WH response to abuse claims shines light on victims’ fears
WASHINGTON — When Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness stepped forward to tell the story of how they were physically, verbally and emotionally abused by their ex-husband, who had since become a top White House aide, President Donald Trump had nothing but good things to say about the man they had accused of domestic violence.
Rob Porter “did a great job while he was at the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career,” Trump said Friday, adding that the aide had vehemently maintained his innocence.
The president followed that up Saturday with a tweet that “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”
Porter’s resignation was announced Wednesday, just hours after a photograph was published of Holderness with a black eye, allegedly inflicted by Porter. Trump’s staff secretary called the allegations from his former spouses “outrageous” and “simply false.”
Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, had defended Porter on Tuesday as “a man of true integrity and honor” and “a friend, confidante and trusted professional.” By some accounts, White House counsel Don McGahn had been apprised of some accusations about Porter at least four times, including as early as January 2017.
Come visit: South Korea’s leader invited to North Korea
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — A rare invitation to Pyongyang for South Korea’s president marked Day Two of the North Korean Kim dynasty’s southern road tour Saturday, part of an accelerating diplomatic thaw that included some Korean liquor over lunch and the shared joy of watching a “unified” Korea team play hockey at the Olympics.
Nothing has been settled on any trip north by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But the verbal message to come at a “convenient time” from dictator Kim Jong Un, delivered by his visiting younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, is part of a sudden rush of improving feelings between the rivals during the Pyeongchang Olympics. The result: a heady, sometimes surreal, state of affairs in a South Korea that has seen far more threat than charm out of the North.
Still, it wouldn’t be South Korea if people weren’t asking the perennial question when it comes to North Korea changing gears and showering its rival with apparent affection: What’s in it for Pyongyang?
Past “charm offensives” have been interpreted as North Korea trying to recoup from crippling sanctions on their nuclear program, or trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its U.S. ally.
A massive military parade in Pyongyang on the eve of the just-opened Pyeongchang Games has been used as Exhibit A by skeptics. In it, Kim Jong Un highlighted several huge intercontinental ballistic missiles, which were successfully flight tested three times last year and could reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
Trump accuses Democrats of playing politics with memo
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Saturday accused the Democrats of playing politics with classified information, asserting that their memo countering GOP allegations about the conduct of the FBI’s Russia probe was a trap meant to “blame the White House for lack of transparency.”
Citing national security concerns, the White House notified the House Intelligence Committee on Friday that the president was “unable” to declassify the Democratic memo. White House counsel Don McGahn said in a letter to the committee that the memo contains “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages” and asked the committee to revise it with the help of the Justice Department.
He said Trump was still “inclined” to release the memo in the interest of transparency if revisions are made.
Trump weighed in with a tweet on Saturday.
“The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency,” he tweeted. The meaning of the “(and more)” was not immediately clear.
Police: 2 officers killed responding to 911; suspect held
WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Two Ohio police officers responding to a 911 hang-up call were fatally shot on Saturday after entering an apartment in a Columbus suburb and a suspect was taken into custody, authorities said.
Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer said officer Eric Joering, 39, died at the scene and his colleague, Tony Morelli, 54, died at a local hospital. He said the officers were responding to a “potential domestic situation.”
“The officers gave their lives in defense of others,” Morbitzer said during a news conference, struggling to keep his emotions in check. He called them “true American heroes.”
Police provided no details about the suspect during a brief news conference. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the suspect was wounded and treated at a hospital.
Republican Gov. John Kasich, who lives with his family in a nearby township, tweeted that he was “very saddened to learn of the deaths of two of my hometown police officers.” He asked Ohio residents to join him in “lifting up these officers’ families in prayer.”
Heading home, Pence insists ‘no daylight’ on North Korea
ABOARD AIR FORCE TWO — Vice President Mike Pence’s efforts to keep North Korea from stealing the show at the Winter Olympics proved short-lived, drowned out by images of the two Koreas marching and competing as one.
And as the South appeared to look favorably on warming ties on the Korean Peninsula, Pence insisted Saturday “there is no daylight” among the United States and allies South Korea and Japan in intensifying pressure on the North over its nuclear and missile programs.
