fear and ire. Most often, the Justice Department redactions mask a few words or paragraphs. In a few spots, they stretch for an entire page. Attorney General William Barr said the report released Thursday was marred only by "limited redactions," but that's true only for the part of the report dealing with possible obstruction by Trump. An Associated Press analysis of the full document shows that nearly two-thirds of the section dealing with Russia's meddling - 139 pages out of 199 -had some form of redaction. By comparison, only 24 out of 182 pages in the obstruction section were at least partially masked, the AP analysis shows. The disparity reflects concerns over disclosing intelligence and ongoing law enforcement matters related to Russian interference in the election and, to a lesser degree, exposing grand jury testimony. The AP analysis showed that nearly 40% of the report's entire 448 pages - including its two main sections, appendixes and even its table of contents - had redactions. The blacked-out passages leave factual holes that force readers to guess Mueller's intent. Even before the report's release, the redactions were at the core of a political battle pitting the Trump administration against skeptical Democratic lawmakers, who have insisted on the release of the full report. They are expected to wage a court fight over it, testing the limits of presidential authority. Barr has promised to provide congressional leaders with a version of the report containing fewer redactions, but it's not clear if this will satisfy Democrats. Barr said his department had to redact material related to grand jury proceedings,...

A beleaguered Trump feared 'the end of my presidency'

WASHINGTON (AP) - At the moment two years ago when Donald Trump learned a special counsel had been appointed to investigate his campaign and Russia, the president responded with profane fury - and something resembling panic. He feared his presidency, then only a few months old, was over. He berated aides for not protecting him. His cocky assurance was nowhere in sight. The Oval Office scene that day is vividly reconstructed in special counsel Robert Mueller's report, released Thursday. Mueller traces how, at perilous turns in the Russia episode, aides took the brunt of Trump's rage yet acted to save the president from himself - at times by letting his orders go unheeded and, at least in one instance, declining an entreaty to lie on his behalf. On May 17, 2017, Trump was in the Oval Office with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, Sessions' chief of staff Jody Hunt and White House lawyer Don McGahn, conducting interviews for a new FBI director to replace James Comey, whom Trump had fired eight days earlier. Sessions left the room to take a call from his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, and returned to tell the president that Rosenstein had informed him of the special counsel appointment. "The President slumped back in his chair," Mueller wrote in his report, "and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f---ed. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.'" (Mueller quotes the full profanity.) "The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, 'How could you let this happen, Jeff?'" The reconstruction was based primarily on accounts from Hunt, with Sessions also supplying detail to Mueller's team. Sessions said Trump asked for his resignation but when he brought him a letter of resignation the next day, the...

Full text of Mueller's questions and Trump's answers

WASHINGTON (AP) - Robert Mueller's 448-page investigative report into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election includes 23 unredacted pages of Mueller's written questions and Donald Trump's written responses, the only direct exchange between the special counsel's office and the president. Mueller's team writes that it tried to interview the president for more than a year before Trump submitted written testimony in response to questions on certain Russia-related topics in November 2018. An introductory note included in the report said the special counsel's office found the responses indicative of "the inadequacy of the written format," especially given the office's inability to ask follow-up questions. Citing dozens of answers that Mueller's team considered incomplete, imprecise or unable to be provided because of the president's lack of recollections - for instance, the president gave no response at all to the final set of questions - the special counsel's office again sought an in-person interview with Trump that he again declined. The full exchange between Mueller's team and Trump: ___ I. JUNE 9, 2016 MEETING AT TRUMP TOWER SPECIAL COUNSEL'S OFFICE: a. When did you first learn that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, or Jared Kushner was considering participating in a meeting in June 2016 concerning potentially negative information about Hillary Clinton? Describe who you learned the information from and the substance of the discussion. b. Attached to this document as Exhibit A is a series of emails from June 2016 between, among others, Donald Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone. In addition to the emails reflected in Exhibit A, Donald Trump Jr. had other communications with Rob Goldstone and Emin Agalarov between June 3, 2016, and June 9,...

