Trump says he answered written questions in Mueller probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he has answered written questions from special counsel Robert Mueller but hasn’t yet submitted them.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday that he answered the questions “very easily” this week but added that “you have to always be careful.”
The president did not say when he would turn over the answers to Mueller as part of the ongoing investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Trump had huddled with lawyer at the White House this week but made clear: “my lawyers don’t write answers, I write answers.”
Mueller had signaled a willingness to accept written answers on matters of collusion. The White House has said it would not answer Mueller’s questions on possible obstruction of justice.

Judge: White House must return CNN’s Jim Acosta’s credential

By JESSICA GRESKO and MICHAEL BALSAMO, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge ordered the Trump administration on Friday to immediately return the White House press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta, though a lawsuit over the credentials’ revocation is continuing.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, an appointee of President Donald Trump, announced his decision at a hearing Friday morning. The judge said Acosta’s credentials should be returned immediately and reactivated to allow him access to the White House complex for press briefings and other events.
The White House said it would comply, but planned to develop “rules” for orderly press conferences.
The White House revoked Acosta’s credentials last week after he and Trump tangled during a press conference following the midterm elections. CNN sued and asked the judge to issue a temporary restraining order forcing the White House to give back Acosta’s credentials at least temporarily. The judge agreed.
The suit by CNN alleges that Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated when the White House revoked his credentials, called a “hard pass.”
While the judge didn’t rule on the underlying case, he ordered Acosta’s credentials returned for now because he said CNN was likely to prevail on its Fifth Amendment claim — that Acosta hadn’t received sufficient notice or explanation before his credentials were revoked or been given sufficient opportunity to respond before they were.
The judge said the government could not say who initially decided to revoke Acosta’s hard pass and how that decision was reached.
“In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”
The White House had spelled out its reasons for revoking Acosta’s credentials in a tweet from Sanders and in a statement after CNN filed its lawsuit. But the judge said those “belated efforts were hardly sufficient to satisfy due process.”
The judge also found that Acosta suffered “irreparable harm,” dismissing the government’s argument that CNN could simply send other reporters to cover the White House in Acosta’s place.
But the judge also emphasized the “very limited nature” of his ruling Friday. He noted he had not determined that the First Amendment was violated.
The judge told attorneys to file additional court papers in the case by Monday.
On Friday afternoon, more than 50 members of the White House press corps greeted Acosta as he strode through the northwest gate of the presidential compound. He says he’s grateful for the judge’s ruling, that it was a test and he thinks the media passed the test.
“This is just any other day at the White House for me and I would like to get back to work,” he said.
Trump has made his dislike of CNN clear since before he took office and continuing into his presidency. He has described the network as “fake news” both on Twitter and in public comments.
At last week’s press conference, Trump was taking questions from reporters and called on Acosta, who asked about Trump’s statements about a caravan of migrants making its way to the U.S.-Mexico border. After a terse exchange, Trump told Acosta, “That’s enough,” several times while calling on another reporter.
Acosta attempted to ask another question about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and initially declined to give up a hand-held microphone to a White House intern. Trump responded to Acosta by saying he wasn’t concerned about the investigation, calling it a “hoax,” and then criticized Acosta, calling him a “rude, terrible person.”
Hours later, the White House pulled Acosta’s credentials.
The White House’s explanations for why it seized Acosta’s credentials have shifted over the last week.
Sanders initially explained the decision by accusing Acosta of making improper physical contact with the intern seeking to grab the microphone.
But that rationale disappeared after witnesses backed Acosta’s account that he was just trying to keep the microphone, and Sanders distributed a doctored video that made it appear Acosta was more aggressive than he actually was.
On Tuesday, Sanders accused Acosta in a written statement of being unprofessional by trying to dominate the questioning at the news conference.

