Trump: No transition turmoil, efforts going ‘so smoothly’
NEW YORK (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump and his team on Wednesday vigorously rejected charges of turmoil and infighting roiling efforts to set up his White House, national security and economic teams. A week after his upset victory, Trump said the enormous endeavor was proceeding “so smoothly.”
Trump dished out his rebuttal on Twitter, spending yet another day ensconced in his New York skyscraper, beyond the public eye. Aides and allies vouched for the transition efforts on his behalf, suggesting some commotion was to be expected.
“The beginning of any transition like this has turmoil because it’s just the nature of the process,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said as he left Trump’s transition headquarters in Washington. He said the picture of Trump’s administration would become clearer over the next two or three weeks.
Others close to the transition process described advisers “fighting for power.” Trump has long stoked internal rivalries among his staff — both in his businesses and his campaign — and has created ambiguity in his transition about who has authority to make key decisions.
Eric Trump, one of the president-elect’s sons, raised expectations of imminent progress Wednesday, telling reporters in the morning that appointments were “likely” to come during the day. Then, other Trump aides suggested a slower pace.
Giuliani’s foreign work complicates candidacy for top post
WASHINGTON (AP) — Rudy Giuliani, President-elect Donald Trump’s top candidate for top diplomat, has advised foreign political figures and worked for lobbying and security firms whose clients have had complicated relationships with the U.S. government.
While not personally involved in lobbying, Giuliani spent years at firms which represented governments and multinational companies, some of which had interests that diverged from those of the United States. He also made speeches demanding the State Department remove an Iranian opposition group from a U.S. terror blacklist.
As the former New York mayor waits to discover if he is Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Giuliani’s extensive consulting and advising work for foreign and corporate clients could expose him to the same criticisms he raised about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ties to foreign governments and corporations that had donated to her family charity, the Clinton Foundation.
“What she did with the Clinton Foundation and all the favors the State Department did for hundreds of millions of dollars is, to me, clear violation of the conflict of interest law,” Giuliani told CNN in August.
But when Clinton was secretary of state, she was the one concerned about Giuliani after he took a trip to Belgrade and met with leaders of a Serbian political party once allied with Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Obama urges nations not to give in to isolationist impulses
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Standing in democracy’s birthplace, President Barack Obama on Wednesday issued a parting plea to world leaders not to let the fear of globalization tugging at Europe and the U.S. pull them away from their core democratic values. He argued it wasn’t too late for a course correction.
On his last foreign trip as president, Obama has repeatedly tried to draw lessons from Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, hoping it can serve as wake-up call in the U.S. and abroad. Conceding that many feel left behind by globalization, Obama said there was an understandable impulse toward isolationism and that if people feel their futures are at risk, “they’ll push back.”
“People have to know that they’re being heard,” Obama said in a speech to the Greek people in Athens. But, he added, “We can’t look backward for answers. We have to look forward.”
While fewer people in the U.S. are looking to Obama for direction now that his successor has been chosen and his agenda largely rebuked, Obama has retained significant clout abroad. His message Wednesday appeared aimed at other world leaders facing pressures of nationalist movements and economic anxiety, exemplified by Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union.
From Greece, Obama took a short flight to Germany, which has emerged as one of the strongest voices for preserving a unified, inclusive Europe. Yet even German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces her own threat from a nationalist right-wing movement, fueled in part by anger over her generous policy toward resettling Syrian migrants pouring into Europe.
Officer charged in shooting that was streamed on Facebook
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — When Philando Castile was pulled over in July, he calmly told the officer he had a gun and was licensed to carry it, according to prosecutors. Moments later, the officer fired on the motorist, and a bleeding Castile uttered his last words: “I wasn’t reaching for it.”
On Wednesday, that officer was charged with second-degree manslaughter following an investigation by prosecutors, who concluded that Jeronimo Yanez was wrong to use his weapon in the traffic stop, which was seen by millions after Castile’s girlfriend streamed his final gruesome moments live on Facebook.
“No reasonable officer, knowing, seeing and hearing what officer Yanez did at the time, would’ve used deadly force under these circumstances,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said.
Prosecutors believe Castile never tried to pull his handgun from his pocket, and Yanez’s unreasonable fear did not justify the shooting, Choi said.
If convicted, the officer could face up to 10 years in prison.
Drug prices don’t budge even after pressure from Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress’s routine of publicly shaming drug company executives over high prices works no better than a placebo: It may make some people feel better, but it doesn’t treat the problem.
In the last two years, House and Senate committees issued more than a dozen subpoenas to price-hiking drugmakers, collecting hundreds of thousands of documents and berating executives for more than 16 hours of public hearings.
But a review by The Associated Press of the list prices of nearly 30 brand-name medications and generic versions targeted by congressional investigators shows most haven’t budged since coming under federal scrutiny, according to figures from Truven Health Analytics.
“These companies have made clear that they are not going to change course on their own — they will keep bilking the American people for all they can unless Congress acts,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Unlike most countries, the U.S. doesn’t regulate drug prices. That means drugmakers, like other businesses, are largely free to set prices as high as the market will bear.
