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    President Donald Trump 'strongly condemns' a graphic and violent parody video that depicts a likeness of him shooting and stabbing opponents and members of the news media, the White House said Monday. But his press secretary said he hadn't yet watched the two-minute clip. The video, which drew widespread condemnation, was played during a conference held by conservative supporters of the president at his Miami golf resort last week. It depicts a gruesome scene inside a 'Church of Fake News' in which a figure whose face has been replaced with an image of Trump goes on a shooting rampage, targeting a long list of political rivals, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, former President Barack Obama and numerous news organizations. The video, the existence of which The New York Times was first to report, was notable for its level of violence. It is part of a growing genre of pro-Trump memes that routinely earn thousands of views on sites like YouTube and Twitter. Many use superimposed faces and feature the president and his chief supporters valiantly conquering challengers or members of the media. The one featured at the Florida conference appears to have been first posted in July 2018 on the YouTube channel 'TheGeekzTeam,' where it has been viewed more than 250,000 times. It uses a violent clip from the 2015 spy thriller 'Kingsman: The Secret Service.' In the original scene, actor Colin Firth is depicted shooting a crowd of possessed churchgoers. TheGeekzTeam's parody of Trump in 'Kingsman' was taken down for a copyright claim late Monday. An email listed for TheGeekzTeam did not respond to a request for comment. The channel frequently posts violent parody videos of Trump playing popular movie superheroes or assassins. One depicts Trump as a comic book vigilante from the Netflix show 'Daredevil' who stabs, punches and kills the superimposed faces of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, as well as CNN reporter Jim Acosta, among others. Memes, which often feature photographs of politicians with snappy text or edited video clips, have become a highly shareable form of political communication on social media sites. While many are innocent, highlighting facts or opinion, both liberal and conservative sites have used such images to push false claims and outlandish suggestions for years. And Trump has regularly elevated that content, sharing memes that support him or attack his opponents. The president used his Twitter pulpit in July 2017 to promote a doctored clip of a World Wrestling Entertainment bit to portray Trump tackling and repeatedly pummeling a man whose face had been obscured by the CNN logo. Trump had yet to weigh in on the video personally by early evening, despite firing off more than a dozen tweets Monday, including one that called on his millions of supporters to vote for former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who is a contestant on the show 'Dancing with the Stars.' The current White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said in her own tweet that Trump would be viewing the video later and that, 'based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns' it. The genre has become so popular online that the American Priority conference featured a contest for meme-makers to submit their best pro-Trump images and videos to be showcased alongside talks by some of the president's high-profile backers, including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and another former press secretary, Sarah Sanders. That contest was promoted online by a Twitter user who goes by the handle @CarpeDonktum and, as one of Trump's favored meme-makers, was among several conservative social media provocateurs invited to meet the president at the White House earlier this year. The video of Trump slaying his political opponents was part of a loop of videos that was played in a 'meme exhibit' at the Miami event, Carpe Donktum said in a statement, adding that the 'Kingsman' video was 'CLEARLY satirical.' Carpe Donktum has declined to identify himself to the AP in the past, due to concerns for his safety. He did not respond to requests for comment Monday. The event's organizer, Alex Phillips, distanced himself from what he called the 'unauthorized video' in a statement, saying that it was shown last week 'in a side room.' 'This video was not approved, seen, or sanctioned' by the event's organizers, Phillips said, adding through a spokeswoman, 'AMPFest condemns all violence in the strongest terms and only wants to unite Americans.' Many political meme creators insist their work is meant to be viewed as political humor — even when the images they create use hateful language, violent imagery or misinformed talking points to get their message across. But social media comments often promote or cheer on the false or incendiary rhetoric in the memes, said Lanier Holt, an Ohio State University professor who researches political communication. 'When the person who actually created it gets busted or identified, they say, 'Oh, it's a joke,'' Holt said. The video controversy comes as the president has increased his criticism of the news media as Democrats press ahead on their impeachment inquiry. The fake Trump is depicted killing a series of political figures in his gruesome rampage, many of whom Trump has criticized in real life. He stabs the late Sen. John McCain, hits and stabs TV personality Rosie O'Donnell in the face and lights Sen. Bernie Sanders' head on fire. Other targets include the Black Lives Matter group, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Rep. Adam Schiff, who, as Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is a leader in the impeachment inquiry. The video also features the fake Trump unleashing his fury on news outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, BBC, PBS, NBC and Politico. The president has derided some of those same organizations as 'fake news.' Trump also has labeled journalists as the 'enemy of the American people.' The video was condemned by the White House Correspondents Association, which represents journalists covering the president and said it was 'horrified' by the content. 'All Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed toward journalists and the President's political opponents,' said Jonathan Karl, WHCA president. 'We have previously told the President his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society.' The White House News Photographers Association also released a statement, saying it 'vehemently condemns this and all other depictions of violence against journalists' and asking that 'the president and all others do the same.' The video features the logo for Trump's 2020 campaign, but campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said it 'was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence.' American Priority has branded itself as a group aimed at promoting Trump's agenda, 'as well as an open and vigorous dialogue about free speech, free association and American culture,' according to a press release for the event. Supports of the president had responded with outrage in 2017 when comedian Kathy Griffin posed for a photograph holding up what was meant to look like the president's bloody, severed head. ___ Seitz reported from Chicago.
