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    Congress is abandoning an effort to clamp down on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE in a defense bill, essentially green-lighting the Trump administration's deal to save a company that was accused of selling sensitive information to hostile regimes, aides said Friday. Senators from both parties expressed outrage Friday that the revised defense legislation, which will be unveiled early next week, guts a provision to reinstate penalties and restrict the Chinese company's ability to buy U.S. component parts. ZTE was almost forced out of business after being accused of selling sensitive information to nations hostile to the U.S., namely Iran and North Korea, in violation of trade laws. President Donald Trump in May warned the ban was causing heavy job losses in China and said he had discussed the matter with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Commerce Department reached a deal with ZTE to lift the ban in June, allowing the company's business with the U.S. to resume. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., an architect of the anti-ZTE language in the defense bill, said on Twitter he was surprised that House and Senate leaders negotiating the compromise 'caved so easily.' Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia called the outcome 'a huge mistake.' 'Beyond frustrated that Republican leaders are caving to the Trump Administration's demands on ZTE. This can only make our country less safe,' he tweeted. Both lawmakers are members of the Senate intelligence committee and have raised concerns about the Chinese company and the White House's approach to it. The Republican-controlled Senate tucked the ZTE language into the annual defense bill this summer, delivering a rare rebuke of the White House after it eased up on the telecom company. While the House version of the defense bill blocked the U.S. government purchases and contracting with ZTE, the Senate version went further, reinstating penalties on the company and blocking export provisions. An aide said the group of House and Senate lawmakers who were appointed to negotiate a compromise between the two bills thought the Senate went too far in inserting Congress into the administration's decision-making. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, viewed it as a separation of power issue. The aide was granted anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the talks. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the outcome was just another example of Trump 'being weak' against foreign leaders 'while Republicans just follow along.' Schumer said, 'By stripping the Senate's tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump - and the Congressional Republicans who acted at his behest - have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners and the American worker and our national security the big losers.' The Commerce Department barred ZTE in April from importing American components for seven years after concluding that the company deceived U.S. regulators after settling charges last year of sanctions violations. The decision amounted to a death sentence for ZTE, which relies on U.S. parts. The company quickly announced it was halting operations. The ban also hurt American companies that supply ZTE But the U.S. and China reached a deal that allows ZTE to stay in business in exchange for paying an additional $1 billion in fines and agreeing to let U.S. regulators monitor its operations. Follow Mascaro on Twitter at https://Twitter.com/LisaMascaro
  • As Democratic congressional candidate Abigail Spanberger mingled Wednesday night with supporters at a Richmond brewery, one person hung like a shadow over the gleaming brew tanks and grilled food truck pizza. As they watched their kids play with Legos in the corner of the bar, Kristen Martin and William Caulder grumbled about President Donald Trump's latest scandal, a controversial news conference with Russia's president. Liberal activists made their way through the crowd, recruiting people to attend a Russia-themed protest later that night outside the office of Republican Rep. Dave Brat, the district's current congressman. When Spanberger stood at the front of the room to answer questions, Melissa Dart, a Democratic voter, sought a response to the 'uniquely sobering' events in Helsinki. 'This week has been a really difficult-to-watch week,' Spanberger replied, saying Americans must accept that Russia interfered in the U.S. elections. 'From an intelligence perspective and from a national security perspective, the concern that I have is: What are they going to interfere with next?' Another difficult week for Trump is a good week for Spanberger, one of dozens of Democrats running strong in Republican territory thanks, in part, to the president. While Republicans grappled with how to respond to Trump's performance in Helsinki, Democrats' path was clear. Across the country, Trump's ability to constant court controversy is providing weekly shots of adrenaline to already-energized Democratic voters. This week's developments were tailor-made for Spanberger, a 38-year-old former CIA operative equally comfortable discussing undercover anti-terrorism operations and the work of Parent Teacher Associations. Still, even with Spanberger on the ticket, Democrats shouldn't have a serious chance in this district, which stretches from the suburbs west of Richmond to rural towns at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Trump won the area by eight points in 2016 and Brat, famous for ousting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor four years ago, had a 15-point re-election victory. But Democrats have a not-so-secret weapon: Trump. From suburban Virginia to southern California, the president has sparked a Democratic renaissance, prompting candidates, activists and voters to pour their outrage, money and time into local races across the country. After years of bashing the GOP establishment, Republican lawmakers and operatives say Brat is now begging for financial support from the national party. Brat declined multiple interview requests. Strategists from both parties agree that opposition to Trump alone isn't enough to win a congressional race. And Democrats and Republicans doubt the election will be decided by any singular action taken by Trump. While polling shows most Americans disagreed with Trump's handling of his summit with Putin, opinions largely divided along party lines. 'The Russia stuff is going to be a footnote at the end of this,' said Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman who once headed the GOP's campaign committee. 