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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Trump says he’d ‘want to hear’ foreign dirt on 2020 rivals

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he’d be open to accepting it and that he’d have no obligation to call in the FBI.

“I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News, adding, “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”

The role of Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in organizing a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer offering negative information on Hillary Clinton was a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the last presidential campaign.

Mueller painstakingly documented Russian efforts to boost Trump’s campaign and undermine that of his Democratic rival. But while Mueller’s investigation didn’t establish a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s campaign, Trump repeatedly praised WikiLeaks in 2016 and celebrated information exposed by Russian hackers.

One of Trump’s challengers, former Vice-President Joe Biden, tweeted: “President Trump is once again welcoming foreign interference in our elections. This isn’t about politics. It is a threat to our national security. An American President should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.”

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Former Trump aide Hope Hicks agrees to Judiciary interview

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former White House communications director Hope Hicks has agreed to a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee, the panel announced Wednesday, a breakthrough for Democrats who have been frustrated by President Donald Trump’s broad stonewalling of their investigations.

The Judiciary panel subpoenaed Hicks, a close and trusted Trump aide who worked for the presidential campaign and in the White House, last month as part of its investigation into special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and obstruction of justice. Her June 19 interview will mark the first time a former Trump aide has testified before the panel as part of its probe.

Hicks was a key witness for Mueller, delivering important information to the special counsel’s office about multiple episodes involving the president. That includes the president’s role in the drafting of a misleading and incomplete statement about a 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which Donald Trump Jr. expected to receive dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Hicks and another former White House aide, Annie Donaldson, both defied subpoenas last week to provide documents to the committee after the White House directed them not to co-operate. That came after former White House counsel Don McGahn also defied subpoenas for documents and testimony at the direction of the White House. McGahn was mentioned frequently in Mueller’s report, in addition to Donaldson, who was his aide.

It is unclear whether Hicks will decline to answer some questions related to her time in the White House. She has so far declined to release any documents related to that period after the White House said she had no legal right to provide them. But she has turned over documents related to her time on the Trump campaign.

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Hong Kong traffic flowing day after political crisis flared

HONG KONG (AP) — Traffic was restored in the heart of Hong Kong on Thursday following violent clashes the day before between police and protesters who oppose legislation that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

The events in the former British colony mark possibly its biggest political crisis since its handover to Chinese rule in 1997, and pose a profound challenge to Chinese president and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping.

Nearly two years ago, Xi issued a stern address in the city stating that Beijing would not tolerate Hong Kong becoming a base for what the party considers a foreign-inspired campaign to undermine its rule. Yet the mostly young throngs of well-organized protesters seemed little deterred by such threats, even as they took pains to remain anonymous by wearing masks, declining to give their full names to journalists and using cash rather than stored value cards to buy subway tickets.

The demonstrations also follow the 30th anniversary of China’s bloody suppression of the student-led pro-democracy protests centred on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Hong Kong held one of its biggest rallies in recent years earlier this month to honour the hundreds or possibly thousands killed in the army assault and to demand a full investigation into the crackdown, in what was seen as a further sign of defiance against Beijing.

Xi’s administration is also dealing with the trade war with the United States that has thrown its export-driven economic model into question, potentially threatening its relationship with China’s urban middle class that has been predicated on accepting strict political controls in exchange for improving standards of living.

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Arch Madness: Blues win 1st Stanley Cup, beating Bruins 4-1

BOSTON (AP) — St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington was waiting patiently, as NHL rookies learn to do, while the Stanley Cup was passed from teammate to teammate across the recently conquered ice of the new Boston Garden.

Thirteen Blues took their turn with the iconic trophy, raising it above their heads, lowering it for a kiss, posing for a picture.

Finally, understudy Jake Allen gave the starter a little shove, and the Game 7 star timidly skated forward to receive the Cup and cap off one of the great rookie runs in NHL history.

Binnington stopped 32 shots, and Ryan O’Reilly scored for the fourth straight game Wednesday night to lead the Blues to a 4-1 victory over Boston in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and their first NHL championship.

Alex Pietrangelo added a goal and an assist and Brayden Schenn and Zach Sanford also scored for St. Louis, which had the worst record in the league in early January but won 30 of their final 49 regular-season games, then soared through the playoffs to reach the final for the first time since 1970.

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Mothers say Air Force fails amid child sex assaults reports

To the mothers, the 13-year-old boy appeared largely unsupervised as he roamed among the clusters of townhomes on the U.S. Air Force base in Japan.

It would have been unremarkable — the neighbourhood was full of kids — except that young girls were starting to report the boy had led them from play and molested them.

“We were like, ‘How is this OK?'” the mother of one 5-year-old girl told The Associated Press, which granted her anonymity to protect her daughter’s privacy. She locked her kids inside.