  • A graphically violent parody video, shown at a meeting of President Donald Trump's supporters at his Miami resort, depicted a likeness of the president shooting and stabbing his opponents and members of the news media in a church, The New York Times reported Sunday. In the video, Trump's critics and media members are portrayed as parishioners fleeing his gruesome rampage. The fake Trump strikes the late Sen. John McCain in the neck, hits and stabs TV personality Rosie O'Donnell in the face, lights Sen. Bernie Sanders' head on fire and shoots or otherwise assaults people whose faces are replaced with news organization logos. The video was shown last week at an American Priority conference at Trump's Doral Miami resort, the newspaper said. Trump was not there. Event organizer Alex Phillips told the Times the video was played as part of a 'meme exhibit' and was not associated with or endorsed by the conference 'in any official capacity.' ''American Priority rejects all political violence,' he said, and is looking into the matter. The video includes the logo for Trump's 2020 campaign but Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the re-election organization, told the Times the 'video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence.' The setting for the massacre is the 'Church of Fake News,' capturing Trump's familiar refrain about news stories and organizations that he considers to be fake news. In the video, Trump's face is superimposed on a killer's body as he shoots people in the face and otherwise assaults them. Among the targets: former President Barack Obama, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Rep. Adam Schiff, who as Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is leading the impeachment inquiry of Trump. Late Sunday, the White House Correspondents Association issued a statement saying it was 'horrified' by the video. 'All Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed toward journalists and the President's political opponents,' said Jonathan Karl, WHCA president. 'We have previously told the President his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society.' CNN, The Washington Post, BBC, PBS, NBC and Politico are among the news organizations depicted as victims of the fake Trump's violent fury. The White House declined immediate comment.
  • As Democrats' impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump intensifies, Mark Stenske feels like he's seen this movie before, and the storyline is getting old. First, there was the nearly two-year investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and Trump's possible role in it. Then came the accusations against Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and contentious hearings before a Senate committee. Now it's questions about Trump's dealings with Ukraine's president and whether that should lead to Trump's removal from office. 'I think they wanted to do it all along, and they're just looking for another way, another avenue,' Stenske, a 55-year-old Trump supporter, said of the impeachment proceedings as he walked his dog through a suburban Indianapolis park last week. 'I think it's kind of a ploy to help keep the pressure on him and muddy his campaign, his chances to win in 2020.' Polling finds that support for the inquiry has grown since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the start of the investigation last month following a whistleblower complaint. But what those numbers don't show is the sense of fatigue among some Americans — a factor that could be significant as Democrats leading the inquiry debate how to proceed with an election year approaching. It's a feeling shared by people on both sides. For Trump supporters such as Stenske, the impeachment inquiry is more of the same from obstructionist Democrats still bitter about the 2016 election. Those who want Trump gone say it's tough to feel hopeful after watching him flout the rules and spew divisive rhetoric for almost a full term — and get away with all of it. 'Impeachment in general has been depressing because it's sad that it's taken this long,' said Megan Gettelfinger, 33, a preschool teacher and mother of two who moved to Fishers from Indianapolis almost three years ago. The question about how to move forward with impeachment is of particular concern to both parties in places such as Fishers, one of the country's fastest-growing suburbs. The community has more than doubled in population since 2000, to just over 90,000 people. Companies have located to the area, and young families have been drawn to its good schools, entertainment and acres and acres of green space. The boom in Fishers and the surrounding region has changed the face of Indiana's 5th Congressional District, a once reliably Republican area that backed Trump by nearly 12 percentage points in 2016. The increased number of college-educated, more liberal residents has given Democrats hope that they may pick up a seat here in 2020, when GOP Rep. Susan Brooks is retiring. Democrat Joe Donnelly narrowly won the district in 2018, even as he lost his Senate reelection bid statewide, and Democrats think the area looks a lot like the suburban districts that helped them win control of the House during last year's midterm elections. Trump should find plenty of ardent defenders here — people like Stenske, who voted for Trump in 2016 and thinks he's doing a 'great job' as president despite what he sees as Democrats' relentless efforts to sabotage him. But at a park in the heart of Fishers' Sunblest neighborhood, an upper middle-class area of young families and two-story homes, there were signs of problems for Trump and the GOP. For every supporter of the president, it was easy to find someone — most of them women — eager for his time in office to end. Gettelfinger, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 after supporting Republican candidates over Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, has a long list of things she dislikes about Trump, from his treatment of women and minorities to his inability to admit when he's wrong. But even she sees the impeachment proceedings as both a legitimate inquiry and a political move by Democrats. 'I think that what happened is impeachable,' she said. 'I also think that at this point anyone who doesn't support him is now jumping on 'This is how we can impeach him. This is our path to get this done to get him out of office.'' Kathrynne Shaw, 28, also opposes Trump but described impeachment as 'too late in the game.' She said Democrats should hold off for now and proceed only if Trump wins a second term in 2020. 'It's something they've been talking about forever,' said Shaw, who lives in nearby Noblesville and works in a distribution center. 'They're trying to show that they're able to do something, but it's almost like when a toddler throws a temper tantrum. They're trying to do something, but everything they've tried to do thus far isn't really working.' Shaw supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, then voted for Clinton in the general election, and said she didn't believe Trump could be elected president — until it happened. These days, she largely avoids the news and peruses Facebook only for the 'funny videos,' skipping over anything political. 'At this point, there's not much I can do but vote,' Shaw said. Randall Scott, 55, voted for Trump in 2016 and said he also avoids watching TV news or spending time on social media. He reads some but generally distrusts both the media and the information politicians are putting out. Like Shaw, he doesn't feel that following the impeachment proceedings is a worthwhile use of his time. 'I feel powerless. There's not a damn thing I can do about it,' said Scott, who lives in Fishers and owns a business. 'I'm not depressed about it. I don't feel woeful or anything. I think that's the nature of politics.