Missing-persons list tops 600 in fire-stricken California

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE and BRIAN MELLEY, Associated Press
CHICO, Calif. (AP) — The potential magnitude of the wildfire disaster in Northern California escalated as officials raised the death toll to 63 and released a missing-persons list with 631 names on it more than a week after the flames swept through.
The fast-growing roster of people unaccounted for probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they have been reported missing, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said late Thursday.
He said he made the list public in the hope that people will see they are on it and let authorities know they are OK.
“The chaos that we were dealing with was extraordinary,” Honea said of the crisis last week, when the flames razed the town of Paradise and outlying areas in what has proved to be the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. “Now we’re trying to go back out and make sure that we’re accounting for everyone.”
Firefighters continued gaining ground against the 222-square mile (575-square-kilometer) blaze, which was reported 45 percent contained Friday. It destroyed 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, the state fire agency said.
Rain in the forecast Tuesday night could help knock down the flames but also complicate efforts by more 450 searchers to find human remains in the ashes. In some cases, search crews are finding little more than bones and bone fragments.
Some 52,000 people have been displaced to shelters, the motels, the homes of friends and relatives, and a Walmart parking lot and an adjacent field in Chico, a dozen miles away from the ashes.
At the vast parking lot, evacuees wondered if they still have homes, if their neighbors are still alive, and where they will go from here.
“It’s cold and scary,” said Lilly Batres, 13, one of the few children there, who fled with her family from the forested town of Magalia and didn’t know whether her home was still standing. “I feel like people are going to come into our tent.”
At the other end of the state, more residents were being allowed back in their homes near Los Angeles after a wildfire torched an area the size of Denver. The 153-square-mile blaze was 69 percent contained after destroying more than 600 homes and other structures, authorities said. At least three deaths were reported.
Schools across a large swath of the state were closed because of smoke, and San Francisco’s world-famous open-air cable cars were pulled off the streets.
Anna Goodnight of Paradise tried to make the best of it, sitting on an overturned shopping cart in the Walmart parking lot and eating scrambled eggs and hash browns while her husband drank a Budweiser.
But then William Goodnight began to cry.
“We’re grateful. We’re better off than some. I’ve been holding it together for her,” he said, gesturing toward his wife. “I’m just breaking down, finally.”
More than 75 tents had popped up in the space since Matthew Flanagan arrived last Friday.
“We call it Wally World,” Flanagan said, a riff on the store name. “When I first got here, there was nobody here. And now it’s just getting worse and worse and worse. There are more evacuees, more people running out of money for hotels.”
Some arrived after running out of money for a hotel. Others couldn’t find a room or weren’t allowed to stay at shelters with their dogs or, in the case of Suzanne Kaksonen, two cockatoos.
“I just want to go home,” Kaksonen said. “I don’t even care if there’s no home. I just want to go back to my dirt, you know, and put a trailer up and clean it up and get going. Sooner the better. I don’t want to wait six months. That petrifies me.”
Some evacuees helped sort the donations that have poured in, including sweaters, flannel shirts, boots and stuffed animals. Food trucks offered free meals, and a cook flipped burgers on a grill. There were portable toilets, and some people used the Walmart restrooms.
Information for contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance was posted on a board that allowed people to write the names of those they believed were missing. Several names had “Here” written next to them.
Melissa Contant, who drove from the San Francisco area to help, advised people to register with FEMA as soon as possible.
“You’re living in a Walmart parking lot — you’re not OK,” she told one couple.
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Melley reported from Los Angeles. AP journalist Terence Chea in Chico contributed to this story.