The first girl to report had to wait six days for officials on the largest Air Force installation in the Pacific to provide counselling. The mothers did not sense much urgency from Air Force criminal investigators either. They told the families they’d waited 13 days to meet the boy’s father.

By then, mothers had identified five girls, ages 2 to 7, who said the boy had taken them to some trees or a playground or his house. Another five kids would allege abuse soon after.

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House panel votes to hold top US officials in contempt

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee voted Wednesday to hold two top Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas for documents related to a decision adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee voted 24-15 to advance contempt measures against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who has said he supports an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump,was the sole Republican to join with Democrats.

The vote sends the contempt measures to the full House, although congressional leaders could go directly to court to try to force compliance with the subpoenas under a resolution approved earlier this week.

The committee’s action marks an escalation of Democratic efforts to use their House majority to aggressively investigate the inner workings of the Trump administration.

The vote came as the White House asserted executive privilege on the matter Wednesday. The Justice Department said officials had “engaged in good-faith efforts” to satisfy the committee’s oversight needs and labeled the contempt vote “unnecessary and premature.”

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Japan premier warns US, Iran ‘accidental conflict’ possible

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travelled to Tehran on Wednesday to warn that an “accidental conflict” could be sparked amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S., a message that came hours after Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi airport, wounding 26 people.

Abe’s trip is the highest-level effort yet to de-escalate the crisis as Tehran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an accord that the Trump administration pulled out of last year. It’s also the first visit of a sitting Japanese premier in the 40 years since the Islamic Revolution.

But success may prove difficult for Abe, as the Houthi rebel attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha regional airport underscored. The attack is just the latest in a wave of rebel drone and missile attacks targeting the kingdom, which has been mired in a yearslong war in Yemen that has killed an estimated 60,000 people and pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine.

Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade level on July 7 if European allies fail to offer it new terms. While President Donald Trump says he wants to talk to Tehran, the U.S. has piled on sanctions that have seen Iran’s rial currency plummet along with its crucial oil exports.

The U.S. also has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region, along with hundreds more troops to back up the tens of thousands already deployed across the Middle East. The U.S. blames Iran for the Houthi assaults, as well as a mysterious attack on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

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Maine becomes 8th state to legalize assisted suicide

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine legalized medically assisted suicide on Wednesday, becoming the eighth state to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who had previously said she was unsure about the bill, signed it in her office.

“It is my hope that this law, while respecting the right to personal liberty, will be used sparingly,” said Mills.

Oregon was the first state to legalize such assistance, in 1997, and it took over a decade for the next state, Washington, to follow suit. While still controversial, assisted suicide legislation is winning increasing acceptance in the United States, and this year at least 18 states considered such measures.

Maine’s measure will allow doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to terminally ill people. It declares that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not suicide under state law, thereby legalizing the practice often called medically assisted suicide.

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Catholic bishops approve new sex-abuse reporting hotline

BALTIMORE (AP) — U.S. Catholic bishops voted Wednesday to create a new national sex-abuse hotline run by an independent entity, a decision that represents one of the church’s most tangible steps yet in confronting its sex-abuse crisis.

The hotline, which would field allegations that bishops committed abuse or covered it up, would take complaints by telephone and through an online link. It’s supposed to be operating within a year.

Hotline operators would relay allegations to regional supervisory bishops. Church leaders are encouraging those bishops — though not requiring them — to seek help from lay experts in assessing and investigating allegations.

“I can’t imagine a bishop not using a lay-led review board that’s filled with people who have expertise in this area of investigation, people with a legal background or a law enforcement background,” said Robert Barron, the auxiliary bishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Bishops approved the idea on the second day of their national meeting. The new system’s startup costs were estimated at $30,000, with an ongoing annual cost of about $50,000.

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6 suspects, including gunman, arrested in Ortiz shooting

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — An alleged gunman and five accomplices have been detained in the shooting of former Red Sox superstar David Ortiz, Dominican officials said Wednesday, while providing no information about why a group of young men would try to kill their country’s most beloved sports hero.

Four other suspects were also being pursued in the shooting, which witnesses said was carried out by two men on a motorcycle, assisted by two other groups of people in cars.

“At this moment, they are being interrogated and we will continue deepening the investigation to get to the truth about what happened,” Chief Prosecutor Jean Alain Rodríguez said.

“Nobody involved in this unfortunate episode will escape justice, neither those who carried it out nor the mastermind,” he said.

The national police director, Maj. Gen. Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte, said the co-ordinator of the attack was offered 400,000 Dominican pesos, or about $7,800, to orchestrate the shooting. He said the alleged co-ordinator was also among those in custody.

The Associated Press

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