NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s renouncement of birtherism on Friday came with some media gamesmanship that compelled television news networks to air 20 minutes of endorsements by retired military men before the candidate briefly got to the point.
“We all got Rick-rolled,” said CNN’s Jake Tapper, a reference to the Internet prank of replacing an expected link with a video of singer Rick Astley’s 1987 hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
The bad blood continued after the event when the Trump campaign barred text reporters and a television producer from joining him on a tour of the new Trump International Hotel in Washington. In response, cable and broadcast networks refused to use any video of the tour.
Trump’s long-expressed doubts that President Obama was born in the United States — despite a birth certificate proving Obama’s eligibility for the presidency — resurfaced with a Washington Post interview on Thursday where Trump would not say whether or not he believed the president was born in Hawaii in 1961.
With criticism of his birther movement starting anew, Trump’s campaign signaled that the candidate would address the issue Friday at a Washington event. When Trump stepped to the podium at 11:04 a.m. EDT, he was carried live on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
Following a short statement that didn’t address the birther issue, Trump stepped aside for a succession of Medal of Honor recipients to approach the microphone and endorse him.
The networks stuck with the event, essentially a Trump commercial, until Fox News Channel pulled away at 11:25 a.m. for a studio discussion and the other two networks shortly followed suit. By 11:30, Trump stepped back to the podium and all the networks went back to him live.
After claiming that opponent Hillary Clinton had started the birther discussion, a false claim for which he offered no evidence, Trump took credit for ending it.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States,” Trump said. “Period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”
He then stepped away without taking questions.
Tapper called the appearance “a disservice to the people who were offended by that movement, people who thought it was racist.”
“What they did was tease us, play us,” said CNN’s Dana Bash, saying the networks would not have aired the veterans’ statements otherwise.
Bash isn’t likely to find much sympathy among Trump supporters, many of whom distrust and dislike the media. Ripping reporters is a time-honored tactic among Republican office-seekers, and Trump has eagerly joined in.
“It was political and media genius,” said Melissa Francis during the Fox News program, “Outnumbered.”
What it amounted to was the equivalent of over $1 million worth of free media time for Trump, estimated Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis.
“You don’t think Hillary wants her events to be covered like this? Of course she does,” Kofinis said. “It’s more than a question of fairness. It really is a question of responsibility. This is not a reality TV show. I’m not sure that everyone has come to terms with that.”
The cable networks need to take greater control over their airtime and not just cede it on the promise of getting news, or the hope of getting a boost in viewership, said Mark Feldstein, a former broadcast journalist and now a professor at the University of Maryland.
“They are more than willing to swallow the bait because they know the ratings are going to go up when Trump goes on the air — even when their credibility goes down when they realize he has conned them,” he said.
It comes after a TV-friendly day where Trump discussed some of his medical records with talk show host Mehmet Oz, drawing laughter and applause when the television doctor said Trump had high testosterone levels, and “Tonight” show host Jimmy Fallon playfully mussed the candidate’s hair during a light-hearted interview.
Following the Washington event, Trump’s campaign invited the television network’s pool camera to join him on a tour of his Washington hotel. Reporters were barred. ABC News producer Candace Smith, Friday’s pool representative who usually accompanies the camera operator and reports back to her colleagues about what she saw, tweeted that she was “physically restrained” from doing so.
For Trump, it ensured that no one would immediately question what CNN’s John King called “the biggest flip-flop of the campaign.”
Television networks agreed not to use the camera person’s footage. “The TV pool traditionally doesn’t participate in events that our reporters or producers are not allowed to attend,” said Bryan Boughton, Fox News Washington bureau chief and current chairman of the TV pool.
AP National Political Reporter Lisa Lerer contributed to this account from Washington.
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A proud Ho-Chunk Nation member, Bronson Koenig has been speaking out about his Native American heritage since his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, long before public displays of social consciousness by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, soccer player Megan Rapinoe and other NFL players.
Like Kaepernick, the senior point guard believes it’s time to put his words into action. He, his brother and a trainer were driving 11 hours Friday to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where thousands are camping out on federal land and trying to stop construction of a $3.8 billion, four-state oil pipeline, which they say could harm the Missouri River — a water source for many — and has affected sacred sites.
“I think I had planned on going to North Dakota before the Kaepernick stuff started, but it’s definitely nice to see a professional athlete trying to make a positive change for his community and his culture,” Koenig said. “I’m thankful for this opportunity to use my platform to try and make a difference. I want to join the fight and help protect my people’s land and water.”
Koenig is bringing along what he knows: basketball. He’ll put on a free three-hour basketball clinic for Native American youths, so they can “meet me, talk to me and just have a good time.” Koenig, his brother Miles and trainer Clint Parks also are bringing donated food, clothing and other supplies to the encampment, which abuts the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation.
Koenig said he has been following the complaints over the Dakota Access pipeline for several months, but began to feel sense of urgency in last two weeks due to more intense clashes between protesters, law enforcement and private security guards.
“I’ve seen videos of people getting arrested and dogs being sicked on them, all that kind of stuff,” Koenig said. Plus, with official practice slated to start in two weeks, it was his only window to spend some time there.