Americans' energy use surges despite climate change concern

WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans burned a record amount of energy in 2018, with a 10% jump in consumption from booming natural gas helping to lead the way, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says. Overall consumption of all kinds of fuels rose 4% year on year, the largest such increase in eight years, a report this week from the agency said. Fossil fuels in all accounted for 80% of Americans' energy use. That's despite increasingly urgent warnings from scientists that humans are running out of time to stave off the harshest effects of climate change by cutting harmful emissions from consuming coal, oil and natural gas. A 2018 National Climate Assessment involving scientists from 13 government agencies and outside experts warned that climate change already "presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." Last month was the second hottest March globally on record with an average temperature of 56.8 (13.8 degrees Celsius), nearly 2 degrees warmer than the 20th century average, behind only March 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska had its warmest March by far, nearly 16 degrees above normal and 3.7 degrees warmer than the previous record set in 1965. This week's report says the 2018 weather led Americans to turn on their furnaces and air conditioners more often last year. With the U.S. shale oil and gas boom helping make natural gas increasingly affordable, and with more power plants running on natural gas, natural gas consumption by the national electrical grid rose 15% from 2017, the energy information agency said. Renewable energy consumption also hit a record high, led by a 22% jump in the use of solar power, the agency said. However, coal...

US wins WTO case against China over grain exports

WASHINGTON (AP) - The World Trade Organization handed the United States a win Thursday in a trade dispute with China, ruling that Beijing did not fairly administer quotas on U.S. wheat, rice and corn. The WTO, the Geneva organization that oversees the rules of global trade, found that China had not been transparent, predictable or fair in managing so-called tariff rate quotas on U.S. grain exports. The import tax, or tariff, is higher on U.S. grain shipments that exceed the quota. The case, started by the Obama administration, is not directly related to a larger U.S.-China trade standoff: President Donald Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports in a dispute over Beijing's aggressive drive to challenge U.S. technological dominance; China has retaliated by targeting $110 billion in U.S. products. The two countries are in talks to settle their differences. The decision Thursday was the second U.S. victory over China this year in a trade dispute over agriculture. In February, the WTO ruled that China unfairly subsidized its grain producers. "This second important victory for the United States further demonstrates that President Trump will take all steps necessary to enforce trade rules and to ensure free and fair trade for U.S. farmers," said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. "The Administration will continue to press China to promptly come into compliance with its WTO obligations." China can appeal Thursday's decision.

Analysis | William Barr just did Trump another huge favor

When Attorney General William Barr announced he was going to hold a news conference before the release of the Mueller report Thursday, there was instant pushback. How can the media ask questions about a report it hasn't seen? Would this just be a whole bunch of pre-spin from a man already accused of being too friendly to the president who appointed him? Barr's performance did nothing to argue against those allegations. In a lengthy opening statement, Barr found just about every way possible to say that there was no coordination, cooperation or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also said Trump was right about "no collusion," expanding Trump's exoneration to a more nebulous term with little legal significance. But perhaps more importantly, on obstruction of justice, he seemed to go to bat for Trump personally, offering a sympathetic take on Trump's state of mind and cooperation. Here's the key section, from his prepared remarks: "In assessing the President's actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President's personal culpability. "Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel's report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with...

Read Attorney General Barr’s remarks on the Mueller report

France's Yellow Vests are notoriously unpredictable, but all suggestions are that this week's fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral won't deter some of them from protesting in Paris for the 23rd straight Saturday. Several key members of the disparate and eclectic movement have posted that they intend to demonstrate Saturday, saying that contesting President Emmanuel Macron's policies isn't incompatible with grieving over the damage to the iconic Gothic monument. "Yesterday a historic building burned and it's very serious, but money has flowed in and this monument will be rebuilt," Nicolle Maxime, a truck driver from Brittany who goes by the online name "Fly Rider" and has a wide following, said in a video he posted Tuesday. "The Earth still turns, we have people who can't make it to the end of the month, we have people who sleep on the streets, and that's what our fight is about." Although the fire united France in its grief, the Yellow Vests are showing that it won't quell the political volatility that Macron's government has to contend with. For the protesters, the risk is a public backlash in the event of violence and destruction this weekend, with little tolerance for such behavior so soon after the tragedy. The Notre Dame fire broke out Monday evening, an hour before Macron was due to address the country on television to outline tax and other measures he's proposing as a result of the "Great Debate," a two-month series of town-hall meetings he organized to let the French vent grievances raised by five months of Yellow Vests protests. That speech was canceled, and Macron next week is likely to make the announcement, perhaps in a different format. According to people briefed on his planned speech, Macron was due to announce tax cuts for middle-class households, inflation indexation of small pensions and no more...

