Trump partly denies, also defends vulgar immigrant comments
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday offered a partial denial in public but privately defended his extraordinary remarks disparaging Haitians and African countries a day earlier. Trump said he was only expressing what many people think but won't say about immigrants from economically depressed countries, according to a person who spoke to the president as criticism of his comments ricocheted around the globe.
Trump spent Thursday evening making a flurry of calls to friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction to the tempest, said the confidant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose a private conversation. Trump wasn't apologetic about his inflammatory remarks and denied he was racist, instead, blaming the media for distorting his meaning, the confidant said.
However, critics of the president, including some in his own Republican Party, spent Friday blasting the vulgar comments he made behind closed doors. In his meeting with a group of senators, he had questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, according to one participant and people briefed on the remarkable Oval Office conversation.
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The comments revived charges that the president is racist and roiled immigration talks that were already on tenuous footing.
"The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used," Trump insisted in a series of Friday morning tweets, pushing back on some depictions of the meeting.
Some media figures call Trump racist after profane remarks
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Donald Trump ignored the stunning question at a White House appearance on Friday — "Mr. President, are you a racist?" — but there's no getting around that more people in the media are willing to use that label.
The president's reference to African "shithole" countries and reported resistance to more immigration from Haiti felt like a tipping point in the number of people willing to call Trump a racist, rather than say his words or actions exhibited racism.
Calling someone a bigot is not a step to be taken lightly, but now "the arguments for being reticent seem absurd," wrote John Cassidy of The New Yorker. "The obvious truth can no longer be avoided or sugarcoated: we have a racist in the Oval Office."
An emotional Sunny Hostin on "The View" Friday, noting that her husband's family is from Haiti, said she's always resisted labeling Trump because she couldn't look into his heart. "I can say now, Donald Trump is a racist," she said. "I hate saying that, but I can say that now."
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow called him "an openly racist president." In using the same label, CNN's Don Lemon asked, "How many examples do you need of this?" CNN's White House correspondent Jim Acosta said that "it's a disturbing pattern because it seems to come back to one truth here and that is that this president deep down may just be a racist."
Report: Trump lawyer brokered $130,000 payment to porn star
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's personal lawyer brokered a $130,000 payment to a porn actress to prevent her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, according to a report Friday in The Wall Street Journal.
Trump met Stephanie Clifford, whose goes by the name Stormy Daniels in films, at a golf event in 2006 — a year after Trump's marriage to his wife, Melania. According to the Journal's report, Clifford began talking with ABC News in the fall of 2016 for a story involving an alleged relationship with Trump, but reached a $130,000 deal a month before the election, which prevented her from going public.
Trump's longtime attorney Michael Cohen arranged for the payment through Clifford's lawyer, Keith Davidson, the Journal reported.
Clifford had also been in discussions with the online magazine Slate, The New York Times reported Friday. Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, told the Times that Clifford had told him she had an affair with Trump.
In a statement to the Journal, Cohen did not address his role in negotiating the supposed payment but said Trump denies any such relationship with Clifford. Clifford has previously denied an alleged relationship with Trump. Cohen also sent the Journal a statement — signed by "Stormy Daniels" — in which the actress denied receiving "hush money" from Trump.
Has flu season, in full swing, reached its height?
NEW YORK (AP) — Flu is now widespread in every state except Hawaii, but the good news is the season appears to already be peaking.
It's been a rough few weeks: Hospitals have set up tents to handle patient overflow. Doctors are putting in double and triple shifts. Ambulances have been sidelined while paramedics waited to drop off patients.
"This morning, I couldn't stand up. I was really weak," said Margaret Shafer, who went to a Seattle emergency room this week after a bout with the flu was followed by pneumonia.
But an update out Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows patient traffic for flu is no longer skyrocketing the way it was in December.
"It looks like it's starting to level out," said the CDC's Lynnette Brammer, who oversees flu tracking.
White House doctor: Trump in 'excellent health'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's White House physician declared him in "excellent health" after the president received his first medical checkup at Walter Reed military hospital on Friday, undergoing a physical examination amid suggestions in a recent book and by his detractors that he's mentally unfit.
Dr. Ronny Jackson, in a statement released by the White House, said the examination "went exceptionally well. The President is in excellent health and I look forward to briefing some of the details on Tuesday." Trump spent about three hours at the medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington, for the Friday afternoon checkup, his first as president, before departing for Florida for the weekend.
The fairly routine exam for previous presidents has taken on outsized importance in the age of Trump, given the tone of some of his tweets, comments attributed to some of his close advisers and Trump's recent slurring of words on national TV.
Some of the comments were published in a new book about Trump's first year, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff, which White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has denounced as "complete fantasy" for portraying her 71-year-old boss as undisciplined and in over his head as president.