Florida: Hand recount begins for tight US Senate race

By GARY FINEOUT and BRENDAN FARRINGTON, Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A hand recount began Friday in Florida’s acrimonious U.S. Senate contest after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by fewer than 13,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast.
Under state law, a hand review is required when the victory margin is 0.25 percentage points or less. A state website’s unofficial results show Scott ahead of Nelson by 0.15 percentage points.
The hand recount in the Senate race does not review all votes that were cast. It involves only that fraction of ballots in which voters cast either two votes for one race, which is called an overvote, or appeared to choose no candidate, which is an undervote. The idea is to figure out a voter’s intent.
At a warehouse in Broward County — which has had numerous problems throughout the election — dozens of volunteers sitting at folding tables cheered loudly when they were told they had finished the recount Friday morning and could go home for the day. Results were not immediately announced.
The margin in the governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum was 0.41 percent. That means the contest for governor appeared all but over Thursday, with a machine recount showing DeSantis with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race.
Gillum, who conceded on election night only to retract his concession later, said in a statement that “it is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”
The overall recount has been fraught with problems. One large Democratic stronghold in South Florida could not finish its machine recount by the Thursday deadline because of machines breaking down. A federal judge rejected a request to extend the recount deadline.
“We gave a heroic effort,” said Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. If the county had three or four more hours, it would have made the deadline to recount ballots in the Senate race, she said.
Meanwhile, election officials in another urban county in the Tampa Bay area decided against turning in the results of their machine recount, which came up with 846 fewer votes than originally counted.
Broward County missed the deadline to submit its machine recount results by two minutes, but it finished its manual recount in just a few hours Friday morning, which Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes attributed to the large number of volunteers assembled for the task.
Scott called on Nelson to end the recount battle.
It’s time for Nelson “to respect the will of the voters and graciously bring this process to an end rather than proceed with yet another count of the votes — which will yield the same result and bring more embarrassment to the state that we both love and have served,” the governor’s statement said.
The margin between Scott and Nelson had not changed much in the last few days, conceded Marc Elias, an attorney working for Nelson’s campaign. But he said he expects it to shrink due to the hand recount and the ruling on signatures.
Three election-related lawsuits are pending in federal court in Tallahassee.
The situation drew the ire of U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who slammed the state for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems. He also said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000.
“We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this,” Walker said at a hearing Thursday.
Incoming Florida Senate President Bill Galvano said Friday that lawmakers will discuss changes to the state’s election laws.
By the next election cycle, he said, “voters are going to want to have more in terms of assurance that their votes are going to be properly counted.”
Late Thursday, Walker rejected a challenge by Nelson and Democrats to the rules of the hand recount in the Senate race. During the hand recount, elections officials look at just the ballots that weren’t recorded by voting machines. Walker found the state’s rules were reasonable and constitutional.
Walker also ordered that voters be given until 5 p.m. Saturday to show a valid identification and fix their ballots if they haven’t been counted due to mismatched signatures. Republicans challenged this order and were turned down by an appeals court.
State officials testified that nearly 4,000 mail-in ballots were set aside because local officials decided the signatures on the envelopes did not match the signatures on file. If those voters can prove their identity, their votes will now be counted and included in final official returns due from each county by noon Sunday.
Walker was asked by Democrats to require local officials to provide a list of people whose ballots were rejected. But the judge refused the request as “inappropriate.”
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Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Curt Anderson and Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.

DeVos proposes overhaul to campus sexual misconduct rules

By COLLIN BINKLEY, Associated Press
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday proposed a major overhaul to the way colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct complaints, adding protections for students accused of assault and harassment and narrowing which cases schools would be required to investigate.
Under the plan, schools would have to investigate complaints only if the alleged incidents occurred on campus or other areas overseen by the school, and only if they were reported to certain campus officials with the authority to take action.
The Education Department said the proposal ensures fairness for students on both sides of accusations, while offering schools greater flexibility to help victims who don’t want to file formal complaints that could trigger an investigation.
“Throughout this process, my focus was, is, and always will be on ensuring that every student can learn in a safe and nurturing environment,” DeVos said in a statement. “That starts with having clear policies and fair processes that every student can rely on. Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”
DeVos previously said the existing rules pressure schools to take heavy action against students accused of misconduct without giving them a fair chance to defend themselves.
Her new proposal adds several provisions meant to protect accused students. They would be allowed to review and respond to all evidence collected by the school, for example, and have a presumption of innocence throughout the disciplinary process.
They could cross-examine their accusers, although it would be done indirectly through a representative to avoid personal confrontation.
Opponents say the proposal would deter victims from reporting assaults, and allow schools to shirk responsibility when they do receive complaints.
“If these draft rules go into effect, schools will become more dangerous for all students and more schools will shield harassers and rapists,” Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement.
Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said the proposal would be “a damaging setback for our efforts to prevent campus sexual harassment and assault.”
But supporters say the new rules do a better job providing equal treatment to all students.
“By taking the rights of both complainants and accused students seriously, these proposed regulations make important strides toward ensuring that complaints of sexual misconduct will be neither ignored nor prejudged,” said Samantha Harris, vice president for procedural advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The proposal would effectively tell schools how to apply the 1972 law known as Title IX, which bars discrimination based on sex in schools that receive federal dollars.
Schools for years have relied on a series of guidance letters issued by the Obama administration instructing them how to respond to complaints of sexual misconduct. Colleges were required to investigate all student complaints, on campus or off, and any misstep could put them under federal investigation.
Advocacy groups for victims say the Obama rules forced schools to stop sweeping the issue under the rug, while advocates for accused students say it tipped the scales in favor of accusers. Some college leaders complained that the rules were too complex and could be overly burdensome.
DeVos rescinded an important guidance letter in September 2017, declaring that “the era of ‘rule by letter'” was over. In its place, she issued the 150-page proposal released Friday.
Among other changes, it narrows what constitutes sexual harassment. While the 2011 guidance defined it as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” the new proposal defines it as unwelcome sexual conduct that’s so severe “it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.”
It also allows schools to use a higher standard of proof when weighing cases. The Obama guidance told schools to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, meaning the allegation is “more likely than not” true. The new proposal would allow a “clear and convincing” standard, meaning the claim is highly probable.
Even if victims don’t file a formal complaint, the proposal encourages schools to offer a range of measures to help them continue their studies, including counseling, class schedule changes, dorm room reassignments and no-contact orders for those accused of harming them.
It has yet to be seen whether schools would change policies in response to the rules. A statement from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities says it expects schools to “far exceed” the minimum that’s required in Title IX rules.
Before the rules can be finalized, the Education Department will gather public input from the public.
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Online:
Education Department: https://tinyurl.com/y7q3dzss
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Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cbinkley

