Trump tried hard to win Ukraine Biden probes, officials say
WASHINGTON (AP) — There was no hinting around, it was a straight-out trade, two key White House officials told impeachment investigators. If Ukraine's new leader wanted an Oval Office welcome from Donald Trump — and he did — he would have to open a public probe into the president's Democratic foe Joe Biden and his son.
"There was no ambiguity," said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, recounting an extraordinary day of meetings at the White House last summer.
According to transcripts released Friday in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, Vindman and Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia adviser, both gave firsthand descriptions of scenes central to the congressional probe.
Vindman testified that Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor serving as ambassador to the European Union, told the visiting officials that if they hoped to win that coveted face-to-face meeting, "the Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens."
The Bidens? the House questioners pressed. In the White House Ward Room he mentioned the word "Bidens"?
Trump pushes back on reports US will remove China tariffs
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed a Chinese official's assertion that his administration has agreed to roll back some of the higher tariffs it's imposed on Chinese goods.
The Chinese official said Thursday that the two sides had agreed to a phased cancellation of their tariff hikes as part of an emerging agreement.
Trump's pushback suggested that negotiations haven't progressed as far as hoped as the world's two biggest economies struggle to negotiate an end to their trade war, which has hurt both economies.
"They'd like to have a rollback," Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to the Chinese. "I haven't agreed to anything."
The two sides have been working on an initial "Phase 1" deal that was announced Oct. 12 but that still isn't final.
Stay or go? US residents of Mexico town torn after 9 killed
LA MORA, Mexico (AP) — U.S. citizens living in a small Mexican farming community established by their Mormon ancestors are trying to decide whether they should stay or leave after burying some of the nine American women and children slaughtered this week in a drug cartel ambush.
What had been a peaceful existence in a fertile valley ringed by rugged mountains and desert scrub about 70 miles (112 kilometers) from the border with Arizona became increasingly dangerous in recent years as the cartels exerted their power and battled each other in Sonora state, a drug smuggling hotbed.
But La Mora, a hamlet of about 300 people where residents raise cattle and cultivate pomegranates, "will be forever changed" following the killings Monday as the women traveled with their children to visit relatives, a tearful David Langford told mourners at the funeral for his wife, Dawna Ray Langford, and their 11-year-old and 2-year-old sons.
"One of the dearest things to our lives is the safety of our family," said Langford. "And I won't feel safe. I haven't for a few years here."
On Friday, the bodies of Rhonita Miller and four of her children were being taken in a convoy of pickup trucks and SUVS, on the same dirt-and-rock mountainous road where they were killed, for burial in the community of Colonia Le Baron in Chihuahua state. Many residents of the two communities that lie a five-hour, bone-jarring drive apart are related. They consider themselves Mormon but are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and many have dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship.
Lawyer: Bolton has knowledge about Ukraine not yet public
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former national security adviser John Bolton was "part of many relevant meetings and conversations" pertaining to the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump that are not yet public, his lawyer said Friday.
Charles Cooper made the revelation in a letter that suggests Bolton will appear before Congress only if a judge orders him to do so.
The letter, addressed to the top lawyer for the House of Representatives, seeks to distinguish Bolton and former deputy Charles Kupperman from other current and former White House officials who have testified so far to impeachment investigators. The letter says that Bolton and Kupperman, unlike the other witnesses, provided direct advice to Trump regularly and would be asked during any congressional appearance to disclose sensitive foreign policy and national security information.
"After all, Dr. Kupperman was the Deputy National Security Advisor to the President throughout the period to your inquiry," the letter states. "The same is true, of course, of Ambassador Bolton, who was the National Security Advisor to the President, and who was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far."
Kupperman was subpoenaed as part of the impeachment inquiry but sued House Democrats and the Trump administration. He asked a judge to decide which directive he must follow — one from Congress ordering him to testify, the other from the White House telling him not to. Bolton has not been subpoenaed. Lawmakers scheduled a Thursday interview with Bolton, but he did not show.
Facebook is deleting the name of the potential whistleblower
Facebook says it is deleting the name of the person who has been identified in conservative circles as the whistleblower who triggered a congressional impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's actions.
The company said Friday that mention of the potential whistleblower's name violates Facebook's "coordinating harm policy," which prohibits material that could identify a "witness, informant, or activist."
Facebook says it is removing mentions of the alleged whistleblower's name and will revisit this decision if the name is widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate.
On Twitter, though, the alleged whistleblower's name was circulating widely on Friday. The company does not have a policy against identifying whistleblowers by name and is not removing the posts.