Extensive cultural damage found in historic Iraqi city
NIMRUD, Iraq (AP) — Nearly a month into the fight to retake Mosul, government forces pushed Islamic State militants out of nearby Nimrud, home to some of Iraq’s richest archaeological treasures. And when soldiers finally surveyed the extremists’ destruction of the ancient sites, one said that those who carried it out “don’t have a place in humanity.”
Intricate reliefs that once stood at the gates to the magnificent Assyrian palace lay in pieces: stone carvings of a face, half of a claw, part of a wing, fragments of script.
In April 2015, the Islamic State extremists released a shocking video that showed how they had hammered, bulldozed and blew up parts of the 13th century B.C. Assyrian capital in the Tigris River valley south of Mosul.
Iraqi officers accompanied journalists to the site Wednesday, wandering through the piles of rubble and snapping photos of the damage that U.N. officials had once called “a war crime.”
The Assyrian Ziggurat, nearly 3,000 years old and once one of the tallest surviving buildings of the ancient world, has been leveled. On palace walls, only small fragments of stone carvings remained. Two Assyrian winged-bull statues that once marked the palace entrance have been completely destroyed. In a palace doorway, four deep cracks defaced a large carving of an Assyrian guardian spirit.
Police: Airport shooting likely case of workplace revenge
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A man who gunned down a Southwest Airlines employee outside of Oklahoma City’s airport likely did so in retaliation for having lost his own job with the airline last year, police said Wednesday.
Lloyd Dean Buie, 45, killed 52-year-old Michael Winchester on Tuesday as Winchester was leaving work and walking to an employee parking lot, police Capt. Paco Balderrama said at a news conference. Buie fired the shot from the fourth floor of a parking garage when Winchester was about 50 yards away, he said. Buie was later found dead in his pickup truck in the garage.
“We know his intention was to go to the airport to hurt someone,” Balderrama said. “The suspect knew where the employees parked and where they would be walking.”
Winchester died from a single gunshot wound to the chest, the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Wednesday. Buie’s death was ruled a suicide from a single gunshot wound to the head.
Buie quit his job as a ramp agent for Southwest in April 2015 after he refused to take an alcohol screening, airline spokeswoman Brandy King said Wednesday. She said co-workers had suspected Buie was under the influence at work, but she declined to say if Winchester, a ramp supervisor who had worked for Southwest for 29 years, was involved.
McConnell to lead Senate GOP, Schumer new Democratic leader
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans re-elected Mitch McConnell on Wednesday to be majority leader next year while Democrats picked Chuck Schumer to lead them, setting the chief actors as the chamber prepares for an agenda that will be dominated by Donald Trump and the GOP.
McConnell, 74, is a discreet but deadly master of the Senate’s legislative chess game. His role will be to steer GOP bills to the desk of a president whose name he barely spoke during a tumultuous campaign in which many Republicans viewed Trump and his incendiary comments on Muslims, veterans and others as political poison.
“It’s time to accept the results of the election, to lower the tone and to see what we can do together to make progress for the country,” McConnell, from Kentucky, told reporters Wednesday.
As Senate minority leader, Schumer will assume his weakened party’s most powerful remaining post as it struggles to define its role in a Republican-dominated government.
The New Yorker’s ascension from his No. 3 spot has been a virtual lock since last year, when he quickly cemented votes for the top job after current Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced he’d retire. Most of each party’s leaders will remain in their posts next year, an ironic stability following an election that seemed to show a demand by voters for change.
Melvin Laird, Vietnam War defense secretary, dies at 94
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Melvin Laird, a former Wisconsin congressman and U.S. defense secretary during years when President Nixon struggled to find a way to withdraw troops from an unpopular war in Vietnam, died on Wednesday, his family said. He was 94.
His grandson, Raymond Dennis Large III, said that Laird died in Florida.
Laird left a legacy that included a telephone call that eventually played a role in one of the biggest political stories of the century — the Watergate scandal that drove Nixon from office.
Laird was Nixon’s counselor on domestic affairs in October 1973 when Nixon had to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew, who had resigned in scandal. Laird called his good friend, Michigan Rep. Gerald Ford, to ask if he would be interested in replacing Agnew.
“Frankly, the question came like a bolt out of the blue,” Ford said in 1997, recalling his conversation with the “can-do conservative” from Wisconsin.
Claude Monet painting fetches $81.4M in NYC
NEW YORK (AP) — A painting from Claude Monet’s acclaimed “Grainstack” series fetched $81.4 million at Christie’s New York auction of impressionist and modern art.
Wednesday evening’s sale set a new auction record for the artist. The previous auction record for a Monet was $80.4 million set in 2008.
The 1891 painting, shimmering with hues of reds, pinks, blues and yellow, depicts a close-up of a single cone-shaped stack after harvest.
Monet’s “Grainstack” series — 25 in all — was painted just steps from his home outside a farmer’s field in the French village of Giverny.
The work offered Wednesday night was one of a few still in private hands.