AP News in Brief
Diplomat lays out White House campaign to oust her
WASHINGTON (AP) — It started with a warning to watch her back, that people were "looking to hurt" her. From there, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told House investigators, it escalated into a chilling campaign to fire her as President Donald Trump and his allies angled in Eastern Europe for political advantage at home.
Testimony from Yovanovitch, released Monday, offered a first word-for-word look at the closed-door House impeachment hearings. Inside, Democrats and Republicans are waging a pitched battle over what to make of Trump's efforts to get Ukraine's leaders to investigate political rival Joe Biden, Biden's son and Democratic activities in the 2016 election.
The transcript came out on the same day that four Trump administration officials defied subpoenas to testify, acting on orders from a White House that is fighting the impeachment investigation with all its might. Among those refusing to testify: John Eisenberg, the lead lawyer at the National Security Council and, by some accounts, the man who ordered a rough transcript of Trump's phone call with Ukraine's leader moved to a highly restricted computer system.
During nine hours of sometimes emotional testimony, Yovanovitch detailed efforts led by Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies to push her out of her post. The career diplomat, who was recalled from her job in May on Trump's orders, testified that a senior Ukrainian official told her that "I really needed to watch my back."
While the major thrust of Yovanovitch's testimony was revealed in her opening statement, Monday's 317-page transcript provided new details.
Experts: White House has dubious reasons to ignore subpoenas
The impeachment process is fundamentally unfair. Congress lacks authority to investigate the president. Witnesses should have executive branch lawyers.
White House attorneys are throwing out an array of arguments for keeping its officials from cooperating with the congressional impeachment inquiry. But legal experts say they are making a weak case.
Some even say the refusal to cooperate with the probe run by House Democrats could amount to obstruction that might itself become an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
"Not only can it be, it absolutely should be," said Heidi Kitrosser, a University of Minnesota constitutional law professor who has written about impeachment. "This is an effort to stymie Congress in one of its core roles."
The inquiry concerns whether the Trump administration sought to pressure Ukraine into investigating business done there by Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and also probing whether Ukraine was involved in the 2016 U.S. election.
US tells UN it is pulling out of Paris climate deal
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has begun the process of pulling out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that he submitted a formal notice to the United Nations. That starts a withdrawal process that does not become official for a year. His statement touted America's carbon pollution cuts and called the Paris deal an "unfair economic burden" to the U.S. economy.
Nearly 200 nations signed the climate deal in which each country provides its own goals to curb emissions of heat-trapping gases that lead to climate change.
"In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model — backed by a record of real world results — showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy," Pompeo said in a statement.
The U.S. started the process with a hand-delivered letter, becoming the only country to withdraw. The United Nations will soon set out procedural details for what happens next, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
Investigation: Lead in some Canadian water worse than Flint
MONTREAL (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been unwittingly exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water, with contamination in several cities consistently higher than they ever were in Flint, Michigan, according to an investigation that tested drinking water in hundreds of homes and reviewed thousands more previously undisclosed results.
Residents in some homes in Montreal, a cosmopolitan city an hour north of the U.S.-Canada border, and Regina, in the flat western prairies, are among those drinking and cooking with tap water with lead levels that exceed Canada's federal guidelines. The investigation found some schools and day care centers had lead levels so high that researchers noted it could impact children's health. Exacerbating the problem, many water providers aren't testing at all.
It wasn't the Canadian government that exposed the scope of this public health concern.
A yearlong investigation by more than 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media organizations, including The Associated Press and the Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University in Montreal , collected test results that properly measure exposure to lead in 11 cities across Canada. Out of 12,000 tests since 2014, one-third — 33 percent — exceeded the national safety guideline of 5 parts per billion; 18 percent exceeded the U.S. limit of 15 ppb.
In a country that touts its clean, natural turquoise lakes, sparkling springs and rushing rivers, there are no national mandates to test drinking water for lead. And even if agencies do take a sample, residents are rarely informed of contamination.
Appeals court agrees Trump tax returns can be turned over
NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump's tax returns can be turned over to New York prosecutors by his personal accountant, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, leaving the last word to the Supreme Court
The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upholds a lower court decision in the ongoing fight over Trump's financial records. Trump has refused to release his tax returns since he was a presidential candidate, and is the only modern president who hasn't made that financial information public.
In a written decision, three appeals judges said they only decided whether a state prosecutor can demand Trump's personal financial records from a third party while the president is in office.
The appeals court said it did not consider whether the president is immune from indictment and prosecution while in office or whether the president himself may be ordered to produce documents in a state criminal proceeding.