  • In recent days, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has talked to voters over chili and pumpkin bars at a house party in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She sat down with students at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire. She packs her schedule with gatherings in both states as she tries to lift her long-shot presidential campaign. Back home some 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) away in Hawaii, a state senator eying her House seat has been hopscotching across the verdant, mountainous islands that make up her mostly rural congressional district. The campaign Kai Kahele is building for Congress is putting Gabbard's day job in jeopardy as she fights to break through a crowded Democratic presidential primary field. Kahele said the people of Hawaii's 2nd congressional district need a representative who will work for them full-time and come back to Hawaii for town halls. 'It's tough for them to see their representative in Iowa, or New Hampshire, or having pizza in California, when they're struggling at home and they want somebody who is fighting for them,' Kahele said. Gabbard hasn't indicated whether she will run for re-election. Her campaign didn't respond to multiple requests for an interview about her campaign strategy and plans. If she does run for Congress again, Kahele, a fellow Democrat, would be the most formidable challenger she's faced for the House seat she's occupied since 2012. The 45-year-old Native Hawaiian is a combat veteran and pilot for the Hawaii Air National Guard. He flies passenger jets for Hawaiian Airlines and is a member of the pilots union, a helpful attribute in union-friendly Hawaii. He played on the University of Hawaii volleyball team that made it to NCAA championship finals in 1996, a bonus in a state where volleyball is among the most popular collegiate sports alongside football. He's picked up endorsements from three former governors and the chairman of the Honolulu City Council since declaring his candidacy earlier this year. In recent days he's been meeting with nurses on Maui, joined an LGBTQ meet-and-greet in Honolulu and celebrated Rosh Hashanah with a synagogue on the Big Island. He said voters in the district are concerned about the high cost of living, jobs and the ongoing homeless crisis affecting many islands. He vows to work with federal agencies to secure funding for affordable housing in the district. He supports a single-payer, 'Medicare-for-all' health care insurance that would reduce the cost of prescription medication and eliminate all co-pays and deductibles. It's not clear how long Gabbard, who is also a combat veteran from her time in the Hawaii Army National Guard, plans to keep up her presidential bid. In addition to polling poorly, she's raising a fraction of the money hauled in by bigger names. On Thursday she said she was considering skipping Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate even though she just recently qualified for it after securing 2 percent support in a New Hampshire poll. Gabbard said she objected to the Democratic National Committee's use of polling to determine who may participate. She also complained the debates were 'meant to entertain, not inform or enlighten.' Longtime allies say she doesn't dwell on her low poll numbers. More important, they say, is the fact that her campaign gives her a national platform to talk about ending what she calls 'regime-change wars' and supporting military veterans. Gabbard, 38, often speaks passionately about how deploying to Iraq with the National Guard brought her face to face with the high cost of war. She's said leaders in Washington failed to think about the consequences of war. 'People need to understand why she's doing this. It's very important, because it's not for her. It's for the honor of the many people that she represents that have suffered in a lot of these different wars,' said Kymberly Marcos Pine, a supporter and member of the Honolulu City Council. Pine thinks Gabbard will stay in the presidential race so long as she's able to raise money to spread her message. Linda Wong, a supporter since Gabbard ran for Honolulu City Council in 2010, said Gabbard is buoyed by the response she gets at town hall meetings. People like her anti-war message at a time when foreign policy hasn't gotten much attention from other candidates, Wong said. Back home, foreign policy is unlikely to play a big role in a primary contest for Congress, said Neal Milner, a former University of Hawaii political science professor. 'I don't think you can assume that most people really know that much about her ideas about regime change,' Milner said. Colin Moore, director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii, said Gabbard faces major obstacles in the presidential race as a relatively unknown junior member of Congress from Hawaii. Moore gives her credit for already making it farther than most thought she would and doubts she'll qualify for the November debate. 'But Tulsi Gabbard, I think her strength and her signal weakness is she doesn't really follow conventional political wisdom,' Moore said.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local): 10 p.m. The estate of musical legend Prince is objecting to President Donald Trump's use of a Prince song before a campaign rally in Minneapolis Thursday night. The Trump campaign played Prince's 'Purple Rain' as the audience at the rally waited for the president to begin speaking. Prince's estate released a statement after the rally saying it 'will never give permission to President Trump to use Prince's songs.' It said the campaign had confirmed a year ago that it would not use Prince's music. Prince was born in Minneapolis. Much of his 'Purple Rain' movie was filmed at the city's First Avenue nightclub, which is across the street from Target Center, the site of Trump's rally. Prince's nearby Paisley Park studio is regarded as a rock 'n' roll landmark. He died in 2016 at age 57. __ 9:40 p.m. Protesters got into a brief confrontation with police outside President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Minneapolis after some of the demonstrators set Trump hats on fire. Police moved in to put out the fire, apparently angering the protesters. Associated Press reporters watched as police briefly fell back before forming a line of bicycles and horses, with one officer using pepper spray. Several protesters wore masks, and some chanted, 'Hands up, don't shoot!' But the