'There's so much happening and this is the crisis du jour.' Democrats see it slightly differently: Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who's hosting a fundraiser for Virginia Democratic House candidates at his home this weekend, said the steady stream of controversy reminds Democrats why they need to show up at the polls. 'Every day is one more notch in the belt of people who think Trump is plain insane,' he said. 'This is going to be a big turnout year because of Trump.' Gretchen Metzroth, a soft-spoken 62-year-old, never considered herself particularly political. That changed in November 2016. Since then, she's joined a protest choir, and regularly writes letters, emails and calls Congress. 'I can't even watch the news when the president is on because it just gets me so angry,' she said, standing with protesters on a patch a grass in front of Brat's congressional office. 'But it also makes me want to do something.' Trump's win has helped Democrats recruit scores of first-time candidates, even in places the party typically loses. Some of those newly minted politicians are veterans and intelligence experts, which could help the party speak to national security issues that have often played to Republicans. Like many of the new Democratic candidates, Spanberger was at least partially motivated to run by Trump's foreign policy, specifically his early push to pursue a ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries. This week, Spanberger assailed Trump for his meeting with Putin. But typically, she says, she doesn't spend much time talking about foreign policy or the president. 'What the president has done is he has created a level of uneasiness for many people,' she says. 'But I want people to vote for me. It's not enough to have people vote against Donald Trump.' The party has flocked to her candidacy. She raised $1.35 million to Brat's $1.34 million, though she spent the bulk of that to win the competitive primary leaving her with less in the bank than Brat. She's backed by top national and state officials and Democratic groups like EMILY's List. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Richmond native who has a comfortable lead in his re-election race, and McAuliffe are eagerly helping Spanberger with joint campaign appearances, campaign dollars and organization support. Spanberger has also courted the new activism flowing into the party. She's refused to take corporate PAC money and said she won't back House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arguing the party needs new energy. Supporters in places like Goochland County are thrilled to see the Spanberger signs suddenly cropping up on their neighbors' lawns. 'I'm a Republican in recovery,' said Linda Caldwell, a retiree proudly wearing a 'Brat is the Wurst' pin. 'She is talking about solving problems. David Brat just talks about things that make people angry.' Despite such enthusiasm, Spanberger faces an uphill climb. Many Republican voters in the area like the president's agenda, even if they don't always agree with how he expresses it. 'It's his personality that has just thrown everybody because you expect your president to be calm and agreeable, but he's anything but,' said Judy Tunstile, as she finished up her shopping at the Costco in Chesterfield, Virginia. 'But he's getting things done.' Brat faces some unique challenges. He's failed to win back more establishment Republicans who supported Cantor. Some Republicans say he has little real organization and struggles to keep staff. His office has one of the highest turnover rates in the House, according to LegiStorm, a non-partisan website that tracks Capitol Hill's workforce. And some believe controversial Republican senate candidate Corey Stewart will depress turn-out statewide. Unlike some Republican incumbents, who've stressed their independence from the president, Brat has remained one of Trump's strongest supporters. He said on social media that the U.S. government should oppose foreign interference in elections, blaming former President Barack Obama for having 'emboldened' Putin. That kind of support is exactly what infuriates Democrats. 'It's simple,' said Toni Bolt, a retiree from Chesterfield. 'Brat's for Trump, so I'm not for him.
  • Fox News says host Kimberly Guilfoyle is leaving the network, amid reports that she's about to take on a new role with a super PAC supporting President Donald Trump's agenda. A Fox spokeswoman confirmed her departure Friday. Guilfoyle has been one of the co-hosts of the network's afternoon show 'The Five' and has been dating Trump's son Donald Jr. She was considered for White House press secretary last year after Sean Spicer departed the administration. A person familiar with the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly about them said Guilfoyle will be joining America First PAC, which has been promoting Trump's record. Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor, was married for four years to California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. ___ Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.
  • It's more than $1 billion over budget and five years behind schedule, but an elaborate new veterans hospital is finally opening in suburban Denver on Saturday with the promise of state-of-the-art medical care. The $1.7 billion Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center made it through nearly a decade of management blunders, legal battles, federal investigations and congressional hearings. Lawmakers were so angry they stripped the VA of the authority to manage big projects in the future and gave it to the Army's construction experts, the Corps of Engineers. Veterans say they are frustrated by the slow and tortuous path the VA followed but relieved the hospital is finally done. 'The cost overrun has been unfortunate. The schedule slip has been unfortunate. Yeah, it's all been unfortunate,' said Leanne Wheeler, an Air Force veteran who gets VA health care in Denver. But 'we're glad to have it,' she said. The bright, airy complex in the east Denver suburb of Aurora is a collection of a dozen large buildings connected by a long, soaring, glass-walled corridor. From above, it looks like square leaves growing from a vine. Most patients will have private rooms, with space for family to stay overnight. Operating rooms have easy access to the intensive care unit as well as pre- and post-operation rooms. When it's in full operation, the facility will offer services that the old VA hospital in Denver does not, including clinics for spinal cord injuries, mammography, PET scans for cancer, prosthetics and aquatic therapy. But a post-traumatic stress disorder program will remain at the old campus for now. It was axed from the new facility when the VA tried to rein in soaring costs. The old hospital is 'kind of dingy, depressing,' with a dreary, military feel, said John Keene, a Marine Corps veteran and executive director of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1 in Denver. 