"We hold that any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not bar the enforcement of such a subpoena," 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann wrote.
Turkey says it captured slain IS leader's sister in Syria
BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey captured the elder sister of the slain leader of the Islamic State group in northwestern Syria on Monday, according to a senior Turkish official, who called the arrest an intelligence "gold mine."
Little is known about the sister of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Turkish official said the 65-year-old known as Rasmiya Awad is suspected of being affiliated with the extremist group. He did not elaborate.
Awad was captured in a raid Monday evening on a trailer container she was living in with her family near the town of Azaz in Aleppo province. The area is part of the region administered by Turkey after it carried out a military incursion to chase away IS militants and Kurdish fighters starting 2016. Allied Syrian groups manage the area known as the Euphrates Shield zone.
The official said the sister was with her husband, daughter-in-law and five children. The adults are being interrogated, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
"This kind of thing is an intelligence gold mine. What she knows about (IS) can significantly expand our understanding of the group and help us catch more bad guys," the official said.
At least 5 protesters killed in new round of clashes in Iraq
BAGHDAD (AP) — Anti-government protesters crossed a major bridge in Baghdad on Monday, approaching the prime minister's office and the headquarters of Iraq's state-run TV, as security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas, killing at least five demonstrators and wounding dozens.
The protesters hurled rocks and set tires and dumpsters ablaze, sending clouds of black smoke into the air. Security forces flooded into the area to protect government buildings, and gunfire echoed through the streets.
Dozens of motorized rickshaws raced back and forth, ferrying the wounded to first aid stations at the main protest site in Tahrir Square.
For days, the protesters have been trying to cross the Tigris River to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the government is headquartered. Security forces have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to push them back from barricades on the Al-Joumhouriyah and Al-Sanak Bridges, but they managed to break through on the Al-Ahrar Bridge farther north.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have demonstrated in central Baghdad and across mostly Shiite southern Iraq since Oct. 25, calling for the overthrow of the government and sweeping political change. The protests are fueled by anger at widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor public services.
Lindsay Hoyle chosen to replace Bercow as UK Commons speaker
LONDON (AP) — Long-serving Labour Party lawmaker Lindsay Hoyle was elected speaker of Britain's House of Commons on Monday, taking up the job with a clear message: I'm not John Bercow.
Hoyle was chosen by lawmakers from among seven candidates to replace the influential but contentious Bercow. Bercow retired last week after a decade as speaker that saw him become a central player in Britain's Brexit drama.
Hoyle took 325 of the 540 votes in a runoff with Labour colleague Chris Bryant after the seven-strong field was winnowed down in three previous voting rounds.
After his election, Hoyle was dragged to the speaker's chair by colleagues with a show of reluctance —a tradition dating back to the days when speakers could be sentenced to death if they displeased the monarch.
He vowed to bring a change of tone and temperament to a political system that has been strained by Brexit.
Hispanic man says acid attacker accused him of invading US
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee police arrested a man suspected of throwing battery acid on a Hispanic man who says his attacker asked him, "Why did you come here and invade my country?"
Police said Monday they arrested a 61-year-old white man suspected in Friday night's attack, but they have not released his name. Police said they are investigating the case as a hate crime and charges are expected Tuesday.
Mahud Villalaz suffered second-degree burns to his face. He said the attack happened after a man confronted him about how he had parked his car and accused him of being in the U.S. illegally. Villalaz, 42, is a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Peru.
The attack comes amid a spike in hate crimes directed at immigrants that researchers and experts on extremism say is tied to mainstream political rhetoric.
At a news conference Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett expressed shock at the attack and blamed President Donald Trump for inciting hatred against minorities. The president has repeatedly referred to migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border as an "invasion."
US growth of Islam creates need for religious scholars
DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — Imam Mohammad Qazwini's deep understanding of Islam and his formal training at a seminary in the holy city of Qom, Iran, draws students to this suburban Detroit classroom just off the large prayer room of a mosque.
But there's another attraction. The Quran, Islam's holy book, is written in classical Arabic, but many of the students aren't well-versed in the language. Qazwini navigates its intricacies effortlessly — in the everyday English they use, opening a door for many of the students.
An increasing number of U.S. Muslims want guidance from religious instructors who they can understand linguistically and culturally.
For mosques around the country, the need to produce U.S.-trained religious leaders is increasing.
Traditional imams and scholars who once came from the Middle East or were educated in schools there are having more difficulty entering the United States. The Trump administration imposed a travel ban in January 2017 on people from several Muslim majority countries, and the government has made it harder to enter the U.S. entirely, with more rigorous interviews and background checks.