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    Global stock indexes were mostly moderately higher in quiet holiday trading on Good Friday as some markets were closed. Trading was closed in France, Germany and the U.K. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.5% to finish at 22,200.56. South Korea's Kospi inched up 0.1% to2,216.15. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.6% to 3,270.80. Some other markets remain closed for the holiday, including in the U.S., Hong Kong and Australia. Overnight, major U.S. stock indexes capped the holiday shortened week with slight gains, although the marginal upward move was not enough to keep the benchmark S&P 500 index from snapping a string of three straight weekly gains. The S&P 500 gained 4.58 points, or 0.2%, to 2,905.03. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 110 points, or 0.4%, to 26,559.54. The Nasdaq composite inched 1.98 points higher, or less than 0.1%, to 7,998.06. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap dropped 1.85 points, or 0.1%, to 1,565.75. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil added 7 cents to $64.07 a barrel. It rose 0.4% to settle at $64 per barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 0.5% to $71.97 per barrel. CURRENCIES: The dollar rose slightly to 111.92 Japanese yen from 111.89 yen late Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1247 from $1.1258. ___ Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama On Instagram https://www.instagram.com/yurikageyama/?hl=en
  • China downplayed the political implications of its global Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, saying Friday that it aimed to boost multilateralism amid protectionist trends in the U.S. and elsewhere. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that a conference to promote the initiative to be held next week in Beijing would draw leaders from 37 countries, underscoring heavy demand for Chinese investment. 'The Belt-and-Road Initiative follows the principle of cooperation and collaboration with shared benefits. It embodies the spirit of multilateralism,' Wang said at a news conference. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has made the initiative a signature policy, agreed last month to seek fairer international trade rules and address the world's economic and security challenges, in what appeared to many as a rebuke to President Donald Trump's protectionist policies. Xi is to address the meeting's opening ceremony on April 28, and chair a round table meeting of state leaders the next day. The estimated $1 trillion-plus initiative aims to weave a network of ports, bridges and power plants linking China with Africa, Europe and beyond. It obtained a major symbolic boost last month when Italy signed a memorandum of understanding supporting the initiative, making the country the first member of the Group of Seven major economies to do so. The U.S., another G-7 member, has been a notable critic of the initiative amid trade tensions with Beijing and competition over influence within global organizations, territorial claims in the South China Sea and the future of Washington's ally Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory. China's expansion of the initiative in Latin America to build ports and other trade-related facilities has also stirred alarm in Washington over Beijing's ambitions in a region that American leaders since the 19th century have seen as off-limits to other powers. China is focusing on countries in Central America such as Panama, whose canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans makes it one of the world's busiest trade arteries and strategically important both to Washington and Beijing. The U.S. and some economists contend that the initiative forces emerging economies to take on unsustainable levels of debt to fund Chinese-backed projects, and Malaysia this week announced changes to a rail link agreement after the contractor, China Communications Construction Company Ltd., agreed to cut the cost by one-third. Other countries have also put Chinese-funded projects on hold, hoping to avoid the fate of Sri Lanka. The South Asian country leased the Chinese-built port in Hambantota, which is near the world's busiest east-west shipping route, to a Chinese firm in 2017 for 99 years in a bid to recover from the heavy burden of repaying a loan obtained the country received to build the facility. China's main Asian economic rival, India, has also turned a cold shoulder to the initiative, amid an ongoing border dispute between the two and competition for foreign markets. In his comments, Wang sought to reach out to New Delhi, saying 'achieving common prosperity' was a foundational principle behind Belt and Road and that 'issues left over by the history must be separated from our efforts in this area.' 'I think such cooperation will not undermine India's basic position on sovereignty and territorial integrity and at the same time, will provide opportunities of development and help India in the modernization endeavor,' Wang said.
  • Don McGahn was barely on speaking terms with President Donald Trump when he left the White House last fall. But special counsel Robert Mueller's report reveals the president may owe his former top lawyer a debt of gratitude. McGahn, who sat with Mueller for about 30 hours of interviews, emerged as a central character in Mueller's painstaking investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice and impeded the years-long Russia investigation. In one striking scene, Mueller recounts how Trump called McGahn twice at home and directed him to set Mueller's firing in motion. McGahn recoiled and threatened to resign instead. Mueller concluded that McGahn and others effectively halted Trump's efforts to influence the investigation, prompting some White House officials and outside observers to call him an unsung hero in the effort to protect the president. John Marston, a former Washington, D.C. assistant United States attorney, said McGahn appeared to help Trump 'both in real time with his actions and then as well as being forthcoming.' McGahn's relationship with the president was turbulent. A prominent Washington attorney, he joined Trump's campaign as counsel in 2015 and followed him to the White House, but the two men never developed a close rapport. His departure last fall came as little surprise. Still, it was McGahn who Trump turned to on June 17, 2017, when he wanted to oust Mueller. According to the special counsel report, McGahn responded to the president's request by calling his personal lawyer and his chief of staff, driving to the White House, packing up his belongings and preparing to submit his letter of resignation. He told then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the president had asked him to 'do crazy s---.' Mueller said McGahn feared Trump was setting in motion a series of events 'akin to the Saturday Night Massacre,' the Nixonian effort to rein in the Watergate investigation. William Alden McDaniel, a lawyer who represented targets and witnesses in the Ken Starr investigation, as well a high-ranking officials in the Iran-Contra scandal, said McGahn appeared to be 'one of the few people in the administration to stand up to the president' and that 'takes a certain amount of principle.' Mueller's report shows there were a handful of other aides who rebuffed orders and suggestions from the president, helping save him from the consequences. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski resisted an effort by Trump to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself from the investigation and to limit the scope of Mueller's probe. Priebus and McGahn repeatedly resisted Trump efforts to force out Sessions so that Trump could replace him and install a new person to oversee Mueller's work. McGahn also tried in other ways to keep the president in line, advising him that he should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid the perception or reality of political interference in law enforcement and reminding him that their conversations were not protected by attorney-client privilege. Trump responded by questioning McGahn's tendency to take notes and draft memoranda outlining his advice to the president for the historical record. 'Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,' Trump said, according to Mueller's report. The special counsel said McGahn responded that he keeps notes 'because he is a 'real lawyer' and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing.' Exchanges like those appear to have led Mueller to conclude that McGahn was 'a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.' McGahn did not respond to a request for comment Thursday and nearly a dozen friends and former colleagues mostly spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting him, describing him as a private person. They largely characterized McGahn's time in the White House as unhappy and defined by his frequent clashes with the president. 'Don is an experienced lawyer who's dealt with difficult clients in the past,' said Jason Torchinsky, an election law attorney who has known McGhan for 20 years. The White House declined comment. In a campaign and White House staffed largely by novices and bootlickers, McGahn was a rare establishment figure, despite his longer hair and 80s cover band dabbling. He served as commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Commission and had deep roots with the Republican party, including spending a decade as general counsel of the National Republican Congressional Committee. At the White House, he earned praise from conservatives for helping confirm a series of conservative judges, including, in his final act, shepherding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation. He was also instrumental in fulfilling long-held conservative priorities, including leading the White House's systematic effort to cut government regulations and weaken the power of administrative law judges. __ Follow Miller and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ZekeJMiller and https://twitter.com/colvinj
  • Potheads have for decades celebrated their love of marijuana on April 20, but the once counter-culture celebration that was all about getting stoned now is so mainstream Corporate America is starting to embrace it. No, Hallmark doesn't yet have a card to mark '420.' But many other businesses inside and outside the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry are using April 20, or 4/20, to roll out marketing and social media messaging aimed at connecting with consumers driving the booming market. On Saturday, Lyft is offering a $4.20 credit on a single ride in Colorado and in select cities in the U.S. and Canada. Carl's Jr. is using a Denver restaurant to market a hamburger infused with CBD, a non-intoxicating molecule found in cannabis that many believe is beneficial to their health. On 420 last year, Totino's, a maker of frozen pizza snacks, tweeted an image of a microwave and an oven with the message: 'To be blunt, pizza rolls are better when baked.' 'I think brands that associate themselves with cannabis kind of get that contact high. In other words, they're just considered to be cooler by association,' said Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University. 'As pot becomes more legal, more discussed, more interesting to people, more widely used, then 420 becomes more mainstream as well.' Marijuana normalization has snowballed since 2012, when Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational use. Eight more followed, including California, Oregon and Michigan. Medical marijuana is legal in two-thirds of the states, with conservative-leaning Utah and Oklahoma among recent additions. Meantime, the CBD market has exploded. CBD oil can be found in candies, coffee and other food, drinks and dietary supplements, along with perfume, lotions, creams and soap. Proponents say CBD helps with pain, anxiety and inflammation, though limited scientific research supports those claims. U.S. retail sales of cannabis products jumped to $10.5 billion last year, a threefold increase from 2017, according to data from Arcview Group, a cannabis investment and market research firm. The figures do not include retail sales of hemp-derived CBD products. Ben & Jerry's was one of the earliest big brands to foster a connection with the marijuana culture through marketing. The Vermont-based ice cream company features Cherry Garcia and Phish Food, honoring late Grateful Dead member Jerry Garcia and the band Phish. Both bands are favorites of the marijuana-smoking crowd. To mark 420 in recent years, Ben & Jerry's debuted taco and burrito inspired ice cream sandwiches. This year the company partnered with a San Francisco Bay Area cannabis retailer to give customers who place delivery orders on Friday and Saturday a free pint of Half Baked, a combination of cookie dough and fudge brownie. 'We have a lot of fun, never being overt, but really playing into the moment of 420,' said Jay Curley, the company's global head of integrated marketing. Last year, Ben & Jerry's also turned more serious, asking consumers to call on lawmakers to expunge prior marijuana convictions and press for pardons or amnesty for anyone arrested for smoking pot. This year the company is using the holiday to call for criminal justice reform. 'We're actually using this as an opportunity not to tell a stoner joke like we have in the past, but to raise what we see as a much more serious issue around justice,' Curley said. Those in the marijuana marketplace also are ramping up advertising around 420. Much of the marketing about cannabis or related products takes the form of online ads, emails, text messages and social media. Shops typically offer discounts. Some host parties with food and entertainment. The larger 420 events can draw thousands of people. Verano Holdings, whose businesses include cannabis shops, sponsors street festivals in Chicago and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where attendees can learn about marijuana products, listen to music and grab a bite. The company expects this Saturday's festival in Chicago, going on its third year, will draw more than 4,000 people. Last year, it drew 1,500, said Tim Tennant, Verano's chief marketing officer. In San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, Hippie Hill will again be the site of a 420 celebration. Last year, more than 15,000 attended the event, which has transformed from a small informal gathering into a full-blown festival of corporate sponsors and commercial booths selling smoking devices, T-shirts and food. Roger Volodarsky, whose Los Angeles-based Puffco makes portable vaporizers, has celebrated 420 since he was a teenager. Back then, he said, '420 was the day that you splurged on yourself and got high in interesting ways. It was the day that you made a gravity bong and coughed your brains out.' Volodarksy likes that some Main Street brands are getting into the industry and the holiday. 'What's important to me about these ad campaigns is they're speaking to people who aren't users and they're normalizing the space to people who aren't users,' he said. Even as popularity grows, some companies will stay away from 420 as a marketing tool, said Allen Adamson, co-founder of Metaforce, a marketing consulting company. 'If you're talking about a big brand that needs to appeal to everybody and is very risk-averse, then probably not,' he said. 'I don't think you'll see large financial institutions doing it.' ___ Follow AP's marijuana coverage: https://apnews.com/Marijuana