'I've heard anecdotally that some veterans don't use the VA because just walking into the facility can bring back memories,' he said. The new hospital should be more inviting, Keene said. It has been in the works since 2002, when the VA proposed making it part of a University of Colorado hospital then in the planning stages. But the agency dropped that idea when veterans said they wanted a separate facility. In 2006, the VA hired a design team, and in 2009, the agency estimated it could build the new hospital for $537 million and finish by 2013, according to a government investigation. Six years later, the price tag had soared to more than $1.7 billion. What went wrong, according to multiple investigations, was that VA officials opted for a lavish design and tried to use a complicated contract they didn't fully understand. They failed to get the designers and builders to agree on plans and costs, and they didn't oversee the work closely enough, investigators said. Congress was furious, holding multiple hearings and demanding that the VA fire anyone responsible. But in the end, no one was let go or criminally charged . The VA said it was ready to fire one executive and was investigating another, but both retired before the agency could act. Other officials were demoted or transferred. Congress eventually agreed to finish the hospital. The Army Corps of Engineers took over construction management and trimmed the final cost by about $400,000, to just under $1.7 billion, according to VA numbers. Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, whose district includes the hospital, was a dogged critic of the project's planners and managers but declined to dwell on the problems this week. 'While we can debate the long road it took for us to get here, Saturday will be about the veterans and their families,' he said in an email to The Associated Press. Keene, the VFW post commander, worries that the public will blame hospital staff for the problems. 'They kind of have a weight around their neck coming out of the gate because of all the cost overruns,' he said, but they're not the ones responsible. 'Those are good people and they're trying to do their best,' he said. ___ Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/dan%20elliott .
  • A year-old boy who became a poster child for the U.S. policy of separating immigrants and their children was back in the arms of his parents Friday, five months after he was taken from his father at the U.S. border. Johan Bueso Montecinos arrived in San Pedro Sula and was reunited with his parents on a government bus. They were taken away for processing. And so ended the extraordinary journey of a baby whose short life has ranged from Honduran poverty to a desperate dash across the U.S. border to the front pages of the world's newspapers. Captured by Border Patrol agents almost instantly upon arrival, Johan's father was deported — and the 10-month-old remained at an Arizona shelter, in the custody of the U.S. government. Over the next five months, he would take his first steps, speak his first words, have his first birthday; his parents, hundreds of miles away, would miss it all. When his mother and father last saw him, he had two tiny teeth. Now he has a mouthful. In early July, Johan went before an immigration judge. An Associated Press account of that court appearance — of the judge's befuddlement over how to deal with this tiny detainee in diapers, sucking on a bottle — set off an international furor, embodying the Trump administration's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. 'I never thought they could be so cruel,' said his father, Rolando Antonio Bueso Castillo, 37. Rolando said he thought his plan was a beautiful one. He would escape his hard life in the tiny town of Libertad — Freedom, in Spanish. His children would not grow up in the same poverty that he had endured — he had dropped out of the fourth grade to sell burritos to help his single mom support him and his four siblings. His younger brother left the coffee-growing mountains of central Honduras for the United States seven years ago and thrived in Maryland with his wife and children. His sister followed, and also did well. Their eldest brother was killed in a drive-by shooting in San Pedro Sula, one of Latin America's most dangerous cities. Rolando was left behind with his wife Adalicia Montecinos and his 35-year-old disabled sister in their pink, two-bedroom cement home with a corrugated metal roof. He earned $10 a day driving a bus; his brother in America sent back hundreds of dollars to help out. Rolando, an easy-going and hard-working man, was well aware of the dangers of crossing Mexico. Scores of Central Americans have fallen to their deaths jumping on trains or been shaken down by Mexican police, murdered, kidnapped, robbed or raped on their way to the United States. He paid a smuggler $6,000, money his brother sent to him. Everything was supposed to be included — hotel stays, three meals daily and transport in an SUV with two other mothers and three children to the U.S. border. He packed five onesies, three jackets, a blue-and-white baby blanket, lotion, cream, 50 diapers, two bottles and cans of formula. His wife, in her first trimester of pregnancy, would stay behind, working at her market stand selling Nike baseball hats, 'California Dreaming' T-shirts and jewelry. In Maryland, their family would help mind Johan while Rolando worked. Adalicia would join them in a few months. The father and son made it as far as Tampico, Mexico, 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the Texas border, when their beautiful plan started to unravel. The smuggler drove them into a warehouse in the port city and told them to board a tractor trailer filled with scores of other parents and children from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru. Rolando and his son would spend three days locked in the trailer, shivering from the cold breeze from a buzzing machine they were told provided air for them to breathe. Buckets served as bathrooms. As other children cried, Rolando's son sat next to him quietly, Rolando recalled. They huddled together in the dark; he changed Johan's diapers by the glow of a flashlight. 