The Latest: Report shows Trump trying to shut down probe

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russia and President Donald Trump (all times local): 8:10 a.m. President Donald Trump is blasting the investigation into Russian election meddling as "The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!" hours before the long-awaited released of special counsel Robert Mueller's report Thursday. Trump's first tweet of the day blasted investigators. Trump tweeted, "Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats," although there is no evidence of that. Trump frequently calls the probe into contacts between his 2016 campaign and Russia a "witch hunt." After nearly two years of waiting, America will get its first glimpse of Mueller's report later Thursday- but not before Attorney General William Barr weighs in at a 9:30 a.m. press conference. A redacted version of the nearly 400-page report will be delivered to Congress on CDs between 11 a.m. and noon and then be posted for the public on the special counsel's website. __ 7:55 a.m. Attorney General William Barr's news conference Thursday will address the Justice Department's interactions with the White House over special counsel Robert Mueller's report. That's according to a Justice Department official who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Barr has faced intense criticism from Democrats over his decision to hold a news conference before releasing Mueller's report to the American people and Congress. Barr is scheduled to release a redacted version of Mueller's report. Lawmakers have said they want to see the full report, without redactions. __ 6:45 a.m. Congress' top Democrats are calling for special counsel Robert Mueller to appear before Congress "as soon as possible"...

Dems ask White House aide Miller to testify on immigration

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Democratic House committee chairman on Wednesday invited White House aide Stephen Miller to testify before his panel and "make your case" for President Donald Trump's aggressive policies cracking down on both illegal and legal immigration. The combative Miller is one of the White House's most conservative and influential voices in pushing moves that Trump has taken to curb immigration. He engineered Trump's Muslim travel ban and is widely viewed as the driving force behind the administration's hardest-line immigration policies. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Past administrations have often refused to send White House aides to testify before Congress, though there have been exceptions. Should such a session occur, it would be bound to ignite fireworks over an issue that has repeatedly produced heated clashes between Trump and congressional Democrats. Trump has made an immigration crackdown a cornerstone of his appeal to conservative voters, while Democrats - led by liberal and Hispanic lawmakers - have been just as adamant in opposing his moves. "I understand that you may not want to submit yourself to rigorous questioning," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said in his letter to Miller requesting his appearance. "I want to make clear that I am inviting you to appear voluntarily," Cummings wrote. "I am offering you an opportunity to make your case to the committee and the American people about why you - and presumably President Trump - believe it is good policy for the Trump administration to take the actions it has." Cummings cited the separation of migrant children from detained parents, a policy Trump withdrew under fire last year; Trump's threat to move detained migrants to "sanctuary cities,"...

The Latest: Top Democrat says Barr is trying to spin report

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on the special counsel's report on Russian election interference and Donald Trump's campaign (all times local): 6:45 p.m. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says it is "wrong" that his committee will receive a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report after Attorney General William Barr gives a news conference on it Thursday. New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler says in a tweet that the Justice Department has informed his panel that it will receive the report around 11 a.m. or noon, hours after Barr's 9:30 a.m. press conference. Democrats have said they are concerned that Barr will try to color Mueller's findings before the public has a chance to read the report. The chairman of the Democratic caucus, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, tweeted in reference to Barr, "Release the Mueller report tomorrow morning and keep your mouth shut." __ 5:10 p.m. President Donald Trump says he may hold a press conference after the release of the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Thursday. Trump is expressing confidence about the findings of Mueller's Russia probe in an interview with conservative radio host Larry O'Connor. He says, "You'll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow." Attorney General William Barr will hold a news conference Thursday morning as the report is set to be released. Trump says, "Maybe I'll do one after that, we'll see." ___ 4:30 p.m. The Justice Department says Attorney General William Barr will hold a news conference Thursday morning on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The news conference will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the Justice Department in Washington. Barr will be joined by Deputy Attorney General...