Allies rally to UK’s May amid leadership woes over Brexit

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May won support for her beleaguered Brexit deal Friday from key politicians and business groups, but she remained besieged by internal party opponents determined to oust her.
In a tumultuous week, May finally clinched a divorce deal with the European Union — only for it to be savaged by the political opposition, her parliamentary allies and large chunks of her own Conservative Party. Two Cabinet ministers and a handful of junior government members resigned, and grumbles about her leadership erupted into a roar.
Friday brought some respite, as supportive Cabinet ministers rallied around her. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a prominent pro-Brexit voice in Cabinet, threw May a lifeline by urging rebels to “take a rational and reasonable view of this.”
“Ultimately I hope that across Parliament we’ll recognize that a deal is better than no deal,” he said.
Britain’s Conservatives have been divided for decades over Britain’s membership in the EU, and the draft withdrawal agreement has infuriated the most strongly pro-Brexit members, who want the country to make a clean break with the bloc. They say the draft agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the EU, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to rules it has no say in making.
The deal drove a group of disaffected Brexiteers to try to topple May by submitting letters saying they have lost confidence in her leadership. They are aiming for the magic number of 48 — the 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers needed to trigger a challenge to her leadership under party rules.
After a day of conflicting rumors about whether 48 letters had been sent, leading Brexiteer Steve Baker said, “I think we’re very close.”
He suggested the threshold might be reached “sometime next week.”
If May lost her job as party leader, she would also lose her position as prime minister. But winning a leadership vote could strengthen her position, because the rules say she can’t be challenged again for a year.
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, one of May’s chief allies, predicted that “if it does come to a challenge, the prime minister will win handsomely.”
“I’ve seen no plausible alternative plan from any of those criticizing her or wanting to challenge her position,” Lidington said.
May got another piece of good news when Environment Secretary Michael Gove decided not to follow two Cabinet colleagues and quit over the divorce deal.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey quit Thursday, saying they could not support the agreement. Like them, Gove was a strong supporter of the “leave” campaign in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum.
Gove said Friday that he “absolutely” had confidence in May, adding that he would work with government colleagues to achieve “the best future for Britain.” But he did not answer when asked if he supported May’s Brexit deal.
May replaced Raab and McVey on Friday with two lawmakers with track records of loyalty. Former junior Health Minister Stephen Barclay replaced Raab as Brexit secretary, while ex-Interior Minister Amber Rudd was named to the work and pensions post.
But May’s Cabinet still contains tensions and potential fissures. Some pro-Brexit ministers, including House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, have not resigned but also have not publicly endorsed May’s deal.
May is determined to fight on, warning that abandoning her Brexit plan, with Britain’s withdrawal just over four months away on March 29, would plunge the country into “deep and grave uncertainty.”
She appealed directly to voters Friday by answering questions on a radio call-in show. It was not an easy ride. One caller said May should resign and let a more staunchly pro-Brexit politician take over; another compared her to Neville Chamberlain, the 1930s prime minister who tried in vain to appease Nazi Germany to avoid war.
May stood by her plan.
“For a lot of people who voted ‘leave,’ what they wanted to do was make sure that decisions on things like who can come into this country would be taken by us here in the U.K., and not by Brussels, and that’s exactly what the deal I’ve negotiated delivers,” she said.
Businesses, which fear the turmoil that could follow a disorderly Brexit, have largely welcomed the withdrawal deal. The Confederation of British Industry, a leading business lobby group, said the agreement represented “hard-won progress.”
In a statement, the group said the withdrawal agreement “opens a route to a good long-term trade deal.”
It warned that leaving the EU without a deal on trade and other relations — a path advocated by some Brexit supporters — “is not an acceptable option” and “would badly damage our economy by disrupting supply chains, causing shortages, and preventing vital services reaching people.”
Simon Kempton of the Police Federation, a union for police officers, said a “no-deal” Brexit could spark protests, and “it’s a real concern that those protests might escalate into disorder.”
“It’s 2018. It’s the year that people dial (emergency number) 999 because KFC ran out of chicken,” he told Sky News. “If that will happen, imagine what will happen if we start seeing food or medical supply shortages.”
EU leaders, who have called a Nov. 25 summit in Brussels to sign off on the draft agreement, were doing their best to refrain from commenting on Britain’s political chaos.
But they stressed that the U.K. should not hope to renegotiate the deal — it is a take-it-or-leave-it offer.
“This is a withdrawal agreement which took the best part of two years to negotiate involving 28 countries, all of whom have their own particular concerns and interests,” said Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. “If you start trying to amend it or unthink it, you might find that the whole thing unravels.”
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Associated Press writers Pan Pylas in London and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

