Pelosi questions Trump's fitness to stay
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi openly questioned President Donald Trump's fitness to remain in office Thursday, suggesting a staff or family "intervention" for the good of the nation after his dramatic blow-up at a White House meeting with Democrats. Trump responded by calling her "crazy."
"She's a mess," Trump told reporters at an afternoon news conference in which he lined up White House staff to testify to his calmness at a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. "Cryin' Chuck, Crazy Nancy ... I watched Nancy and she was all crazy yesterday," he claimed.
As for himself, he declared, "I'm an extremely stable genius."
Both the Republican president and Democratic leaders dug in a day after Trump stalked out of the Cabinet Room demanding an end to all congressional probes before he would work with Congress on crumbling U.S. infrastructure and other matters. By Thursday as Congress prepared to recess for the Memorial Day break, both sides were questioning each other's stability, with the president insisting on Twitter that he was calm when he left the White House meeting that was to focus on infrastructure spending after just three minutes.
Pelosi said Trump has established a pattern of unpredictability, and at one point she even joked about the 25th Amendment, the Constitution's provision laying out the procedure for replacing a president.
US charges WikiLeaks founder with publishing classified info
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a case with significant First Amendment implications, the U.S. filed new charges Thursday against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that accuse him of violating the Espionage Act by publishing thousands of secret and classified documents, including the identities of confidential sources for American armed forces and diplomats.
The Justice Department's 18-count superseding indictment alleges that Assange directed former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history. It says the WikiLeaks founder damaged national security by publishing documents that harmed the U.S. and its allies and aided its adversaries.
The case comes amid a Justice Department crackdown on national security leaks and raises immediate media freedom questions, including whether Assange's actions — such as soliciting and publishing classified information — are distinguishable from what traditional journalists do as a matter of course. Those same concerns led the Obama administration Justice Department to balk at bringing charges for similar conduct.
Assange's lawyer, Barry Pollack, said Thursday that the "unprecedented charges" against his client imperil "all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions that have been taken by the U.S. government." The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said the case was a "dire threat" to media freedom.
But Justice Department officials sought to make clear that they did not view Assange's actions as protected by the First Amendment.
Modi surges to victory in India on Hindu-first platform
NEW DELHI (AP) — Narendra Modi, India's charismatic but polarizing prime minister, was headed Thursday for a landslide election victory, propelling his Hindu nationalist party to back-to-back majorities in parliament for the first time in decades.
With most of the votes counted, Modi's stunning re-election mirrored a global trend of right-wing populists sweeping to victory, from the United States to Brazil to Italy, often on a platform promoting a tough stand on national security, protectionist trade policies and putting up barriers to immigration.
The victory in India was widely seen as a referendum on Modi's Hindu-first politics that some observers say have bred intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities, as well as his muscular stance on neighboring Pakistan, with whom India nearly went to war earlier this year.
"India wins yet again," Modi exulted in a tweet.
Election Commission data showed Modi's Bharatia Janata winning 158 seats and in the lead for 145 more, which would catapult the party well beyond the simple majority in the 545-member lower house of Parliament required to govern. The results spelled another nail in the coffin of the main opposition Indian National Congress party, which picked up 31 seats and was leading in 21 other contests. Its president, and the scion of modern India's most powerful political dynasty, personally conceded his seat to BJP, signaling the end of an era. The final tally was not expected until Friday.
UK's May delays Brexit bill, faces showdown on resignation
LONDON (AP) — Increasingly isolated, Prime Minister Theresa May backed down Thursday from plans to seek Parliament's support for a Brexit bill already rejected by much of her Conservative Party, as expectations rose that she would cave in to demands that she resign and let a new leader try to complete the U.K.'s stalled withdrawal from the European Union.
Conservative lawmakers have given May until Friday to announce a departure date or face a likely leadership challenge. Several British media outlets reported that she would agree to give up the prime minister's post June 10, sparking a Conservative leadership contest.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the committee that oversees Conservative leadership races, said that if May did not agree to leave, there would be "overwhelming pressure" for a no-confidence vote in her.
If May does name an exit date, she will likely remain prime minister for several more weeks while Conservative lawmakers and members vote to choose a successor.
May's spokesman, James Slack, said she would still be in office when U.S. President Donald Trump comes to Britain for a June 3-5 state visit.