  • It's now up to Congress to decide what to do with special counsel Robert Mueller's findings about President Donald Trump. While the special counsel declined to prosecute Trump on obstruction of justice, he did not exonerate him, all but leaving the question to Congress. Mueller's report provides fresh evidence of Trump's interference in the Russia probe, challenging lawmakers to respond. The risks for both parties are clear if they duck the responsibility or prolong an inquiry that, rather than coming to a close, may be just beginning. 'The responsibility now falls to Congress,' said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has the power to launch impeachment proceedings. How far lawmakers will go, though, remains unclear. Republicans are eager to push past what Trump calls the 'witch hunt' that has overshadowed the party and the presidency. And while Democrats say Mueller's findings are far more serious than initially indicated in Attorney General William Barr's four-page summary, they've been hesitant to pursue the ultimate step, impeachment proceedings, despite pressure from the left flank of the party to begin efforts to try to remove the president from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, traveling Thursday on a congressional trip to Ireland, said in a joint statement with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer only that Mueller's report revealed more than was known about the obstruction question. 'As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding,' they said. Later, in a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi vowed: 'Congress will not be silent.' Biding their time, Democrats are putting the focus on their next investigative steps. Nadler summoned Mueller to testify and the chairman said Thursday he will be issuing subpoenas for the full report. And next week, both the House and Senate are scheduled to hear from Barr, whom Democrats accuse of distorting the report's contents to Trump's benefit. But it's unlikely that the full Mueller report or the public testimony will untangle the dilemma that Democrats face. Mueller laid out multiple episodes in which Trump directed others to influence or curtail the Russia investigation after the special counsel's appointment in May 2017, and Trump made clear that he viewed the probe as a potential mortal blow — 'the end of my presidency.' The special counsel wrestled with what to do with his findings, unable to charge or exonerate, and sided with the department's guideline that indicting a sitting president would impair the ability of the executive branch to function. 'We concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,' the report said. Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said the acts described in the report 'whether they are criminal or not, are deeply alarming in the president of the United States. And it's clear that special counsel Mueller wanted the Congress to consider the repercussions and the consequences.' Schiff, the California Democrat, said, 'If the special counsel, as he made clear, had found evidence exonerating the president, he would have said so. He did not. He left that issue to the Congress of the United States.' Republicans sought to portray Democrats as unwilling to let go of the idea that Trump colluded with Russia to swing the election. 'What you're seeing is unprecedented desperation from the left,' tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a top Trump ally. 'There was no collusion. It's over.' Other Republicans were more measured. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is one of the few members of Congress mentioned in the report, told reporters in Kentucky, 'It's too early to start commenting on portions of it.' McConnell was among several people the report said former White House Counsel Don McGahn had reached out to on behalf of the president when Trump was trying to stop then Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself at the start of the Russia probe. In all, the report revealed 10 areas of potential obstruction, from Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey to his attempts to thwart Mueller's investigation. In many cases, the additional details show a president restrained only by aides and others around him. 'If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,' the report says. 'However, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.' Mueller's team hewed to department guidelines. 'We recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President's capacity to govern,' the report said. 'We determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes.' For Democrats, those pages amount to a green light to finish what Mueller started. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said his reading of the report shows that Trump 'almost certainly obstructed justice' and it was only his staff intervened to prevent certain actions. 'We have a very serious situation on our hands,' he said. 'It's an awesome and solemn responsibility that Congress has now to try to deal with the crisis that's contained in this report.' But what comes next may not be any more conclusive, especially as Democrats say they are unwilling to consider impeachment without bipartisan support from Republicans. The investigations may provide a steady stream of revelations that damage the president while also firing up his supporters to his defense as he gears up for re-election. Or the probes could push Congress farther than many now are willing to go. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday that she takes 'no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn't campaign on it, & rarely discuss it unprompted.' But she said, 'the report squarely puts this on our doorstep.' ___ Associated Press reporters Mary Clare Jalonick, Padmananda Rama, Jennifer Peltz in New York and Dylan Lovan in LaGrange, Kentucky contributed to this report. ___ For complete coverage of the Mueller report, go to https://www.apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
  • President Donald Trump sought the removal of special counsel Robert Mueller, discouraged witnesses from cooperating with prosecutors and prodded aides to mislead the public on his behalf, according to a hugely anticipated report from Mueller that details multiple efforts the president made to curtail a Russia probe he feared would cripple his administration. Trump's attempts to seize control of the investigation, and directions to others on how to influence it, 'were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,' Mueller wrote in a two-volume, 448-page redacted report that made for riveting reading. In one particularly dramatic moment, Mueller reported that Trump was so agitated at the special counsel's appointment on May 17, 2017, that he slumped back in his chair and declared: 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f---ed.' With that, Trump set out to save himself. In June of that year, Mueller wrote, Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the probe, and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest. McGahn refused — deciding he would sooner resign than trigger a potential crisis akin to the Saturday Night Massacre of firings during the Watergate era. Two days later, the president made another attempt to alter the course of the investigation, meeting with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and dictating a message for him to relay to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The message: Sessions would publicly call the investigation 'very unfair' to the president, declare Trump did nothing wrong and say Mueller should limit his probe to 'investigating election meddling for future elections.' The message was never delivered. The report's bottom line largely tracked the findings revealed in Attorney General William Barr's four-page memo released a month ago — no collusion with Russia but no clear verdict on obstruction — but it added new layers of detail about Trump's efforts to thwart the investigation. Looking ahead, both sides were already using the findings to amplify well-rehearsed arguments about Trump's conduct, Republicans casting him as a victim of harassment and Democrats depicting the president as stepping far over the line to derail the investigation. The Justice Department released its redacted version of the report about 90 minutes after Barr offered his own final assessment of the findings at a testy news conference. The nation, Congress and Trump's White House consumed it voraciously online, via compact disc delivered to legislators and in loose-leaf binders distributed to reporters. The release represented a moment of closure nearly two years in the making but also the starting bell for a new round of partisan warfare. A defiant Trump pronounced it 'a good day' and tweeted 'Game Over' in a typeface mimicking the 'Game of Thrones' logo. By late afternoon, he was airborne for his Mar-a-Lago private club in Florida with wife Melania for the holiday weekend. Top Republicans in Congress saw vindication, too. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said it was time to move on from Democrats' effort to 'vilify a political opponent.' The California lawmaker said the report failed to deliver the 'imaginary evidence' incriminating Trump that Democrats had sought. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said Republicans should turn the tables and 'investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation.' But Democrats cried foul over Barr's preemptive press conference and said the report revealed troubling details about Trump's conduct in the White House. In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer wrote that 'one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding.' House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler added that the report 'outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct.' He sent a letter to the Justice Department requesting that Mueller himself testify before his panel 'no later than May 23' and said he'd be issuing a subpoena for the full special counsel report and the underlying materials. Signaling battles ahead, Nadler earlier called the investigation 'incredibly thorough' work that would preserve evidence for future probes. Barr said he wouldn't object to Mueller testifying. Trump himself was never questioned in person, but the report's appendix includes 12 pages of his written responses to queries from Mueller's team. Mueller deemed Trump's written answers — rife with iterations of 'I don't recall' — to be 'inadequate.' He considered issuing a subpoena to force the president to appear in person but decided against it after weighing the likelihood of a long legal battle. In his written answers, Trump said his comment during a 2016 political rally asking Russian hackers to help find emails scrubbed from Hillary Clinton's private server was made 'in jest and sarcastically' and said he did not recall being told during the campaign of any Russian effort to infiltrate or hack computer systems. But Mueller said that within five hours of Trump's comment, Russian military intelligence officers were targeting email accounts connected to Clinton's office. Mueller evaluated nearly a dozen episodes for possible obstruction of justice, and said he could not conclusively determine that Trump had committed criminal obstruction. The episodes included Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, the president's directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate. Sessions was so affected by Trump's frequent criticism of him for recusing himself from the investigation that he kept a resignation letter 'with him in his pocket every time he went to the White House,' Mueller said. The president's lawyers have said Trump's conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller's team deemed the episodes deserving of scrutiny for potential criminal acts. As for the question of whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, Mueller wrote that the campaign 'expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.' But Mueller said investigators concluded, 'While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges.' Workers at a Russian troll farm contacted Trump's campaign, claiming to be political activists for conservative grassroots organizations, and asked for signs and other campaign materials to use at rallies. While volunteers provided some of those materials — and set aside a number of signs — investigators don't believe any Trump campaign officials knew the requests were coming from foreign nationals, Mueller wrote. Mueller wrote that investigators 'did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.' Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, stressed that Mueller didn't think the president's obligations to run the executive branch entitled him to absolute immunity from prosecution. But to find that the president obstructed justice, he said, Mueller would have needed much clearer evidence that the president acted solely with 'corrupt intent.' 'The evidence was sort of muddled,' Blackman said, adding that the president's actions had multiple motivations. The report laid out some of Mueller's reasoning for drawing no conclusion on the question of obstruction. Mueller wrote that he would have exonerated Trump if he could, but he wasn't able to do that given the evidence he uncovered. And he said the Justice Department's standing opinion that a sitting president couldn't be indicted meant he also couldn't recommend Trump be criminally charged, even in secret. Trump's written responses addressed no questions about obstruction of justice, as was part of an agreement with Trump's legal team. He told Mueller he had 'no recollection' of learning in advance about the much-scrutinized Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer. He also said he had no recollection of knowledge about emails setting up the meeting that promised dirt on Clinton's Democratic campaign. He broadly denied knowing of any foreign government trying to help his campaign, including the Russian government. He said he was aware of some reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made 'complimentary statements' about him. It wasn't just Trump under the microscope. But Mueller wrote that he believed prosecutors would be unlikely to meet the burden of proof to show that Donald Trump Jr. and other participants in the Trump Tower meeting 'had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.' Nor did Mueller's probe develop evidence that they knew that foreign contributions to campaigns were illegal or other particulars of federal law. Barr's contention that the report contained only 'limited redactions' applied more to the obstruction of justice section than its look at Russian election meddling. Overall, about 40 percent of the pages contained at least something that was blocked out, mostly to protect ongoing investigations. Barr had said that he would redact grand jury information and material related to investigations, privacy and intelligence. ___ AP writers Zeke Miller, Mary Clare Jalonick, Lisa Mascaro, Dustin Weaver, Deb Riechmann, Susannah George, Michael R. Sisak, Stephen Braun, Jill Colvin, Jonathan Lemire, Darlene Superville, Jessica Gresko, Mark Sherman, Julie Pace and Elizabeth Kennedy contributed to this report. ___ For complete coverage of the Mueller report, go to https://www.apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
  • Remarks by the head of Chinese online business giant Alibaba that young people should work 12-hour days, six days a week if they want financial success have prompted a public debate over work-life balance in the country. Jack Ma is one of China's richest men and his comments last week brought both condemnation and support as China's more mature economy enters a period of slower growth. Newspaper People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, issued an editorial, saying mandatory overtime reflects managerial arrogance and was also impractical and unfair to workers. Online complaints included blaming long work hours for a lower birth rate in the country. Ma has responded to the criticism by saying work should be a joy and also include time for study, reflection and self-improvement.
