'Many people agree with me': Trump digs in on racist tweets

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unbowed by searing criticism, President Donald Trump on Monday emphatically defended his tweet calling on four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their "broken and crime infested" countries. Condemnation of his comments "doesn't concern me because many people agree with me," he declared.

Trump responded to questions at the White House after his Sunday tweet assailing the lawmakers, all of whom are U.S. citizens and three of whom were born here. He was roundly criticized by Democrats who labeled his remarks racist and divisive, and the lawmakers he attacked called his comments "a disruption and a distraction" from the president's record. A smattering of Republicans also objected, though most leading GOP leaders were silent.

Trump, resurrecting language not prevalent in the U.S. for decades, said Monday that if the lawmakers "hate our country," they "can leave" it.

"If you're not happy in the U.S., if you're complaining all the time, you can leave, you can leave right now," he said. The lawmakers' criticism has been largely aimed at Trump and his administration's policies and actions.

It was yet another sign that Trump, who won the presidency in 2016 in part by energizing disaffected voters with incendiary racial rhetoric, has no intention of backing away from that strategy going in 2020. Trump has faced few consequences for such attacks, which typically earn him cycles of front-page media attention.

___

Harris blasts, and takes money from, Epstein's law firm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kamala Harris bemoaned the influence of the powerful and connected elite last Tuesday when she called on top Justice Department officials to recuse themselves from any matter related to Jeffrey Epstein. She said their former law firm's work on behalf of the financier accused of sexual abuse "calls into question the integrity of our legal system."

Yet the same day, Harris' husband headlined a Chicago fundraiser for her presidential campaign that was hosted by six partners of that firm — Kirkland and Ellis, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press.

Harris, a California senator and Democratic presidential candidate, was one of several White House hopefuls to blast the handling of Epstein's case in Florida a decade ago, when his lawyers negotiated a deal with federal prosecutors that allowed him to avoid the possibility of years in prison. But her decision to move ahead with the fundraiser hosted by Kirkland and Ellis partners while criticizing the firm underscores the tension that can arise when a politician's rhetoric collides with his or her need to raise money to sustain a presidential campaign.

"If any connection with Kirkland and Ellis is a stain on (senior Justice Department officials), why isn't a connection with the law firm for the receipt of campaign contributions a stain on her own campaign?" said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney for the good-government group Common Cause.

Ian Sams, a Harris spokesman, said there wasn't a problem with accepting the campaign contributions because the firm is big and the partners who hosted the fundraiser didn't work on Epstein's plea agreement.

___

Trump moves to effectively end asylum at southern border

WASHINGTON (AP) — Reversing decades of U.S. policy, the Trump administration said Monday it will end all asylum protections for most migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border — the president's most forceful attempt to block asylum claims and slash the number of people seeking refuge in America.

The new rule, expected to go into effect Tuesday, would cover countless would-be refugees, many of them fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. It is certain to face legal challenges.

According to the plan published in the Federal Register , migrants who pass through another country — in this case, Mexico — on their way to the U.S. will be ineligible for asylum. The rule also applies to children who have crossed the border alone.

The vast majority of people affected by the rule are from Central America. But sometimes migrants from Africa , Cuba or Haiti and other countries try to come through the U.S.-Mexico border, as well.

There are some exceptions, including for victims of human trafficking and asylum-seekers who were denied protection in another country. If the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties governing how refugees are managed (though most Western countries signed them) a migrant could still apply for U.S. asylum.

___

62 border employees under internal investigation amid posts

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Monday that 62 current and eight former Border Patrol employees are under internal investigation following revelations of a secret Facebook group that mocked lawmakers and migrants.

Most are under investigation for posts that surfaced in a secret group called "I'm 10-15," where messages questioned the authenticity of images of a migrant father and child dead on the banks of the Rio Grande River, and depicted crude, doctored images of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., purporting to perform a sex act on President Donald Trump.

There were posts in at least one other closed group under investigation, he said.

"Messages posted on a private page that are discriminatory or harassing are not protected and violate standards of conduct," said Matthew Klein, assistant commissioner of the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility.

Klein said his agency referred the case to the Homeland Security Department's watchdog agency, which declined to investigate and sent the case back to Customs and Border Protection. He said they are now focused on fact-finding and would identify criminal behavior if there was any, but it was not considered a criminal probe.

___

Making an immigration arrest requires hours of surveillance

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (AP) — Two immigration officers had been parked outside a home well before dawn when their target — a Mexican man convicted of driving under the influence in 2015 — appeared to emerge as the sun illuminated a gray sky.