Associate head coach Lamont Paris said the Badgers’ coaches and players fully support Koenig’s activism.
“It’s something that he believes in and we trust him thoroughly,” Paris said. “He is helping to raise awareness for a good cause.”
Koenig, who is from La Crosse, Wisconsin, did not grow up on a reservation but regularly attended pow-wows and other Native American events as a kid.
There wasn’t much else that could get him out of the gym — he’d spend up to six hours at the local YMCA honing his skills.
He has gained the nickname “Klutch Koenig” at Wisconsin for his buzzer-beating shots and last-minute playmaking. He ranked second on the team in scoring and assists last season, as well as having the Big Ten’s best assist-to-turnover ratio, meaning he rarely makes mistakes despite handling a majority of the ball-handling duties.
“I take my heritage very seriously and I just want to learn more about it. There are going to be a lot of different Native Americans there from different tribes across the country,” Koenig said. “A lot of athletes send tweets out or Instagrams or whatever but I actually want to make a stand and put action to my words.”
BEIRUT (AP) — Trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Syria’s besieged rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo were held up for yet another day as heavy fighting broke out Friday on the edges of Damascus between government forces and insurgents.
The clashes were some of the most serious since a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire went into effect this week. The fighting and mutual accusations of violations sparked concern that the fragile cease-fire, which brought some relief to millions of people across the war-ravaged country, may be starting to fray.
In a further sign of tensions picking up, the Obama administration warned Russia that potential military cooperation in Syria will not happen unless humanitarian aid begins to flow into Aleppo and other besieged communities.
The Russian military had said that the Syrian army withdrew its armor, artillery and other weapons from a key highway near Aleppo early Thursday, signaling the possible arrival of aid convoys after several days of delay. Syrian state TV said bulldozers began clearing the road on the northwestern edge of Aleppo that leads into besieged rebel-held neighborhoods to make way for the convoys.
But a Russian official, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Savchenko, said the Syrian army Friday moved its heavy weapons back to Castello Road after the opposition failed to withdraw their arms in sync in line with the truce deal.
In a video call from Castello Road, Russian Col. Sergei Kapitsyn said the rebels fired on government positions overnight, wounding two Syrian soldiers and prompting the Syrian army to move their weapons back to the road to prevent the rebels from advancing.
The Russian military said it has complained to the U.S. at a joint working group in Geneva about the opposition’s failure to pull back in sync with the Syrian army, but received no immediate response. The Russian military also claimed that the Syrian opposition has used the truce to regroup and strengthen its forces.
In a Friday phone call, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Moscow must use its influence with the Syrian government to get the aid moving, adding that delays in the assistance had been “repeated” and “unacceptable.”
Kerry told Lavrov that unless the aid is delivered, the U.S. will not move ahead with the formation of a joint facility with Russia to coordinate attacks on terrorist groups and share intelligence.
Sustained delivery of humanitarian aid, along with a decrease in violence, is a requirement for that cooperation under an agreement Kerry and Lavrov reached last week.
If the aid starts flowing and the cease-fire holds, the expectations are that such a climate would pave the way for the restart of Syria peace talks that collapsed earlier this year.
Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the Russian military’s General Staff declared a readiness to extend the cease-fire for another 72 hours, adding that Moscow expects Washington to take “resolute action” to end violations by the U.S.-backed opposition units to prevent the situation from “spinning out of control.”
At the United Nations, the U.S. and Russia called for a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the situation in Syria. The council was to hold closed consultations later Friday.
The development comes after Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Thursday that he hoped the Security Council would adopt a resolution endorsing the cease-fire deal at next week’s high-level General Assembly. Lavrov has said that Russia would like to publish details of the cease-fire deal he hammered out with Kerry last week but that there are U.S. objections to such a move.
Earlier Friday, a Syrian opposition monitoring group reported that Russian troops deployed along the Castello Road, which would mark the most overt participation of its ground forces in the Syrian war and underline Moscow’s role as a major power broker. Russia intervened with its air force on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government last year, turning the tide of the war in his favor.
A main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said it rejects the presence of a “Russian occupation” force on the road and that U.N. peacekeepers should run the operation. The Russian Defense Ministry only mentioned that it had military observers on the road and said nothing about troop deployment.
Aleppo-based activist Bahaa al-Halaby said humanitarian conditions in the eastern neighborhoods of Syria’s largest city are deteriorating. “There are wounded people and others who need food,” he said.
The Syrian government, meanwhile, accused insurgents of firing a rocket that hit a church in the government-held side of Aleppo, causing material damage but no casualties.
Meanwhile, hours-long fighting and shelling that erupted in neighborhoods on the edges of Damascus on Friday were the heaviest in the Syrian capital in weeks, according to activists and residents. Insurgents shelled government-held areas in the eastern Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun, wounding three people, Syrian state media said. SANA said the shelling violates the cease-fire.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting between government troops and rebels is concentrated in the neighborhood of Jobar, next to Qaboun, where rebels have had a presence for years.