  • The desperate cry for help came from a girl who had lived in such isolation for 17 years that she didn't know her address, the month of the year or what the word medication meant. But after jumping out a window from the filthy home where she lived with her parents and 12 siblings, she knew enough to punch the digits 9-1-1 into a barely workable cellphone and then began describing years of horrific abuse to a police dispatcher. The brave girl's call that freed her siblings — some who had been chained to their beds — led to the opposite fate for their parents, David and Louise Turpin, who face 25 years to life in prison when sentenced Friday. The couple pleaded guilty in Riverside County Superior Court in February to torture and other abuse and neglect so severe it stunted their children's growth, led to muscle wasting and left two girls unable to bear children. Before the 17-year-old escaped from the home in a middle-class section of the city of Perris, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, the Turpins had lived largely out of view. David Turpin, 57, had been an engineer for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Louise Turpin, 50, was listed as a housewife in a 2011 bankruptcy filing. Their home was neatly kept and neighbors rarely saw the kids outside the home. When deputies arrived, they were shocked by what they discovered. A 22-year-old son was chained to a bed and two girls had just been set free from their shackles. The house was covered in filth and the stench of human waste was overwhelming. Deputies testified that the children said they were only allowed to shower once a year. They were mainly kept in their rooms except for meals, which had been reduced from three to one per day, a combination of lunch and dinner. The 17-year-old complained that she could no longer stomach peanut butter sandwiches — they made her gag. The Turpin offspring weren't allowed to play like normal children. Other than an occasional family trip to Las Vegas or Disneyland, they rarely left the home. They slept during the day and were active a few hours at night. Although the couple filed paperwork with the state to homeschool their children, learning was limited. The oldest daughter only completed third grade. 'We don't really do school. I haven't finished first grade,' the 17-year-old said, according to Deputy Manuel Campos. Children said they were beaten, caged and shackled to beds if they didn't obey their parents. Investigators found that the toddler had not been abused, but all of the children were hospitalized after they were discovered. The seven adult children were living together and attending school in February when their parents pleaded guilty. Attorney Jack Osborn, who represents them, declined to comment on them Thursday. It's not clear if any children will attend the sentencing, but they will be offered a chance to speak or can offer written statements to be read in court. Defense attorneys would not say if their clients will address the court. The couple pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges. Prosecutors said the deal would likely keep them in prison for the rest of their lives and spare the children from testifying. 'The defendants ruined lives, so I think it's just and fair that the sentence be equivalent to first-degree murder,' District Attorney Mike Hestrin said at the time of the plea.
  • Japan's top automaker Toyota, auto parts maker Denso and internet company SoftBank's investment fund are investing $1 billion in car-sharing Uber's technology unit. The Japanese companies said Friday that Toyota Motor Corp. and Denso Corp. will together invest $667 million and SoftBank Corp.'s Vision Fund will contribute $333 million in Uber Technologies Inc.'s new entity, Advanced Technologies Group, or Uber ATG, which will try to develop and commercialize automated ridesharing services. The move comes as Toyota steps up such efforts, including investing $500 million in Uber, based in San Francisco, and setting up a $20 million joint venture with SoftBank to create mobility services, both announced last year. Toyota also promised to contribute up to $300 million more over the next three years for developing next-generation autonomous vehicles and services. Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Tomoyama said working together will help bring down costs and speed up development. Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi expressed hope that the deal, set to close by the third quarter, will help maintain Uber's leading position in the technology. 'The development of automated driving technology will transform transportation as we know it, making our streets safer and our cities more livable,' he said. SoftBank has invested in Didi and Grab, as well as Uber, and has acquired IoT leader Arm, while Toyota is developing autonomous vehicles in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Automakers around the world are forming tie-ups to develop next-generation transportation, and Google's Waymo and U.S. electric-car maker Tesla are also big players in the effort. ___ Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama On Instagram https://www.instagram.com/yurikageyama/?hl=en
  • The founder of a nonprofit group that was investigated over allegations it gave flutes possibly tainted with semen to schoolchildren has been charged with committing lewd acts against girls in California, it was announced Thursday. John Zeretzke, 60, of Ventura was indicted by an Orange County grand jury last month on charges involving five girls under age 14 in Los Angeles and Orange counties, the state attorney general's office said. Court records show he has pleaded not guilty to the charges, the Orange County Register reported. He was arrested this month and remained jailed Thursday, according to the county Sheriff's department website. A call to Zeretzke's home seeking comment was not immediately returned. Zeretzke founded an international program called Flutes Across the World that held programs in schools where thousands of students played or made flutes, which were distributed around the world. In 2017, California authorities began investigating reports that some flutes distributed to schoolchildren in Orange County school districts were tainted with semen. Parents in some districts were urged to put the flutes in paper bags and turn them in to authorities for testing. The new indictment did not provide many details and the attorney general's office declined to say whether the charges involved any allegations of tainted flutes. However, a statement from the office said the charges 'are not based upon allegations that he personally had physical contact with any child.' 'Crimes against children are despicable. Schools must represent a safe environment for our students,' Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in the statement. 'No parent should fear for the safety and security of their child at school. We will work relentlessly to hold people who exploit our children criminally accountable to the fullest extent of the law.' The state charges against Zeretzke involve different accusers than a previously-issued federal indictment that alleges child exploitation and receiving child pornography, authorities said. Federal prosecutors say Zeretzke tried to convince someone he believed was a 15-year-old girl to have sex with him and that he went to the Philippines in 2017 to have sex with a young person.

