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The Latest Political Headlines

    The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local): 8:05 a.m. A U.S. ambassador says his country is maintaining a 'maximum pressure campaign' to convince North Korea to denuclearize even as Washington prepares a summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Robert Wood is the top U.S. envoy to the U.N.-hosted Conference on Disarmament. Wood says the U.S. believes the ongoing pressure campaign 'has had an important impact in the North's decision to return to the table.' At a news conference Thursday ahead of a meeting next week on nuclear nonproliferation, Wood said the U.S. welcomed Pyongyang's willingness to talk about denuclearization. He called the summit planned for late May or early June a 'momentous time.' Asked by a reporter, Wood said he has received 'absolutely no instructions' about possibly easing the pressure on Pyongyang so as not to scuttle the summit. ___ 12:45 a.m. President Donald Trump says a meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un is not a sure thing. He says he could still pull out of a meeting if he feels it's 'not going to be fruitful.' Trump says a summit with Kim could take place by early June, although the venue has yet to be decided. It would be the first such leadership summit between the two nations after six decades of hostility following the Korean War. CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Kim secretly met more than two weeks ago.
  • California reached an agreement with the federal government that the state's National Guard troops will deploy to the border to focus on fighting transnational gangs as well as drug and gun smugglers, Gov. Jerry Brown said. The announcement comes after a week of uncertainty in which President Donald Trump bashed the governor's insistence that troops avoid immigration-related work. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote on Twitter that final details were still being worked out 'but we are looking forward to the support.' Brown said Wednesday he secured federal funding for terms similar to those outlined in last week's proposed contract: The Guard cannot handle custody duties for anyone accused of immigration violations, build border barriers or have anything to do with immigration enforcement. Federal officials refused to sign the proposal because they said it was outside established protocol for the Guard. Brown's office said Wednesday that the previous contract was unnecessary after he secured federal funding for his goals. Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said the exact cost hasn't been determined. Some troops may be deployed this month and are expected to stay until at least Sept. 30, Brown said. They will be assigned to all parts of the state, not just the border. Brown elicited rare and effusive praise from Trump last week when he pledged 400 troops, which helped put the president above the lower end of his threshold of marshaling 2,000 to 4,000 troops for his border mission. Federal officials said Monday that Brown refused to commit California Guard troops to some initial jobs that were similar to assignments in the three other border states — Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — all governed by Republicans. Trump bashed Brown's position two days in a row, even as the governor said a deal was near. 'There's been a little bit of back and forth, as you always get with bureaucrats but I think we can find common understanding here,' Brown said Tuesday in Washington. 'There's enough problems at the border and the interface between our countries that California will have plenty to do — and we're willing to do it.' Nielsen, appearing alongside Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to thank him for contributing 440 troops, said Wednesday there were 1,000 troops deployed on the border mission and that number is growing. She said they were performing aerial surveillance and vehicle repairs.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe courted the new American president with a golden driver not long after Donald Trump won the White House. He's met with the billionaire businessman more than any other world leader, and he is Trump's second-most frequent caller. Yet the 'bromance' between Trump and Abe has its limits. Trump appeared to be successful Tuesday in reassuring Abe that he would take Japan's concerns to heart during his upcoming meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. But Wednesday brought public disagreements, as Trump spurned his guest's top economic and trade priorities. Principal among them: allowing Japan an exemption from new U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs and persuading Trump to re-join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. During a roughly 40-minute joint news conference Wednesday evening, Abe tried to put on a good face, emphasizing their close relationship and their areas of accord on North Korea policy. He effusively thanked Trump for pledging to raise the issue of Japanese abductees held by North Korea in his meeting with Kim. But when pressed on the economic disagreements, Abe repeatedly consulted notes as he tried to sidestep questions on the contentious issues, instead returning to Trump's favored call for developing a 'reciprocal' trade relationship with the U.S. It marked a stark departure from Abe's pre-summit hopes of coaxing the U.S. back into the TPP. And Japan remains the only major U.S. ally not to be exempted from the tariffs announced last month. World leaders have quickly learned that flattery is an easy way into Trump's graces, and throughout the two-day summit, Abe appeared keen to praise the president at every opportunity. He applauded Trump's courage for agreeing to meet with Kim and marveled at Mar-a-Lago, calling Trump's estate 'a gorgeous place.' Abe drew laughs before a dinner with the joint delegations in a baroque dining room when he recounted the strength of their relationship over food, which included a cheeseburger on the golf course and a working luncheon Wednesday. 'We already had two lunches in the same day,' he said. 'And now we are going to have our dinner.' 'Prime Minister Abe and I have spent a lot of time today, and we really spent a lot of time since I got elected. And right from the beginning we hit it off. The relationship is a very good one,' Trump said as the pair sat down for the working lunch on economic issues. That was the session Trump suggested he was most looking forward to. 'I love the world of finance and the world of economics, and probably, it's where I do the best. But we will be able to work things out,' he said. Except it didn't turn out that way. The session on trade and economic issues quickly turned tense and tough, according to two U.S. officials, as the leaders found themselves at an impasse on the tariffs. And Trump refused to budge on his opposition to the TPP, from which he withdrew the U.S. last year. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private talks. Still, several officials said publicly the personal connection between the leaders is robust enough to withstand the tensions. The summit was hastily put together after Trump accepted Kim's invitation for a meeting in the next two months, and as the president prepared to implement the metals tariffs. Trump said the invitation to his private club was a sign of how much he liked Abe. 'Many of the world's great leaders request to come to Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach. They like it; I like it. We're comfortable. We have great relationships,'' the president said, boosting the private club, which collects dues that enrich Trump. Trump's most frequent caller is the president of France, Emmanuel Macron.
