House report: Trump misused power, obstructed Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump seriously misused the power of his office for personal political gain by seeking foreign intervention in the American election process and obstructed Congress by stonewalling efforts to investigate, a House report released Tuesday concluded in findings that form the basis for possible impeachment.
The 300-page report from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee does not render a judgment on whether Trump's actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" warranting impeachment. That is for Congress to decide. But it details "significant misconduct" by the president that the House Judiciary Committee will begin to assess Wednesday.
"The evidence that we have found is really quite overwhelming that the president used the power of his office to secure political favors and abuse the trust American people put in him and jeopardize our security," Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told The Associated Press.
"It was a difficult decision to go down this road, because it's so consequential for the country," he said. But "the president was the author of his own impeachment inquiry by repeatedly seeking foreign help in his election campaigns."
Schiff added: "Americans need to understand that this president is putting his personal political interests above theirs. And that it's endangering the country."
Report links Giuliani with top Republican on intel panel
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new report from Democrats compiling evidence on impeachment revealed contact between President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the intelligence committee.
The report released Tuesday includes phone records obtained from AT&T and Verizon that show Giuliani also was in frequent contact with the White House and with Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who is under indictment on charges of using foreign money to make illegal campaign contributions. Prosecutors said the donations by Parnas and Igor Fruman, another Giuliani associate with Ukraine ties, were made while the men were lobbying U.S. politicians to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Giuliani, who has said he knew nothing about illegal campaign donations, was trying to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Trump's potential Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Parnas and Fruman had key roles in Giuliani's quest.
The records show that Parnas and Nunes were in frequent contact last April, when Giuliani was publicly calling for an investigation of Biden.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who sparred with Nunes during public impeachment hearings, said he was going to "reserve comment" on the Republican's appearance in the report. But he added that, while Trump was "digging up dirt" on Biden, "there may be evidence that there were members of Congress who were complicit in that activity."
Takeaways from House report on Trump impeachment inquiry
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Intelligence Committee released a sweeping impeachment report Tuesday that asserts President Donald Trump misused his office to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations that he believed would help his reelection bid.
The report also makes the case that Trump obstructed Congress by stonewalling the committee's requests for testimony and documents.
The House Intelligence Committee's report is the culmination of a two-month investigation into Trump's handling of Ukraine, including a July 25 phone call with the country's new president and the decision to withhold military assistance from the country.
Here's a look at some of the key points from the 300-page report:
Kamala Harris ends White House bid, citing lack of funding
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sen. Kamala Harris told supporters on Tuesday that she was ending her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, an abrupt close to a candidacy that held historic potential.
"I've taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life," the California Democrat said. "My campaign for president simply doesn't have the financial resources we need to continue."
A senior campaign aide said Harris made the decision Monday after discussing the path forward with family and other top officials over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Her withdrawal marked a dramatic fall for a candidate who showed extraordinary promise in her bid to become the first black female president. Harris launched her campaign in front of 20,000 people on a chilly January day in Oakland, California. The first woman and first black attorney general and U.S. senator in California's history, she was widely viewed as a candidate poised to excite the multiracial coalition of voters that sent Barack Obama to the White House.
Her departure erodes the diversity of the Democratic field, which is dominated at the moment by a top tier that is white and mostly male.
Surge of new abuse claims threatens church like never before
NEW YORK (AP) — At the end of another long day trying to sign up new clients accusing the Roman Catholic Church of sexual abuse, lawyer Adam Slater gazes out the window of his high-rise Manhattan office at one of the great symbols of the church, St. Patrick's Cathedral.
"I wonder how much that's worth?" he muses.
Across the country, attorneys like Slater are scrambling to file a new wave of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy, thanks to rules enacted in 15 states that extend or suspend the statute of limitations to allow claims stretching back decades. Associated Press reporting found the deluge of suits could surpass anything the nation's clergy sexual abuse crisis has seen before, with potentially more than 5,000 new cases and payouts topping $4 billion.
It's a financial reckoning playing out in such populous Catholic strongholds as New York, California and New Jersey, among the eight states that go the furthest with "lookback windows" that allow sex abuse claims no matter how old. Never before have so many states acted in near-unison to lift the restrictions that once shut people out if they didn't bring claims of childhood sex abuse by a certain age, often their early 20s.
That has lawyers fighting for clients with TV ads and billboards asking, "Were you abused by the church?" And Catholic dioceses, while worrying about the difficulty of defending such old claims, are considering bankruptcy, victim compensation funds and even tapping valuable real estate to stay afloat.