Some of the stories identifying the person came from the conservative news site Breitbart, which Facebook counts as one of its news partners in a newly launched news section on its app. However, the company said it was also removing identifying posts on the whistleblower from Breitbart.
US officials identify 'strong culprit' in vaping illnesses
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials announced a breakthrough Friday into the cause of a mysterious outbreak of vaping illnesses, reporting they have a "very strong culprit."
The same chemical compound was found in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The compound — vitamin E acetate — was previously found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many of those who got sick.
This is the first time they've found a common suspect in the damaged lungs of patients, officials said.
"We are in a better place in terms of having one very strong culprit," said the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat.
But agency officials cautioned they cannot rule out all other toxic substances, and it may take animal studies to clearly show vitamin E acetate causes the lung damage that's been seen.
Brazilian ex-president released from imprisonment
CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva walked out of jail on Friday, less than a day after the Supreme Court ruled that a person can be imprisoned only after all the appeals have been exhausted.
Hundreds of red-shirted supporters gathered outside the federal police building in southern city of Curitiba, cheered the popular, 74-year-old politician, whose release could rally a demoralized opposition.
Da Silva, who is appealing his conviction of corruption and money laundering in connection with the purchase of a beachfront apartment in Sao Paulo state, embraced his daughter, raised his fist to the sky, then made his way onto a stage where he was surrounded by his girlfriend and others.
"You have no idea the dimension of the significance of me being here with you," Da Silva told jubilant supporters, thanking individual union leaders and members of his leftist Workers' Party. "They didn't arrest a man. They tried to detain an idea. An idea doesn't disappear."
Da Silva, who is universally known as Lula, has been imprisoned since April 2018. It is not yet clear what political role he will seek now that he is free. He is barred from office while his appeals run their course, but former leader of the Workers' Party, better known in Brazil by its Portuguese acronym PT, remains a popular figure on the left. Still, he could find himself back in jail if his appeals don't go his way.
A year after deadly fire, Paradise pauses to remember
PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — Paradise paused on Friday.
One year after the most devastating wildfire in California history mostly destroyed the town, local officials asked people to pause for 85 seconds beginning at 11:08 a.m. — one second for every person who was killed.
Hundreds of people packed the parking lot of a former bank building on Friday to stop and remember.
It was one of several events local officials have planned to commemorate Nov. 8, 2018, when a terrifying blaze blew through the town and prompted a panicked evacuation that forced some people to abandon their cars as the fire closed in on gridlocked roads.
Christina Taft fled that day. But her mother, Victoria, did not and was killed in the fire. Taft said it's been a difficult year and she's had trouble finding housing. She's living in San Jose with a friend she met after the fire, where she finally found a job and starts on Monday.
Canada case poses question: Is US immigration system safe?
CHAMPLAIN, N.Y. (AP) — In the looming darkness, the Nigerian family of four, including two children carrying stuffed animals and a violin case, climbed out of a taxi at the end of a dead-end road in upstate New York as Canadian law enforcement officers watched a short distance away, across a ditch that marks the international boundary.
"This is an illegal point of entry, OK? If you cross here you are going to be arrested," a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer said.
"Yeah," muttered the man, who wouldn't give his name, before he and his family dragged their belongings across the border and were led to a hastily built structure where asylum seekers are processed.
Tens of thousands have made the same north-bound trek since early 2017, when people who despaired of finding a permanent safe haven in the United States under new restrictive Trump administration policies began turning to Canada for help. Over a six-hour span on Monday, this family, another group from Nigeria, a man from Syria, another from Haiti and a family who wouldn't say where they were from all crossed at the same illegal entry point at Roxham Road, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Montreal.
These migrants know that a longstanding agreement between the United States and Canada requires those seeking asylum to apply in the first country they arrive in. So, if they crossed from the U.S. at a legal Canadian port of entry, they would be returned and told to apply in the U.S.
Mercury putting on rare show Monday, parading across the sun
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Mercury is putting on a rare celestial show next week, parading across the sun in view of most of the world.
The solar system's smallest, innermost planet will resemble a tiny black dot Monday as it passes directly between Earth and the sun. It begins at 7:35 a.m. EST.
The entire 5 ½-hour event will be visible, weather permitting, in the eastern U.S. and Canada, and all Central and South America. The rest of North America, Europe and Africa will catch part of the action. Asia and Australia will miss out.
Unlike its 2016 transit, Mercury will score a near bull's-eye this time, passing practically dead center in front of our star.
Mercury's next transit isn't until 2032, and North America won't get another viewing opportunity until 2049. Earthlings get treated to just 13 or 14 Mercury transits a century.