  • President Donald Trump said that although he's looking ahead optimistically to a historic summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un he could still pull out if he feels it's 'not going to be fruitful.' Trump said that CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Kim 'got along really well' in their recent secret meeting, and he declared, 'We've never been in a position like this' to address worldwide concerns over North Korea's nuclear weapons. But speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, after the allies met at Trump's Florida resort, he made clear that he'd still be ready to pull the plug on what is being billed as an extraordinary meeting between the leaders of longtime adversaries. 'If I think that if it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful we're not going to go. If the meeting when I'm there is not fruitful I will respectfully leave the meeting,' Trump told a news conference. He also said that a U.S.-led 'maximum pressure' campaign of tough economic sanctions on North Korea would continue until the isolated nation 'denuclearizes.' Abe echoed the sentiment. 'Just because North Korea is responding to dialogue, there should be no reward. Maximum pressure should be maintained,' he said. Trump has said his summit with Kim, with whom he traded bitter insults and threats last year as North Korea conducted nuclear and missile tests, could take place by early June, although the venue has yet to be decided. It would be the first such leadership summit between the two nations after six decades of hostility following the Korean War. Other than the threat posed to by North Korea's weapons of mass destruction, another issue overhanging the summit plans is the fate of three Americans detained there. Trump said that was under negotiation and there was a 'good chance' of winning their release, but he wouldn't say whether that was a precondition for sitting down with Kim. Pompeo raised the question of the three Americans in his meeting with Kim, a U.S. official said. Trump also said he had promised Abe he would work hard for the return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. Tokyo says at least a dozen Japanese said to have been taken in the 1970s and 1980s remain unaccounted for. News of Pompeo's trip to North Korea, which took place more than two weeks ago, emerged on Tuesday, as lawmakers weighed whether he should be confirmed to become secretary of state. Trump and Republican senators held up his highly unusual, secret mission as sign of Pompeo's diplomatic ability. But the prospect of his confirmation hung in the balance as Democrats lined up against him. Sen. Robert Menendez, top-ranking Democrat on the committee that will have the first vote on confirmation, expressed frustration that the CIA chief had not briefed him on the visit that took place more than a week before Pompeo's public hearing last Thursday. He is the most senior U.S. official to meet with a North Korean leader since Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim's father in Pyongyang in 2000. 'Now I don't expect diplomacy to be negotiated out in the open, but I do expect for someone who is the nominee to be secretary of state, when he speaks with committee leadership and is asked specific questions about North Korea, to share some insights about such a visit,' Menendez said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote on the nomination next week. Pompeo, whose hawkish foreign policy views and comments about minorities have raised Democratic hackles, would replace Rex Tillerson, who was pushed out by Trump last month. In the U.S. Senate, Republicans have a single-vote advantage on the 21-member panel that will have the first say on Pompeo's nomination. With nine of the 10 Democrats already declaring they will oppose Pompeo, and at least one Republican, Rand Paul of Kentucky, also opposed, the panel could be forced to take the unusual step of sending the nomination to the full Senate without a favorable recommendation. Trump said Wednesday he expects Paul to come through on Pompeo. The president called Paul and the senator agreed to meet with Pompeo, but Paul's spokesman said, 'Nothing else has changed.' As for opposition by Democrats, Republican Cory Gardner, who chairs an Asia subcommittee, said in an interview that they 'want to play partisan politics.' Despite meeting Pompeo on Tuesday, Gardner said he hadn't been briefed on the trip and was awaiting more information about it. Still, he said the fact that the meeting happened gave weight to Pompeo's testimony last week that the administration was committed to the 'complete and verifiable denuclearization' of North Korea and sustaining sanctions pressure. It is not unprecedented for U.S. intelligence officials to serve as conduits for communication with Pyongyang. In 2014, the then-director of U.S. national intelligence, James Clapper, secretly visited North Korea to bring back two American detainees. Clapper did not, however, meet with Kim, who has only in recent weeks emerged from international seclusion after taking power six years ago and super-charging North Korea's push to become a nuclear power. Kim met last month with China's president and is to meet South Korea's leader April 27. ___ Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Palm Beach, Florida, and Lisa Mascaro, Deb Riechmann and Matthew Lee in Washington and Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.