Trump takes bold stance at NATO as impeachment boils at home
LONDON (AP) — Thumping his chest on the world stage as he faces an impeachment inquiry at home, President Donald Trump claimed credit Tuesday for transforming NATO as the military alliance marks its 70th anniversary. But he also clashed with America's NATO allies, especially French President Emmanuel Macron, about defense spending and the alliance's very mission.
Trump began the first of two days at the NATO conference by publicly rebuking Macron, once arguably his closest European ally, for recently saying the post-World War II alliance was experiencing "brain death" as a result of diminished U.S. leadership under Trump.
"I think that's insulting to a lot of different forces," said Trump. "It's very disrespectful." But the president himself has questioned whether the alliance has become "obsolete," and he accused NATO members anew of shirking national commitments on military spending.
Hours later, Macron and Trump sat side by side for a media session, and Macron said he stood by his comments about the health of the NATO alliance. He also firmly expressed his frustration that Trump withdrew hundreds of American troops from Syria in October
The U.S. president bantered with reporters for more than two hours Tuesday, sitting casually in a salon of Winfield House, the manicured estate of the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, where he also met with fellow NATO leaders.
Lingering snowstorm wreaks havoc on Boston commute
BOSTON (AP) — A long-lasting snowstorm hit much of New England at the height of the morning commute Tuesday and continued to hang around for most of the day, snarling travel and closing schools.
The wintry weather that moved into the region Sunday night brought more than 2 feet of snow to parts of upstate New York, western Massachusetts and Vermont on Tuesday, according to tallies from the National Weather Service.
Boston and other coastal communities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut saw less than 6 inches of snow, but its arrival just before the rush hour commute could hardly have been worse.
At one point, a jackknifed tractor-trailer blocked all southbound lanes on Interstate 95 just south of Boston, causing backups.
The Boston region's much-maligned transit system also lived up to its reputation, with mechanical problems, power outages, and other equipment failures causing delays on multiple lines and frustrating commuters.
Gun background checks are on pace to break record in 2019
Background checks on gun purchases in the U.S. are climbing toward a record high this year, reflecting what the industry says is a rush by people to buy weapons in reaction to the Democratic presidential candidates' calls for tighter restrictions.
By the end of November, more than 25.4 million background checks — generally seen as a strong indicator of gun sales — had been conducted by the FBI, putting 2019 on pace to break the record of 27.5 million set in 2016, the last full year President Barack Obama was in the White House.
On Black Friday alone, the FBI ran 202,465 checks.
Some analysts question how accurately the background check figures translate into gun sales, since some states run checks on applications for concealed-carry permits, too, and some purchases involve multiple firearms. But the numbers remain the most reliable method of tracking the industry.
In the years since President Donald Trump took office, the industry has struggled through what has been referred to as the Trump Slump, a falloff in sales that reflected little worry among gun owners about gun control efforts.
DHS may require US citizens be photographed at airports
DALLAS (AP) — Federal officials are considering requiring that all travelers — including American citizens — be photographed as they enter or leave the country as part of an identification system using facial-recognition technology.
The Department of Homeland Security says it expects to publish a proposed rule next July. Officials did not respond to requests for more details.
Critics are already raising objections.
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said Tuesday he will introduce legislation to block the plan and prohibit U.S. citizens from being forced to provide facial-recognition information. He said a recent data breach at Customs and Border Protection shows that Homeland Security can't be trusted with the information.
Facial recognition is being tested by several airlines at a number of U.S. airports. American citizens are allowed to opt out of being photographed, although a 2017 audit by a federal watchdog agency found that few U.S. travelers exercised that right — barely more than one per flight.
Elon Musk says he tweeted diver was 'pedo guy' after insult
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Elon Musk testified Tuesday that he was being insulting, not literal, when he called a British diver a pedophile in a tweet, prompting a defamation lawsuit from the man who helped rescue a dozen boys and their soccer coach from a flooded Thailand cave last year.
The Tesla CEO told jurors that he called Vernon Unsworth "pedo guy" because he was upset the diver had belittled his efforts to help by building a mini-submarine to transport the boys. Unsworth called it nothing more than a "PR stunt" and said Musk could stick the contraption "where it hurts." The sub was never used.
"It was wrong and insulting, so I insulted him back," the billionaire said in federal court in Los Angeles. "It was an unprovoked attack on what was a good-natured attempt to help the kids."
Unsworth's lawyers argue that Musk's tweet overshadowed what should have been one of the diver's proudest moments and left him no choice but to sue.
At the time, Musk said he didn't know Unsworth had helped with the rescue. He said his tweet wasn't intended as an actual allegation.