Whistleblower accuses White House of Ukraine call cover-up

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House officials took extraordinary steps to "lock down" information about President Donald Trump's summertime phone call with the president of Ukraine, even moving the transcript to a secret computer system, a whistleblower alleges in a politically explosive complaint that accuses the administration of a wide-ranging cover-up.

The whistleblower, in a 9-page document released Thursday , provides many new details about the phone call in which Trump repeatedly spoke of how much the U.S. had aided Ukraine and encouraged new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to help investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son.

Accusations of efforts to pressure the leader of a foreign nation to dig for dirt on a potential 2020 Trump rival are now at the heart of a House impeachment inquiry against the president. The whistleblower's official complaint alleges a concerted White House effort to suppress the transcript of the call and describes a shadow campaign of diplomacy by the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani that worried some senior administration officials.

"In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to 'lock down' all the records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced as is customary by the White House situation room," the complaint says.

The previously secret document, with its detail and clear narrative, is likely to accelerate the impeachment process and put more pressure on Trump to rebut its core contentions and on his fellow Republicans to defend him or not. It also provides a road map for Democrats to seek corroborating witnesses and evidence , which will complicate the president's efforts to characterize the findings as those of a lone partisan out to undermine him.

___

Whistleblower complaint takeaways: More than a phone call

WASHINGTON (AP) — The phone call is just a start.

A whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump's dealings with the new president of Ukraine lays out concerns about multiple actions taken by the Trump White House and its allies that suggest the president was using his office "to solicit interference from a foreign country" to boost his reelection prospects. The complaint, written by an unidentified member of the U.S. intelligence community, was released Thursday. The House Intelligence Committee grilled the acting U.S. spy chief on details of the redacted complaint.

A few key takeaways from the complaint and the hearing:

IT'S ABOUT FAR MORE THAN JUST THAT CALL

The complaint discusses a July 25 phone call in which Trump prodded Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy to work with Trump's attorney general, William Barr, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, to dig up dirt on the son of Democratic rival Joe Biden.

___

Ukrainian leader bristles at release of Trump transcript

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The White House annoyed and embarrassed Ukraine's president by releasing his comments in a private conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump — and may have violated the Ukrainian constitution.

The rough transcript of Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy released Wednesday shows that Trump pressed Ukraine to "look into" his Democratic political rival Joe Biden. The July 25 call is now at the center of a U.S. impeachment probe.

"I think such things, such conversations between heads of independent states, they shouldn't be published," Zelenskiy told reporters at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. He didn't indicate whether the White House warned him that his comments would be released.

But he also said that "no one can pressure me." He sought to play down the situation involving Biden and his son's activities in Ukraine, calling it just one of "many cases that I talk about with leaders of other countries."

Before the White House released the rough transcript, Trump tweeted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had received permission from the Ukrainian government to do so. "They don't know either what the big deal is. A total Witch Hunt Scam by the Democrats," Trump tweeted Tuesday.

___

Amazon offers a way to delete Alexa recordings automatically

NEW YORK (AP) — Users of Amazon's Alexa digital assistant can now request that recordings of their voice commands delete automatically.

Amazon says it saves such commands to improve the service. But the practice has raised concerns with privacy experts who say the recordings could get into the wrong hands, especially as Amazon and other companies use human reviewers rather than just machines.

Previously, users had to go into Alexa's settings and delete recordings manually. Users can now ask Amazon to automatically delete recordings after three months or 18 months. But users need to specify that in the settings, as recordings are kept indefinitely by default. And there's no automatic option for immediate deletion. Users would still need to do that manually.

When users ask for automatic deletion, a warning will pop up saying that doing so could degrade Alexa's ability to respond or understand users.

Amazon will also let users request deletions through an Alexa voice command. The use of human reviewers will continue.

___

GM reverses course, says strikers will keep health coverage

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors now says striking workers will get company-paid health insurance, nine days after telling the union that coverage would be cut off.

The automaker said in an emailed letter to the United Auto Workers dated Wednesday that employee health and well-being are GM's top priorities.

The about-face came after workers howled and GM received withering criticism from politicians and on social media about cutting off the benefits.

"These irresponsible actions by General Motors are toying with the lives of hundreds of thousands of our UAW families," UAW Vice President Terry Dittes wrote in a letter Thursday to Scott Sandefur, GM's vice president of labor relations. Dittes wrote that public sentiment would "see these actions of GM as a shameful act!"

It wasn't clear how the rhetoric or the health care spat would affect contract talks aimed at ending the strike by 49,000 workers that has shut down manufacturing for nearly two weeks at more than 30 GM plants across the nation.

___

Safety board: Boeing should reconsider pilots' response time

Pilots flying the two Boeing 737 Max jets that crashed in the past year were bombarded by multiple warnings that the flights were going dangerously wrong.

Boeing has said the pilots should have been able to swiftly diagnose the problem and follow a longstanding procedure to fix it.

But a report Thursday from federal accident investigators questions whether Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration underestimated how a blizzard of visual and auditory warnings would slow the pilots' ability to respond quickly enough to avoid disaster.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued seven recommendations stemming from its role as an adviser to investigations of the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which together killed 346 people.

It will be up to investigators in those countries to determine what caused the accidents. Preliminary reports have pointed to an anti-stall system that kicked in based on faulty sensor readings and pushed the noses of the planes down.