protest quickly appeared to ebb, with protesters beginning an impromptu march. Trump was near the end of his speech by then, and the crowd of thousands had thinned well before the confrontation. __ 9:15 p.m. President Donald Trump is criticizing Minnesota for accepting large numbers of refugees from Somalia, and he is boasting about his own efforts to cut the flow of refugees into the United States. Trump rallied with political supports Thursday in Minneapolis, a city home to the largest population of Somalis in the United States. He says the city and state allowed refugees in without considering the impact on schools, the community and taxpayers. Trump says he has cut refugee resettlement by 85 percent, and says Democrats will throw open the nation's borders if they regain power. The remarks were reminiscent of Trump's campaign appearance in Minneapolis shortly before the 2016 election, when he described Somali resettlement as 'the disaster taking place in Minnesota.' __ 9 p.m. President Donald Trump has brought the head of the Minneapolis police union onstage to thank him for a high-profile fight over whether the city's officers could wear their uniforms while backing the president. Lt. Bob Kroll sparred with the city's Democratic mayor this week over a policy that prohibits officers from wearing uniforms at political events or in political advertisements. Mayor Jacob Frey said the policy wasn't new and said the police force must be nonpartisan. Trump calls Frey a 'very weak mayor' and Kroll a 'great man.' Kroll and several other people, all wearing bright red 'Cops for Trump' T-shirts, came onstage during Trump's rally Thursday night in Minneapolis. Kroll asks, 'How can you thank this guy for everything he's done for law enforcement?' He calls Trump a 'wonderful president.' __ 8:45 p.m. President Donald Trump is attacking Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar in a rally on her home turf. Trump is calling Omar 'a disgrace to our country,' reminding thousands of supporters in a Minneapolis arena of remarks she made on Israel that some people saw as anti-Semitic. Omar denied any anti-Semitic intent but apologized for them. Trump is also again raising allegations by some conservatives that Omar married her brother to commit immigration fraud — a claim Omar has called 'disgusting lies.' Trump has sought to portray the Somali-American lawmaker as a symbol of the liberal shift in her party, and earlier this year tweeted she should 'go back' to her home country rather than criticize the United States. He didn't repeat that rhetoric Thursday night. __ 8:30 p.m. President Donald Trump is lashing out at potential Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Trump says at a rally Thursday in Minneapolis that Biden became Barack Obama's vice president because he knew how to curry favor with Obama. The Republican president is also targeting Hunter Biden, suggesting a T-shirt that says 'Where's Hunter?' Trump has been spreading groundless claims that the Bidens used their family name to get China and Ukraine to pay them millions of dollars. The Democratic-controlled House opened an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower complained about Trump's dealings with Ukraine and alleged Trump was abusing his public office for personal political gain. Trump later released a rough transcript of a phone conversation with Ukraine's president in which he asks for an investigation of Biden. __ 8 p.m. President Donald Trump is decrying what he says is a 'wretched Washington swamp' that is trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election. Trump is telling thousands at a rally Thursday in Minneapolis that the swamp wants to 'erase your vote like it never existed.' But he says the swamp will fail because 'in America, the people rule again.' It's Trump's first campaign rally since the Democratic-controlled House launched an impeachment inquiry over his dealings with Ukraine. Trump is also predicting that he will win Minnesota in 2020, a state that slipped away from him in the last election. __ 7:30 p.m. President Donald Trump's son Eric is proposing a new chant to be directed at Joe Biden: 'Lock him up.' President Trump has been pushing baseless claims that Biden and his son Hunter traded on the family name to earn millions from governments in Ukraine and China. Eric Trump warmed up a Minneapolis rally crowd for his father Thursday night. He asked the crowd for an assessment of how Hunter Biden is feeling and suggested that the familiar Trump rally chant of 'Lock her up' — directed at Hillary Clinton — become 'Lock him up.' The crowd then chanted, 'Lock him up, lock him up.' House Democrats have opened an impeachment inquiry over President Trump's dealings with Ukraine and his request to that country's president to investigate Joe Biden. __ 6 p.m. Anti-Trump protesters are converging on the Minneapolis arena where President Donald Trump is holding his first political rally since the House opened its impeachment inquiry. Protesters are packing streets surrounding the Target Center hours before the Republican president is due to appear at Thursday's rally. Many are clutching helium-filled balloons depicting Trump as a baby. Others are blowing whistles, a nod to the whistleblower whose complaint encouraged Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch the inquiry. Lora Torgerson, who says she is a registered Republican from suburban Inver Grove Heights, is among the anti-Trumpers. She says she has 'never been more ashamed of our party.' Torgerson says she did not vote for Trump. Trump supporters are turning out in force and are expected to easily fill the roughly 20,000-seat arena. Some had lined up a day earlier to guarantee a seat. ___ 1:15 p.m. President Donald Trump is trying to convert the impeachment investigation in Washington into a political asset — scheduling three reelection rallies over the next eight days. The rally set for Thursday night in Minneapolis is the first since Democrats began proceedings two weeks ago to remove him from office. It'll serve as a proving ground for the president as he tries to use the impeachment inquiry to energize supporters for his 2020 campaign. Trump has lashed out in tweets and public statements at Democrats, the media and even some Republicans as impeachment has dominated the headlines. He's claimed that he's the victim of a 'coup' — although impeachment is a constitutional process— and has accused Democrats of trying to undo the 2016 election.