  • Who doesn't like babies? No one in the Senate, apparently — at least not enough to block a historic rules change that passed Wednesday allowing the newborns of members into the chamber. Its passage without objection came despite plenty of concern, some privately aired, among senators of both parties about the threat the tiny humans pose to the Senate's cherished decorum. 'I'm not going to object to anything like that, not in this day and age,' said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., father of three and grandfather of six. He then noted that a person can stand in the door of the cloakroom, a lounge just off the chamber, and vote. 'I've done it,' he said. Allowing babies on the Senate floor, he said, 'I don't think is necessary.' Sen. Orrin Hatch, the father of six, grandfather of 14 and great-grandfather of 23, said he had 'no problem' with such a rules change. 'But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?' he asked. The inspiration for the new rule is a small bundle named Maile Pearl, born April 9 to Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth —the only sitting senator in U.S. history to give birth. In a statement, Duckworth thanked her colleagues for 'helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work.' Their concerns and more were shared by Republicans and Democrats, according to interviews Wednesday. 'It is a big change,' Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a telephone interview, as leaders of both parties sought to clear the new rule without objection, or public discussion. The private reassurances to members of both parties, she said, have 'been going on for weeks.' Teleworking is not an option in the Senate, which requires members to vote in person. So Duckworth raised a rare question that split her colleagues more along generational lines than well-worn partisan ones. Duckworth proposed changing the rules to allow senators with newborns — not just Duckworth, and not just women — to bring their babies onto the floor of the Senate. This, recalled Klobuchar, did not go entirely smoothly for the two months she privately took questions about the idea and its potential consequences — diaper changes, fussing and, notably, nursing. Sen. Tom Cotton, father of two, said he has no problem with the rule change. But the Arkansas Republican acknowledged that some of his colleagues do, 'so the cloakroom might be a good compromise.' Klobuchar's answer to that suggestion noted that Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of an arm in Iraq, and mostly gets around by wheelchair. 'Yes, you can vote from the doorway of the cloakroom, but how is she going to get to the cloakroom when it's not wheelchair accessible?' she asked. Some senators proposed making an exception for Duckworth. But her allies said the Senate should make work easier for new parents. 'We believe strongly, and she did, that it should be a permanent rules change.' Having 10 babies on the Senate floor, as Hatch suggested, 'would be a delight,' Klobuchar said. 'We could only wish we had 10 babies on the floor. That would be a delight,' retorted Klobuchar, noting that such a conflagration would probably mean more young senators had been elected in a body where the average age of members tops 60. There was more, voiced privately, Klobuchar said — including whether Duckworth intended to change Maile's diaper or nurse her new baby on the Senate floor. Most senators, though, were supportive, Klobuchar said. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., both fathers, helped or did not stand in the way. McConnell did not answer a reporter's question Wednesday about whether he had any concerns about babies on the Senate floor. Several others were happy to voice support for the rules change, and could not resist taking a jab at their colleagues. 'Why would I object to it? We have plenty of babies on the floor,' joked Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. But there still was some confusion. Just after the unanimous vote, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said it would do the tradition-bound Senate some good to see 'a diaper bag next to one of these brass spittoons, which sit on the floor, thank goodness, never used.' Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe took issue with that, saying: 'They don't use diaper bags anymore. They're disposable diapers.' Diaper bags are generally used to carry clean diapers and other supplies when parents and babies go out. Sometimes, they hold dirty naps until they can be disposed of. ___ Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
  • A St. Louis judge is expected to rule Thursday on whether to dismiss a felony criminal indictment against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens due to mistakes by the prosecutor and a private investigator she hired. Circuit Judge Rex Burlison has said he will announce his ruling in a morning court session. Greitens was indicted in February on one count of invasion of privacy. He is accused of taking a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an extramarital affair in 2015, before he was elected. Greitens has admitted to the affair with his St. Louis hairdresser but denied criminal wrongdoing and has called St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner a 'reckless liberal prosecutor.' His trial is scheduled for May 14. But the governor's attorneys asked Burlison to dismiss the indictment as a sanction against the circuit attorney's office for its mishandling of the case. The indictment is among many worries for the Republican governor. Several lawmakers, including Republicans, have called for his resignation since a special legislative committee's report last week cited allegations of unwanted sexual aggression against the woman. Greitens said the relationship was 'entirely consensual.' Meanwhile, Attorney General Josh Hawley, also a Republican, said Tuesday that an investigation by his office determined that Greitens committed another crime by using a donor list from the veterans' charity he