Opinion | Barr’s redactions on the Mueller report don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt

This appears in Thursday's Washington Post: --- As Washington prepared for the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report, a fight was brewing between House Democrats and the Justice Department about how much would be redacted. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has prepared a subpoena demanding disclosure of the whole document to Congress. Attorney General William Barr has steadfastly insisted that information that is classified, stemming from secret grand jury proceedings or otherwise sensitive would not be revealed publicly. Barr is essentially asking Congress and the public to take him at his word that his redactions will be proper. There is already cause for wariness about Barr's judgment, following reports that those who worked on the Mueller investigation felt that the summary the attorney general released last month inadequately represented their findings. The fact that Barr rejected the notion that Trump obstructed justice, even though Mueller made no determination on the matter, is another concerning sign about what the attorney general is thinking. More importantly, Barr works for an administration preparing for all-out war with Congress over all sorts of disclosure, which would be only the latest in a string of bad-faith rejections of federal rules and traditional norms. Regardless of the attorney general's reputation, he still works for an administration that long ago lost any benefit of the doubt on transparency and fair play. There may be no satisfying end to this national saga until an independent referee steps in to sort out the controversy. Reggie Walton, a U.S. district judge, raised on Tuesday one possibility for further review. Accusing Barr of creating "an environment that has caused a significant part of the public . . . to be concerned about whether or...

President who cried wolf? Real border alarms now seem hollow

WASHINGTON (AP) - When President Donald Trump insisted last year that America's southern border was in crisis, his warnings landed with a thud. Making unverified claims about "unknown Middle Easterners" and prayer rugs found by ranchers, Trump drew eye rolls from Democrats and many others, who derided his tactics as little more than an election-year stunt . Now, six months later, Trump's new cries of alarm are again being met with skepticism, though the situation at the border has indeed deteriorated. Lawmakers of both parties agree there is a genuine humanitarian emergency, with federal authorities and non-profits unable to cope with the tens of thousands of Central American families seeking refuge in the U.S. It's a classic case of the boy who cried wolf. No wonder the public is skeptical, says Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif. "There's a humanitarian crisis and I think that there are steps we can take to help. Unfortunately the president has never been an honest broker about any of these solutions. He plays fast and loose with the facts." Trump and members of his administration have spent years blaming Democrats for failing to work with them to close what they describe as "loopholes" that encourage migrants to make the dangerous trek to the U.S. and that restrict the government's ability to remove them once they arrive. "Democrats in Congress must return from their Vacations and change the Immigration Laws, or the Border, despite the great job being done by Border Patrol, will only get worse," Trump tweeted again on Wednesday. But Democratic lawmakers and immigration activists say that, after years of incendiary comments and false starts, there is little appetite for cooperation with Trump on an issue that has vexed lawmakers for decades. The president, they say, has...

Mueller report will be lightly redacted, revealing detailed look at obstruction of justice investigation

WASHINGTON - Attorney General William Barr will hold a news conference Thursday to discuss special counsel Robert Mueller III's final report, adding a must-see-TV event to the day he will release the long-awaited document. President Donald Trump revealed the plan during a radio appearance, and a Justice Department spokeswoman later confirmed it. The news conference will occur at 9:30 a.m., and Barr, appearing alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will take questions. It was not immediately clear whether the news conference would occur before or after the report's release. Barr has faced intense scrutiny from the public and lawmakers on Capitol Hill for his handling of Mueller's report so far. A Thursday news conference could give him an opportunity to address his critics - and perhaps provide them fresh ammunition. It is sure to be watched closely by Trump, an avid TV viewer whose relationship with his attorney general will almost certainly be colored by Mueller's findings and what Barr says about them. That Trump knew in advance of the news conference suggests the Justice Department has communicated to the White House at least some information about the report's rollout. Trump told the Larry O'Connor show on WMAL that he was pondering having his own news conference. "You'll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow. Attorney General Barr is going to be giving a press conference. Maybe I'll do one after that; we'll see," Trump said. Already, Democratic lawmakers and pundits have alleged that Barr seems to be taking steps to mitigate the political damage Mueller's report might do to Trump, and some members of Mueller's team have told associates they are frustrated by the limited information he has released about their work. Since the special counsel's office closed its investigation late last...

Trump administration seeks to boost Opportunity Zones

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed new regulations aimed at making it easier for investors to take advantage of tax breaks for investing in "Opportunity Zones" in low-income areas. The proposed regulations issued by the Treasury Department seek to clear up questions that were keeping some investors from using the tax incentives. President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House conference to promote the program, said governors in all 50 states and U.S. territories had designated 8,700 neighborhoods as Opportunity Zones, making these economically depressed areas eligible to be used for the federal tax incentives. The program was included in the $1.5 trillion tax cut legislation that Trump pushed through Congress in 2017. The new Opportunity Zones were set up to enable private investors to re-invest profits into designated areas. The investor can get a tax benefit by deferring their capital gains taxes invested in the zones until 2026. They also get a discount of up to 15% on the capital gains profits invested in the zones and pay no capital gains taxes on investments in the zones held for at least 10 years. However, the government found that use of these benefits was being limited because of concerns over how the tax rules would be interpreted. The proposed regulations unveiled Wednesday are designed to clear up the confusion. Trump said the tax had been lowered "all the way down to a very big, fat, beautiful number of zero." Industry analysts said the new rules should help generate increased interest in the program. Governors were allowed to choose up to a quarter of their states' low-income census tracts as Opportunity Zones.