  • Long-shot Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard says she may skip next week's debate in Ohio. The Hawaii congresswoman complained in a Twitter message on Thursday about the Democratic National Committee's use of polling to determine debate participants and said the debates are 'meant to entertain, not inform or enlighten.' Gabbard failed to qualify for the September Democratic primary debate. She just barely met the minimum qualifications for the Oct. 15 contest after getting 2% support in a New Hampshire poll. To appear on the stage in November, the Democratic National Committee is requiring that candidates receive 3% or more support in at least four polls or receive 5% or more support in two single-state polls in the early voting states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire or South Carolina.
  • They've skipped the high-profile Sunday TV shows and avoided driveway chat sessions with reporters. Few who are typically eager to defend the president have appeared at all on television this month. White House officials close to President Donald Trump are pulling off a disappearing act, remaining largely absent from public view — in the middle of the storm over impeachment. 'We invited the White House on to answer questions on the show this morning,' CNN's Jake Tapper explained to his viewers on Sunday's 'State of the Union.' ''They did not offer a guest.' It's a well-worn strategy in the Trump White House: Senior officials conveniently manage to be elsewhere when major controversies engulf the building. The frequent absences of Jared Kushner, the Republican president's son-in-law and senior adviser, and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump during moments of consequence have long been a running joke among their detractors. Their detours included a trip to Florida during the partial government shutdown. Plenty of others have jumped town during tense moments. As Trump struggled with mounting Republican defections over his decision to declare a national emergency to pay for the stalled border wall, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney wasn't at the Capitol cajoling his former colleagues or in the West Wing making calls. Instead, he was in Las Vegas for an annual friends and family getaway. More recently, embattled national security adviser John Bolton scheduled a trip to Mongolia while Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea, a gesture that didn't sit well with Bolton, who would leave the administration a few months later. Indeed, knowing 'when to be out of town' was one of the top nuggets of advice that Kevin Hassett, the president's former top economic adviser, said he'd received from a predecessor and had to offer his successor. The White House did not respond to questions about the tactic Wednesday. But even when they're in Washington, many of the White House's most visible officials have been staying out of public view, letting the president's indignant Twitter feed and his frequent commentary drive the public conversation. That includes White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, a frequent guest on Fox News shows and the gaggles with reporters that often follow on the White House driveway. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, an aggressive defender of the president, has not made an appearance on the driveway since a highly contentious Sept. 27 gaggle in which she berated reporters and dismissed a question about whether the White House was organizing an impeachment war room. 'I'm the only person out here taking your questions,' Conway noted then. She did, however, appear at an event with first lady Melania Trump, speaking with teens and young adults about their experiences with electronic cigarettes and vaping. Appearances have come instead from lower-profile staffers, including the vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short; the acting director of Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought; and economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who tried to stay out of the controversy. He's said repeatedly that questions about Ukraine and the president's efforts to dig up damaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden are way out of his lane. Adding to the vacuum is the continued lack of White House briefings. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has yet to hold one. 'It's surprising that they're not using the many levers on the most powerful communications platform in the world, which is the White House,' said Joe Lockhart, who served as press secretary during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton . He said that the White House is losing out on effective platforms to try to drive its message. 'Nobody is vouching for him or validating him and filling in the blanks,' Lockhart said of Trump. Many aides to the president have grown reluctant to speak out on Trump's behalf for fear the president will then contradict them. Instead, they allow the president to set the day's message on his Twitter feed and vigorously defend himself. But one of the reasons Clinton's impeachment strategy was effective, Lockhart said, was that the president almost never talked about the impeachment drama. He relied on his lawyers, his communications staff and outside allies to make the case for him. 'The president shouldn't be his own defender,' Lockhart said. 'The president should be focused on doing the job of the president.' But unlike Clinton, Trump has another tool at his disposal: a massive and well-funded campaign operation that has vigorously defended the president on Twitter and cut a series of ads that paint the impeachment inquiry as nothing more than a Democratic 'coup' aimed at overturning the results of the 2016 election. Another ad released Wednesday focuses on allegations against Biden and his son Hunter, which the president and his allies have been pursuing despite lacking evidence of any wrongdoing. Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director, said the campaign team speaks with its counterparts at the White House every day and work in tandem. 'At all times we take our lead from the White House,' he said. 'The president is our boss, and we are an extension of him. We make all of our decisions accordingly.' ___ Follow Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj
  • Two British militants believed to be part of an Islamic State group that beheaded hostages and was known as 'The Beatles' have been moved out of a detention center in Syria and are in American custody, U.S. officials said Wednesday. President Donald Trump said earlier Wednesday that the U.S. has moved some of the Islamic State prisoners amid fears some could escape custody as Turkey invades northeast Syria. The two men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, along with other British jihadis, allegedly made up the IS cell nicknamed 'The Beatles' by surviving captives because of their English accents. In 2014 and 2015, the militants held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. It beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world. U.S. officials said the two were taken out of Syria by U.S. military and law enforcement personnel to ensure they did not escape if security broke down as a result of the Turkish incursion. So far they are the only two IS militants removed from Syria by the U.S., but officials say a number of others could also be moved if needed. Another official said the two men were taken to Iraq out of an abundance of caution, adding that the United States is still fully committed to seeing them brought to justice. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military movements. Turkey is attacking the U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces, a Kurdish force that battled the Islamic State group alongside American troops and now is responsible for guarding thousands of detained militants. But guarding those prisoners is now expected to be less of a priority for the Kurdish forces as they rush to defend their territory against the invading Turkish military. Trump told reporters at the White House that some of the 'most dangerous' had been moved, but he provided no details. Although just the two have been relocated so far, but thousands of other Islamic State group detainees remain in custody and there are no immediate concerns the Kurds will completely abandon the facilities. 'We're putting them in different locations where it's secure,' Trump said. The U.S. officials said that some Kurds left the prisons to join the fight but did not flee in large numbers. The officials said operations against remaining members of the Islamic State group are on hold following the invasion Wednesday by Turkey, which sees the Kurds as a threat and is trying to create a buffer zone between the territory held by the SDF and the Syrian border. The two British men were captured in January in eastern Syria by the Kurdish forces amid the collapse of IS. Their detention set off a debate in the U.S. and Europe over how to prosecute their citizens who joined IS. Among the journalists they killed was American James Foley, who was first, followed by fellow Americans Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. The beheadings, often carried out on camera, horrified the world soon after IS took over much of Iraq and Syria in 2014. In March, Kurdish and U.S. forces cleared the last members of the Islamic State group from what was left of their self-declared caliphate, which once sprawled across a large part of Iraq and Syria. U.S. officials said American forces are not out doing patrols looking for Islamic State group fighters because their Kurdish partners are more focused on the Turkish fight. But they said U.S. operations could restart quickly if needed. About 30 to 50 U.S. troops were moved out of the way from two outposts in the border region. There are a number of U.S. forces in other bases just outside the so-called safe zone as well as in Manbij and other locations around the country. They have not been moved but are mainly staying in place to avoid attacks. There are about 2,500 Islamic State foreign fighters being detained in Syria, along with about 10,000 fighters from Syria and Iraq. Trump and other U.S. officials have repeatedly pressed other nations across Europe and the Middle East to take back the detainees from their countries. But international leaders have been largely reluctant and have been slow to take any back. 'They should go back, by the way, they should go back to Europe. Many of them came from Europe. And they should go back to Germany and France,' Trump said Wednesday. Trump said other leaders told him they didn't want the detainees. 'We don't want them either,' he said. 'Nobody wants them but they're bad and somebody has to watch over 'em.' __ Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
  • Critics of President Donald Trump who wonder about the tenacity of his supporters need only to spend three hours with Fox News Channel's headliners to get an idea why. On his most influential venue, Trump's firewall remains secure. Tuesday night in prime time, Tucker Carlson referenced 'impeachment insanity.' Sean Hannity said the president's opponents are involved in 'insane, obsessive, compulsive, psychotic witch hunts.' A guest on Laura Ingraham's show called the whistleblower who reported on Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian leader a suicide bomber. Those three hosts reach an estimated 3 million to 4 million people each weeknight — the most-watched lineup on cable television — with a full-throated defense of the president as Democrats in the House pursue an impeachment inquiry. The closest thing to doubt expressed by one of Fox's prime-time hosts came last week when Carlson wrote a column for the web site Daily Caller with his co-founder Neil Patel. They wrote that Trump should not have asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and that 'there's no way to spin this as a good idea.' Carlson has yet to repeat that criticism on his Fox show. Like he did in the column, he has opposed impeachment. The big story at rival news networks Tuesday was the administration's letter to the House saying it would not cooperate with the inquiry, but Carlson played it in the last half of his show, when he interviewed Republican U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes. Ingraham was the only one of the three anchors to lead her broadcast with the story and said the White House counsel had made a strong argument. 'This non-impeachment impeachment is not a constitutional undertaking,' Ingraham said. 'It's a political hit job, exactly what our founders did not want for our Republic.' She brought Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and commentator Joseph diGenova on to criticize the impeachment effort. DiGenova called whistleblowers who have exposed Trump's behavior 'suicide bombers that the Democrats unleashed on the democratic process.' 'You mean political suicide bombers, before we start getting messages,' Ingraham cautioned, apparently worried the remark was too inflammatory. But she quickly added that people should 'get inside the humor' of what he said. Hannity's top-rated show is an often-breathless account of alleged nefarious activities by Trump's opponents, in a type of verbal shorthand with some references familiar only to his regular viewers. Trump, he said, is the victim of several 'coup attempts.' 