founded, The Mission Continues, to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign without the charity's permission. Since the alleged crime happened in St. Louis it will be up to Gardner, a Democrat, to decide whether to file charges. In the invasion of privacy case, attorneys for Greitens contend that investigator William Tisaby has repeatedly lied to the court. For example, he said he didn't take notes during an interview of the woman, but photos and a video showed him taking notes. In another instance, Tisaby claimed he checked his laptop for notes during a deposition lunch break, but later said the laptop wasn't even in St. Louis, defense attorneys said. They also allege that Gardner knew about the lies, and that her office has frequently withheld evidence from the defense team. Greitens' attorneys said in court last week that a videotaped deposition of the woman was withheld until after the legislative committee's report was released. On Monday, attorney Jim Martin said 11 pages of Tisaby's notes from a deposition of a friend of the woman, requested weeks ago, were not turned over until Sunday, after Martin threatened to go to court to ask for them. Chief Trial Assistant Robert Dierker responded by comparing Tisaby to the incompetent fictional Inspector Clouseau from 'The Pink Panther' movies, acknowledging that Tisaby has 'caused us to appear to be hiding the ball.' 'We are saddled with the egregious mistake of relying on him,' Dierker said. But he said the mistakes are 'not worthy of the ultimate sanction of dismissal.' Tisaby has not returned phone and email messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
  • The head of the Capitol Hill office which deals with workplace harassment cases said Wednesday that she still does not have the power to reveal the names of lawmakers who used taxpayer dollars to pay legal harassment settlements, drawing sharp rebukes from members of both parties on a House spending panel, as lawmakers in both the House and Senate expressed growing frustration about the matter. “The transparency issue is revolting,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “It is absolutely unacceptable that we continue to let members who abuse their employees hide.” At a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Susan Grundmann, the head of the Congressional Office of Compliance, said that workplace settlements which involve lawmakers, often include non-disclosure agreements, precluding any publicity. “Most settlement agreements – in fact all that I have seen – contain non-disclosure clauses in them,” said Grundmann. “Those are not by our doing.” In my opening statement to @LegBranch_OOC Executive Director Susan Grundmann, I emphasize the need for Congress to remedy workplace harassment on Capitol Hill. How can we expect others to follow our example if we're not willing to acknowledge and address this problem? pic.twitter.com/AHKtaPHVy9 — Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) April 18, 2018 Pressed sharply by both parties at a hearing where she asked for a nine percent budget increase to help deal with harassment training and case reviews, Grundmann made clear there was no plan to reveal the names of members who had engaged in such settlements in the past. “No, I think we are prohibited from under the law – in terms of the strict confidentiality that adheres to each one of our processes, and the non-disclosure agreements, we cannot disclose who they are,” Grundmann added. Grundmann said new reporting standards approved by the House would reveal every six months which offices had some type of legal settlements – and she also said that if a lawmaker agreed to a workplace settlement, taxpayers would pay the bill up front – and then have that member of Congress reimburse Uncle Sam within 90 days. So far, the House and Senate have not finalized an agreement on legislation to set new standards for transparency on workplace settlements involving lawmaker offices, as one leading Democrat today again demanded action by that chamber. “The Senate has no more excuses,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Senate has no more excuses. We must pass these reforms before our next recess. Members of BOTH parties, men and women, agree that it’s time to act. https://t.co/vSr7sew5KN — Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 19, 2018 Back in Wednesday’s House hearing, lawmakers did not like to hear that while reforms in the House would publicly name the lawmaker and/or a top staffer if they were involved in harassment of other staffers, a Senate reform plan would not be as sweeping. “So, if a Chief of Staff engages in that conduct, or anyone else that isn’t the member, then their conduct is not disclosed?” Wasserman Schultz asked. “That’s correct,” replied Grundmann. “That’s absolutely unacceptable,” the Florida Democrat said. The hearing came days after the resignation of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who had taxpayers foot the bill for an $84,000 settlement with a former office employee – Farenthold had promised to pay that money, but now that he is gone, it seems unlikely to happen. Meanwhile, Grundmann denied press reports in recent weeks that any personal information about sexual harassment or workplace abuses in Congressional offices was left on unsecured computer servers. “We have not been hacked. We have never stored our data on an unsecured server,” as Grundmann said their computer precautions had been described by officials as “Fort Knox.” “Fort Knox doesn’t talk about their cyber security,” she added, offering to brief members in private about the issue
  • Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday he reached an agreement with the federal government that California's National Guard troops will deploy to the border to focus on fighting transnational gangs as well as drug and gun smugglers. The announcement comes after a week of uncertainty in which President Donald Trump bashed the governor's insistence that troops avoid immigration-related work. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote on Twitter that final details were still being worked out 'but we are looking forward to the support.' Brown said he secured federal funding for terms similar to those outlined in last week's proposed contract: The Guard cannot handle custody duties for anyone accused of immigration violations, build border barriers or have anything to do with immigration enforcement. Federal officials refused to sign the proposal because they said it was outside established protocol for the Guard. Brown's office said Wednesday that the previous contract was unnecessary after he secured federal funding for his goals. Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said the exact cost hasn't been determined. Some troops may be deployed this month and are expected to stay until at least Sept. 30, Brown said. They will be assigned to all parts of the state, not just the border. Brown elicited rare and effusive praise from Trump last week when he pledged 400 troops, which helped put the president above the lower end of his threshold of marshaling 2,000 to 4,000 troops for his border mission. Federal officials said Monday that Brown refused to commit California Guard troops to some initial jobs that were similar to assignments in the three other border states — Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — all governed by Republicans. Trump bashed Brown's position two days in a row, even as the governor said a deal was near. 'There's been a little bit of back and forth, as you always get with bureaucrats but I think we can find common understanding here,' Brown said Tuesday in Washington. 'There's enough problems at the border and the interface between our countries that California will have plenty to do — and we're willing to do it.' Nielsen, appearing alongside Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to thank him for contributing 440 troops, said Wednesday there were 1,000 troops deployed on the border mission and that number is growing. She said they were performing aerial surveillance and vehicle repairs.
  • The Latest on adult film star Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump (all times local): 8:45 p.m. A federal judge in Los Angeles has set a hearing to determine whether there should be a stay in the case of a porn actress who claims she had sex with President Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge James Otero's order schedules a hearing for Friday morning. Stormy Daniels has been seeking to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election so she can discuss the alleged relationship, which Trump denies. She argues it isn't valid because Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, signed it, but the president did not. Cohen asked the court to delay the civil case after his office and residence were raided by the FBI. Federal prosecutors in New York say they are investigating Cohen's personal business dealings. Daniels' attorney has objected to the delay. ___ 7 a.m. President Donald Trump says a porn actress is pulling 'a total con job' by promoting an artist's sketch of a man she says threatened her to keep silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump years ago. The sketch depicts a white male in his 30s or 40s and carries a description of him as 'lean but fit.' Actress Stormy Daniels says it's the man who menaced her and her young daughter and warned her in 2011 to stay quiet. Trump's having none of it: 'A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!' Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, says he's increased a $100,000 reward to $131,000 for information leading to the man's identification.
  • As his frustration with the investigation into his campaign and business expands into threatening new fronts, President Donald Trump refused to say Wednesday whether he plans to fire special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 'As far as the two gentlemen you told me about, they've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months,' Trump said during a joint press conference with the prime minister of Japan. 'Four months. Five months. And they're still here. So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us.' Mueller has been investigating possible collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian officials, as well as possible obstruction of justice. Trump said Wednesday he has cooperated with Mueller's investigators and that his team had turned over more than a million documents. 'We want to get the investigation over with, done with,' Trump said, adding that he hoped that the probe was 'coming to an end.' Trump and his allies hit a new level of anxiety after the raid on his personal attorney's office, fearful of deeper exposure for Trump, his inner circle and his adult children — and more than concerned that they don't know exactly what is in the records and electronic devices seized last week. There is also some worry that Michael Cohen, the self-described legal fixer who helped make bad stories go away and took a leading role in Trump Organization projects in foreign outposts, may strike a deal with prosecutors out of concern about his own prospects. Trump's anger at the probe has intensified, with him musing publicly and privately in recent weeks about firing Mueller and Rosenstein. Those around Trump have hoped that this week's visit to his estate Mar-a-Lago, where he is generally happier, along with the tightly scheduled summit with Abe, would somewhat distract him from Cohen and former FBI director James Comey's book and publicity tour. But White House aides have also expressed worry that they can control Trump less at his palatial Florida estate, where he is known to seek out counsel from club members and get revved up by their at-times provocative advice. Trump took to Twitter earlier Wednesday to unleash both on Comey, whom he called 'slippery' and the 'worst director in FBI history,' and the porn star Stormy Daniels matter, which returned to the headlines in the wake of the Cohen raid. Cohen paid the money to buy Daniels' silence after her alleged affair with Trump. The porn actress and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, released a sketch Tuesday of the man they said threatened Daniels in 2011 if she ever went public with her claims against Trump. 