'We were carried like meat, but we had no choice by then. We had to do what we were told,' Rolando said. In the Mexican border city of Reynosa, they boarded a makeshift raft and floated across the Rio Grande. They trudged through the Texas brush. They had made it. But minutes later, a Border Patrol agent spotted them. 'Where are you going?' the agent asked. Rolando said his response was simple, and sincere: 'We're going to search for the American dream.' The agent told him he was taking them to a detention center. Still, Rolando did not doubt his beautiful plan. He figured once he was processed he would be released with his son to fight his case in the courts. At worst, the two would be deported together back to Honduras. Inside a cell cordoned off by a chain-link fence, they slept on a mattress under a thin, reflective blanket issued to them. Rolando said he had to ask for three days before being allowed to bathe Johan. 'He was covered with dirt,' Rolando said. On the fifth day, immigration officers told Rolando they needed to take him to an office for questioning. One agent removed Johan from his arms. As they walked away, Johan turned, reaching for his dad. It would be the last time they would see each other for five months. The agents told Rolando he was going to be separated from the boy and deported to Honduras because this was the fourth time he had attempted to enter the United States. Each time, he was caught almost immediately. 'That's criminal,' one of the agents told Rolando. 'A criminal is someone who kills, robs, does things to harm people,' Rolando said later. 'I just want to work and give my children opportunities.' Rolando spent 22 days locked up in various detention centers along the Texas border. He knew nothing of his son. He had no money to call his wife and tell her what had happened. Instead a social worker from the Arizona shelter holding Johan contacted her and asked if she was Johan's mother. She told her to send his birth certificate and other documents to prove it. Adalicia could not believe it was true, and waited to hear from her husband. Five days later, another detainee lent him money so he could call her. 'Baby, it's me,' he said. 'What happened to our son?' she asked, crying. Rolando broke down. 'I don't know what happened,' he said. 'They took him from me. But it'll be OK.' 'How?' she cried. 'When am I going to see my boy again?' She felt so alone. She would wake up reaching for her baby and remember again what had happened. She watched videos of Johan over and over of him kicking and wiggling, laughing with his dad, staring into the camera. When Rolando arrived in Honduras in April, he was shocked to see how thin she was — she said she lost 20 pounds and her doctor worried she could lose her baby. The first thing she said when she saw Rolando was 'Where's my boy?' Rolando said he had first been told by immigration authorities that the two would be deported together, so he agreed to go. Then, they told him his son would follow in two weeks. But months passed. Rolando called lawyers, the Honduran consulate and U.S. authorities to find out when his son was coming home. The social worker in the United States started sending weekly videos and making video calls. At first Johan would reach for his mom, as if wanting to embrace her through the screen. But as time passed, he grew distracted. He is forgetting me, Adalicia thought. The boy's parents learned he took his first steps from the social worker, who also sent a video of him on his first birthday, waking up and crying. From the AP's news story on Johan's appearance before a judge, they learned that he had started to talk. 'I will never see my son walk for the first time, or celebrate his first birthday,' Adalicia said, her voice shaking. 'That's what I lost — those memories every mom cherishes and tells their children years later.' At the hearing, Johan repeatedly asked for 'agua' — water. At one point, he kicked off his shoes and stood in his socks. Judge John W. Richardson could hardly contain his unease at having to ask the boy's lawyer whether his client understood the proceedings. 'I'm embarrassed to ask it, because I don't know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,' he told the lawyer. In the end, Johan was granted a voluntary departure order that would allow the government to fly him to Honduras — back to the pink house with seven chickens pecking in the dirt outside, with the outdoor wood stove and the cement sink filled with water used to flush the toilet. The father who awaited him Friday was overwhelmed by guilt over the dismal failure of his beautiful plan. Someday, he knows, his son will ask what happened, and why he had left him in the United States. 'I'll tell him the truth,' he said. 'We thought we had a good plan to give him a better life.' Will Rolando concoct yet another plan to reach America? He says only that he is a fighter and will work hard to survive, as he always has. But he knows that his life and that of his family will never be the same. 'They broke something in me over there,' Rolando said. 'This was never my son's fault. Why did he have to be punished?' ___ Associated Press writer Astrid Galvan in Phoenix contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on a recording of Donald Trump and his former lawyer discussing payments to an ex-Playboy model (all times local): 6:10 p.m. An attorney for President Donald Trump's former lawyer says 'any attempt at spin cannot change what is on' a recording of Trump discussing a potential payment for a former Playboy model's account of having an affair with him years ago. Attorney Lanny Davis said Friday the recording won't hurt his client, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani (joo-lee-AH'-nee) says the payment was never made. Giuliani says what's important is Trump said that if it were made it should be properly documented. A person familiar with a federal investigation into Cohen tells The Associated Press that Cohen made the recording two months before Trump's 2016 election. The person wasn't authorized to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity. — By Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington. ___ 4:40 p.m. A spokeswoman for Melania Trump says Mrs. Trump is focused on her roles as a mother and first lady. Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham commented Friday after being asked for the first lady's reaction to news that President Donald Trump's former personal attorney recorded Trump discussing a potential payment for a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump years ago. Grisham says there will be no further comment. Trump's current attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told The Associated Press on Friday the payment was never made. A person familiar with the investigation into former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told the AP the FBI has the recording, which Cohen made two months before Trump's 2016 election. The person was not authorized to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity. — By Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington. ___ 3:15 p.m. President Donald Trump's attorney is confirming that Trump's former personal lawyer recorded him discussing a potential payment for an ex-Playboy model who said she had an affair with him. The current Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told The Associated Press on Friday that the payment was never made. Giuliani says what's important is that Trump said that if it were made, it should be by check and properly documented. A person familiar with the investigation into former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told the AP the FBI has the recording, made by Cohen two months before Trump's 2016 election. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing inquiry. Cohen hasn't immediately responded to messages. The recording was made weeks after the National Enquirer reached a deal to pay Karen McDougal and keep her story secret. When news of that payment emerged two days before the election, a Trump spokeswoman said his campaign had 'no knowledge of any of this.' — By Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington. ___ 1:45 p.m. A person familiar with an investigation into President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer says the attorney secretly recorded Trump discussing a payment to an ex-Playboy model who said she had an affair with him. The person told The Associated Press on Friday the FBI has the recording, made two months before Trump's 2016 election. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation into lawyer Michael Cohen. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told The New York Times that Trump did discuss payments to Karen McDougal with Cohen on the less than two-minute recording but said a payment was never made. Giuliani told the newspaper the recording shows Trump did nothing wrong. The Times first reported the existence and nature of the recording. Giuliani, Cohen and McDougal's lawyer haven't immediately responded to messages from the AP. — By Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington. ___ 12:30 p.m. The New York Times says President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer secretly recorded him discussing payments to an ex-Playboy model who said she had had an affair with him. The newspaper says the FBI seized the recording during an April raid on attorney Michael Cohen's office. The Times cited lawyers and others familiar with the recording and reported Friday that Cohen made it two months before Trump's 2016 election. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani tells the newspaper Trump did discuss the payments to Karen McDougal with Cohen on the less than two-minute recording but a payment was never made. Giuliani says Trump told Cohen if he did make a payment to do it by check so it could be documented. Cohen hasn't responded to text and email messages seeking comment. His lawyer Lanny Davis declined to comment to the Times.
  • The acting watchdog at the CIA, who has been accused of retaliating against whistleblowers, is resigning, the agency confirmed Friday. Christopher Sharpley, whose nomination for the inspector general post had stalled in the Senate, said in a memo to employees that he is stepping down within 30 days. CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said in a statement the agency was grateful to Sharpley for his service, 'including his work to professionalize' the office. Sharpley has 36 years of investigative and law enforcement experience and created two inspectors general offices within the government. 'After three decades of public service, he has decided to continue his career outside the agency, and we wish him the best in this new chapter,' Trapani said. 'CIA's commitment to rigorous, independent oversight is unwavering, and the Office of Inspector General will carry on that important mission through the transition.' The announcement did not say why Sharpley decided to resign. But the Senate wasn't prepared to advance Sharpley's nomination until a resolution to complaints from two former CIA employees-turned-whistleblowers who alleged retaliation, according to a congressional aide who wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity. John Tye, executive director of Whistleblower Aid, who is representing two of the complainants alleging retaliation by Sharpley and other senior managers, said there has been discord in the office for years. 'Sharpley figured out he wasn't going to be confirmed and decided to step aside,' Tye said. Representatives for those ex-CIA employees told The Associated Press last year that there has been friction for several years within the inspector general's office, an independent unit created in 1989 to oversee the spy agency. The office is charged with stopping waste, fraud and mismanagement and promoting accountability through audits, inspections, investigations and reviews of CIA programs and operations — overt and covert. Members of the Senate intelligence committee asked Sharpley at his confirmation hearing in October about complaints that he and other managers participated in retaliation against CIA workers who alerted congressional committees and other authorities about alleged misconduct. Sharpley told Congress that he was 'unaware of any open investigations on me, the details of any complaints about me.' He said he might not know because there is a process providing confidentiality to anyone who wants to file a complaint against government officials. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore, said at the time that they found it hard to believe Sharpley didn't know about the complaints when he testified. Last November, the two former CIA employees said Sharpley was less than candid when he told Congress that he didn't know about any active whistleblower complaints against him. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, delayed a vote on Sharpley's nomination until the committee could find out more about the whistleblower cases. One complainant is Jonathan Kaplan, 59, a former special agent and investigator in the inspector general's office who spent 33 years at the CIA. A second is Andrew Bakaj, 35, who worked in that office as a special agent from 2012 to 2015. He was instrumental in developing agency regulations governing whistleblower reprisal investigations.