'They went from one fishing expedition to another fishing expedition,' he said. 'Russia, Russia, Russia — that coup attempt. Then it was the tax return coup attempt. Then it was the Stormy Stormy coup attempt. Now it is the Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine coup attempt. That's all this is. They could not accept the will of the people — insane, obsessive, compulsive, psychotic witch hunts rooted in rage and a lack of connection to the reality that they lost.' During an appearance on Hannity's show earlier this month, Geraldo Rivera suggested his host was keeping Trump afloat and referenced an era when there was no Fox News Channel. 'If it wasn't for your show, Sean, they would destroy him absolutely,' Rivera said. 'You're the difference between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon.' Hannity's show reached an average of 3.28 million people each weeknight in July, August and September, according to Nielsen Media Research. Carlson averaged 3.08 million viewers and Ingraham had 2.63 million. Fox has received attention recently for other personalities who have given Trump a hard time: veteran journalist and Sunday host Chris Wallace, daytime host Shepard Smith and, increasingly, commentator Andrew Napolitano. Yet Napolitano doesn't have a regular show on the network and while Smith leads other cable networks in the ratings, his audience is roughly a third of Hannity's since fewer people watch TV during the day. The Pew Research Center, in a 2017 survey, found that 40% of Trump voters listed Fox News Channel as its main source of election news. No other media outlet reached even one-quarter of that level. The prime-time lineup, along with the 'Fox & Friends' morning show, is where Fox's influence is the greatest. Like Trump, the three prime-time anchors showed Tuesday that they like to attach nicknames to perceived opponents. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is a 'prevaricating, priggish partisan,' Ingraham said. Hannity called Biden 'sleepy, creepy, crazy Uncle Joe.' All three shows highlighted a tweet by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling for a discussion of incarceration policies, with Hannity calling her his 'villain of the day.' Carlson's show spotlighted opponents to Trump's call for withdrawing troops from Syria, neglecting to include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who made his criticism on Fox's airwaves. Viewers can even follow the shows with the volume muted. Onscreen chyrons included 'The Real Threat to Democracy: DC Establishment Trying to Block Prez's Plans'; 'Leftist Media Freaks Out Over White House Letter' and 'Life Under Dems: Free Health Care for the World.
  • A Defense Intelligence Agency official was arrested Wednesday and charged with leaking classified intelligence information to two journalists, including a reporter he was dating, the Justice Department said. Henry Kyle Frese, 30, was arrested by the FBI when he arrived at work at a DIA facility in Virginia. He was charged with willfully disclosing national defense information. Frese, who has a top secret government security clearance, is alleged to have accessed at least five classified intelligence reports and provided top secret information about another country's weapons systems to the reporter with whom he was having a relationship. The arrest is the latest in a series of prosecutions under the Trump administration of government workers accused of providing nonpublic information to journalists. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged to take a stand against leaks, and the Justice Department has brought at least six leak investigation cases in the past two years. Neither reporter was identified by name in court documents, but an analysis of news articles and social media posts indicates they are Amanda Macias of CNBC and Courtney Kube of NBC News. Those posts include a photo of Macias and Frese on Instagram from 2017. The Justice Department declined to provide any additional details about the classified information that was leaked, but the articles focused on China's missile systems. The reporter, believed to be Macias, published eight articles containing classified defense information between May and July of last year, prosecutors said. In April 2018, after Frese accessed one of the intelligence reports, she sent him a private message on Twitter asking if he would be willing to speak with another journalist who prosecutors said worked at another outlet owned by the same company, court documents said. The second journalist is believed to be Kube. Frese replied that he would help if it could help advance the first reporter's career because he wanted to see her 'progress,' according to the documents. The government also intercepted a call in September during which Frese allegedly read classified national defense information to the second journalist, the documents say. 'Frese betrayed the trust placed in him by the American people — a betrayal that risked harming the national security of this country,' said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who leads the Justice Department's national security division. Federal investigators believe Frese was 'taking direction from members of the media' because he had searched for the intelligence documents that were outside of his area of expertise, according to Alan Kohler, the special agent in charge of counterintelligence at the FBI's field office in Washington. Although officials would not rule out the possibility of bringing criminal charges against the journalists, the top prosecutor whose office is prosecuting the case said investigators are 'focused on the leaker, not the journalist.' Frese was involved in 'dastardly and felonious conduct at the expense of our country,' said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He said Frese's behavior was 'not selfless or heroic, it is criminal.' It was not immediately clear whether Frese had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf. A message left on Frese's cellphone was not immediately returned. Frese was expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Virginia on Thursday. Representatives for CNBC, NBC News and the Defense Intelligence Agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment. ___ Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, and Matthew Barakat in Alexandria, Virginia contributed to this report.