"I'm going to do a vehicle stop," an officer radioed. "I'm right behind you," said another, lights flashing as they ordered the driver into a liquor store parking lot.

As it turned out, the man they pulled over was not the one they were looking for. But he happened to be in the country illegally, too, and was taken into custody.

The arrest last week near San Diego illustrates how President Donald Trump's pledge to deport millions of immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission would be highly impractical to carry out, maybe impossible. For U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, picking up people is a time-consuming, labor-intensive and not always successful task.

An arrest of just one immigrant often requires days of surveillance.

___

Treasury chief: Facebook currency plan ripe for illicit use

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration came out strongly Monday against Facebook's ambitious plan to create a new digital currency, as the Treasury chief warned it could be used for illicit activity such as money laundering, human trafficking and financing terrorism.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed "very serious concerns" about the currency proposed by the social network giant, to be called Libra. "This is indeed a national security issue," Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.

His comments came a few days after President Donald Trump tweeted that Libra "will have little standing or dependability."

Trump, fresh off a "social media summit" he led at the White House that gathered conservative critics of Big Tech, tweeted last week: "I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity."

If they want to get into the financial business, Facebook and its dozens of partner companies in the venture will have to accept the kind of tight regulation that banks are under, the president said.

___

Telescope foes tie together, block road to Hawaii summit

MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (AP) — Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Monday at the base of Hawaii's tallest mountain to protest the construction of a giant telescope on land that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

At about daybreak, a group of kupuna, or elders, sitting in chairs tied themselves together with rope and blocked the road to the summit of Mauna Kea. Another group of protesters lay prone on the ground, with their arms shackled under a grate in the road.

Around them, protesters sang and chanted.

The road was later officially closed, hours after it was essentially blocked by protesters. The elders tied together were expecting to be arrested.

After two protest leaders spoke with police, they addressed the crowd and told them anyone who didn't move would be arrested. The group would move aside, but the elders were expected to remain, protest leaders Kaho'okahi Kanuha and Andre Perez said.

___

Final blast of torrential rains unleashed by weakened Barry

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tropical Depression Barry spared New Orleans from catastrophic flooding, but it still swamped parts of Louisiana with up to 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain and transformed part of the Mississippi Delta into "an ocean."

Although Barry was downgraded from a tropical storm Sunday afternoon, its torrential rains continued to pose a threat Monday. Much of Louisiana and Mississippi were under flash-flood watches, as were parts of Arkansas, eastern Texas, western Tennessee and southeastern Missouri.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents to be cautious as they ventured outside after a weekend in which many had sheltered indoors.

He said he was "extremely grateful" that the storm had not caused the catastrophic floods that had earlier been forecast. More than 90 people had been rescued in 11 parishes, but there were no reports of weather-related fatalities, Edwards said.

"This was a storm that obviously could have played out very, very differently," he said. "We're thankful that the worst-case scenario did not happen."

___

Congo tracing contacts of first Ebola case in eastern city

BENI, Congo (AP) — After feeling sick for several days the pastor boarded a bus to eastern Congo's largest city. Only upon arrival at his destination did anyone suspect he had the highly deadly and infectious Ebola virus.

During his trip to Goma, the 46-year-old preacher managed to pass through three health checkpoints aimed at stopping those who are sick with Ebola and contagious.

Now health authorities along his route are trying to hunt down all those he may have been in contact with after the man became Goma's first confirmed Ebola case on Sunday.

It's a crucial task to contain the spread of Ebola in Goma, home to more than 2 million people and the largest city to confirm a case of the disease since the epidemic here began nearly a year ago.

"It's the door of this region to the rest of the world," said Dr. Harouna Djingarey, infectious disease program manager for the World Health Organization's regional office in eastern Congo. "From here you can fly to everywhere in the world. If we don't have the control over the contacts, some high-risk contacts may fly, take a plane and go somewhere."

___

Some in GOP rebuke Trump, but party leaders still silent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Republicans remained largely silent after President Donald Trump said over the weekend that four women of color in Congress should "go back" to the countries they came from. By Monday, some in the party were speaking up.

Several GOP senators, and some House Republicans, said Trump had gone too far. But it's unclear if the president would suffer any real rebuke.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to discuss the situation, telling reporters he'd "address whatever questions you have" at his regularly scheduled news conference on Tuesday.

"I think it's a mistake and an unforced error," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of party leadership. "I don't think the president is a racist."

With no organized response apparent on Capitol Hill, the GOP lawmakers were left to decide on their own how to handle Trump's latest assault on civic norms. They splintered into camps or stayed silent.