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AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EDT

AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EDT

Published on June 18, 2017 6:10PM

Last changed on June 18, 2017 10:04PM


Trump attorney says president not under investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) A member of the president's outside legal team said Sunday that Donald Trump is not under federal investigation, days after Trump appeared to confirm he was with a tweet about being the target of a "witch hunt."

Appearing on a series of morning news programs, attorney Jay Sekulow repeatedly stressed that "the president has not been and is not under investigation." He said a Friday tweet from Trump was specifically directed at a story in The Washington Post about the expanding probe into Russia's election meddling.

As evidence, Sekulow said that Trump has not been notified of any investigation. He also cited the testimony from former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate intelligence committee, in which Comey said he had told Trump he was not under investigation in the months leading up to his May 9 firing.

Asked about the possibility that an investigation has since developed and the president just does not know, Sekulow said: "I can't read people's minds, but I can tell you this, we have not been notified that there's an investigation to the president of the United States. So that nothing has changed in that regard since James Comey's testimony."

The Post reported last week that Robert Mueller the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election was looking into whether Trump obstructed justice. Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has expansive powers to probe any matters that develop from his initial investigation.

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Pentagon: US shoots down Syrian aircraft for first time

WASHINGTON (AP) The U.S. military on Sunday shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against Islamic State militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict.

The U.S. had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday's confrontation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. While the U.S. has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight IS that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise.

The U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a written statement that a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the U.S. partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The shootdown was near Tabqa, a Syrian town in an area that has been a weekslong focus of fighting against IS militants by the SDF as they surround the city of Raqqa and attempt to retake it from IS.

The U.S. military statement said it acted in "collective self defense" of its partner forces and that the U.S. did not seek a fight with the Syrian government or its Russian supporters.

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Forest fire kills 62 in Portugal; search on for more bodies

PEDROGAO GRANDE, Portugal (AP) A raging forest fire in central Portugal killed at least 62 people as they desperately tried to flee, charring cars and trucks as it swept over roads. The disaster the worst tragedy Portugal has experienced in decades shook the nation, with the president declaring that the country's pain "knows no end."

Almost 24 hours after the deaths Saturday night, fires were still churning across the forested hillsides of central Portugal. Police and firefighters were searching charred areas of the forest and isolated homes, looking for more bodies.

"It is a time of pain but also ... a time to carry on the fight" against the flames, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told the nation in a televised address Sunday evening after the government declared three days of national mourning.

A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the tops of trees in the forested Pedrogao Grande area, 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Lisbon where a lightning strike was believed to have sparked the blaze Saturday. Investigators found a tree that was hit during a "dry thunderstorm," the head of the national judicial police said.

Dry thunderstorms are frequent when falling water evaporates before reaching the ground because of high temperatures. Portugal is prone to forest fires in the dry summer months and temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) hit the area in recent days.

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Gunmen attack resort in Mali's capital, killing 2

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) Jihadis attacked a hotel resort Sunday in Mali's capital, taking hostages at a spot popular with foreigners on the weekends. More than 30 people managed to escape though at least two people were killed, authorities said.

Moussa Ag Infahi, director of the national police, told The Associated Press that three of the assailants had been killed while a fourth escaped.

Gunfire first rang out at the Campement Kangaba on the outskirts of Bamako in the late afternoon, according to a security guard who was working at the time.

Mahamadou Doumbia said a militant on a motorcycle entered the area around 3:40 p.m. and cried "Allah Akbar" before jumping off and running toward the pool area.

"Then a car with three jihadis entered the resort and they started to fire their weapons," he said. "A French soldier who had come for the weekend but had his gun shot and wounded" a jihadi.

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Police: Vehicle strikes several pedestrians on London road

LONDON (AP) Police say a vehicle struck pedestrians on a road in north London, leaving several casualties and one person has been arrested.

Metropolitan Police said officers were called to the scene on Seven Sisters Road at 12:20 a.m. Monday. The London Ambulance Service said it was responding to the incident.

No other details were immediately available.

Earlier this month, a van veered into pedestrians on London Bridge, setting off vehicle and knife attacks that killed eight people and wounded many others on the bridge and in the nearby Borough Market area. Three Muslim extremists who carried out the attack were killed by police.

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UK: London tower may have used banned siding in renovation

LONDON (AP) The new exterior cladding used in a renovation on London's Grenfell Tower may have been banned under U.K. building regulations, two British ministers said Sunday as police continued their criminal investigation into the inferno that killed at least 58 people.