Mazen al-Shami, an opposition activist near Damascus, said government forces tried to storm Jobar but were repelled by opposition fighters. Al-Qaida and Islamic State group militants, who are excluded from the cease-fire, are not present in the area, he said.
“This is one of the most serious violations of the cease-fire,” al-Shami said via Skype.
SANA accused the insurgents of launching the attack, triggering retaliation by government forces.
The truce has been holding despite some violations, with the Syrian opposition on Thursday reporting 46 cease-fire violations around the country. The Observatory on Thursday reported the first three deaths since the cease-fire went into effect on Monday night.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Moscow is using its influence on the Syrian government to make sure the cease-fire holds and wants the United States to do the same with regards to opposition groups.
U.N. officials said they were awaiting word from Russia and Syrian combatants on both sides that security and monitoring are in place to allow for deliveries of humanitarian aid into rebel-held parts of Aleppo city.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said U.N. officials are waiting for assurances that conditions are safe enough for convoys to proceed from Turkey to eastern Aleppo. Laerke said the trucks are in a “special customs zone” on the Turkish border.
Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has imposed sanctions on a French citizen considered to be one of the top Syria-based recruiters of potential militants.
Omar Diaby was added to the State Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists Friday, which imposes sanctions on foreigners or groups who have committed or are looking to commit acts that threaten U.S. security. He is known for his French-language jihadi recruitment videos, notably on YouTube, and was among the first to target girls for recruitment.
The suspect who drove a 19-ton truck into crowds gathered for Bastille Day celebrations in Nice this year was found to have links to Diaby.
Also named to the list was Fathi Ahmad Mohammad Hammad, a senior Hamas official who the State Department said has coordinated extremist cells.
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — From Watergate to Deflategate, scandals involving prominent public figures invariably revolve around the same questions: What did they know, and when did they know it?
As two former allies of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie prepare to go on trial Monday for closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September 2013, allegedly in an act of political revenge, it is Christie’s version of events that has fueled the most speculation.
What the governor knew and when he knew it are just two of many questions still being asked after three years, three separate investigations and the release of thousands of pages of private texts and emails.
WHEN DID CHRISTIE LEARN THE LANE CLOSURES HAD BEEN ORDERED BY SUBORDINATES?
Christie said in December 2013 no one in his office was involved. A month later, he said he was “heartbroken” to learn deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, one of two defendants on trial next week, lied to him. Yet a former Christie staffer — who is expected to testify at the trial — texted a colleague during that December news conference that the governor “flat out lied,” according to a court filing last month. Christie denies he lied.
WHO ARE THE UNINDICTED CO-CONSPIRATORS, HOW HIGH-RANKING WERE THEY AND HOW DEEPLY WERE THEY INVOLVED?
Media organizations sued to get the list but were denied by a federal appeals court after an unidentified person on the list filed a motion to stop its release. The list itself likely won’t be introduced at trial, but defense attorneys are expected to use the names on it to try to show the alleged scheme extended far beyond Kelly and Bill Baroni, a former executive of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The U.S. attorney’s office has said the unindicted co-conspirators either were cooperating with the investigation or were otherwise not charged because there wasn’t believed to be enough evidence to convict them. Christie has said it’s highly doubtful he’s on the list.
WHAT WILL DAVID WILDSTEIN’S TESTIMONY REVEAL?
The former political blogger and director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority pleaded guilty in May 2015 and told a judge the scheme was aimed at punishing Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who hadn’t endorsed Christie’s re-election. Wildstein hasn’t spoken publicly since the scandal broke, but his attorney, Alan Zegas, has said “evidence exists to establish” Christie knew of the lane closures while they were occurring. Zegas has offered no further details.
WAS BARONI ACTING ON ANYONE’S ORDERS WHEN HE TOLD A LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE THE LANE CLOSURES WERE PART OF A TRAFFIC STUDY?
Jurors likely will watch the video of Baroni’s appearance in which he engaged in frequently testy exchanges with lawmakers, some of whom he had sparred with previously when he was a state senator.
WHAT’S ON CHRISTIE’S PHONE?
Defense attorneys have subpoenaed the cellphone of Christie and other high-ranking staffers at the time of the lane closures and their aftermath. They have accused the U.S. attorney’s office of not aggressively pursuing since-deleted text messages between the governor and a subordinate sent during Baroni’s legislative testimony.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia police are “addressing” an unusual crime spree: Someone is stealing the ones and zeroes from addresses mounted on people’s homes.
WTXF-TV (http://bit.ly/2cMDzy9 ) says it’s happening in the city’s East Kensington section.
Meghan Haley says she noticed the zero missing from her home on Wednesday and saw a woman stealing it when she checked her surveillance video .
Another woman, Krista Ricca, was awakened by the sound of a power drill about 4 a.m. and saw a man stealing a number from her neighbor’s home across the street.
The news website Billy Penn first reported the thefts.
Scott Fisher had a zero stolen. He says he doesn’t know if “someone is trying to send a message or someone just has an obsession with zeroes and ones.”
Information from: WTXF-TV, http://www.foxphiladelphia.com