Congress on cusp of delivering long-overdue disaster aid
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Thursday passed a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill by a broad bipartisan vote, but only after Democrats insisted on tossing out President Donald Trump's $4.5 billion request to handle an unprecedented influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The relief measure would deliver money to southern states suffering from last fall's hurricanes, Midwestern states deluged with springtime floods, and fire-ravaged rural California, among others. Puerto Rico would get help for hurricane recovery from the legislation, which has more than doubled in size since the House first addressed the issue last year.
The Senate approved the bill by an 85-8 vote. House lawmakers have left for the Memorial Day recess but the chamber probably will try to pass the bill by voice vote Friday, said a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Trump said he will sign it even though money to deal with the border has been removed.
"I didn't want to hold that up any longer," Trump said. "I totally support it"
American who joined the Taliban is released from prison
John Walker Lindh, the Californian who took up arms for the Taliban and was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001, got out of prison Thursday after more than 17 years, released under tight restrictions that reflected government fears he still harbors radical views.
President Donald Trump reacted by saying, "I don't like it at all."
"Here's a man who has not given up his proclamation of terror," he said.
Lindh, 38, left a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, after getting time off for good behavior from the 20-year sentence he received when he pleaded guilty to providing support to the Taliban.
It was not immediately clear where the man known as the "American Taliban" will live or what he will do. He turned down an interview request last week, and his attorney declined to comment Thursday.
Trade impasse: Trump pledges $16B to farmers; markets slump
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump rolled out another $16 billion in aid for farmers hurt by his trade policies, and financial markets shook Thursday on the growing realization that the U.S. and China are far from settling a bitter, year-long trade dispute.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that the first of three payments is likely to be made in July or August and suggested that the U.S. and China were unlikely to have settled their differences by then.
"The package we're announcing today ensures that farmers do not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners," Perdue said.
The latest bailout comes atop $11 billion in aid Trump provided farmers last year.
"We will ensure our farmers get the relief they need and very, very quickly," Trump said.
Serial cyberstalker who threatened women gets prison term
PROVO, Utah (AP) — A man who posted a Facebook message threatening to kill "as many girls as I see" in retaliation for years of romantic rejection was sentenced Thursday to up to five years in prison.
Judge Christine Johnson's decision to keep Christopher W. Cleary, 27, of Denver, behind bars in Utah went against a recommendation from Cleary's attorney and prosecutors to sentence him to probation so he could be returned to Colorado to serve prison time there for probation violations.
Johnson said the incident clearly warranted prison time and that she didn't feel comfortable relying on Colorado to keep Cleary locked up. She said Utah's board of pardons can decide if Cleary should be transferred to Colorado.
Cleary's Facebook threat came hours before women marched through many U.S. cities in January, stoking fears of another deadly rampage by a man blaming women for his problems. Cleary called himself a virgin who never had a girlfriend. When police tracked his cellphone and arrested him at a McDonald's restaurant in Provo, Utah, Cleary said he had been upset and wasn't thinking clearly.
Cleary spoke only briefly at the sentencing, saying quietly, "I'm just sorry for what happened."
Woman who helped put away serial killer awaits his execution
STARKE, Fla. (AP) — At 17, Lisa Noland was fighting for her life. A killer on a rampage that would leave 10 women dead abducted her outside a church and raped her. The day before, she'd written a suicide note, planning to end her life after years of sexual abuse by her grandmother's boyfriend.
She made heroic use of that history.
Noland became the victim Bobby Joe Long let go, the one who knew the mind of a rapist and played it while gathering — and leaving — evidence that would lead to his capture. Her abduction and rape saved her own life.
"At the time he put the gun to my head, it was nothing new to me," she said while packing a suitcase to leave for Long's execution, scheduled for Thursday night.
She said she knew from her past abuse that if she fought, it would further enrage her attacker.
Far from border, US cities feel effect of migrant releases
MIAMI (AP) — A surge of asylum-seeking families has been straining cities along the southern U.S. border for months, but now the issue is flowing into cities far from Mexico, where immigrants are being housed in an airplane hangar and rodeo fairgrounds and local authorities are struggling to keep up with the influx.
U.S. immigration officials have eyed spots in states like Florida, Michigan and New York, to help process the migrants before they move on to their destination, which could be anywhere in the U.S.
And in border states, cities that are several hours' drive from Mexico are already seeing sometimes hundreds of migrants a day.
The situation is leaving local authorities and nonprofits with the task of providing shelter for a night or two, a few meals and travel assistance to help migrants reach their final destinations across the U.S.
The issue erupted in political intrigue last week when Democratic strongholds in Florida balked at plans to send migrants to their counties, conjuring images of homeless migrants on the streets.