  • The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery acknowledges that people of color have long been missing in the works it exhibits. Now the museum is tackling the issue in an unusual way. The Portrait Gallery is currently showing about 20 works by Los Angeles-based artist Ken Gonzales-Day that examine lynchings, mostly in the American West, and probe the history of racial violence in the United States. 'Latinos were a very small number' of those lynched in the U.S, Gonzales-Day told The Associated Press during a recent interview at the Portrait Gallery. 'Native Americans, Chinese, even smaller numbers.' 'But when you think of it as a spectrum of racialized violence, then we can see it is part of a continuing (history) in the United States that dates back to its founding,' he said. Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based non-profit, documented more than 4,400 lynchings of black people in the United States between 1877 and 1950. Gonzales-Day published a book in 2006 in which he verified 354 cases of lynchings in California between 1850 and 1935. Of those, 140 were Latinos — the largest group — while minorities made up two-thirds of the total. To avoid re-victimizing those who were killed or causing pain to their families, Gonzales-Day's works remove the body and the rope from each image. His ultimate goal is to spotlight racial violence in the U.S. in a broad sense. 'Traditionally, when people talk about the Wild West, they say, 'Yes, there were some instances of Latinos being lynched, but they were all bad guys.' My project was (to) prove that race was a factor,' he said. Gonzales-Day sees a continuation of racially motivated violence today, citing the recent separations of migrant children from their parents at the southern U.S. border as an example. He hopes his audience thinks of current issues when looking at his work. 'The question is empathy. Can you empathize with another person who is not like yourself, with a different cultural background, with a different language?' he asked. 'This challenge of empathy is our nation's challenge.' 'UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light' also includes 17 paintings and one sculpture by artist Titus Kaphar, who recreates well-known paintings to include those traditionally left out by smearing tar, erasing with white paint and shredding canvas into strips. 'This exhibition talks about those absent histories, and about the many ways in which systems have been set in society to say the white Anglo person is worth more than the African-American, or the Native American or the Latino,' the museum's Curator of Latino Art and History, Taína Caragol, told the AP. The exhibition runs through January. ___ Reach Luis Alonso Lugo at http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo
  • As Charlotte, North Carolina, celebrates being chosen Friday to host the 2020 Republican National Convention, an undercurrent of concern about the potential for violence runs through the Democratic-leaning city. The GOP's national committee selected North Carolina's largest city over Las Vegas as hundreds of party activists gathered in Austin, Texas, for the committee's summer meeting. 'The city that I represent has truly established its place on the national stage, and I want to thank you again for the opportunity to showcase our city and showing the world how special we are,' said Mayor Vi Lyles, Charlotte's first black female mayor. 'We're a growing center of diversity and inclusiveness in the New South, and we're going to show you the true meaning of Southern hospitality.' Under Lyles' predecessor, Jennifer Roberts, Charlotte passed an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance in 2016 that included allowing people to choose whichever bathroom corresponds to their gender identity. The Republican-led General Assembly responded with House Bill 2, which prevented other local governments from passing similar laws and directed transgender people in schools and government buildings to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. A protracted battle marked by corporate pullouts and sports boycotts ended when state lawmakers rolled back the restrictions, but not enough to satisfy LGBTQ advocates. Lyles led the campaign to bring the convention to Charlotte and said in a newspaper column that it would be a chance for the city to show its inclusiveness. At a public hearing Monday, more than 100 residents spoke for and against the proposed bid. The City Council voted 6-5 to extend the bid, and Lyles emphasized that the vote wasn't an endorsement of President Donald Trump. 'I'm going to call for unity,' Lyles said after Monday's vote. 'Unity doesn't come easily. It comes with hard work, and we're trying our best to make that happen.' Throughout the city council meeting, opponents of the bid said the convention would put Charlotte residents at risk. Tens of thousands of political activists, protesters and journalists are expected to converge on Charlotte in two years. 'I do not believe that something like '68 is going to happen in Charlotte,' said Larry Shaheen, a Charlotte-based Republican consultant, referring to the violence at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, where Vietnam War protesters fought police in the streets. Given recent events in the city, he said, it would be wise for Charlotte convention organizers to begin building civic unity now for the event despite political divisions to avoid a spark 'fanning into the flame.' The Rev. Amantha Barbee, one of speakers at Monday's meeting, cast a dire view of what lies ahead. Part of her prediction stems from two nights of violent protests in downtown Charlotte after the shooting of a black man by a police officer in 2016. 'You can look at what happened in Charlottesville. You can look at what happened here in Charlotte. You can look at Ferguson,' Barber said. 'And you can go overseas and see what happened when the president was visiting. I am afraid that people will be hurt or killed, and there's not enough money on the planet to replace someone's life.' Barbee also chastised city leaders, saying the bid was 'more of a financial concern versus a community concern.' In North Carolina, Republicans will lavish money and attention on a swing state that backed President Barack Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016. The state's African-American community is viewed as particularly influential. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 22 percent of North Carolina's population is black, a higher percentage than any other presidential swing state. The city hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Las Vegas was a finalist for the GOP convention in 2016 as well. Some Republican leaders feared the city's reputation, and the influence of casino moguls Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn on Republican politics, might cloud the convention's message. Democrats, meanwhile, have narrowed their 2020 convention choices to Houston, Miami and Milwaukee. Anticipating a crowded and contentious primary battle, they're also planning to move up their convention date to give the party more time to come together before the fall general election. ____ Steve Peoples reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Gary Robertson contributed reporting from Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • President Donald Trump is nominating four career foreign service officers to the rank of career ambassador, the first such nominations under an administration that has been criticized for gutting the State Department's senior staff. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Philip Goldberg, interim charge d'affairs at the U.S. embassy in Havana; David Hale, ambassador to Pakistan; Michele Sison, ambassador to Haiti and Daniel Smith, assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research. Confirmation by the full Senate would follow. Former secretary Rex Tillerson spent part of his 14 months in office cutting the agency's staff and budget. Trump replaced Tillerson with Mike Pompeo this spring.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A duck boat accident on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, Thursday night killed 17 people, including the boat’s driver, and injured 14, according to authorities. >> Read more trending news  Update 5:15 p.m. EDT July 20: Stone County authorities now say all 17 of the victims in the duck boat accident have been accounted for and that nine of the victims were from the same family, according to Gov. Mike Parson’s office. Two members of the family, identified by local news outlets as the Coleman family, survived. Officials said the victims range in age from 1 to 70 years old. Meantime, mourners are putting flowers on the victims’ cars in the Ride the Ducks parking lot, and the community of Branson, Missouri, is holding several candlelight vigils Friday night in memory of those killed. One of the vigils is scheduled at Table Rock Lake where the accident happened, according to KY3-TV. Update 4:30 p.m. EDT July 20: As the search for the bodies of the final four victims in the tragic duck boat accident in Branson, Missouri, continues, family and friends are mourning the staggering loss of life on Table Rock Lake Thursday evening. One woman lost nine members of her family, USA Today reported, citing Gov. Mike Parson’s office. Update 2:20 p.m. EDT July 20: Branson Mayor Karen Best told The Associated Press that Bob Williams, the man who was driving the Ride the Ducks boat that sunk Thursday in a southwest Missouri lake, was a “great ambassador for Branson” who “was at every event.” Seventeen people died, including Williams, and 14 others were injured Thursday when the duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake, according to authorities. Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said earlier Friday that the boat’s captain survived. In a statement posted on Facebook, employees of Ride the Ducks Branson said the business would be closed “while we support the investigation, and to allow time to grieve for the families and the community.” “This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking,” the statement said. “Thank you for your support, and we ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the families during this time.” Update 11:40 a.m. EDT July 20: Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said Friday morning that authorities recovered four more bodies after a duck boat capsized in southwest Missouri, KSMU reported, bringing the death toll from Thursday’s incident to 17. Rader said 14 people were taken to hospitals after the incident. He said the driver of the Ride the Ducks boat died. The captain survived. Update 11:20 a.m. EDT July 20: Nearly two decades ago, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a warning about boats with overhead canopies like the one that sank Thursday on Table Rock Lake after a deadly accident claimed 13 lives in Arkansas, according to the Kansas City Star. The Miss Majestic duck boat was carrying 21 passengers when it sank in 1999 in Lake Hamilton, the Star reported. Authorities found seven dead passengers trapped inside the boat when they recovered it, four of which were pinned to the underside of the canopy, according to the Star. “Contributing to the high loss of life was a continuous canopy roof that entrapped passengers within the sinking vehicle,” NTSB officials said in an accident report. Authorities continued searching Friday for four people who are presumed dead after Thursday’s accident in southwest Missouri. Officials said 13 other people have been confirmed dead in the incident. Update 10:25 a.m. EDT July 20: Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said divers are going back in the water Friday in search of four people who remain missing and are presumed dead after Thursday’s duck boat accident on Table Rock Lake. Rader said the search had shifted to “recovery mode for the bodies that are still missing,” at a news conference Friday morning. 'It's been a long night,” Rader said. “It's been a very trying night.” Rader said the driver of the Ride the Ducks boat died but that the captain survived. Update 10:05 a.m. EDT July 20: Authorities are expected to provide an update on the investigation into Thursday's deadly duck boat accident in Missouri at a news conference Friday. Update 9:55 a.m. EDT July 20: President Donald Trump shared sympathies Friday to the families and friends of the people involved in Thursday’s deadly duck boat accident in southwest Missouri. “Such a tragedy, such a great loss,” the president wrote Friday in a tweet. “May God be with you all!” Update 8:15 a.m. EDT July 20: Officials with the State Highway Patrol said Friday that two more bodies have been found after Thursday’s duck boat accident in southwest Missouri, bringing the death toll to 13.  >> On AJC.com: Bahamas boating tragedy brings vacation safety to the forefront State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Pace said four other people remained missing. Original report: Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said 14 people were taken to hospitals after the incident. Seven were being treated early Friday, he said. The boat capsized after a strong line of thunderstorms moved through the area around 7 p.m. Thursday. Rader said weather “was a factor” in the incident. Authorities said the boat had 31 people on board, including children, when it capsized.  The boat had life jackets on board, according to CNN. The news network reported that other boats on the water docked before the bad weather hit. The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team to investigate and are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to come forward. A dive team and rescue officials worked through the night to find survivors. They ended the search around 11 p.m., according to KY3. Emergency responders set up a staging area overnight on the lakeshore near the Showboat Branson Belle, local media reported, although the Belle was not involved in the accident. Branson officials opened an emergency shelter inside city hall for the victims. National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Linderberg said a top wind speed of 63 mph was measured around 7 p.m. Thursday at Branson Airport.  “There’s nothing to slow down winds in an open area,” he said. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is watching the developments. DUKW, known as duck boats, are six-wheel-drive amphibious vehicles that were used by the U.S. military during World War II and the Korean War.  Since then, duck boat tours have become popular and are offered on lakes and rivers around the United States, including Missouri, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Alabama. Ripley Entertainment acquired the Ride The Ducks in Branson in late 2017 from Ride the Ducks International, a subsidiary of Norcross, Georgia-based Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. Ride the Ducks International manufactures amphibious vehicles and licenses them for tours at affiliates. It also operates duck tours at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. The company formerly operated tours in several other cities, including Baltimore, San Francisco and Philadelphia. But in recent years it ended operations following deadly accidents.  In 2015, a Ride the Ducks tour bus collided with a charter bus carrying student on the Aurora bridge in Seattle. Four students were killed and several others injured. The Associated Press and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.