Trade Minister Greg Hands said the government is carrying out an "urgent inspection" of the roughly 2,500 similar tower blocks across Britain to assess their safety, while an opposition lawmaker urged the government to quickly secure documents in the Grenfell renovation for the criminal probe.

Late Sunday, the Metropolitan Police released three photos from inside Grenfell Tower, which showed in close detail how the fire charred the 24-story building that once housed up to 600 people in 120 apartments.

Experts believe the building's new exterior cladding, which contained insulation, helped spread the flames quickly up the outside of the public housing tower early Wednesday. Some said they had never seen a building fire advance so quickly.

Hands and Treasury chief Philip Hammond said in separate TV appearances that the cladding used on Grenfell seems to be prohibited by British regulations. Hands cautioned that officials don't yet have exact details about the renovation that ended just last year.

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Mother: Son tried to save Navy shipmates after collision

YOKOSUKA, Japan (AP) The mother of a U.S. Navy sailor who survived a direct hit to his sleeping berth during a collision at sea said her son kept diving to try to save his shipmates until the flooded berth began running out of air pockets, while others believing the ship was under attack hurried to man the guns.

Mia Sykes of Raleigh, North Carolina, told The Associated Press on Sunday that her 19-year-old son, Brayden Harden, was knocked out of his bunk by the impact, and water immediately began filling the berth, after their destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship four times its size off the Japanese coast.

The ships collided about 2:20 a.m. Saturday, when the Navy said most of the 300 sailors on board would have been sleeping, and authorities have declined to speculate on a cause while the crash remains under investigation.

Sykes says her son told her that four men in his berth, including those sleeping on bunks above and below him died, while three died in the berth above his.

"They did what they were trained to do," said Sykes, who said she hopes her son, from Herrin, Illinois, can come home to be with family as he works through what happened. "You have to realize most of them are 18, 19 and 20-year-olds living with guilt. But I told him, 'There's a reason you're still here and make that count.' "

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President Macron's party dominates French parliamentary vote

PARIS (AP) President Emmanuel Macron's party, including untested novices, will be sweeping into the lower house of the French parliament, hogging a clear majority of seats after winning an overwhelming victory in Sunday's elections and clinching the young leader's hold on power.

Macron fulfilled his wish to disrupt politics as usual with new faces including a farmer, a teacher and a math genius and a new approach. But he may be getting more than he bargained for with the entry into parliament of loud voices from the ultra-left and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, both promising to fight his plans to overhaul French labor laws, one of the touchiest subjects in France.

"Through their vote, a wide majority of the French have chosen hope over anger," said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, reiterating his "total" determination to work on major reforms in the coming months.

A minor reshuffle of the Cabinet, an obligatory move after parliamentary elections, is expected this week, perhaps as soon as Monday.

The May 7 election of the 39-year-old Macron, himself untested, upended France's political landscape, a phenomenon that continued with the parliamentary victory of a party that didn't exist 14 months ago. With the June 27 start of the new session, the novices within the ranks of Macron's Republic on the Move! party will be learning at high-speed. Half of the candidates in the running for his party were drawn from civilian life, and half were women.

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Kelly presses 'Infowars' host Jones on Sandy Hook denial

NEW YORK (AP) Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones hemmed and hawed when pressed repeatedly by Megyn Kelly to admit he was wrong to call the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, a hoax.

Jones never gave a direct answer in a segment on NBC's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly." Kelly has been criticized intensely for giving a platform to Jones, who has also called the Sept. 11 attacks an inside job and promoted the false story that a pizza place in Washington, D.C. was the site of a child sex ring.

She has defended her decision by noting that his influence has grown with the rise of President Donald Trump, who has praised Jones and appeared on his radio program.

"Here's the thing, Alex Jones isn't going away," she said Sunday night.

The "Infowars" host said at one point that he was playing "devil's advocate" in denying the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. But he added that he remained skeptical after he "watched the footage" of children leaving the building.

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Brooks Koepka caps a record week with US Open title

ERIN, Wis. (AP) Brooks Koepka traveled around the world to find his game. He found stardom right at home as the U.S. Open champion.

Koepka broke away from a tight pack with three straight birdies on the back nine Sunday at Erin Hills and closed with a 5-under 67 to win the U.S. Open for his first major championship. A par on the final hole tied Rory McIlroy's record score to par at 16 under for a four-shot victory.

Not even the wind could stop the onslaught of low scores at Erin Hills.

And nothing could stop Koepka.

"What I've done this week is amazing," Koepka.



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