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  • It's a First Alert Weather Day in NE Florida with the potential for strong to severe storms as you're headed home to start the weekend.  Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says we're all going to see rain, and and in fact we did early this morning so roads are wet.  It’s windy and warm ahead of the arrival of a line of storms from the west. “Moving quickly to the east and northeast so expect conditions to change very quickly from one spot to another and from one time to another”, said Buresh.  Showers may linger into this evening and could even stick around early tomorrow. But we're in for a much cooler weekend.  
  • Here is a look at the stores planning to be open and those planning to close on Easter Sunday. >> Read more trending news Be sure to check with local retailers for Easter hours because some national chains set their own hours. Stores open and closed on Easter Academy Sports: Open Easter Sunday. Banana Republic: Closed Easter Sunday. Bass Pro Shop: Open Easter Sunday. Bed Bath & Beyond: Open Easter Sunday. >> Click here to see which grocery stores will be open on Sunday.  Belk: Closed Easter Sunday. Best Buy: Closed Easter Sunday. Cabela’s: Open Easter Sunday.  Costco: Closed Easter Sunday. >> Easter 2019: How to make perfect hard-boiled eggs for Easter egg dyeing Crate & Barrel: Closed Easter Sunday. CVS: Open Easter Sunday. Dillard’s: Closed Easter Sunday. Dollar General: Open Easter Sunday. Family Dollar: Open Easter Sunday. Fred Meyer: Open Easter Sunday. Gap: Closed Easter Sunday. Home Depot: Open Easter Sunday. >> How did crucifixion kill Jesus? J.C. Penney: Closed Easter Sunday. Kirkland's: Closed Easter Sunday. Kmart: Open Easter Sunday. Kohl's: Closed Easter Sunday. Lowes: Open Easter Sunday. Macy’s: Closed on Easter Sunday. Michael's: Closed Easter Sunday. Neiman Marcus: Closed Easter Sunday. Office Depot: Closed Easter Sunday. Office Max: Closed Easter Sunday. Old Navy: Open on Easter Sunday. Pier 1 Imports: Closed Easter Sunday. Pottery Barn: Closed Easter Sunday. Rite Aid: Open Easter Sunday. Ross: Closed Easter Sunday. Sam's Club: Closed Easter Sunday. Sears: Open Easter Sunday. >> Easter quotes 2019: Inspiring sayings of hope and renewal T.J. Maxx: Closed Easter Sunday. Target: Closed Easter Sunday. Walgreens: Open Easter Sunday. Walmart: Open Easter Sunday. Williams-Sonoma: Closed Easter Sunday.
  • Following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report on the Russia probe, your local lawmakers are weighing.  WOKV spoke with Northeast Florida Republican Congressman John Rutherford hours after the report's release on Thursday.  He tells us the important elements to him, were the findings that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and no corrupt intent determined in the obstruction of justice allegations.  But Rutherford says he was surprised that the Special Counsel didn't make a final prosecutorial decision on the obstruction of justice issue.  'He [Mueller] relies on the Office of Legal Counsel that says you can't indict a sitting President, and in this regard, he went along with that. But to say that's his basis for not coming to a conclusion on obstruction, when he came to a conclusion on the Russian collusion, it doesn't make sense to me,' explains Rutherford.  He says it's almost like Mueller didn't want to make a decision.  'The lack of a conclusion that there was a crime IS an exoneration... if you say you find no corrupt intent, we find no crime, how do you then say, but we can't exonerate him [Trump]. In that part, I struggle with the finding,' Rutherford adds.  In terms of the reaction on Capitol Hill, Rutherford says it's likely that those who support the President will highlight no collusion and no obstruction, but those who dislike him will latch on to the elements that the Special Counsel refused to come to a conclusion on.  When it comes to recent calls to 'investigate the investigators' in the Russia probe, Rutherford says he feels it's absolutely necessary as he wants to know the 'predicate act' that started this investigation in the first place.  'We don't just investigate people, we investigate crimes. And there has to be a predicate act, that indicates there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred. And if that predicate act turns out to be the Steele Dossier and it's completely false, then this whole thing falls like a house of cards,' says Rutherford.  WOKV also spoke with Northeast Florida Democrat Congressman Al Lawson about his thoughts on the report.  He says his biggest takeaway is that the American people will find out what really happened during the course of this investigation with the President.  'Because, as you know, about 25 people that worked with him [Trump] during the course of the campaign got indicted,' explains Lawson.  He says the other thing that stands out to him is that he feels Attorney General William Barr is more trying to protect the President, than do his job for the American people. Lawson says he also doesn't feel the AG's summary to Congress was accurate.  Lawson says when people and lawmakers read this report, he hopes they move away from putting a party label on it.  'I wish what they would put on it, is what is best for American people and, especially, when you have some possible collusion with Russia. It's unacceptable to have that regardless of who is in office and see the way the President has been operating- not like any other President in American history,' says Lawson.  When it comes to efforts to 'investigate the investigators', he says all of us need to be accountable and that investigators need to be unbiased and not swayed one way or another.  'This has taken up an awful lot of time, and we, as taxpayers, have spent an awful amount of money to be where we are today. It shouldn't be a situation where everything is being questioned, simply due to the fact that over the last almost two years, the investment we have made in order to get down to see whether a foreign government had significant input in our electoral process,' says Lawson.  He says his hope that once all the dust settles on this report, that the public has a clear vision of what occurred. READ: REDACTED SPECIAL COUNSEL REPORT ON THE RUSSIA PROBE
  • U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday released a redacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Read more trending news The report was released around 11 a.m., weeks after Mueller completed his investigation. President Donald Trump hailed the report as a victory over his critics. >> Mueller Report: Read the report Barr just released Update 6:45 p.m. EDT April 18: The Justice Department said it will provide Congress with a second version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that has fewer redactions in the coming two weeks. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in a letter to lawmakers Thursday that the Justice Department will make the report available to House and Senate leaders, as well as the top Republicans and Democrats on the judiciary and intelligence committees. Each lawmaker can also have a staff member present. Boyd said the report will be provided in a secure reading room at the Justice Department next week and in a secure room in the Capitol the week of April 29. The unredacted material will include classified information and material involving private citizens who were not charged. It won’t include secret grand jury information. Update 3:45 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller’s report shows the Russian-based Internet Research Agency worked not only in Trump’s favor but also in favor of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who ran for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination before losing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The company’s attempt to boost Sanders’ candidacy first surfaced last year, after authorities charged more than a dozen people and three companies with interfering in the election, The Washington Post reported. According to the newspaper, IRA operators were instructed not to harm Sanders’ reputation. “Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them),” Mueller quoted IRA operators as saying. Update 2:55 p.m. EDT April 18: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler said Thursday that he will issue a subpoena to get the full Mueller report and the underlying materials from Barr after the attorney general released a redacted version of the report. “Contrary to public reports, I have not heard from the Department (of Justice) about receiving a less-redacted version of the report,” he said Thursday in a statement. “Because Congress requires this material in order to perform our constitutionally-mandated responsibilities, I will issue a subpoena for the full report and the underlying materials.” Barr is scheduled to testify before the committee May 2. Update 2:25 p.m. EDT April 18: Kellyanne Conway, who serves as counselor to the president, told reporters Thursday that Mueller’s report was inaccurate in its description of Trump’s reaction to the special counsel’s appointment. >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupre: Mueller: Trump obstruction failed because aides refused orders to undermine Russia probe According to Mueller, the president 'slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm (expletive).’' However, Conway said she was in the room when Trump learned about the appointment and that she “was very surprised to see” Mueller’s report on it, CNN reported. “That was not the reaction of the president that day,” she said. Update 2 p.m. EDT April 18: Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement Thursday that the special counsel’s report showed “no collusion, no obstruction.” “While many Democrats will cling to discredited allegations, the American people can be confident President Trump and I will continue to focus where we always have, on advancing an agenda that’s making our nation stronger, safer and more secure.” Despite the vice president’s claims, Mueller declined to answer the question of whether Trump obstructed justice in his actions related to the Russia probe. “Now that the Special Counsel investigation is completed, the American people have a right to know whether the initial investigation was in keeping with long-standing Justice Department standards -- or even lawful at all,” Pence said. “We must never allow our justice system to be exploited in pursuit of a political agenda.” Update 1:45 p.m. EDT April 18: In a joint statement released Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr and Mueller reached conflicting conclusions on the question of whether the president obstructed justice. “The differences are stark between  what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what Special Counsel Mueller said on obstruction,” the statement said. “As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller’s report appears to undercut that finding.” In his report, Mueller declined to answer questions surrounding whether Trump obstructed justice in his efforts to tamp down on the Russia probe, which authorities said he saw as a direct challenge to his presidency. Update 1:40 p.m. EDT April 18: In the report released Thursday, Mueller said his team’s investigation was sometimes hampered by the use of applications that “feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records” and the deletion of communications relevant to the probe. “In such cases, the Office (of the Special Counsel) was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts,” the report said. “Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given  these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast a new light)the events described in the report.” Update 1:20 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted in an interview that her comments to the news media after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey were “not founded on anything.” In response to a reporter’s question about FBI support for Comey after his May 2017 dismissal, Huckabee Sanders said at news briefing that, “We’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.” 'The evidence does not support those claims,' according to the Mueller report. Update 1:15 p.m. EDT April 18: The House Intelligence Committee invited Mueller to testify next month after Barr released a redacted version of his 448-page report Thursday. “To discharge its distinct constitutional and statutory responsibility, the Committee must be kept ‘fully and currently informed’ of the intelligence and counterintelligence findings, evidence, and implications of your investigation,” committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff said in a letter to Mueller dated Thursday. “This requires that the Committee receive comprehensive testimony from you about the investigation’s full scope and areas of inquiry, its findings and underlying evidence, all of the intelligence and counterintelligence information gathered in the course of the investigation.” The House Judiciary Committee has also asked Mueller to testify. In a letter sent Thursday, committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler asked Mueller to appear before the panel by May 23. Update 12:45 p.m. EDT April 18: Brad Parscale, manager of the 2020 Trump presidential campaign, hailed the release of Mueller’s report Thursday and repeated the president’s calls for an investigation into the investigators. “President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated yet again,” Parscale said in a statement. “Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.” In the report released Thursday, Mueller said the FBI launched an investigation into whether Trump campaign officials were coordinating with the Russian government in July 2016. The investigation came after authorities said then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that “the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” Update 12:35 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller said Trump attempted to influence the investigation into Russian election meddling. Mueller said his efforts “were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede his request.” Mueller’s report details instances by several officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, former White House counsel Don McGahn and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, ignoring or refusing Trump’s requests to interfere in the investigation. Update 12:15 p.m. EDT April 18: When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump in May 2017 that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian election meddling, the president 'slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm (expletive).'  Trump blamed Sessions for the appointment, according to Mueller. 'Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,' Trump said, according to the report released Thursday. 