'A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!' Trump tweeted in what was apparently his first comments on the allegations except for brief remarks made earlier this month in response to a reporter's questions on Air Force One. He has denied the affair. The federal raid on Cohen's office and hotel room, carried out a week ago in New York, sought bank records, information on his dealings in the taxi industry, his communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments he made in 2016 to Daniels and to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also alleges a relationship with Trump. Court proceedings Monday dealt with who gets to look at Cohen's seized documents and devices before they are turned over to prosecutors. Though Cohen once said he 'would take a bullet' for Trump, he is aware of the possible outcome — including potential prison time — and has expressed worry about his family, said a person who has spoken to the lawyer in recent days but was not authorized to discuss private conversations. Cohen has not been charged with anything. Trump's moods have grown darker in recent days, as he lashes out at the 'overreach' of the raid. Further angering the president is that the raid was triggered in part by a referral from Mueller. The seizure was authorized by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Though a bipartisan effort was in the works in the Senate to protect Mueller, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he would not bring the legislation to the floor for a vote and that it wasn't necessary because Trump wouldn't fire Mueller. ___ Follow Colvin on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@colvinj and Lemire at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A suspect hiding from Pasco County deputies in a swamp after a high-speed chase was arrested covered in slobbery kisses instead of a bite from their K9.  The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office sent out an alert to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office after they say Paul Daniel Smith, 34, resisted arrest and battered a deputy. He took off in a Ford F150.  Deputy Marc Lane spotted the vehicle on US 41 and went after him.  Smith eventually stopped and ran into a heavily wooded, swampy area. With the help of their K9 bloodhound Knox, deputies tracked Smith down through the swamp, finding him stuck in thick mud with water up to his neck. “Stop resisting,” the deputies can be heard saying in the video posted to Facebook. (Facebook) As they try to get Smith out of the mud, instead of biting, Knox covers his face in wet, doggy kisses. Knox’s specialty is finding people, from missing children to wanted men. Smith is facing several charges including aggravated assault and violation of probation. As for Knox, he’s been rewarded for a job well done with his favorite treat: cheese.
  • Have you seen this guy? (tweet) Orlando police need your help in identifying the man who is suspected of attacking an elderly gentleman in the parking lot of the Lake Fredrica Shopping Center on Semoran Boulevard and Lake Margaret Drive. Witnesses say the suspect, a man in his 20s, stood in front of the car of the victim and blocked him from being able to drive away. When the elderly victim got out to confront him, the suspect punched him once, knocking the victim out cold. 'One punch that was all it took,” witness Jennifer Pola tells WKMG. “He hit him dead in the temple, boom. He was out for at least two minutes.' When police arrived, they found the victim, a man in his 60s, on the ground and bleeding.  Pola says the attack was completely unprovoked.  Several witnesses went after the suspect but he got in a vehicle and drove away. They managed to snap a clear photo of him before he took off. Anyone with information is asked to call Orlando police or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.
  • The head of the Capitol Hill office which deals with workplace harassment cases said Wednesday that she still does not have the power to reveal the names of lawmakers who used taxpayer dollars to pay legal harassment settlements, drawing sharp rebukes from members of both parties on a House spending panel, as lawmakers in both the House and Senate expressed growing frustration about the matter. “The transparency issue is revolting,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “It is absolutely unacceptable that we continue to let members who abuse their employees hide.” At a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Susan Grundmann, the head of the Congressional Office of Compliance, said that workplace settlements which involve lawmakers, often include non-disclosure agreements, precluding any publicity. “Most settlement agreements – in fact all that I have seen – contain non-disclosure clauses in them,” said Grundmann. “Those are not by our doing.” In my opening statement to @LegBranch_OOC Executive Director Susan Grundmann, I emphasize the need for Congress to remedy workplace harassment on Capitol Hill. How can we expect others to follow our example if we're not willing to acknowledge and address this problem? pic.twitter.com/AHKtaPHVy9 — Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) April 18, 2018 Pressed sharply by both parties at a hearing where she asked for a nine percent budget increase to help deal with harassment training and case reviews, Grundmann made clear there was no plan to reveal the names of members who had engaged in such settlements in the past. “No, I think we are prohibited from under the law – in terms of the strict confidentiality that adheres to each one of our processes, and the non-disclosure agreements, we cannot disclose who they are,” Grundmann added. Grundmann said new reporting standards approved by the House would reveal