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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

Last Updated Jan 16, 2018 at 11:20 pm EST

Dems accuse GOP official of ‘amnesia’ on Trump vulgarity

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans struggled to get their stories straight Tuesday as President Donald Trump’s Homeland Security secretary became the latest GOP official to offer an inconclusive version of a meeting in which Trump is said to have used vulgar remarks that have been criticized as racist.

Democrats accused Republicans of selective amnesia, as Kirstjen Nielsen testified under oath that she “did not hear” Trump use a certain vulgarity to describe African countries. “It was a meeting of 12 people. There was cross-talk,” she explained at a congressional hearing, but she didn’t “dispute the president was using tough language.”

Under persistent questioning, Nielsen said she didn’t recall the specific language used by Trump.

“What I was struck with frankly, as I’m sure you were as well, was just the general profanity used in the room by almost everyone.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, angrily criticized Nielsen’s comments, telling her during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.”

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House panel subpoenas Bannon in Russia probe showdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Tuesday refused to answer a broad array of queries from the House Intelligence Committee about his time working for President Donald Trump, provoking a subpoena from the panel’s Republican chairman.

The development brought to the forefront questions about White House efforts to control what the former adviser tells Congress about his time in Trump’s inner circle and whether Republicans on Capitol Hill would force the issue in light of the newly issued subpoena from the GOP-controlled panel.

The congressional subpoena came the same day The New York Times reported that Bannon — a former far-right media executive and recently scorned political adversary of the president’s — has been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a federal grand jury.

With the issuance of Mueller’s subpoena, Bannon became the highest-ranking person who served in the Trump White House to be called before a grand jury as part of the special counsel’s investigation.

By itself, the move doesn’t confirm that Mueller is presenting evidence to support future criminal charges. But it does show that Mueller is still actively using a grand jury as he probes the actions of Trump, his family and his staff during the campaign, presidential transition and the early months of the administration.

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10 Things to Know for Wednesday

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

1. STEVE BANNON BACK ON CAPITOL HILL

A House panel questions the ex-White House strategist, aiming to find out Trump’s thinking when he fired FBI Director James Comey.

2. WHO’S STRUGGLING TO GET STORIES STRAIGHT

Trump’s Homeland Security secretary becomes the latest GOP official to offer a conflicting account of a meeting in which the president is said to have used vulgar remarks that have been criticized as racist.

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Aced it: Doc says Trump got perfect score on cognitive test

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump performed “exceedingly well” on a surprise cognitive screening test administered last week, his doctor said Tuesday, as the White House continued to bat back questions about the president’s mental fitness for office.

Navy doctor Ronny Jackson, who administered Trump’s first presidential physical last week, said Trump received a perfect score on a test designed to detect early signs of memory loss and other mild cognitive impairment. He also reported the 6-foot-3 president weighed in at 239 pounds — three pounds heavier than he was in September 2016, the last time Trump revealed his weight to the public. That number puts Trump on the cusp of — but just under — the obesity mark.

“The president’s overall health is excellent,” said Jackson, who predicted Trump would remain healthy for the duration of his presidency despite a diet heavy on fast food and an exercise regime limited to weekend golf outings.

“It’s called genetics,” Jackson said. “I don’t know. … He has incredibly good genes and that’s just the way God made him.”

Presidents don’t typically sit for cognitive assessments during their periodic physical exams. But Jackson said Trump personally requested the test as he continues to face questions about his mental acuity for office. Such questions have escalated in the wake of an unflattering new book that paints Trump as a man-child who has trouble processing information and recognizing old friends.

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Frigid temperatures trail storm dropping more snow on South

ATLANTA (AP) — A wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain blanketed a large swath of the South, trailed by a blast of frigid air that could approach record low temperatures Wednesday.

By Tuesday evening, steadily dropping snow about 15 miles (25 kilometres) northwest of Atlanta was forcing cars on Interstate 75 to slow considerably amid scattered fender benders.

Ryan Willis, a meteorologist for the National Water Service based in Peachtree City, says the forecast calls for 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 4 centimetres) of snow to fall in metropolitan Atlanta through Wednesday morning, with localized higher amounts.

Forecasters said travel could be difficult in north Georgia because of below-zero (-18 Celsius) wind chills. Many Georgia school districts already had announced early dismissal times and cancellations.

The same slippery conditions and dangerous wind chills swept across several southern states Tuesday, shutting down interstates, triggering highway crashes, closing airport runways and prompting widespread school closings. Snow fell in a wide band that stretched from southeastern Texas all the way to western Massachusetts.

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Tillerson warns military action on NK unless diplomacy works

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Tuesday that if North Korea does not choose to negotiate on giving up its nuclear weapons that pose a growing threat to the United States it could trigger a military response.