Trump himself has pushed back hard against any suggestion that he's mentally unfit, declaring himself "a very stable genius." He told reporters on Thursday that he expected the exam "to go very well. I'll be very surprised if it doesn't."
Most of mudslide-stricken California town told to empty out
MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) — Most residents of mudslide-ravaged Montecito were under orders to clear out Friday as the search for victims dragged on and crews labored to clean up massive debris and repair power, water and gas lines.
Even those who didn't lose their homes in the disaster that left at least 18 people dead were told to leave for up to two weeks so they wouldn't interfere with the rescue and recovery operation.
It was another frustrating turn for those living in the Southern California town that has been subject to repeated evacuation orders in recent weeks, first because of a monster wildfire last month, then because of downpours and mudslides.
Cia Monroe said her family was lucky their home wasn't ruined and they were all healthy and safe, though her daughter lost one of her best friends.
But Monroe said it was stressful after evacuating three times during the wildfire to be packing up a fourth time. A family had offered them a room to stay overnight, but then they were looking at spending up to $3,000 a week for a hotel.
Stocks keep pushing higher in 2018, led by retailers
NEW YORK (AP) — Rising retailers pushed U.S. stock indexes further into record territory on Friday, as the market's fabulous start to 2018 carried through its second week.
Interest rates also climbed after a report showed that a key component of inflation accelerated last month. But stocks absorbed the gains without a hiccup, unlike earlier in the week when rate worries helped send the Standard & Poor's 500 lower for its lone blemish this year.
The S&P 500 rose 18.68 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,786.24 on Friday to close out its seventh week of gains in the last eight. The index is already up more than 4 percent for 2018.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 228.46, or 0.9 percent, to 25,803.19, the Nasdaq composite rose 49.28, or 0.7 percent, to 7,261.06 and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks gained 5.18, or 0.3 percent, to 1,591.97.
Retailers led the way after a government report confirmed that the holiday shopping season was a strong one, with retail sales rising 0.4 percent last month following a 0.9 percent surge in November. The numbers fit with what individual retailers have said recently, and several have raised their profit forecasts as a result.
Florida man wins $451 million Mega Millions jackpot
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A 20-year-old Florida man claimed the $451 million Mega Millions jackpot on Friday, choosing to get $282 million at once instead of more in annual installments.
A Florida Lottery news release said Friday that 20-year-old Shane Missler, of Port Richey, had claimed the jackpot from the multistate game's Jan. 5 drawing. They say he chose to receive his winnings in a one-time, lump-sum payment of $281,874,999.
"I'm only 20, but I hope to use it to pursue a variety of passions, help my family and do some good for humanity," he said in a statement.
The winning numbers to claim the nation's 10th-largest jackpot were 28-30-39-59-70 with a Mega Ball of 10.
The winning ticket was bought at a 7-Eleven in Port Richey. The retailer will receive a $100,000 bonus.
Stars 'shocked' at gender pay disparity in Hollywood
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Stars are sharing their shock at reports of a significant pay disparity between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams for reshoots on the Ridley Scott film "All the Money in the World."
Two reports say Wahlberg was paid far more than Williams for the reshoots in which Kevin Spacey was replaced by Christopher Plummer after accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced against Spacey. USA Today reported this week that Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for the 10 days of reshoots, while Williams got less than $1,000 for the same work.
Representatives for Wahlberg and Williams did not respond to requests for comment Friday. Imperative Entertainment, which produced the film, declined to comment.
But actor Liam Neeson said it's a healthy and necessary discussion to have, because "the disparity, sometimes, is (expletive) disgraceful."
"We as men have got to be part of it," he told The Associated Press earlier this week. "We started it, so we have to be part of the solution."
Man convicted of 3 killing civil rights workers dies in jail
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Edgar Ray Killen, a 1960s Ku Klux Klan leader who was convicted decades later in the "Mississippi Burning" slayings of three civil rights workers, has died in prison at the age of 92, the state's corrections department announced.
Killen was serving three consecutive 20-year terms for manslaughter when he died at 9 p.m. Thursday inside the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. An autopsy was pending, but no foul play was suspected, the statement Friday said.
His conviction came 41 years to the day after James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, all in their 20s, were ambushed and killed by Klansmen.
The three Freedom Summer workers had been investigating the burning of a black church near Philadelphia, Mississippi. A deputy sheriff in Philadelphia had arrested them on a traffic charge, then released them after alerting a mob. Mississippi's then-governor claimed their disappearance was a hoax, and segregationist Sen. Jim Eastland told President Lyndon Johnson it was a "publicity stunt" before their bodies were dug up.
The slayings shocked the nation, helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning." The movie title came from the name of the FBI investigation.