North Korea deports American even as it boasts of new weapon

By HYUNG-JIN KIM and KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Friday said it will deport an American citizen it detained for illegal entrance, an apparent concession to the United States that came even as it announced the test of a newly developed but unspecified “ultramodern” weapon that will be seen as a pressuring tactic by Washington.
The two whiplash announcements, which seemed aimed at both appeasing and annoying Washington, suggest North Korea wants to keep alive dialogue with the United States even as it struggles to express its frustration at stalled nuclear diplomacy.
North Korea in the past has held arrested American citizens for an extended period before high-profile U.S. figures travelled to Pyongyang to secure their freedom. Last year, American university student Otto Warmbier died days after he was released in a coma from North Korea after 17 months in captivity.
On Friday, the Korean Central News Agency said American national Bruce Byron Lowrance was detained on Oct. 16 for illegally entering the country from China. It said he told investigators that he was under the “manipulation” of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. It was not clear if the North’s spelling of the man’s name was correct, and past reports from Pyongyang have contained incorrect spellings.
A short KCNA dispatch said North Korea decided to deport him but did not say why and when.
The North’s decision matches its general push for engagement and diplomacy with the United States this year after a string of weapons tests in 2017, and a furious U.S. response, had some fearing war on the Korean Peninsula.
In May, North Korea released three American detainees in a goodwill gesture weeks ahead of leader Kim Jong Un’s June 12 summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore. The three Americans returned home on a flight with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Weeks after the summit, North Korea returned the remains of dozens of presumed U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The United States, South Korea and others have previously accused North Korea of using foreign detainees to wrest diplomatic concessions.
Some foreigners have said after their release that their declarations of guilt had been coerced while in North Korean custody. Warmbier and other previous American detainees in the North were imprisoned over a variety of alleged crimes, including subversion, anti-state activities and spying.
The latest detained American is likely a man that South Korea deported last year, according to South Korean police.
In November 2017, a 58-year-old man from Louisiana was caught in South Korea after spending two nights in the woods in a civilian-restricted area near the border with North Korea. The name written in his passport was Lowrance Bruce Byron, said police officers at Gyeonggi Bukbu Provincial Police Agency.
Before his deportation, the man told interrogators that he “knows lots of people in the Trump administration so that he wants to work as a bridge between the United States and North Korea to help improve their ties worsened by Warmbier’s death,” said one of the police officers who investigated the man. He requested anonymity citing department rules.
The U.S. State Department said Friday it was “aware of reports of the release of a U.S. citizen who had been detained by the DPRK,” referring to the North by an acronym for its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The department said it appreciates North Korean cooperation with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which handles consular issues for Americans in North Korea as the U.S. doesn’t have a diplomatic presence there. “We have no further information to share due to privacy considerations,” the department added.
Earlier Friday, KCNA said Kim observed the successful test of an unspecified “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon,” though it didn’t describe what the weapon was.
It didn’t appear to be a test of a nuclear device or a long-range missile with the potential to target the United States. A string of such tests last year pushed always uncomfortable ties on the peninsula to unusually high tension before the North turned to engagement and diplomacy.
Still, any mention of weapons testing could influence the direction of stalled diplomatic efforts spearheaded by Washington and aimed at ridding the North of its nuclear weapons.
Experts say the weapon test was likely an expression of anger by North Korea at U.S.-led international sanctions and ongoing small-scale military drills between South Korea and the United States. It’s the first publicly known field inspection of a weapons test by Kim since he observed the testing of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in November of last year, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
“It’s North Korea-style coercive diplomacy. North Korea is saying ‘If you don’t listen to us, you will face political burdens,'” said analyst Shin Beomchul of Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Earlier this month, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry warned it could bring back its policy of bolstering its nuclear arsenal if it doesn’t receive sanctions relief.
Shin said the weapon North Korea tested could be a missile, artillery, an anti-air gun, a drone or other high-tech conventional weapons systems. Yang Wook, a Seoul-based military expert, said a “tactical weapon” in North Korea refers to “a weapon aimed at striking South Korea including U.S. military bases” there, so the North may have tested a short-range missile or a multiple rocket launch system.
Diplomacy has stalled since the Singapore summit, with Washington pushing for more action on nuclear disarmament and the North insisting that the U.S. first approve a peace declaration formally ending the Korean War and lift sanctions.
But Friday’s report from the North was noticeably less belligerent than past announcements of weapons tests, and didn’t focus on North Korean claims of U.S. and South Korean hostility. Yang said the latest North Korean test won’t completely break down nuclear diplomacy, though more questions would be raised about how sincere the North is about its commitment to denuclearization.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, attending a Southeast Asian summit in Singapore, cited the “great progress” made on North Korea but said more had to be done.
A year and a half ago, “nuclear tests were taking place, missiles were flying over Japan and there were threats and propagations against our nation and nations in the region,” Pence said. “Today, no more missiles are flying, no more nuclear tests, our hostages have come home, and North Korea has begun anew to return fallen American heroes from the Korean War to our soil. We made great progress but there’s more work to be done.”
Pence stressed that U.N. sanctions had to remain enforced.
The North said the test took place at the Academy of National Defense Science and that Kim couldn’t suppress his “passionate joy” at its success. He was described as “so excited to say that another great work was done by the defense scientists and munitions industrial workers to increase the defense capability of the country.”
Last year’s string of increasingly powerful weapons tests, many experts believe, put the North on the brink of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can target anywhere in the mainland United States.
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Associated Press writer Foster Klug in Seoul, Annabelle Liang in Singapore and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