Peter Maer earns Cronkite Faith, Freedom Award

EDWARDSVILLE - Southern Illinois University Edwardsville alumnus Peter Maer will receive the Interfaith Alliance Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award along with Judge William Webster on Tuesday, May 21 in Washington, D.C. The Interfaith Alliance Foundation presents the Cronkite Award to individuals, who through their brave and selfless acts, have defended religious liberty and improved society. "I am humbled and flattered to receive an award that carries the name of my longtime journalism hero, Walter Cronkite," said Maer, a Granite City native. "I'm also gratified to be honored by Interfaith Alliance, an organization whose mission Mr. Cronkite so strongly supported following his retirement from CBS News. It will also be special to share the stage with a great American, Judge William Webster. "Since retiring from CBS News, I have used every classroom opportunity to urge aspiring journalists to oppose all types of bigotry and stereotyping and to respect the American tradition of religious freedom." A long-time White House correspondent, Maer covered the beat from 1986 until his 2015 retirement from CBS News. He was inducted into the SIUE Alumni Hall of Fame in 2012. He was a member of the first class of SIUE mass communications majors, graduating in 1970. He was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 1995 and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from SIUE in 2007. Maer was a voice for national news for more than a quarter century. He provided coverage on presidential politics, and major national and international disasters with honors, including the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award, five Merriman Smith Awards for Presidential Coverage and the Overseas Press Award. Prior to his network career, Maer worked as a reporter at radio stations in St. Louis, Nashville and Atlanta, where...

Mueller report release spirals into political gamesmanship

WASHINGTON (AP) - After nearly two years of waiting, America will get some answers straight from Robert Mueller. The Justice Department on Thursday is expected to release a redacted version of the special counsel's report on Russian election interference and Donald Trump's campaign, opening up months, if not years, of fights over what the document means in a deeply divided country. The nearly 400-page report is expected to reveal what Mueller uncovered about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia that fell short of criminal conduct. It will also lay out the special counsel's conclusions about formative episodes in Trump's presidency, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey and his efforts to undermine the Russia investigation publicly and privately. The report is not expected to place the president in legal jeopardy, as Attorney General William Barr made his own decision that Trump shouldn't be prosecuted for obstruction. But it is likely to contain unflattering details about the president's efforts to control the Russia investigation that will cloud his ability to credibly claim total exoneration. And it may paint the Trump campaign as eager to exploit Russian aid and emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton's campaign even if no Americans crossed the line into criminal activity. The report's release will also be a test of Barr's credibility as the public and Congress judge the veracity of a letter he released relaying Mueller's principal conclusions. The letter said Mueller didn't find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government but he found evidence on "both sides" of the question of whether the president obstructed justice. Barr will also face scrutiny over how much of the report he blacks out. He has said he is withholding grand jury and classified...

AP Interview: Ivanka Trump says Africa would inspire her dad

ABIDJIAN, Ivory Coast (AP) - On a trip to Africa to promote women's economic empowerment, Ivanka Trump said the White House should be judged by its actions toward a continent that her father has privately disparaged. In an interview with The Associated Press, the president's daughter and senior adviser pointed to visits to the continent by herself, the first lady and others, saying: "Our commitment to Africa is clear." She added that she hopes President Donald Trump will visit, saying: "I've been deeply, deeply inspired by my trip here. And I think he will be as well." Ivanka Trump spoke Wednesday, the last day of her four-day trip to Ethiopia and Ivory Coast, which has featured a mix of diplomacy and visits to local business ventures as she advances a White House program to give an economic boost to women in the developing world. Her trip was viewed with skepticism in some quarters, given the president's efforts to cut foreign aid and his past derogatory comments about the continent. The president was criticized last year after his private comments referring to "shithole countries" in Africa and other regions were leaked to journalists. A close adviser to the president, Ivanka Trump said her father asked her if she was interested in the job of World Bank chief but that she was happy with her current role in the administration. She worked on the selection process for the new head of the 189-nation World Bank, David Malpass, and declared he would do an "incredible job." Asked if her father had approached her about other top jobs, Ivanka Trump said she would "keep that between us." But she did say she does not see a run for office in her future. A day before the Justice Department is expected to unveil a redacted version of the special counsel's report on Russian election interference and the Trump campaign, Ivanka...