every six months which offices had some type of legal settlements – and she also said that if a lawmaker agreed to a workplace settlement, taxpayers would pay the bill up front – and then have that member of Congress reimburse Uncle Sam within 90 days. So far, the House and Senate have not finalized an agreement on legislation to set new standards for transparency on workplace settlements involving lawmaker offices, as one leading Democrat today again demanded action by that chamber. “The Senate has no more excuses,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Senate has no more excuses. We must pass these reforms before our next recess. Members of BOTH parties, men and women, agree that it’s time to act. https://t.co/vSr7sew5KN — Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 19, 2018 Back in Wednesday’s House hearing, lawmakers did not like to hear that while reforms in the House would publicly name the lawmaker and/or a top staffer if they were involved in harassment of other staffers, a Senate reform plan would not be as sweeping. “So, if a Chief of Staff engages in that conduct, or anyone else that isn’t the member, then their conduct is not disclosed?” Wasserman Schultz asked. “That’s correct,” replied Grundmann. “That’s absolutely unacceptable,” the Florida Democrat said. The hearing came days after the resignation of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who had taxpayers foot the bill for an $84,000 settlement with a former office employee – Farenthold had promised to pay that money, but now that he is gone, it seems unlikely to happen. Meanwhile, Grundmann denied press reports in recent weeks that any personal information about sexual harassment or workplace abuses in Congressional offices was left on unsecured computer servers. “We have not been hacked. We have never stored our data on an unsecured server,” as Grundmann said their computer precautions had been described by officials as “Fort Knox.” “Fort Knox doesn’t talk about their cyber security,” she added, offering to brief members in private about the issue
  • U.S. marshals have erected billboards in multiple states as they continue to search for a Minnesota grandmother, gambling addict and alleged killer who is suspected in two homicides, including that of a woman she allegedly killed to assume her identity.  Lois Riess, 56, was last seen April 8 in the area of Corpus Christi, Texas, following what is believed to be a multistate homicide case. She is sought on murder and theft charges in the slaying of Pamela Hutchinson, of Bradenton, who was found shot to death April 9 in a condominium in which she was staying in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.  Riess, who Minnesota law enforcement officers dubbed “Losing Streak Lois” for her penchant for gambling, is also a person of interest in the killing of her husband, David Riess, who was found shot to death March 23 on the couple’s worm farm in Blooming Prairie. In each shooting, the victim had been dead for several days when the body was found. Authorities also believe Lois Riess used the same weapon in both cases. >> Related story: Minnesota grandma sought in deaths of husband, Florida ‘lookalike’ killed for ID The U.S. Marshals Service on Tuesday updated the search for Riess to major status and announced a $5,000 reward for her capture. Another $1,000 in reward money is being made available by Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers.   John Kinsey, a deputy U.S. marshal in Florida, told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis that the billboards are going up in Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona.  “Unfortunately, there have been no further sightings,” Kinsey told the Star Tribune. “She blends in real well. She is an average, 56-year-old white female walking around, and that is part of the problem.” >> Read more trending news Florida investigators have said Riess killed Hutchinson, 59, for her identity. The women, who were strangers before Riess befriended Hutchinson, bore a striking resemblance to one another.  Surveillance footage from the Smokin’ Oyster Brewery, located two blocks from Hutchinson’ condo at the Marina Village at Snug Harbor, shows Riess smiling and chatting with a blonde woman in a hat who Lee County Sheriff’s Office detectives have identified as Hutchinson.  Hutchinson’s cousin on Monday posted an image from the surveillance footage to Facebook, side by side with an undated image of Hutchinson wearing that same hat as in the footage.  Officials with the U.S. Marshals Service said investigators believe Hutchinson was killed on or around April 5, when the surveillance footage at the bar was shot.  Lee County officials also on Tuesday released several snippets of surveillance video, including one piece that shows Riess, wearing the same blue shirt seen in the bar video, calmly walking away from Marina Village toward the parking lot. She is seen on another video driving away in Hutchinson’s white 2005 Acura TL. Hutchinson’s keys, identification, cash and credit cards were also missing when her body was found. The News-Press in Fort Myers reported Tuesday that sometime after Hutchinson’s death, Riess went to a Wells Fargo branch there and used Hutchinson’s identification to withdraw $5,000 from the slain woman’s account.  See the original footage of Riess chatting with Pamela Hutchinson, obtained by the News-Press, below. Riess was next spotted in Ocala, about 215 miles north of Fort Myers, where more surveillance footage released Tuesday shows her driving up to a Hilton hotel in Hutchinson’s stolen car and checking in as a guest. Again, she is wearing the blue top seen in previous videos, as well as a light-colored fedora-style hat with a black band. Lee County Sheriff’s Office officials told the News-Press that Riess stayed in the hotel the nights of April 6 and 7.  Riess used Hutchinson’s identity to check into the hotel around 8 p.m. on April 6. She also used the victim’s identification to withdraw another $500 from Hutchinson’s bank account at an Ocala bank.  “She’s confident, doesn’t look over her shoulder, like she’s not hiding anything,” Kinsey told the Star Tribune of Riess’ demeanor in the videos. “She was very nonchalant.” >> Related story: New footage released of ‘killer grandma’ suspected in 2 homicides; $6,000 reward offered for capture The fugitive was next spotted in the stolen Acura in Louisiana, where an attempt to get $200 at a gas station failed, the News-Press said.  Kinsey said Riess was also spotted on surveillance images April 7 and 8 in casinos in Louisiana.  “She went from casino to casino to make money, or because she is addicted to it,” Kinsey said. “She is consumed by it.” The final definite sighting of Riess was the following day, April 8 in Refugio, Texas, about 40 miles north of Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi is about 150 miles from the Mexico border.  Mexican authorities are aware of the search for Riess and are keeping an eye out for her, or anyone using Hutchinson’s identification, at the border, the News-Press reported. A Lee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said she would have to show identification to cross, but there is no guarantee she would not be able to slip through. The last confirmed sighting of Riess or the stolen car was the day before Hutchinson’s body was found -- and before she was even linked to that homicide.  The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which has been searching for Riess since late last month, describes her as a white woman with brown eyes and pale blonde hair. She is about 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 165 pounds.  The white Acura she is accused of stealing from Hutchinson has Florida license plate number Y37TAA.  Riess has been on the run since mid-March, when she is suspected of gunning down her husband, David Riess, on their rural worm farm before stealing $11,000 from his personal and business accounts. Deputies with the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office found him after his business partner reported that he had not been seen or heard from in several weeks.   Lois Riess was nowhere to be found, but investigators learned she visited a casino in Iowa on her way out of the Midwest, investigators said. She is charged with grand theft in connection with her husband’s slaying.  Dodge County investigators are also anticipated to file murder charges against her sometime this week.  Riess was initially linked to Hutchinson’s slaying, in part, because her family’s white Cadillac Escalade, which she was believed to be driving after her husband’s murder, was found abandoned in a county park in Fort Myers Beach, the News-Press reported.  Court records in Minnesota also show that Riess, who was named guardian of her disabled sister in 2012, stole more than $78,000 from her before being caught three years later.  Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno described Riess to NBC News earlier this week as a “stone-cold killer” who authorities fear might kill again when she runs out of resources.  “She smiles and looks like anyone’s mother or grandmother,” Marceno said. “And yet she’s calculated, she’s targeted and an absolute cold-blooded killer.”
  • On hold for months, President Donald Trump’s pick to head NASA was finally given the green light by a pair of GOP Senators, as the Senate voted 50-48 to overcome a possible filibuster, and advance the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next Administrator of NASA. A final vote to confirm Bridenstine’s nomination could come as early as Thursday in the full Senate. The key votes came from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – Flake initially voted to filibuster Bridenstine, but after an extended wait, returned to change his vote for the final margin of victory. It wasn’t immediately clear why Flake – and then Rubio – had changed course on the President’s NASA nominee, as Bridenstine supporters had spent months trying to squeeze out a final vote in support of the President’s choice, who faced determined opposition from Democrats. Before the vote, Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the decision of the Florida Republican, who had repeatedly rebuffed the calls of fellow GOP lawmakers to support Bridenstine, a more conservative House GOP lawmaker who has not hesitated to make waves during his time on Capitol Hill. Sen Marco Rubio votes 'Yes' on cloture for Bridenstine – after months of opposing his nomination — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) April 18, 2018 Just before the vote, Bridenstine’s leading Democratic critic in the Senate wasn’t backing away from his stern criticism of the three-term Republican Congressman from Oklahoma. “The NASA Administrator should be a consummate space professional,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in a speech on the Senate floor. “That’s what this Senator wants – a space professional – not a politician,” Nelson added. “Senators on both sides of the aisles have expressed doubts – both publicly and privately to me – about his qualifications for the job,” said Nelson, who was the only Senator to address the matter before the vote on cloture, a procedure to end debate in the Senate. Since Bridenstine was nominated for NASA Administrator in September, Rubio had sided with Nelson and other Democrats, raising questions about Bridenstine’s ability to run a federal agency in a nonpartisan manner. But that suddenly changed this week – and GOP leaders quickly moved to take the Bridenstine vote, moving the President a step closer to having his choice in the job as NASA chief. The procedural vote on Bridenstine’s nomination almost went awry, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) voted “No,” leaving the vote tied at 49-49. Ordinarily, the Vice President would be brought in to break the tie, but Vice President Mike Pence was in Florida with President Trump, hosting the Japanese Prime Minister. After a wait of over a half hour, Flake returned to the floor and voted “Yes,” allowing the Senate to force an end to debate.