AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST
Democrats hold on to Louisiana governor’s seat despite Trump
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has stunned Republicans again, narrowly winning a second term Saturday as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor and handing Donald Trump another gubernatorial loss this year.
In the heart of Trump country, the moderate Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party support with his focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues to defeat Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, getting about 51% of the vote.
Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they head into the 2020 presidential election. Trump fought to return the seat to the GOP, making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards.
In a victory rally of his own late Saturday, Edwards thanked supporters who danced, sang and cheered in celebration, while he declared, “How sweet it is!”
He added, “And as for the president, God bless his heart” — a phrase often used by genteel Southerners to politely deprecate someone.
Testimony ties president closer to pressure on Ukraine
WASHINGTON (AP) — Gordon Sondland, President Donald Trump’s emissary to the European Union, had a message when he met with a top Ukrainian official.
Sondland said vital U.S. military assistance to Ukraine might be freed up if the country’s top prosecutor “would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation,” a U.S. official told lawmakers. Burisma is the gas company in Ukraine where Democrat Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board.
Sondland relayed the exchange moments later to Tim Morrison, then a National Security Council aide. In his private testimony to impeachment investigators made public Saturday, Morrison recounted that Sondland also told him he was discussing the Ukraine matters directly with Trump.
Morrison’s testimony ties Trump more closely to the central charge from Democrats pursuing impeachment: that Trump held up U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Democrats and Biden’s family. Morrison’s testimony also contradicts much of what Sondland told congressional investigators during his own closed-door deposition, which the ambassador later amended.
Both Morrison and Sondland are scheduled to testify publicly next week as part of the historic, high-stakes impeachment proceedings into the nation’s 45th president. Democrats charge that Trump abused his office for personal political gain, while the president and his allies argue that the process is politically motivated and that nothing in the testimony so far meets the bar for impeachment.
Migrants thrust by US officials into the arms of the cartels
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico (AP) — The gangsters trawling Nuevo Laredo know just what they’re looking for: men and women missing their shoelaces.
Those are migrants who made it to the United States to ask for asylum, only to be taken into custody and stripped of their laces — to keep them from hurting themselves. And then they were thrust into danger, sent back to the lawless border state of Tamaulipas.
In years past, migrants moved quickly through this violent territory on their way to the United States. Now, due to Trump administration policies, they remain there for weeks and sometimes months as they await their U.S. court dates, often in the hands of the gangsters who hold the area in a vise-like grip.
Here, migrants in limbo are prey, and a boon to smugglers.
Warren pushes back on critics of her health care plan
WAVERLY, Iowa (AP) — Elizabeth Warren pushed back against critics of her newly released plan to phase in implementation of a single-payer health care system, insisting Saturday that she is “fully committed” to Medicare for All and that she plans to first build on existing health care programs because “people need help right now.”
“My commitment to Medicare for All is all the way,” Warren told reporters, responding to critics who’ve questioned the timing behind the release of her implementation plan.
On Friday, the Massachusetts Democrat released a plan outlining how she would transition to a full Medicare for All program, first by using executive action to bring down drug and health care prices and by pushing Congress to pass a bill giving Americans the option to buy in to an expanded government-run Medicare plan. Warren says she’ll then work with Congress to pass pieces of a universal coverage proposal more gradually, with the whole thing being ready “no later than” her third year in office.
The transition plan drew criticism from opposing campaigns, with a spokeswoman for Joe Biden accusing Warren of “muddying the waters” on health care and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign calling it “transparently political.”
Several Democratic candidates, including Biden and Buttigieg, have proposed plans similar to the first phase of Warren’s health care plan, which would allow Americans to buy into a public option. Asked about the difference between her plan and Buttigieg’s, Warren said that “mine is about actually giving people Medicare for All that is going to be full health care coverage,” and outlined ways in which she says her public option would offer more expansive health care coverage than those proposed by Buttigieg or Biden.
Alleged gunman, victim among 6 charged after game shooting
Six men have been charged after a shooting at a New Jersey high school football game that critically wounded a 10-year-old boy and sent players and the packed crowd fleeing in panic.
Ibn Abdullah, 27, was the target of the Friday night shooting and was charged because a gun was found on him when emergency responders went to his aid, authorities said. He is in stable condition and will be undergoing surgery.
The 10-year-old remained in critical condition Saturday. A 15-year-old boy was treated for a graze wound.
The shooting happened in the stands of a Friday night playoff game between the Camden Panthers and the Pleasantville Greyhounds. Authorities said it did not appear that any of the men charged had any connection to the game.
