WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on a congressional inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election (all times local):
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is defending himself against suggestions he played a role in Russia’s efforts to interfere with the U.S. presidential campaign.
Manafort says in a statement that he had “no role or involvement” in the cyber hack of the Democratic National Committee and disclosure of stolen emails. He says he’s never spoken to any Russian officials or others who claimed to be involved in the attack.
Manafort says there is “constant scrutiny and innuendo” but “no facts” backing up allegations. He says he’s disappointed anyone would legitimize attempts to discredit him and President Donald Trump’s election.
Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign amid revelations his firm had lobbied for a pro-Russian party in Ukraine. His name came up repeatedly during a House intelligence committee hearing Monday.
President Donald Trump is keeping tabs on the congressional hearing on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He’s tweeting that the FBI and National Security Agency are telling Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process.
That put FBI Director James Comey in the unusual situation of having to respond to presidential tweets in the middle of his testimony.
Trump’s tweet seemed to differ with what Comey said. He told members of the House intelligence committee that the FBI has offered no opinion, and has no view and no information, on the potential impact on the election because that’s not something the FBI looked at.
Comey did say earlier in the hearing, however, that there is no evidence that Russian meddling resulted in changes of any vote tallies.
The White House is distancing itself from two former senior members of Donald Trump’s team, amid an FBI investigation into possible connections between Trump “associates” and Russia.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday referred to Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as a “volunteer of the campaign.” And he said Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign leading up to the Republican National Convention, “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”
Flynn resigned from the White House last month after he was found to have misled senior members of the administration about his contacts with Russia’s top diplomat to the U.S.
Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign last summer following allegations of contacts with Russian intelligence officials.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi says an independent investigative commission should be created to look into possible links and coordination between associates of President Donald Trump and Russian officials seeking to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Pelosi’s comments came after FBI Director James Comey confirmed in congressional testimony that the agency has been investigating the matter since last July. He also told the panel that he has no evidence that former President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower.
California Democrat Pelosi said that “the American people deserve answers.”
She said that the possibility of Trump officials and Russian officials conspiring to influence the election “represents a grave threat to our national security and our democracy.”
Pelosi says Trump should apologize over his extraordinary wiretapping claim.
President Donald Trump is highlighting FBI Director James’ Comey’s refusal to say whether he briefed President Barack Obama on a Trump adviser’s contacts with Russia.
Trump tweeted a video clip of Comey being asked if he informed Obama about calls made by Michael Flynn, who was fired as White House national security adviser. Comey says he won’t discuss that case or any other discussions he had with Obama.
The tweet appears to suggest that the Obama administration was behind leaks about Flynn’s contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Flynn was fired after news reports revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials about his discussions with the envoy.
Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, is denying that the British intelligence community was ever asked to conduct electronic surveillance on President Donald Trump at the behest of former President Barack Obama.
Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer referred to unsubstantiated allegations made by a Fox News analyst that GCHQ, the British electronic intelligence agency, had helped Obama wiretap Trump. The British intelligence agency flatly denied it happened.
The ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, asked Rogers if he thought it was “utterly ridiculous” that anyone in the U.S. would ask British spies to do surveillance on a presidential candidate. Rogers said it was and added that he had seen nothing at the NSA that would indicate that happened.
The Senate’s top Democrat says that President Donald Trump “severely damaged his credibility” with Twitter postings claiming that former President Barack Obama ordered wiretaps of him.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer issued the statement after FBI Director James Comey told a House panel that there was no information that supports Trump’s allegation.
Schumer said Trump “needs to retract his claim immediately.”
He added that Trump “should admit he was wrong, stop the outlandish tweets.”
FBI Director James Comey says the FBI and Justice Department have no information to substantiate President Donald Trump’s claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him before the election.
Comey says no individual can order surveillance of an American. He says courts grant this permission after a rigorous application process.
Comey was testifying before the House intelligence committee. Comey said the Justice Department also asked him to share with the committee that the answer also applies to the Justice Department and its various components. The Justice Department oversees the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
FBI Director James Comey and Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, say they have no evidence or intelligence that Russian cyber actors changed vote tallies in key states during last year’s presidential election.
Testifying at a highly politically charged congressional hearing in the House, both said they had no evidence that any vote tallies were changed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina or Ohio.
The House intelligence committee is holding a hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers says the intelligence community stands behind its January assessment that it is highly confident Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of electing Donald Trump.
