White House: Trump supports GOP leaders’ immigration bill

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ignited eleventh-hour confusion Friday over Republican efforts to push immigration legislation through the House, saying he wouldn’t sign a “moderate” package. The White House later walked back the comments, formally endorsing the measure and saying Trump had been confused.

The campaign-season tumult erupted as GOP leaders put finishing touches on a pair of Republican bills: a hard-right proposal and a middle-ground plan negotiated by the party’s conservative and moderate wings, with White House input. Only the compromise bill would open a door to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, and reduce the separation of children from their parents when families are detained crossing the border — a practice that has drawn bipartisan condemnation in recent days.

“I’m looking at both of them,” Trump said when asked about the proposals during an impromptu interview on Fox News’ ”Fox & Friends,” adding: “I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one.”

The comment prompted widespread confusion on the Hill and jeopardized Republicans’ plans for votes on both bills next week. Leaders released a schedule for next week that included “possible consideration” of immigration legislation.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Paul Ryan had told colleagues that Trump supported the middle-ground package. White House aide Stephen Miller, an immigration hard-liner who has been accused of trying to sabotage immigration deals in the past, told conservative lawmakers at a closed-door meeting that the president backed that plan.

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DHS reports about 2,000 minors separated from families

WASHINGTON — Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the U.S. border over a six-week period during a crackdown on illegal entries, according to Department of Homeland Security figures obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The figures show that 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31. The separations were not broken down by age, and included separations for illegal entry, immigration violations or possible criminal conduct by the adult.

Under a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security officials are now referring all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.

Sessions announced the effort April 6, and Homeland Security began stepping up referrals in early May, effectively putting the policy into action.

Since then, stories of weeping children torn from the arms of their frightened parents have flooded the media and the policy has been widely criticized by church groups, politicians and children’s advocates who say it is inhumane. A battle in Congress is brewing in part over the issue.

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Judge jails ex-Trump campaign chair Manafort ahead of trial

WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was jailed Friday after a federal judge revoked his house arrest over allegations of witness tampering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The order by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson adds to the already intense pressure on President Donald Trump’s former top campaign aide in the special counsel’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign and the possible coordination with Trump aides.

Manafort, who is 69, now loses the relative freedom he enjoyed while preparing for two criminal trials, and he faces the possibility, if tried and convicted, of spending the rest of his life in prison. Still, it’s unclear if the move will push Manafort to cooperate with prosecutors.

Manafort witnessed several key episodes under investigation by Mueller’s team. But he has not shown a willingness to help investigators, instead vigorously maintaining his innocence and attacking his prosecution as illegitimate. Prosecutors have also given no indication they are pursuing a plea deal or consider his testimony essential to the probe given the amount of evidence — and other cooperators — they’ve amassed in the last year.

No one on the campaign, including Manafort, has been charged with a crime directly related to Russian attempts to sway the election.

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China hikes tariffs on US soybeans, electric cars, fish

BEIJING — China fired back Saturday in a spiraling trade dispute with President Donald Trump by raising import duties on a $34 billion list of American goods including soybeans, electric cars and whiskey.

The government said it was responding in “equal scale” to Trump’s tariff hike on Chinese goods in a conflict over Beijing’s trade surplus and technology policy that companies worry could quickly escalate and chill global economic growth.

China “doesn’t want a trade war” but has to “fight back strongly,” said a Commerce Ministry statement. It said Beijing also was scrapping agreements to narrow its multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American farm goods, natural gas and other products.

The United States and China have the world’s biggest trading relationship but official ties are increasingly strained over complaints Beijing’s industry development tactics violate its free-trade pledges and hurt American companies. Europe, Japan and other trading partners raise similar complaints, but Trump has been unusually direct about challenging Beijing and threatening to disrupt such a large volume of exports.

“In this trade war, it’s the U.S. who is playing the role of provocateur, while China plays defense,” said the Global Times, a newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party. “China is a powerful guardian and has enough ammunition to defend existing trade rules and fairness.”

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Justice report provides ammo for both Trump and his critics

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department watchdog report has turned into Washington’s latest Rorschach test, with President Donald Trump and his critics each cherry picking what they want to see from its findings to either discredit or defend investigators conducting the probe into the White House.

The 500-page report, which was more than a year in the making, offered a nuanced conclusion about the bureau’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, criticizing the FBI and its former director James Comey personally but not finding evidence that political bias tainted the investigation in the months and days leading up to Trump’s election.

But Trump wielded it as a blunt instrument on Friday, bludgeoning the integrity of the Justice Department by pointing to the politically-charged communication among FBI employees as proof that the FBI was biased “at the top level” and “plotting against my election.”

“The end result was wrong. There was total bias,” Trump declared Friday. “Comey was the ring leader of this whole, you know, den of thieves. It was a den of thieves.”

Trump allies seized upon text messages between agents, pointing to one from August 2016 that said “We’ll stop it” with regard to a potential Trump victory and another from a bureau lawyer that said “Viva le resistance.” And Trump took it one step further, barreling out of the White House Friday for an unannounced, early-morning television interview that turned into a nearly hour-long freewheeling give-and-take with reporters, during which he returned time and again to assert that report had exonerated him amid Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian election interference.

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A trade war looms as Trump slaps tariffs on Chinese imports

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump brought the world’s two biggest economies to the brink of a trade war Friday by announcing a 25 percent tariff on up to $50 billion in Chinese imports to take effect July 6.