“Our community will not be held hostage by a few idiots intent on jeopardizing our safety and the safety of our children,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said in a news release.
Big study casts doubt on need for many heart procedures
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — People with severe but stable heart disease from clogged arteries may have less chest pain if they get a procedure to improve blood flow rather than just giving medicines a chance to help, but it won’t cut their risk of having a heart attack or dying over the following few years, a big federally funded study found.
The results challenge medical dogma and call into question some of the most common practices in heart care. They are the strongest evidence yet that tens of thousands of costly stent procedures and bypass operations each year are unnecessary or premature for people with stable disease.
That’s a different situation than a heart attack, when a procedure is needed right away to restore blood flow.
For non-emergency cases, the study shows “there’s no need to rush” into invasive tests and procedures, said New York University’s Dr. Judith Hochman.
There might even be harm: To doctors’ surprise, study participants who had a procedure were more likely to suffer a heart problem or die over the next year than those treated with medicines alone.
White House: Trump undergoes exam at Walter Reed
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — President Donald Trump spent more than two hours at Walter Reed National Medical Center on Saturday for what the White House said were medical tests as part of his annual physical.
The appointment wasn’t on Trump’s weekend public schedule, and his last physical was in February. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the 73-year-old president was “anticipating a very busy 2020” and wanted to take advantage of “a free weekend” in Washington to begin portions of his routine checkup.
She did not specify which tests he’d received or explain why the visit had not been disclosed in advance. Trump’s 2018 and 2019 physicals were both announced ahead of time and appeared on his public schedule.
Grisham said after the visit that the president had had “a quick exam and labs” and assured he remains in good health.
“The President remains healthy and energetic without complaints, as demonstrated by his repeated vigorous rally performances in front of thousands of Americans several times a week,” she said.
Sanders stars with Biden, Warren absent at California forum
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Bernie Sanders was greeted with booming cheers at a gathering of California Democrats Saturday, underscoring his popularity with the party’s liberal base as he looks to capture the biggest prize in the presidential primary season next year.
The decisions by Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to skip a weekend gathering of the California Democratic Party less than three months before voting begins gave rival candidates an opportunity to make inroads with the party’s most devoted activists, and Sanders’ reception made clear he remains among the favourites. Three years ago, the Vermont senator won 46 per cent of the vote in California’s 2016 Democratic primary in a losing bid against Hillary Clinton.
He assured the crowd he was in good health, just months after suffering a heart attack, and rose from a chair to his feet to apparently emphasize the point during a candidate forum hosted by Univision, the Spanish-language television station. He earned cheers when fending off suggestions that his agenda was pulling the party too far to the political left. “I don’t think so, I honestly don’t,” he said.
After the forum concluded, dozens of Sanders supporters staged an impromptu rally in the lobby of the convention centre, unfurling banners and chanting his slogan, “Not me, us.”
The convention stage gave candidates a chance to address devoted Democrats who are the backbone of the party and are coveted for their votes as well as potential volunteers and donors. Mail-in ballots for California’s primary will begin going out to voters on Feb. 3, the same day as the Iowa caucuses.
AP FACT CHECK: Impeachment hearings and that Trump tweet
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said he was just exercising his right to free speech. Democrats said he was intimidating a witness.
Whichever is the case, Trump’s Twitter assault on an ex-ambassador’s record came with a heavy dose of distortion.
He portrayed her, in a few choice words, as a wrecking ball in every country where she served U.S. interests in a long diplomatic career that has spanned danger zones and emerging democracies.
The tweet jolted impeachment hearings where Marie Yovanovitch was already testifying to the personal threat she has been feeling from the president.
Over two days, the hearings by the House Intelligence Committee featured a variety of statements at odds with the known facts.
Last minute-audible: Kaepernick workout moves to high school
RIVERDALE, Ga. (AP) — Colin Kaepernick’s saga took another surreal turn Saturday — a last-minute audible to nix an NFL-arranged workout and a quick dash 60 miles to the other side of metro Atlanta, where the exiled quarterback staged his own impromptu passing display on a high school field in dwindling light as hundreds of fans cheered him on from behind a chain-link fence.
Kaepernick threw passes for about 40 minutes at Charles Drew High School and spent nearly that long signing autographs for a crowd that steadily grew as word spread that a quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl appearance and sparked a wave of protests and divisive debate by kneeling during the national anthem was in the neighbourhood.
Kaepernick declared again that he’s ready to play in the NFL.
If anyone will just give him a chance.
“I’ve been ready for three years,” he said. “I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why. I came out here today and showed it in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. We’re waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, (Commissioner) Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running, stop running from the truth, stop running from the people.”
The Associated Press
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