Netanyahu’s main coalition partner pushes for early election

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel moved closer to early elections Friday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner, the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, said it wants a vote “as soon as possible,” and will press for consultations on a date on Sunday.
The call for early elections came after a meeting Friday between Netanyahu and Education Minister and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett. The two men have been locked in a tense rivalry, with Bennett often criticizing Netanyahu from the right.
Bennett had demanded the post of defense minister, after the incumbent, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned earlier this week in protest over Netanyahu’s Gaza policies.
A senior Jewish Home official said it became clear after the Bennett-Netanyahu meeting that there “is a need to go to elections as soon as possible.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing the content of a closed meeting.
The official said leaders of coalition parties will meet Sunday to coordinate the date for early elections.
The apparent failure of the Netanyahu-Bennett meeting seemed to seal the coalition’s fate.
The departure of Lieberman and his Israel Beitenu party had left the coalition with a one-seat majority in the 120-member parliament. Without Bennett’s Jewish Home, Netanyahu’s coalition would lose its parliamentary majority.
The political crisis began with a botched Israeli undercover raid in Gaza on Sunday. The raid led to two days of intense cross-border fighting. Gaza’s Hamas rulers fired hundreds of rockets at southern Israel, while Israeli warplanes targeted scores of targets in Gaza.
After two days, Egypt brokered an informal truce between Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas. Netanyahu averted a war, but drew blistering criticism from ultra-nationalists.
Lieberman resigned in protest on Wednesday.
On Friday, he toured southern Israel and accused Netanyahu of being soft on terrorism. He said Netanyahu’s Gaza policy is strengthening Hamas.
Lieberman alleged that the truce will put southern Israel under a growing threat from Hamas, similar to the threat posed to northern Israel by Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah militia.
“It’s impossible that after Hamas launches 500 rockets at the Israeli border communities. the heads of Hamas are actually getting immunity from the Israeli cabinet,” he told reporters.
“We are now feeding a monster” that will only grow if not stopped, he said. “Within a year we will have a twin brother of Hezbollah, with all the implications.”
But on Friday, Hamas kept border protests widely restrained.
Thousands of Palestinians participated in a Hamas-led rally along the perimeter fence dividing Gaza from Israel, with most crowds staying 300 meters from the fence.
However, Gaza’s Health Ministry said 40 Palestinians were wounded, 18 by live fire from Israeli forces. Witnesses said others were wounded in stone-throwing incidents at the usual five protest locations.
No tire burnings or attempts to breach the fence were reported. Such acts have often triggered lethal Israeli army fire. Since the near-weekly protests began in March, more than 170 Palestinians have been killed.
Hamas is pressing for an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that beleaguered Gaza’s 2 million residents since the Islamic group took full power there in 2007.
Prior to the Israeli commando raid that went awry, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million as a first installment to help Hamas pay civil servants long overdue salaries. The move was seen as an attempt to defuse tension, but Lieberman also criticized it as yet another measure that will strengthen Hamas.
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Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