Pence spent the days leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympics warning that the North was trying to “hijack the message and imagery” of the event with its “propaganda.” But the North was welcomed with open arms to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in called “Olympic games of peace.”
It was the U.S. that appeared to be the one left in the cold, especially after the sister of the North Korean dictator extended an invitation from her brother for Moon to visit the North. That was the clearest sign yet of an expanding diplomatic opening opposed by the Trump administration.
Pence said Moon updated him about the meeting he had with North Korean officials and “both of us reiterated to each other tonight that we will continue to stand strong and work in a coordinated way to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea.”
On drug costs, modest steps follow Trump’s big promises
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump makes big promises to reduce prescription drug costs, but his administration is gravitating to relatively modest steps such as letting Medicare patients share in manufacturer rebates.
Those ideas would represent tangible change and they have a realistic chance of being enacted. But it’s not like calling for Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Skeptics say the overall approach is underwhelming, and Trump risks being seen as an ally of the powerful pharmaceutical industry, not its disrupter.
The White House Council of Economic Advisers has released a 30-page strategy for reducing drug costs, and it calls current policies “neither wise nor just.” The plan, outlined before Trump releases his new budget proposal Monday, focuses mainly on Medicare and Medicaid changes, along with ideas for speeding drug approvals and fostering competition.
“Despite promises to drastically lower prices the mix of proposed changes does not appear likely to do so, even though there are some constructive proposals,” said John Rother, CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, an advocacy group whose members include consumer organizations, medical societies, hospitals and insurers.
AP FACT CHECK: Shutdown produces lots of overblown rhetoric
WASHINGTON — The weeklong drama over the hourslong government shutdown set loose overblown rhetoric from both parties while President Donald Trump wrestled inartfully with turmoil in the stock market, one of his favorite bragging points until it tanked.
On the sidelines of the budget battle, Trump pitched his campaign against the MS-13 gang. He seemed to overstate the reach of the violent organization in his determination to link immigrants with criminal behavior and to justify money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Meantime his EPA chief misrepresented the science on global warming, some of it coming from his own agency.
A review of some statements by Trump and other public figures during a week of turbulence on multiple fronts:
TRUMP: “We’re here to discuss the tremendous threat of MS-13, one of the most violent and vicious gangs anywhere in the world. We’ve really never seen anything quite like this.” — remarks Tuesday at a law enforcement meeting.
THE FACTS: The group is unquestionably violent but its overall numbers are somewhat limited. Federal prosecutors believe MS-13 now has thousands of members across the country, yet statistics show they account for less than 1 percent of total U.S. gang membership.
Canadian PM Trudeau and LA mayor toast friendship with hike
LOS ANGELES — Capping off a three-day swing through California that’s mostly been focused on business and trade, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toasted his country’s friendship with Los Angeles on Saturday by taking a brisk morning hike with Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Dressed in shorts and athletic shirts, the two men spoke with reporters before walking through Griffith Park. The appearance came the morning after Trudeau gave a speech about the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
A California Highway Patrol officer accompanying the prime minister was injured in a crash that happened shortly after Trudeau’s motorcade left the library Friday night. Garcetti said Saturday that the officer is expected to recover from a broken clavicle.
Trudeau’s vehicle was not involved and he was not injured.
Asked by a reporter if the officer’s injury was overshadowing the purpose of his trip, Trudeau said the message that the two countries share close ties has not been lost.
Kim Cattrall to Sarah Jessica Parker: You’re not my friend
NEW YORK — Kim Cattrall has a message for Sarah Jessica Parker: Spare me your sympathy.
Cattrall lashed out Saturday at her former “Sex and the City” co-star after Parker expressed her condolences over the death of Cattrall’s brother, Chris.
“Your continuous reaching out is a painful reminder of how cruel you really were then and now,” Cattrall wrote on Instagram. “Let me make this VERY clear. (If I haven’t already) You are not my family. You are not my friend. So I’m writing to tell you one last time to stop exploiting our tragedy in order to restore your ‘nice girl’ persona.”
The two actresses reportedly have not gotten along for years.
Cattrall’s brother was found dead last week. He was 55.