'It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.' Speaking Thursday at an event at the White House, Trump said, “this should never happen to another president again.” Update 11:45 a.m. EDT April 18: In the report released Thursday, Mueller said his team considered Trump’s written responses to questions in the Russia probe to be inadequate, but they decided against subpoenaing the president because of the delay such a move would cause to the investigation. Other revelations from the report include: Mueller said Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn in June 2017 to call the acting attorney general and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest. Trump previously denounced reports of the call as “fake news.”  Members of Trump’s staff might have saved him from more dire legal consequences by refusing to carry out orders they thought were legally risky, according to The Washington Post.  Mueller made clear in the report that “Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was willing to take” the help, the Post reported. However, investigators were unable to establish that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government. Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 18: In his report, Mueller shared the reasoning behind his decision not to answer the question of whether the might have president obstructed justice. Mueller’s team scrutinized 10 episodes in which Trump sought to seize control of the Russia probe, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate.  The president’s lawyers have said Trump’s conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller’s team deemed the episodes were deserving of scrutiny to determine whether crimes were committed. Update 11:25 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was “having a good day” following the release of the Mueller report. “This should’ve never happened,” Trump told a crowd gathered at a Wounded Warriors event at the White House, according to CNN. “I say this in front of my friends — this should never happen to another president again. This hoax — it should never happen again.' Trump’s attorneys hailed the report as “a total victory for the president” in a statement released to CNN. “The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning - there was no collusion - there was no obstruction,” the statement said. “This vindication of the President is an important step forward for the country and a strong reminder that this type of abuse must never be permitted to occur again.” >> The Mueller report: What is in it, when will it be released, what will happen next? Update 11 a.m. EDT April 18: Barr has released a redacted version of the Mueller report, which is 448 pages long. >> Mueller report: Read the transcript of William Barr's remarks Update 10:55 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump was expected to deliver remarks Thursday morning at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride as lawmakers and the public await the release of Mueller’s report. However, by 10:55 a.m., Trump had yet to appear for the event. Update 10:30 a.m. EDT April 18: In a letter sent Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler asked Mueller to testify before the panel no later than May 23. Nadler released his letter to Mueller minutes after Barr spoke with reporters about the report, which is expected to be released Thursday. Barr told reporters he had “no objection to Bob Mueller testifying.” “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler said. Update 10:20 a.m. EDT April 18: Barr said he plans to release a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report to several congressional committees on Thursday “in an effort to accommodate congressional requests” for Mueller’s full report. “These members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted materials for themselves -- with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared,” Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference. “I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the special counsel’s investigation.”    Update 10:05 a.m. EDT April 18: At a news conference Thursday morning, Barr said it will be important to view President Donald Trump’s actions in context. “President Trump faced an unprecedented situation,” Barr said. “As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.” Barr said the Office of the White House Counsel has reviewed the redacted version of Mueller’s report but that Trump declined to assert privilege over it. Trump took to Twitter after Barr spoke to highlight that there was 'No collusion. No obstruction.' Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 18: Mueller’s report details two main efforts sponsored by Russian government officials to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference ahead of the report’s release. The report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with ties to the Russian government, to “sow social discord among American votes through disinformation and social media operations,” Barr said. It also details efforts by Russian military officials connected to the GRU, “to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party.” “The special counsel found no evidence that any Americans -- including anyone associated with the Trump campaign -- conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme,” Barr said. Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump called the Mueller investigation 'The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!' in a series of tweets posted Thursday ahead of the release of the report. >> Mueller report: Trump tweets 'presidential harassment' ahead of redacted report's release “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he wrote in a subsequent tweet. Trump has frequently criticized the Mueller investigation, framing the probe as a political “witch hunt” aimed at harming his presidency. Original report: Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report to Congress between 11 a.m. and noon Thursday before sharing the report on the special counsel’s website, Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree reported. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Battle lines clear as D.C. awaits redacted Mueller report Mueller completed his investigation late last month, 22 months after he launched his probe at the direction of the Justice Department. The investigation was frequently lambasted by President Donald Trump as a “witch hunt” aimed at undermining his presidency. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • It's some big news for St. Johns County parents, students, and teachers. The St. Johns County Schools Superintendent Tim Forson has announced he's canceling the district final exams, with the exception of iReady testing.  Forson says during this first week of testing, there have been 'significant issues' with the administration of the tests, which are computer-based.  He says while the district's staff has worked late hours to try to resolve the issues, he ultimately decided to cancel the district final exams to 'remove the frustration of inconsistent test administration and protect instructional time.'  Forson says students need to continue to learn to prepare for other required upcoming assessments, including the Florida Standards Assessment, among many others.  Forson says he does not expect the same issues for these other tests, as they are not done on the same testing platform.  He's assuring parents that the second semester grading scale will be adjusted, following this decision, so that the absence of a final exam will not penalize a student. Forson says the student performance element of teacher evaluations will also be adjusted.  Forson says parents can expect an update on the alternative grading plan, as soon as it's finalized.

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