Migrants streaming into Tijuana, but now face long stay

By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — About 2,000 Central American migrants had already reached the Mexican border city of Tijuana and another 1,200 from a second caravan set out from Mexico City toward the border Friday.
With shelters already full, authorities in Tijuana opened a gymnasium and gated sport complex for up to 1,000 migrants, with a potential to expand to 3,000.
But at least that many migrants were still on the road or trickling into the city aboard buses, and a third caravan was still waiting in Mexico City. Tijuana faced a potential influx of as many as 10,000 in all. The city’s privately run shelters are meant to have a capacity of 700.
With U.S. border inspectors processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at the main border crossing with San Diego, prospects grew that migrants would be stuck waiting in Tijuana for months. Concerns continued about what the Central Americans will do, or how they will support themselves in the meantime.
On Thursday, migrants napped on mattresses at the gymnasium in Tijuana while men played soccer and exchanged banter on a crowded, adjoining courtyard. A woman dabbed her crying, naked toddler with a moist cloth.
Francisco Rueda, the top deputy to Baja California state Gov. Francisco Vega de la Madrid, said “This is not a crisis,” but agreed that “this is an extraordinary situation.”
Rueda said the state has 7,000 jobs available for its “Central American migrant brothers” who obtain legal residence status in Mexico.
“Today in Baja California there is an employment opportunity for those who request it, but it order for this to happen, it has to regulate migrant status,” he said.
The thriving factories in the city of 1.6 million are always looking for workers, and several thousand Haitian migrants who were turned away at the U.S. border have found jobs and settled in Tijuana the last two years.
Police made their presence known in a city that is suffering an all-time-high homicide rate. A group of about 50 migrants, mostly women and children, walked through downtown streets Thursday from the city shelter to a breakfast hall under police escort.
As buses from western and central Mexico trickled in, some families camped inside the bus terminal and waited for word on where they could find a safe place to sleep.
Oscar Zapata, 31, reached the Tijuana bus station at 2 a.m. Thursday from Guadalajara with his wife and their three children, ages 4, 5 and 12, and headed to the breakfast hall, where migrants were served free beef and potatoes.
Back home in La Ceiba, Honduras, he sold pirated CDs and DVDs in the street and two gangs demanding “protection” money threatened to kidnap his daughter and force her into prostitution if he didn’t pay. When he heard about the caravan on the TV news last month, he didn’t think twice.
“It was the opportunity to get out,” Zapata said.
Zapata said he hopes to join a brother in Los Angeles but has not yet decided on his next move. Like many others, he plans to wait in Tijuana for others in the caravan to arrive and gather more information before seeking asylum in the United States.
Byron Jose Blandino, a 27-year-old bricklayer from Nicaragua who slept in the converted gymnasium, said he wanted to request asylum but not until he could speak with someone well-versed in U.S. law and asylum procedures.
“The first thing is to wait,” Blandino said. “I do not want to break the laws of any country. If I could enter in a peaceful manner, that would be good.
To claim asylum in San Diego, migrants enter their names in a tattered notebook held together by duct tape and managed by the migrants in a plaza outside the entry to the main border crossing. On Thursday, migrants who registered six weeks ago were getting their names called. The waiting list has grown to more than 3,000 names and stands to become much longer with the new arrivals.
Dozens of gay and transgender migrants in the caravan were already lining up Thursday to submit asylum claims, though it was unclear how soon they would be able to do so.
Rueda, the governor’s deputy, said that if all migrants from the caravan currently in Tijuana were to register to seek asylum in the U.S., they would likely have to wait four months at current processing rates. For that reason, the state has asked Mexican federal authorities to encourage people in other caravans to go to other border cities.
The caravan has fragmented somewhat in recent days in a final push to the border, with some migrants moving rapidly in buses and others falling behind.
On Thursday, hundreds were stranded for most of the day at a gas station in Navojoa, some 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) from Tijuana.
“We were dropped here at midnight … in the middle of nowhere, where supposedly some buses were going to come pick us up, but nothing,” Alejandra Grisel Rodriguez of Honduras told The Associated Press by phone. “We are without water, without food.”
After about 12 hours, seven buses began arriving to collect the migrants, Rodriguez said, but they quickly filled up.
“We would need at least 40 or 50,” she said.
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Associated Press writer Maria Verza in Culiacan, Mexico, contributed to this report.

