Trump says he expects to be arrested, calls for protest
NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump claimed on Saturday that his arrest is imminent and issued an extraordinary call for his supporters to protest as a New York grand jury investigates hush money payments to women who alleged sexual encounters with the former president.
Even as Trump's lawyer and spokesperson said there had been no communication from prosecutors, Trump declared in a post on his social media platform that he expects to be taken into custody on Tuesday.
His message seemed designed to preempt a formal announcement from prosecutors and to galvanize outrage from his base of supporters in advance of widely anticipated charges. Within hours, his campaign was sending fundraising solicitations to his supporters, while influential Republicans in Congress and even some declared and potential rival candidates issued statements in his defense.
In a later post that went beyond simply exhorting loyalists to protest about his legal peril, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his overarching ire in all capital letters at the Biden administration and raised the prospect of civil unrest: “IT’S TIME!!!” he wrote. “WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA!PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
It all evoked, in foreboding ways, the rhetoric he used shortly before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. After hearing from the then-president at a Washington rally that morning, his supporters marched to the Capitol and tried to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden's White House victory, breaking through doors and windows of the building and leaving officers beaten and bloodied.
Some Trump rivals rally to his side as possible charges loom
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Top Republicans, including some of Donald Trump's potential rivals for the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination, rushed to his defense Saturday after Trump said he is bracing for possible arrest.
“The idea of indicting a former president of the United States is deeply troubling to me as it is to tens of millions of Americans," said former Vice President Mike Pence, a likely Trump rival, during a visit to Iowa, an early-voting state. Tech investor Vivek Ramaswamy, campaigning in South Carolina, said he didn't want to live in a country where “the party in power is able to use police force to arrest its political opposition."
The reaction underscores the political risks faced by would-be opponents who are eager to convince voters that it is time to move on from the former president, but who must contend with the fact that he remains the most popular figure in the party. The multiple investigations Trump is facing — his post on social media about the Manhattan district attorney's probe led to the public declarations of support — remain deeply unpopular with his supporters and criticizing Trump too harshly risks alienating his loyal base.
Trump garnered similar support last summer after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago club as part of an investigation into his handling of classified documents. The search also proved a fundraising boon.
Among those coming to Trump's defense were House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said a possible indictment would be “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance" against Trump.
From highlands to the coast, quake damages Ecuador, Peru
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Juan Vera lost three relatives when a strong earthquake that shook parts of Ecuador and Peru on Saturday brought down his niece’s home. The government has offered to pay for the woman’s funeral and those of her baby and her partner, but Vera wonders why local authorities allowed his relatives to live in such an old home to begin with.
“Because of its age, that building should have been demolished already,” Vera said outside the morgue in Ecuador’s community of Machala, where he was waiting for the three bodies to be released. “... I’m sorry, the mayor’s office is the entity that has to regulate these things through its planning departments so that the buildings are in good condition to be rented out or inhabited.”
The earthquake with about 6.8 magnitude, as reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, killed at least 15 people, injured hundreds and brought down homes and buildings in vastly different communities, from coastal areas to the highlands. But in Ecuador, regardless of geography, many of the homes that crumbled had a lot in common: They housed the poor, were old and did not meet building standards in the earthquake-prone country.
The earthquake centered just off the Pacific Coast, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. One of the victims died in Peru, while 14 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported that at least 381 people were injured and dozens of homes, schools and health care centers were damaged.
The office of Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso reported that 12 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the highlands state of Azuay.
Facing arrest warrant, Russia's Putin visits annexed Crimea
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the Black Sea peninsula’s annexation from Ukraine on Saturday, the day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader accusing him of war crimes.
Putin visited an art school and a children’s center that are part of a project to develop a historical park on the site of an ancient Greek colony, Russian state news agencies said.
The ICC accused him Friday of bearing personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine during Russia's full-scale invasion of the neighboring country that started almost 13 months ago.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that most of the world denounced as illegal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded that Russia withdraw from the peninsula as well as the areas it has occupied since last year.
Putin has shown no intention of relinquishing the Kremlin’s gains. Instead, he stressed Friday the importance of holding Crimea.
Arkansas ousts defending champ Kansas from March Madness
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Eric Musselman and his players rushed across the floor at the final buzzer to celebrate with their joyfully delirious friends from Arkansas.
The 58-year-old coach jumped onto the press table, ripped off his red polo shirt and waved it over his head, shouting all the while to the fans' delight, as has become his tradition after the biggest of his wins.
And this was a really big one.
Kansas' national title defense ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday when Arkansas' Ricky Council IV made five free throws in the closing seconds and the eighth-seeded Razorbacks beat the No. 1 seed Jayhawks 72-71.
“I would love to lie and say that I felt composed, but we only led for 1:43,” he said. “This has been as challenging and as up-and-down a season as I’ve ever been a part of.