After a meeting of U.S. allies on how to beef up the sanctions pressure, Tillerson stressed that the Trump administration seeks a diplomatic resolution in the nuclear standoff, but he said the North has yet to show itself to be a “credible negotiating partner.” He said U.S.-North Korea talks would require a “sustained cessation” of threatening behaviour.

Tillerson declined to comment on whether the White House is considering limited military action against Pyongyang, in response to reports that some in the Trump administration advocate military action to give the North a “bloody nose.”

“We all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation,” Tillerson said when he was asked whether Americans should be concerned about the possibility of a war. He said North Korea has continued to make significant advances in its nuclear weapons through the thermonuclear test and progress in its intercontinental missile systems.

“We have to recognize that the threat is growing and that if North Korea does not choose the pathway of engagement, discussion, negotiation then they themselves will trigger an option,” he said.

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Myanmar army enjoys popularity surge amid Rohingya crackdown

BANGKOK (AP) — Activist Nyo Tun spent 10 years as a political prisoner locked away by Myanmar’s military in the notorious Insein prison, where he endured beatings and other cruelty for his efforts to bring democracy.

“The military government was so brutal for many years,” he said of the former junta, which ruled the country for decades until 2012 and then by proxy four more years — and still has a final say on security matters. “All they knew was how to torture anyone who was against them.”

Myanmar, long isolated both by choice and by international sanctions, has undergone a transformation in recent years. Another former political prisoner, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was elected the head of a civilian government, which led to the easing of most sanctions and an influx of foreign investment.

Yet the most striking change may be the majority Buddhist Burman population’s view of its military: An institution once despised has seen its popularity surge alongside a rise in nationalism that has accompanied a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state in western Myanmar that has left thousands dead and more than 650,000 displaced.

While most of the outside world is appalled by what U.N. and U.S. officials have called “ethnic cleansing” that has grown into Asia’s worst refugee crisis in decades, many in Myanmar support it. They see the Rohingya as illegal migrants from Bangladesh who are a threat to national security and bristle at international condemnation of rights abuses.

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California couple’s ordinary home held torture chamber

PERRIS, Calif. (AP) — From the outside, the brown-and-beige four-bedroom home looked fairly orderly. Inside, it was a veritable torture chamber for 13 siblings who lived with their parents, police said.

The couple who owned the home purchased it new in 2014 and soon arrived in the rapidly growing city 70 miles (113 kilometres) southeast of Los Angeles with their 12 children. They lived there quietly for at least three years and had another baby.

Then, on Sunday, one of the children jumped out of a window, called 911 and led authorities to the home and the bizarre scene inside.

Sheriff’s deputies said they found the couple’s 13 children ranging in age from 2 to 29 years old, some of them chained to furniture, all of them thin and malnourished. The 17-year-old girl who escaped was so tiny that deputies initially mistook her for a 10-year-old.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Fellows said the 911 call came from a cellphone that had been deactivated but still worked for emergency calls.

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Pope meets with abuse survivors, weeps with them in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Pope Francis met on Tuesday with survivors of priests who sexually abused them, wept with them and apologized for the “irreparable damage” they suffered, his spokesman said.

The pontiff also acknowledged the “pain” of priests who have been held collectively responsible for the crimes of a few, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters at the end of the day.

Francis dove head-first into Chile’s sex abuse scandal on his first full day in Santiago that came amid unprecedented opposition to his visit: Three more churches were torched overnight, including one burned to the ground in the southern Araucania region where Francis celebrates Mass on Wednesday. Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up an anti-pope protest outside Francis’ big open-air Mass in the capital, Santiago.

Despite the incidents, huge numbers of Chileans turned out to see the pope, including an estimated 400,000 for his Mass, and he brought some inmates to tears with an emotional visit to a women’s prison.

But his meeting with abuse survivors and comments in his first speech of the day were what many Chileans, incensed by years of abuse scandal and coverup, were waiting for.

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Ex-doctor’s victims recount sex abuse as young gymnasts

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — One after one, gymnasts and other victims of a disgraced former sports doctor stepped forward in a Michigan courtroom Tuesday to recount the sexual abuse and emotional trauma he inflicted on them as children, including one who warned that girls eventually “grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”

Nearly 100 victims are expected to address the court during the four-day sentencing hearing for 54-year-old Larry Nassar. Many cried as they told their stories on the hearing’s first day, and some requested anonymity. Others unleashed.

“I testified to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar and those ‘treatments’ were pathetically veiled sexual abuse,” victim Kyle Stephens said to Nassar, who often bowed his head and closed his eyes or looked away as she and others spoke.

Stephens, the first victim to speak, said Nassar repeatedly abused her from age 6 until age 12 during family visits to his home in Holt, near Lansing. She said he rubbed his genitals on her and digitally penetrated her, among other abuse.

She said Nassar denied it, and her parents initially believed him. Stephens said she largely blamed her father’s suicide on the shame and self-loathing he felt for defending Nassar.