  • More states have reported an outbreak of cyclosporiasis illnesses that have likely come from salads at McDonald’s. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with state and local officials to investigate the outbreak. >> Read more trending news  According to the CDC, 163 people in 10 states have gotten ill. No deaths have been reported, but there have been three hospitalizations. On July 13, McDonald’s decided to voluntarily stop selling salads at affected restaurants in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri until it can switch to another salad supplier. More than 3,000 locations are affected. Related: McDonald’s pulls salads from some restaurants after more than 100 people infected by parasite “The additional states identified by the FDA and CDC are among the same states where, a week ago, we proactively decided to remove our lettuce blend in impacted restaurants and replace it through a different supplier,” the restaurant said in a statement Friday. “McDonald’s is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality and we continue to cooperate and support regulatory and public health officials in their investigations.” According to the FDA, the restaurant's removal of affected salads means it is unlikely to put customers who eat at those locations at risk.’ Symptoms of Cyclospora infection include loss of weight and appetite, frequent watery diarrhea, cramping, bloating and increased gas, a low-grade fever, fatigue and nausea. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may also occur, according to the CDC. Some infected with don’t have symptoms. The investigation is ongoing.
  • The Republican Party will host its 2020 presidential nominating convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. >> Read more trending news The Republican National Convention Site Selection Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously in a closed session to select the Queen City to host the convention. The 168-member RNC delegation made it official with a vote Friday. In a candid question-and-answer segment organized by Charlotte City Councilman Tariq Bokhari, site selection chair Ron Kaufman went into detail about the circumstances leading to Friday's vote. He said he sent letters to 30 cities and seven expressed interest in hosting the convention. From those seven, Charlotte and Las Vegas stood out. Kaufman said that the thing he loved most about Charlotte was the fact that, from elected officials to Uber drivers, everyone seemed to be passionate about the city. He admitted that he kept a close eye on Monday's Charlotte City Council meeting, when city leaders approved the framework to host Republican leaders. Kaufman said he was surprised that most of the speakers were in favor of hosting the convention. He said he wasn’t worried about possible protests or security issues because he sees Cleveland as a more partisan city than Charlotte, and there were only 27 arrests there. “There is so much time and effort being put in to make sure Charlotte will be the safest city in America that week,” Kaufman said. Doug Lebda, the CEO of LendingTree, an online lending exchange company based in Charlotte, was also in Texas. He said every major convention and trade show will be looking at Charlotte, since the city will have landed both the Democratic and the Republican national conventions. The Associated Press and the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report. 
  • A Minnesota 2-year-old and a neighbor’s dog have become viral video stars after a family friend recorded them playing a unique game of fetch that even a wooden fence couldn’t stop.  Chad Nelson, a photojournalist with KARE11 in Minneapolis, told the news station that he, his wife and their son Conway were at a friend’s Savage home for a play date Wednesday evening when his friend’s neighbor’s dog, a Labrador retriever named Dozer, peered over the fence and dropped a ball into the yard.  An excited Conway picked up the ball and chucked it back over the fence. The moment quickly turned into the cutest game of fetch ever.  “Conway just loves playing catch,” Nelson told KARE11. “We have two dogs, but neither one will play fetch. So he was pretty excited to have someone that would.” >> Read more trending news Nelson’s friend, Erin Richter, captured the game of fetch on video, which Nelson shared on social media.  “A fence can’t stop my 2-year-old from playing with his new best friend,” Nelson wrote.  As of Friday morning, the video had been watched more than 7.7 million times on Facebook. It had been shared nearly 250,000 times and garnered more than 14,000 comments.  It was also a sensation on Twitter.  Nelson said he and his wife were stunned by the response.  “It was just a cute thing,” he told the news station. “We just thought Conway was being cute and our friends would like it, and all of a sudden it’s being shared to thousands of people.” Richter said Dozer is a frequent playmate of her son, Landon, despite the fence.  “They play ball every time they are both outside,” Richter told KARE11. “Landon quits throwing once the ball becomes too slobbery, but Dozer will keep dropping balls or bones over until he has to go inside.” Several of the commenters on the video of Dozer and Conway were impressed by the toddler’s strong throwing arm.  “So cute, and what a good arm and aim for a 2-year-old,” a man wrote on Facebook.  “Nice arm,” another man wrote on Twitter. “Teach him to throw with his left and he could pitch in the MLB as a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy) into his 40s!” “He has quite the cannon, doesn’t he?” Nelson responded.  Twitter users, by Friday, had watched Conway and Dozer play fetch more than 10.7 million times and shared the video over 255,000 times.