Harris, Booker miss most votes of senators running in 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) - Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have each missed more than one-fifth of the Senate's votes so far this year as they campaign for president, according to an Associated Press analysis of congressional data. With 16 missed votes of the 77 that the Republican-controlled Senate has held in 2019, Harris and Booker far outpace the number missed by their fellow senators also vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders has missed seven votes so far this year, while Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar have each missed three and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has missed one vote, AP found. Seeking the presidency as a sitting member of Congress requires a logistical juggling act that often results in candidates taking hits for missed votes as the pace of campaign season picks up to a whirlwind. Perhaps the most notable recent example is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who took hits for his missed votes from his rivals - including future President Donald Trump - during the 2016 GOP presidential primary. "When you're a governor or businessman, you can run for president and still do your day job. But when you're a senator or congressman and run for president, you're not voting, which is the single most important part of your job," said Alex Conant, a veteran Republican strategist and Rubio's communications director in 2016. "So I think there's an inherent conflict that people (who) aren't in that position are going to try to exploit." That doesn't mean, however, that jabbing at presidential candidates for missed votes is effective. While Rubio's absenteeism drew criticism from Trump and the Democrat seeking to take his Senate seat in 2016, he still easily won re-election to the Senate. And Rubio had missed considerably more votes at a similar point in 2015 than Harris and Booker have during...

Prominent Virginia music teacher accused of molesting students

A prominent Annandale, Virginia, music teacher has been charged with sexually abusing two former students following an investigation that lasted nearly a year, the Fairfax County police said Wednesday. Jeffrey Cummins, 56, is facing eight counts of indecent liberties by a custodian, police said. He was arrested at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on Tuesday after returning to the United States from a trip abroad. Cummins has spent more than three decades teaching students, according to a biography on his website. He is the founder and director of Virginia Music Adventures, a traveling group for school-age children. He also owns two Huntington Learning Centers in Tysons, and Springfield, Virginia, police said. In addition, Cummins has taught at schools in northern Virginia and given private lessons at his home, according to police and his website. He is also the director of the McLean Jazz Workshop. In addition, he has won arts awards and been recognized by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Detectives began investigating Cummins in May 2018, after a juvenile revealed that he had been inappropriately touched by Cummins over several years, police said. In January, another victim came forward and disclosed he had been abused by Cummins for several years, as well, police said. The abuse occurred during lessons and at other times the juveniles were at Cummins' home, police said. Police said there may be additional victims and would like to hear from anyone concerned that their child may have had inappropriate contact with Cummins. The Major Crimes Bureau can be reached at 703-246-7800. No attorney was listed for Cummins in court records, and he could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Latest: US sanctions on Venezuelan bank aimed at Maduro

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on the Trump administration's position on Cuba (all times local): 7:40 a.m. A senior official in Madrid says the Spanish government is asking the European Union to challenge a U.S. move to allow lawsuits against foreign companies operating in properties seized from Americans in post-revolution Cuba. The move, announced Tuesday, breaks with two decades of U.S. policy on the island. Spain, which has large investments in hotels and other tourism-related industries in Cuba, will ask the EU to challenge the decision in the World Trade Organization, a senior government official told The Associated Press. The official requested anonymity because she wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly. She added that Spain was committed to defending its interests on the island. Businesses from Canada, France and Great Britain among other countries also conduct business in properties nationalized after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. - By Aritz Parra ___ 12:05 a.m. The Trump administration is preparing to change a longstanding U.S. policy on Cuba. The administration is expected to announce Wednesday that it will allow lawsuits against foreign companies doing business in properties seized from Americans after Cuba's 1959 revolution. A law passed in 1996, the Helms-Burton Act, gives Americans the right to sue the mostly European companies that operate out of hotels, tobacco factories, distilleries and other properties that Cuba nationalized after Fidel Castro took power. The act even allows lawsuits by Cubans who became U.S. citizens years after their properties were taken. But every U.S. president since Bill Clinton has suspended the key clause to avoid trade clashes and a potential mass of lawsuits that would prevent any future settlement with...