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AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EST

Monday, October 19th, 2020

Trump adviser: Expect more aggressive poll watching in 2020

(AP) – One of President Donald Trump´s top re-election advisers told influential Republicans in swing state Wisconsin that the party has “traditionally” relied on voter suppression to compete in battleground states but will be able to “start playing offense” in 2020 due to relaxed Election Day rules, according to an audio recording of a private event obtained by The Associated Press.

“Traditionally it´s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places,” Justin Clark, a senior political adviser and senior counsel to Trump´s re-election campaign, said at the event.

“Let´s start protecting our voters. We know where they are. … Let´s start playing offense a little bit. That´s what you´re going to see in 2020. It´s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”

Asked about the remarks by AP, Clark said he was referring to false accusations that the GOP engages in voter suppression.

“As should be clear from the context of my remarks, my point was that Republicans historically have been falsely accused of voter suppression and that it is time we stood up to defend our own voters,” Clark said.

“Neither I nor anyone I know or work with would condone anyone´s vote being threatened or diluted and our efforts will be focused on preventing just that.”

Clark made the comments Nov. 21 in a meeting of the Republican National Lawyers Association´s Wisconsin chapter.
Attendees included the state Senate’s top Republican, Scott Fitzgerald, along with the executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party.


Pelosi invites Trump to deliver State of Union on Feb. 4

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump will deliver the State of the Union to a joint session of Congress on Feb.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to the president on Friday formally inviting him to deliver the address at the U.S. Capitol.

“In the spirit of respecting our Constitution, I invite you to deliver your State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress,” Pelosi wrote.

Trump has accepted the invitation, said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.

Pelosi extended the invitation to Trump to make the annual address just two days after the House adopted two articles of impeachment against Trump.


Trump blasts Christian magazine that called for his removal

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump blasted a prominent Christian magazine on Friday, a day after it published an editorial arguing that he should be removed from office because of his “blackened moral record.”

Trump tweeted that Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine founded by the late Rev.

Billy Graham, “would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.”

The magazine “has been doing poorly and hasn´t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years,” Trump wrote.
He questioned whether the magazine would prefer a Democratic president “to guard their religion.”

Some of his strongest evangelical supporters, including Graham´s son, rallied to his side and against the publication. Their pushback underscored Trump´s hold on the evangelical voting bloc that helped propel him into office and suggested the editorial would likely do little to shake that group´s loyalty.


Franklin Graham, who now leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and prayed at Trump´s inauguration, tweeted Friday that his father would be “disappointed” in the magazine. Graham added that he “felt it necessary” following the editorial to share that his father, who died last year after counseling several past presidents, voted for Trump.
The president thanked Graham for the disclosure.


AP Exclusive: PG&E´s history with blackouts signaled trouble

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The state senators grilling the CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. were upset – like millions of other Californians, some spent days in the dark when the nation´s largest utility shut off power during windstorms this fall.

The lawmakers demanded that the executive explain why blackouts intended to prevent downed power lines from sparking deadly wildfires caused so much trouble of their own.

The explanation CEO Bill Johnson offered the Capitol hearing room: Several smaller outages that PG&E triggered in the year before its debacle began in mid-October went well, giving his company misplaced confidence.

“I think we got a little complacent that we had figured it out,” Johnson testified last month.

PG&E had not figured it out.


‘Vast majority’ of vaping illnesses blamed on vitamin E

Health officials now blame vitamin E acetate for the “vast majority” of cases in the U.S.

outbreak of vaping illnesses and they say doctors should monitor patients more closely after they go home from the hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the updated advice Friday.

And, in a related move Friday, authorities investigating how patients obtained possibly tainted vape products said they have shut down 44 websites advertising the sale of illicit vaping cartridges containing THC.

The new medical advice is based on a close look at about 3% of vaping illness patients who returned to the hospital after discharge and seven who died after hospital discharge.

The study suggests that vaping illnesses can get worse, even deadly, after patients leave the hospital and doctors should check on patients within two days of sending them home.


Trump heads to Florida while impeachment trial still cloudy

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump was heading south to sunny Florida on Friday after his historic impeachment, while plans for his speedy trial back in Washington remained clouded.

Senate leaders jockeying for leverage failed to agree on procedures and perhaps new witnesses for the trial.

Trump is still expected to be acquitted of both charges in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, in what will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S.
history. Proceedings are expected to begin in January.

But the impasse between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer over whether there will be new witnesses and testimony – along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi´s refusal so far to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate - have left the situation unresolved.

“Nancy Pelosi is looking for a Quid Pro Quo with the Senate. Why aren´t we Impeaching her?” Trump tweeted, mocking one of the accusations against him before heading out for a two-week stay at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the holidays.

McConnell, Trump’s most powerful GOP ally in the Senate, welcomed the president’s emerging defense team Friday for a walk-through of the Senate chamber.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, came to Capitol Hill to assess logistics.