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  • In a shocking video that may be difficult for some to watch, a WSOC-TV viewer captured footage of hundreds of birds scattered across the ground near the entrance of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, after flying into the side of the building. >> Read more trending news  Hollie Cameron's disturbing cellphone video shows dozens of birds lying on the ground outside the building and captures other birds crashing into the large windows. WSOC reporter Gina Esposito spoke with the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, who said their rehab team responded to the NASCAR Hall of Fame around 11 p.m. and treated hundreds of birds. They said a total of 310 birds hit the windows of the building. Roughly one-third of those birds were dead when they arrived, and another third was seriously injured. The rest appeared to be stunned but will be OK, the organization said. >> Watch the clip here (WARNING: Some viewers may find the video below disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.) In the video, Cameron watched as a bird crashed into the window and then fell to the ground, joining dozens of others. Cameron told WSOC that she was working in the area when she started recording on her phone around 9 p.m. You can hear her talking with a security guard who claims the phenomenon had been going on for about an hour. 'Oh my God, look at them all,' Cameron says in the video. 'There's something wrong with them. This is not OK.' Carolina Waterfowl Rescue posted more video on Facebook of the birds at their facility. About 100 of the surviving birds are being treated for broken wings and fractures. The rescue group said the birds are chimney swifts and that the colony lives in a roost. They think something disturbed the colony Tuesday night, causing the birds to fly into the windows at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Carolina Waterfowl Rescue officials told WSOC that this was not a naturally occurring event and the birds' migration could not have been a factor because the swifts only migrate during the day. They plan to investigate more on Wednesday. CMPD reportedly responded to the scene to begin cleaning up the birds. Carolina Waterfowl Rescue said rehabbing the injured birds is expensive, and they desperately need volunteers since the birds will need to be hand-fed. Visit their Facebook page for more details on how you can help.
  • Plan to drive through times of scattered showers today ahead of a cool front that will bring drier, more refreshing air to end the week.  Action News Jax Meteorologist Garrett Bedenbaugh says some rain may be heavy at times with a few rumbles of thunder.  Overall rainfall totals are not expected to be great, but the rainfall is needed.  By Thursday morning you’ll begin to feel a change with drier air and high temperatures only in the upper 70’s.  Friday morning lows may fall into the upper 50’s in some neighborhoods, and high temperatures will only be in the upper 70’s.  The weekend is looking a little warmer and wetter at times with a few showers on Saturday and scattered showers on Sunday. 
  • Four separate shootings over a 24-hour period in Jacksonville has left at least six people wounded and, so far, no arrests have been announced by police.  Early this morning a man was shot on W. 17th Street, near RV Daniels Elementary School.  He was taken to a local hospital with a single gunshot wound to the leg. JSO had no suspect description and was asking for tips to Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.  Just after 10 pm on Tuesday, two young men between the ages of 17 and 20 were shot while sitting in a vehicle on Timmerman Lane. Both shooting victims had non-life-threatening injuries. JSO had no evidence to confirm if this was a drive-by shooting.  Around 5:20 pm on Tuesday, police were called to a shooting on Orton Street, where two men were treated and transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. No suspect information was given at the scene by detectives.  On Miss Muffet Lane on the westside just after 6 pm on Tuesday, police responded to reports of shots fired. An off-duty officer was called about a gunshot wound victim at Park West ER. He was taken to Orange Park Medical Center in critical condition.  According to JSO, two groups of people in two separate cars that left the area were being questioned by detectives.  
  • A Pennsylvania mom is in critical condition after police said she killed her children and husband, then shot herself, Philadelphia police said. >> Read more trending news  Here are the latest updates: Update 5:49 a.m. EDT Oct. 16: Authorities have identified the woman accused of killing her children and husband late Monday in Philadelphia's Tacony neighborhood, multiple news outlets are reporting. According to WPVI-TV, Damyrra Jones Alcindor, 28, also shot herself, police said. As she was rushed to a nearby hospital, she reportedly told officials she did not want to be resuscitated. Philadelphia police Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said Alcindor admitted to fatally shooting her two daughters, ages 10 months and 4 years, as well as their father, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday afternoon. Although police did not release the victims' names, a family member identified them as Max Alcindor, 38; Maxilla, 4; and Damaya, 10 months, WCAU-TV reported. Investigators said Alcindor, who legally bought the handgun earlier Monday, is facing murder charges in the case, according to WCAU. Original report: According to KYW-TV and the Philadelphia Inquirer, the deadly shooting occurred just before 10 p.m. Monday at a home in Philadelphia's Tacony neighborhood. Police said the 29-year-old woman fatally shot her two daughters, ages 10 months and 4 years, as well as their 35-year-old father. All three victims suffered gunshot wounds to the head, authorities said. When police arrived at the Hegerman Street home, they discovered the woman outside 'lying on top of a gun,' the Inquirer reported. Authorities said the woman, who apparently shot herself, was taken to a nearby hospital. Philadelphia police have not released the names of the woman or the victims, the news outlets reported. Read more here or here.
  • Authorities in Indiana said a baby is alive and well after someone discovered the child inside a plastic bag near a fence in Seymour. >> Read more trending news  According to the Tribune and WAVE-TV, police responded to a call about the infant just before 4 p.m. Tuesday. A resident, who had been walking a dog off South Jackson Park Drive, found the child about 60 feet away from the street, investigators said. Crews rushed the baby to a nearby hospital, the news outlets reported. Doctors said the child is healthy, according to WAVE. Seymour police said they made contact Wednesday with a person of interest in the case. They emphasized the person was not a suspect in the investigation. Authorities have not yet made any arrests in connection with the incident, the Tribune reported. Read more here or here.

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