Russia, Ukraine extend grain deal to aid world's poor
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — An unprecedented wartime deal that allowed grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices are pushing more people into poverty was extended just before its expiration date, officials said Saturday.
The United Nations and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the extension, but neither confirmed how long it would last. The U.N., Turkey and Ukraine had pushed for 120 days, while Russia said it was willing to agree to 60 days.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted Saturday that the deal would remain in effect for the longer, four-month period. But Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian news agency Tass that Moscow "agreed to extend the deal for 60 days.”
“Any claim that it’s prolonged for more than 60 days is either wishful thinking or deliberate manipulation,” Russia's deputy ambassador to the U.N., Dmitry Polyansky, said.
Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other affordable food products that developing nations depend on. Two ships carrying more than 96,000 metric tons of corn left Ukrainian ports on Saturday bound for China and Tunisia, according to U.N. data.
Bank failures: Anger in Congress, but division on what to do
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bills were filed, hearings were planned and blame was cast as Congress reacted this past week to the abrupt failure of two banks. A look at what lawmakers are saying and planning as the fallout continues from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.
QUICK LEGISLATIVE FIXES UNLIKELY
While President Joe Biden called Monday on Congress to strengthen the rules for banks to prevent future failures, lawmakers are divided on whether any legislation is needed.
Some congressional leaders are skeptical that a closely divided Congress will act at all.
“There’s people who are going to choose bills, but I cannot imagine that, with the hold banks have on Republican members of Congress, that we can pass anything significant,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Pro-Moscow voices tried to steer Ohio train disaster debate
WASHINGTON (AP) — Soon after a train derailed and spilled toxic chemicals in Ohio last month, anonymous pro-Russian accounts started spreading misleading claims and anti-American propaganda about it on Twitter, using Elon Musk's new verification system to expand their reach while creating the illusion of credibility.
The accounts, which parroted Kremlin talking points on myriad topics, claimed without evidence that authorities in Ohio were lying about the true impact of the chemical spill. The accounts spread fearmongering posts that preyed on legitimate concerns about pollution and health effects and compared the response to the derailment with America's support for Ukraine following its invasion by Russia.
Some of the claims pushed by the pro-Russian accounts were verifiably false, such as the suggestion that the news media had covered up the disaster or that environmental scientists traveling to the site had been killed in a plane crash. But most were more speculative, seemingly designed to stoke fear or distrust. Examples include unverified maps showing widespread pollution, posts predicting an increase in fatal cancers and others about unconfirmed mass animal die-offs.
“Biden offers food, water, medicine, shelter, payouts of pension and social services to Ukraine! Ohio first! Offer and deliver to Ohio!” posted one of the pro-Moscow accounts, which boasts 25,000 followers and features an anonymous location and a profile photo of a dog. Twitter awarded the account a blue check mark in January.
Regularly spewing anti-US propaganda, the accounts show how easily authoritarian states and Americans willing to spread their propaganda can exploitsocial mediaplatforms like Twitter in an effort to steer domestic discourse.
Election conspiracy movement grinds on as 2024 approaches
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — One by one, the presenters inside the crowded hotel ballroom shared their computer screens and promised to show how easy it is to hack into voting systems across the U.S.
Drawing gasps from the crowd, they highlighted theoretical vulnerabilities and problems from past elections. But instead of tailoring their efforts to improve election security, they argued that all voting machines should be eliminated — a message that was wrapped in conspiracies about elections being rigged to favor certain candidates.
“We are at war. The only thing that's not flying right now is bullets,” said Mark Finchem, a Republican candidate for secretary of state in Arizona last year who continues to contest his loss and was the final speaker of the daylong conference.
Finchem was among a group of Republican candidates running for governor, secretary of state or state attorney who disputed the outcome of the 2020 election and who lost in a clean sweep last November in important political battleground states, including Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Yet deep distrust about U.S. elections persists among Republicans, skepticism fueled by former President Donald Trump’s false claims and by allies who have been traveling the country meeting with community groups and holding forums like the one recently just outside Nashville, attended by some 250 people.
Prosecutor to release video of death of man in custody
DINWIDDIE, Va. (AP) — Prosecutors plan next week to release the video that led authorities in Virginia to charge seven deputies and three state mental hospital employees with second-degree murder in the death of a handcuffed and shackled man.
The family of Irvo Otieno saw the video of his death Thursday. With their blessing, the footage will be released to the public in the next several days, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Attorneys for the family described the video to reporters as 12 agonizing minutes of deputies pushing down and smothering Otineo, a Black man whose arms and legs were restrained.
“You can see that they’re putting their back into it. Every part of his body is being pushed down with absolute brutality,” family attorney Mark Krudys said.
Prosecutors said Otieno, 28, didn’t appear to be combative and was sitting in a chair when he was pulled down by officers.
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