Navy, Army probes find no racism intent in hand gestures

WASHINGTON (AP) – Hand gestures flashed by West Point cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen during the televised Army-Navy football game were not racist signals, military investigations have concluded.

A Navy probe of the event found that the students were participating in a “sophomoric game” on Saturday and had no racist intent.

An Army statement Friday also rejected any racist overtones, saying the hand gestures were “not associated with ideologies or movements that are contrary to the Army values.”

The Navy said officials are, however, disappointed in the immature behavior of the students and “their actions will be appropriately addressed.” There were no details about their exact punishment, but a Navy report on the investigation said the two midshipmen should face “administrative action” for “failure to use good judgment.”

Clips of the hand gestures by the students went viral on social media and immediately raised questions about whether they were using a “white power” sign. But others suggested it was part of what’s called the “circle game,” in which someone flashes an upside-down OK sign below the waist and punches anyone who looks at it.

The Navy said that reviews of the footage, more than two dozen interviews and background checks by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI determined that the two freshmen midshipmen were participating in the “circle game” with West Point cadets.


Vatican office struggles to keep up with clergy abuse cases

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican office responsible for processing clergy sex abuse complaints has seen a record 1,000 cases reported from around the world this year, including from countries it had not heard from before – suggesting that the worst may be yet to come in a crisis that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church.

Nearly two decades after the Vatican assumed responsibility for reviewing all cases of abuse, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is today overwhelmed, struggling with a skeleton staff that hasn´t grown at pace to meet the four-fold increase in the number of cases arriving in 2019 compared to a decade ago.

“I know cloning is against Catholic teaching, but if I could actually clone my officials and have them work three shifts a day or work seven days a week,” they might make the necessary headway, said Monsignor John Kennedy, the head of the congregation´s discipline section, which processes the cases.

“We’re effectively seeing a tsunami of cases at the moment, particularly from countries where we never heard from (before),” Kennedy said, referring to allegations of abuse that occurred for the most part years or decades ago.

Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Italy and Poland have joined the U.S. among the countries with the most cases arriving at the congregation, known as the CDF.

Kennedy spoke to The Associated Press and allowed an AP photographer and video journalists into the CDF´s inner chambers — the first time in the tribunal´s history that visual news media have been given access.
Even the Vatican´s most secretive institution now feels the need to show some transparency as the church hierarchy seeks to rebuild trust with rank-and-file Catholics who have grown disillusioned with decades of clergy abuse and cover-up.


As Trump shuns US multilateralism, China ups diplomatic ante

GENEVA (AP) – Chinese leaders have long been sensitive about their communist country´s international image.

Now, they are battling back – investing in diplomacy and a courtship of hearts and minds, just as the United States digs in on the Trump administration´s “America First” mindset.

A trade war and other frictions between the world´s top economic power and the fast-growing No.
2 have exposed Washington´s fears about technology, security and influence. U.S. political leaders have derided China´s government over policies in protest-riddled Hong Kong, at detention centers in the majority Muslim Xinjiang region, and over allegedly underhanded business tactics by tech titan Huawei.

But increasingly, China is seeking to recapture the narrative – with a new assertiveness under President and Communist Party boss Xi Jinping, China´s most powerful leader in decades.

“Almost overnight, we have awakened to the reality that while America slept, the Chinese Communist Party has emerged as an immediate and growing threat to our prosperity, our freedoms, and our security,” Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.) said in a speech to the National Defense University last week.

Now the Chinese even have the world’s biggest diplomatic arsenal to draw from.

China´s diplomatic network – including embassies, consulates and other posts – has overtaken that of the United States, according to the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank. Beijing has 276 diplomatic posts worldwide, topping Washington´s declining deployment by three posts, the institute found.


India bans citizenship law protests, death toll rises to 14

NEW DELHI (AP) – Police banned public gatherings in parts of the Indian capital and other cities for a third day Friday and cut internet services to counter growing protests against a new law that critics say marginalizes Muslims.

Fourteen people have died so far and more than 4,000 have been detained, officials said.

Thousands of protesters stood inside and on the steps of New Delhi’s Jama Masijd, one of India’s largest mosques, after Friday afternoon prayers. They waved Indian flags and shouted slogans against the government and the citizenship law, which opponents contend threatens India’s secular democracy in favor of a Hindu state.

Police banned a proposed march from the mosque to an area near India’s Parliament and sprayed protesters with water cannon blasts to prevent them from meeting up with more demonstrators about 4 kilometers (2 1/2 miles) away in central Delhi.

Much of the violence was in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where protesters set fire to police posts and vehicles and hurled rocks at security forces.

The death toll rose to 14 after Avanish Awasthi, a spokesman for Uttar Pradesh, said late Friday that six people had died during clashes between demonstrators and police.

Most of the detentions also were in Uttar Pradesh state, where more than 100 have been arrested and 3,305 detained since Thursday, said state police chief O.P.