Beijing quickly responded that it would retaliate with penalties of the same scale on American goods — and it spelled out details to impose tariffs on 545 U.S. exports, including farm products, autos and seafood, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

In announcing the U.S. tariffs, Trump said he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to crack down on what he contends are China’s unfair trade practices and its efforts to undermine U.S. technology and intellectual property.

“We have the great brain power in Silicon Valley, and China and others steal those secrets,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” ‘’We’re going to protect those secrets. Those are crown jewels for this country.”

The prospect of a U.S.-China trade war weighed on financial markets Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 220 points in mid-afternoon trading before recovering somewhat to finish down 84 points. Other stock averages also declined.

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Trump holds chaotic news conference on White House lawn

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump gives few news conferences, and when one came Friday it was sudden, unexpected and chaotic.

After making a surprise visit to the White House lawn for a half-hour interview with “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy, Trump took 20 minutes of questions from a boisterous group of White House reporters. It was televised live on cable news.

Trump’s remarks — about North Korea, his zero tolerance immigration policy, the investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia — offered enough fodder for television talkers to chew over all day and into the weekend. No one had any idea it was going to happen an hour before the president emerged.

Doocy, typically New York-based, was in Washington this week to cover the congressional baseball game. He stayed over to help anchor Trump’s favorite morning show from the area on the White House grounds where television reporters usually congregate for live shots. No guests were expected; the White House offered a trade representative and Fox turned them down.

Doocy nearly didn’t get in; Secret Service officials couldn’t find his pass and barred him at the gate. He was sitting on the curb outside the White House at 6:10 a.m., and his colleagues started “Fox & Friends” without him.

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Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes charged with criminal fraud

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors indicted Elizabeth Holmes on criminal fraud charges for allegedly defrauding investors, doctors and the public as the head of the once-heralded blood-testing startup Theranos. Federal prosecutors also brought charges against the company’s former second-in-command.

Holmes, who was once considered a wunderkind of Silicon Valley, and her former Chief Operating Officer Ramesh Balwani, are charged with two counts conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud each, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California said late Friday. If convicted, they could face prison sentences that would keep them behind bars for the rest of their lives, and total fines of $2.75 million each.

Prosecutors allege that Holmes and Balwani deliberately misled investors, policymakers and the public about the accuracy of Theranos’ blood-testing technologies going back to at least 2013. Holmes, 34, founded Theranos in Palo Alto, California, in 2003, pitching its technology as a cheaper way to run dozens of blood tests.

Holmes said Theranos had discovered a new way of doing blood testing, one able to do dozens of tests with just a prick of a finger and few droplets of blood. A notoriously secretive company, Theranos shared very little about its blood-testing machine, nicknamed Edison, with the public or medical community. Holmes said she was inspired to start the company in response to her fear of needles.

She carefully crafted her image as well, wearing almost entirely black turtleneck sweaters that earned her the moniker in Silicon Valley as “the next Steve Jobs.”

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Fierce fighting intensifies outside Yemen’s Hodeida airport

SANAA, Yemen — A Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni fighters backing the country’s government were on the verge of seizing control of the airport of a vital rebel-held port as fighting intensified Friday, with pro-government forces within meters (yards) of the airport gates.

The death toll climbed to at least 280 on the third day of the campaign aimed at driving out the Iranian-backed Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, from the Red Sea port of Hodeida that is the main entry point for food and aid supplies in a country teetering on the brink of famine.

The Saudi-Emirati coalition bombed Houthi positions while rebels said in a statement that they fired a ballistic missile at pro-government forces, but gave no report of causalities.

The fighting comes at a time when Muslims around the world are celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But in Hodeida, people were stockpiling what little food they could for fear of an imminent siege and streets were empty except for beggars and fighters.

Yemeni officials said dozens of pro-government fighters have been killed since the assault began Wednesday, mainly from land mines and roadside bombs disguised as rocks or sacks of wheat. On the rebel side, bodies of Houthi fighters were strewn across the front lines.

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AP: Trump 2020 working with ex-Cambridge Analytica staffers

WASHINGTON — A company run by former officials at Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm brought down by a scandal over how it obtained Facebook users’ private data, has quietly been working for President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election effort, The Associated Press has learned.

The AP confirmed that at least four former Cambridge Analytica employees are affiliated with Data Propria, a new company specializing in voter and consumer targeting work similar to Cambridge Analytica’s efforts before its collapse. The company’s former head of product, Matt Oczkowski, leads the new firm, which also includes Cambridge Analytica’s former chief data scientist.

Oczkowski denied a link to the Trump campaign, but acknowledged that his new firm has agreed to do 2018 campaign work for the Republican National Committee. Oczkowski led the Cambridge Analytica data team which worked on Trump’s successful 2016 campaign.

The AP learned of Data Propria’s role in Trump’s re-election effort as a result of conversations held with political contacts and prospective clients in recent weeks by Oczkowski. In one such conversation, which took place in a public place and was overheard by two AP reporters, Oczkowski said he and Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, were “doing the president’s work for 2020.”

In addition, a person familiar with Data Propria’s Washington efforts, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect business relationships, confirmed to the AP that Trump-related 2020 work already had begun at the firm along the lines of Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 work.

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