Ex-Trump aide plans to defy Mueller, says ‘arrest me’
WASHINGTON — A former Trump campaign aide promised to defy a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller and unloaded on President Donald Trump and his campaign in a series of stunning interviews Monday.
Sam Nunberg said he thinks Mueller may already have incriminating evidence on Trump directly, although he would not say what that evidence might be. He also said the president probably knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his top campaign staff and a team of Russians.
Shortly after he lobbed that allegation, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders rebuffed him during the White House press briefing.
“I definitely think he doesn’t know that for sure because he’s incorrect. As we’ve said many times before, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign,” Sanders said. “He hasn’t worked at the White House, so I certainly can’t speak to him or the lack of knowledge that he clearly has.”
Nunberg also said he thinks former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page worked with the Kremlin. “I believe that Carter Page was colluding with the Russians,” Nunberg said on CNN. “That Carter Page is a weird dude.”
Page called Nunberg’s accusations “laughable” in a comment to The Associated Press.
Page also has figured in the Russia investigation. The Justice Department and FBI obtained a secret warrant in October 2016 to monitor his communications. His activities during the presidential campaign that raised concerns included a July 2016 trip to Moscow.
Nunberg did not respond to requests for comment from the AP. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined comment.
British media say former Russian spy in critical condition
SALISBURY, England — British media reported Monday that a former Russian spy was in critical condition after coming into contact with an “unknown substance,” a case that immediately drew parallels to the poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.
Authorities did not identify the man, saying only that he and a woman were found unconscious Sunday afternoon on a bench in a shopping mall in Salisbury, an English city about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of London.
British media identified him as Sergei Skripal, 66, who was convicted in Russia on charges of spying for Britain and sentenced in 2006 to 13 years in prison. Skripal was freed in 2010 as part of a U.S.-Russian spy swap.
Wiltshire Police, which is responsible for the Salisbury area, only identified the man and woman by their approximate ages and said they appeared to know one another and “did not have any visible injuries.”
“They are currently being treated for suspected exposure to an unknown substance. Both are currently in a critical condition in intensive care,” police said in a statement.
Miss. Sen. Thad Cochran resigning April 1
JACKSON, Miss. — Longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Associated Press on Monday that he will resign April 1 because of health problems.
Cochran, who turned 80 in December, stayed home for a month last fall with urinary tract infections, returning to Washington in October to give Republicans the majority they needed to pass a budget plan.
“I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge,” Cochran said in a statement. “I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate, through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate.”
He was first elected to the Senate in 1978 after serving six years in the House.
“It has been a great honor to serve the people of Mississippi and our country. I’ve done my best to make decisions in the best interests of our nation, and my beloved state,” Cochran said. “My top concern has always been my constituents in Mississippi. My hope is by making this announcement now, a smooth transition can be ensured so their voice will continue to be heard in Washington, D.C. My efforts, and those of my staff, to assist them will continue and transfer to my successor.”
Trump dangles Israel trip for new embassy; mum on peace plan
WASHINGTON — Under twin clouds of legal investigation, President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a united front on Monday, Trump announcing he might travel to Jerusalem to preside over the opening of the new U.S. Embassy Netanyahu had wanted, and the Israeli lavishing praise on the American leader.
In a show of strong support for Netanyahu, who faces corruption allegations at home, Trump dangled the possibility of his second visit to Israel as president. However, he said nothing about whether he would use the trip to unveil his much-vaunted but still mysterious peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.
The president said his controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city had improved chances for ending the conflict, despite Palestinians’ insistence otherwise. The two steps enraged the Palestinians, who claim part of Jerusalem for the capital of an eventual state and accuse Trump of abandoning the U.S. role of honest broker.
Trump and his wife, Melania, welcomed Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, to the White House just hours after Israeli police announced that a third confidant of the prime minister had agreed to turn state’s witness in the burgeoning corruption case. Netanyahu and his wife were questioned separately by police for hours on Friday before their departure for Washington.
Monday’s meeting also came amid the continuing U.S. investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, a probe that may have implications for the president’s Mideast peace point man, son-in-law Jared Kushner, who recently lost his top secret security clearance. And, it took place as profound turmoil in the Middle East threatens hopes of a resumption in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and attempts to restore stability in the volatile region more broadly.
Italy’s populist parties rule the day, but will they rule?
ROME — Italy’s voters have spoken, and the populists ruled the day. But whether these euroskeptics can put aside their distrust and rivalries to rule together was the big question Monday as the nation embarked on a new era following a quarter-century of largely predictable coalition-formula politics.
More than half the ballots cast Sunday went to two populist forces that knew how to read the angry mood in a country where the brightest youths must go abroad to find decent careers and where hundreds of thousands of migrants were essentially marooned when many European Union partners slammed the door on these asylum-seekers rescued at sea.
The math added up to big dilemma, though. Because no party or coalition captured enough seats to rule alone, and because the populists went into the election as sharp rivals despite their similar “Italy, first,” stances, it was unclear if a government with the potential to last could be forged to tackle Italy’s pressing economic and social problems.
No one seemed to have the answer Monday.
“The (next) government is an enigma,” read the front-page headline of the daily Corriere della Sera.
Push is on to restore power with a 2nd storm on the way
BOSTON — Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses from Virginia to New England remained without power Monday, several days after a major nor’easter struck the East Coast, and with another storm bearing down.
Residents faced a massive cleanup Monday following the storm, which was blamed for nine deaths, including two children struck by trees. The storm downed trees and power lines, flooded coastal towns and forced schools to cancel classes.
Utility crews worked around the clock to restore power to the roughly 440,000 customers still without electricity Monday afternoon. At the height of the storm, more than 2 million homes and businesses were without electricity.
Some coastal communities in Massachusetts were bringing in heavy equipment to clear sand, rocks, trees and other debris blocking waterfront neighborhoods.
Fierce winds and high tides damaged dozens of homes in Scituate, where on Monday water still filled yards and rocks blocked streets. Quincy is sending trash trucks through the hard-hit neighborhoods all week to pick up trash.
Judge, police help oust Trump Hotels from Panama property
PANAMA CITY — Workers pried President Donald Trump’s name from signs outside his family company’s luxury hotel in Panama on Monday, as Trump’s executives were ousted from their management offices in a business dispute under orders from Panamanian officials. Trump’s security guards also left.
The end to a 12-day standoff over control of the property came early in the day when a Panamanian judicial official and police officers backed the hotel’s majority owner, Orestes Fintiklis, as he took possession of the offices. The Trump-affiliated management and security officials then left the 70-story, waterfront high-rise.
“This was purely a commercial dispute that just spun out of control,” said Fintiklis, a Miami-based private equity investor and head of the hotel owners’ association. “And today this dispute has been settled by the authorities and the judges of this country.”
The episode was a rare occasion when a foreign government has stood up against the operations of one of Trump’s family businesses, and it was unclear whether Trump might consider retaliating diplomatically. The Panamanian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. U.S. government officials referred questions to the Trump Organization, which did not respond to phone messages and emails requesting comment.
A Panamanian judicial official told The Associated Press a statement would come later in the day.