AP News in Brief 02-02-18

Trump will clear way for publication of classified memo

WASHINGTON — Over the strong objections of his own Justice Department, President Donald Trump will clear the way for the publication of a classified memo on the Russia investigation that Republicans say shows improper use of surveillance by the FBI, White House officials said Thursday.

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The memo, prepared by Republicans on the House intelligence committee, is said to allege FBI misconduct in the initial stages of its investigation of potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump’s Justice Department and Democrats furiously lobbied Trump to stop the release, saying it could harm national security and mislead the public.

A White House official said Congress would probably be informed of the decision Friday, adding Trump was “OK” with its release. A second White House official said Trump was likely to declassify the congressional memo but the precise method for making it public was still being figured out. The officials were not authorized to be quoted about private deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The FBI’s stance means that Trump, by allowing the memo’s release, would be openly defying his own FBI director. It also suggests a clear willingness by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who in the early stretch of his tenure has been notably low-key, to challenge a president who just months ago fired his predecessor, James Comey.

AP finds evidence for graves, Rohingya massacre in Myanmar

BALUKHALI REFUGEE CAMP, Bangladesh — The faces of the men half-buried in the mass graves had been burned away by acid or blasted by bullets. Noor Kadir finally recognized his friends only by the colors of their shorts.

Kadir and 14 others, all Rohingya Muslims in the Myanmar village of Gu Dar Pyin, had been choosing players for the soccer-like game of chinlone when the gunfire began. They scattered from what sounded like hard rain on a tin roof. By the time the Myanmar military stopped shooting, only Kadir and two teammates were left alive.

Days later, Kadir found six of his friends among the bodies in two graves.

They are among at least five mass graves, all previously unreported, that have been confirmed by The Associated Press through multiple interviews with more than two dozen survivors in Bangladesh refugee camps and through time-stamped cellphone videos. The Myanmar government regularly claims such massacres of the Rohingya never happened, and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing 10 “terrorists” in the village of Inn Din.

However, the AP’s reporting shows a systematic slaughter of Rohingya Muslim civilians by the military, with help from Buddhist neighbors — and suggests many more graves hold many more people.

“It was a mixed-up jumble of corpses piled on top of each other,” said Kadir, a 24-year-old firewood collector. “I felt such sorrow for them.”

California prosecutors dropping, reducing pot convictions

SAN FRANCISCO — With pot now legal in California, prosecutors in San Francisco and San Diego are moving to erase thousands of marijuana convictions en masse, a step that could prove life-changing for some and could especially help minorities, who were more likely than whites to be arrested for such crimes.

“We want to address the wrongs that were caused by the failures of the war on drugs for many years in this country and begin to fix the harm that was done not only to the entire nation but specifically to communities of color,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said.

Advocates are calling on more counties to do the same. Gascon’s office said Thursday that other California district attorneys have called San Francisco for advice on handling marijuana cases.

Gascon said he hopes to spark a trend in California.

“That’s awesome. It’s wonderful and appropriate,” said Josh Freeman, a marijuana farmer who recently had his felony conviction for selling small bags of weed at a reggae concert reduced to a misdemeanor.

Girl in Slender Man stabbing gets maximum mental commitment

WAUKESHA, Wis. — A Wisconsin girl who stabbed a classmate to curry favor with the fictional horror character Slender Man will be committed to a mental hospital for 40 years, a judge ordered Thursday, explaining his decision as “an issue of community protection.”

Judge Michael Bohren granted the maximum penalty that prosecutors had sought and discounted Morgan Geyser’s youth — she was just 12 — at the time of the attack in 2014.

“What we can’t forget is this was an attempted murder,” Bohren said. Earlier, he heard from four doctors who talked about how Geyser is making progress with her mental illness, to various degrees. But Bohren called the teenager “a fragile person” whose long history suffering from delusions make her a risk to hurt herself and others.

Geyser, now 15, spoke briefly before she was sentenced, breaking down in tears as she apologized to the girl she stabbed, Payton Leutner.

“I just want to let Bella and her family know that I’m sorry,” she said, using a nickname for Leutner. “And I hope she’s doing well.”

Arizona House kicks out Rep. Don Shooter over sex misconduct

PHOENIX — The Arizona House kicked out Republican Rep. Don Shooter on Thursday because of a lengthy pattern of sexual misconduct, making him the first state lawmaker in the U.S. to be expelled since the #MeToo movement emerged last year.

Other legislators nationwide have resigned or been stripped of their leadership posts after being accused of misconduct. But the expulsion marked a new escalation in handling such cases after a report ordered by the legislative leader of his own party showed Shooter engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment toward women.

The drama on Arizona’s House floor lasted for about two hours, with bipartisan female lawmakers in red gathering in a circle, holding hands and hugging before the vote began. Then Shooter took center stage, saying he had said and done stupid things but “I stood on the carpet, I took it like a man, I apologized.”

“It’s been my honor to represent the people of District 13,” Shooter said. “I have faithfully executed my duties. I’ve never taken bribes, I’ve never considered one way or another except on the merits of a bill.”

At the end of his speech, he held his arm out, dropped the microphone on the floor and walked out. He was one of three lawmakers to vote against his ouster, with 56 House members supporting it.

Molested gymnasts blast coach who sent them to see doctor

CHARLOTTE, Mich. — The young athletes who confronted Larry Nassar about molesting them at an elite Michigan gymnastics club saved some of their harshest words for a person who was not in the courtroom: an Olympic coach who for years sent teenage girls to see the now-disgraced doctor.

John Geddert operated the Twistars club, where Nassar offered treatments on Monday nights. His victims complained that the coach created an ultra-competitive atmosphere, was indifferent to injuries and rarely offered gymnasts any choice to see a different doctor.

“Coaching by fear, intimidation and shame and explicit favoritism was the norm,” recalled Annie Labrie. She said it was “no surprise” that Nassar was able to continue his practices as long as he did. “We were conditioned for years to obey at all costs.”

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Nassar was in court Wednesday for his third and final sentencing hearing, this time for the abuse that happened at Twistars. The nearly 30 victims who gave statements included women familiar with the club’s environment. One also alleged that Geddert was aware in the late 1990s that Nassar had performed an “inappropriate procedure” on her when she was 16.

The victim said she told her mother in 1998 that Nassar had sexually assaulted her during an appointment at the Michigan State University sports medicine clinic. Her mother talked to Geddert, and the two agreed that Nassar would not treat her daughter in private appointments again, according to the accuser, whose anonymous statement was read in court by a prosecutor.