WikiLeaks chief could see charges, US court filing suggests

By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department inadvertently named Julian Assange in a court filing in an unrelated case, suggesting prosecutors have prepared charges against the WikiLeaks founder under seal.
Assange’s name appears twice in a recently-unsealed August court filing from a federal prosecutor in Virginia who was attempting to keep sealed a separate case involving a man accused of coercing a minor for sex.
In one sentence, the prosecutor wrote that the charges and arrest warrant “would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”
In another sentence, the prosecutor said that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”
Any charges against Assange could help illuminate whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election. It would also suggest that, after years of internal wrangling within the Justice Department, prosecutors have decided to take a more aggressive tact against the secret-sharing website.
It was not immediately clear why Assange’s name was included in the document, though Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Eastern District of Virginia — which had been investigating Assange — said, “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.”
The Washington Post reported late Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter, that Assange had indeed been charged. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm that.
It was not immediately clear what charges Assange, who has been holed up for years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, might face.
But recently ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year declared the arrest of Assange a priority. Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating whether Trump campaign associates had advance knowledge of Democratic emails that were published by WikiLeaks in the weeks before the 2016 election and that U.S. authorities have said were hacked by Russia.
Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange, told the AP earlier this week that he had no information about possible charges against Assange.
In a new statement, he said, “The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed. The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”
The filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, who posted it on Twitter hours after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange and said, “To be clear, seems Freudian, it’s for a different completely unrelated case, every other page is not related to him, EDVA just appears to have Assange on the mind when filing motions to seal and used his name.”
The case at issue concerns a defendant named Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, a 29-year-old teacher who has since been indicted in Virginia on charges of enticing a 15-year-old girl to commit sex acts and to produce child pornography.
The document, a motion filed in late August asking to keep Kokayi’s case secret, mentions Assange in two boilerplate sections, suggesting a copy-and-paste error or that his name was inadvertently left in a template used for the common filings. That document has since been unsealed.
There doesn’t appear to be any connection between Assange and Kokayi.
Assange, 47, has resided in the Ecuadorian Embassy for more than six years in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he was wanted to sex crimes, or to the United States, whose government he has repeatedly humbled with mass disclosures of classified information.
The Australian ex-hacker was once a welcome guest at the Embassy, which takes up part of the ground floor of a stucco-fronted apartment in London’s posh Knightsbridge neighborhood. But his relationship with his hosts has soured over the years amid reports of espionage, erratic behavior and diplomatic unease.
Any criminal charge is sure to further complicate the already tense relationship.
Ecuadorian officials say they have cut off the WikiLeaks founder’s high-speed internet access and will restore it only if he agrees to stop interfering in the affairs of Ecuador’s partners — such as the United States and Spain. He is allowed to use the embassy’s WiFi, though it is unclear if he doing so. Officials have also imposed a series of other restrictions on Assange’s activities and visitors and — notably — ordered him to clean after his cat.
Carlos Poveda, Assange’s lawyer in Ecuador, said he suspects the small South American nation’s government has been maneuvering to kick his client out of the embassy through the stricter new living requirements it recently imposed.
He said possible U.S. charges however are proof his client remains under threat and called on Ecuador’s government to uphold Assange’s asylum protections. He said Ecuador would be responsible if anything happened to Assange.
With shrinking options — an Ecuadorian lawsuit seeking to reverse the restrictions was recently turned down — WikiLeaks announced in September that former spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic journalist who has long served as one of Assange’s lieutenants, would take over as editor-in-chief.
Hrafnsson did not immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment.
WikiLeaks has attracted U.S. attention since 2010, when it published thousands of military and State Department documents from Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning. In a Twitter post early Friday, WikiLeaks said the “US case against WikiLeaks started in 2010” and expanded to include other disclosures, including by contractor Edward Snowden.
“The prosecutor on the order is not from Mr. Mueller’s team and WikiLeaks has never been contacted by anyone from his office,” WikiLeaks said.
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Associated Press writer Raphael Satter in Paris and Chad Day in Washington contributed to this report.
Link to court filing: http://apne.ws/Me9YxB9