In a Monday morning tweet, Trump blamed Democrats for the investigation into his contacts and said the House intelligence committee should be focus on investigating leaks.
Rogers said that his agency is working to provide Congress the material it needs to investigate the intelligence agencies’ findings.
Rogers was testifying before the House intelligence committee alongside FBI Director James Comey.
FBI Director James Comey is publicly confirming for the first time that the FBI is investigating Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any potential coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russia’s government.
Comey is testifying before Congress. He says he’s authorized by the Justice Department to make the disclosure. Typically, the FBI does not discuss or even confirm the existence of ongoing investigations.
Comey says the probe is part of the FBI’s counter-intelligence mission. He says the investigation includes the nature of any links between individuals associated with Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between Russia’s efforts and the campaign.
Comey says the investigation will also look at whether crimes were committed. He says he can’t provide details about the investigation.
The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says he hopes FBI Director James Comey will put questions about whether Trump Tower was wiretapped by President Barack Obama “permanently to rest.”
Rep. Adam Schiff is speaking at the start of the committee’s hearing on Russia’s interference in the presidential election. Comey is testifying at the hearing, along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.
Schiff says Democrats on the committee will be focused in part on whether Americans helped Russia with its hacking of Democratic groups and individuals.
Trump has said he has no knowledge of his associates coordinating with Russia during the election. He’s refused to back down from his assertion that Obama wiretapped his New York City skyscraper during the campaign, despite there being no evidence.
The chairman of the House intelligence committee says there was no physical wiretap on Trump Tower, but it’s possible that “other surveillance activities” were used against President Donald Trump and his associates.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is speaking at the opening of the committee’s first public hearing on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. He says the committee has seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents, but will continue to investigate that question.
He also says the committee will investigate who has been leaking classified information about investigations into Russia’s interference.
Nunes says he hopes the committee’s hearings will result in a “definitive report” on Russia’s involvement in the presidential election.
President Donald Trump is accusing Democrats of fabricating allegations about Russia and creating more “fake news.”
His tweets came just hours before a congressional hearing on Russia. The House Intelligence Committee will hear from FBI Director James Comey on whether U.S. officials believe Russia tried to bolster Trump’s chances in the election and if there were any connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign aides.
Trump tweeted Monday: “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!”
A separate tweet referenced James Clapper, the director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, who has said that Trump’s allegation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower is false. “James Clapper and others stated there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it.”
Trump also tweeted that the “real story” is the leaking of classified information.
A congressional inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election that has so far unfolded behind closed doors moves into the open with a public hearing featuring FBI Director James Comey.
A hearing Monday before one of several congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, the House Intelligence Committee, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.
Comey has been invited to testify, along with the director of the National Security Agency, Michael Rogers.
The committee is investigating, among other things, Russian hacking that intelligence officials have said was meant to influence the election. Also of interest to the committee are any connections between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — At Universal Orlando Resort’s new “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” ride, waiting in line has been replaced by lounging on couches and listening to a racy barber shop quartet sing until it’s time to enter the ride.
Universal is leading the theme-park charge into “virtual lines” that give visitors options for exploring a park or watching live entertainment instead of the tedium of looking at someone’s back as you inch forward step by step to the thrill ride.
“It’s kind of a bit of a science experiment for all of us,” said Jason Surrell, a Universal creative director said about the “queue-less” waits. “We’ve known for years that waiting in line is one of the biggest dis-satisfiers in our guests’ day.”
Universal is also trying the concept at another attraction. Later this year, when Universal opens its new Volcano Bay water park in Orlando, visitors will be given wristbands that will alert them when it’s their turn to get on a ride.
“I think it represents the future of what we’re going to be doing in themed entertainment,” Surrell said. “I kind of joke that this is the first step on a journey that will eventually lead us to a generation that doesn’t even know about theme park lines. It will be ‘What do you mean, wait in a queue? What’s that, Grandpa?'”
Virtual lines are the latest evolution in theme parks’ efforts to shorten or eliminate waits for rides, or if waits are necessary evils, to improve the experience of biding one’s time.
Almost two decades ago, those efforts were concentrated on elaborately-designed “pre-ride” lines such Universal’s The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, which goes past an elaborately-detailed “Daily Bugle” newsroom.
A few years later came the ride reservations systems of the FastPass and Express Pass at Disney and Universal parks, respectively, in which ride-goers are assigned periods of time to show up for rides. But those reservations need to be made ahead of time, for the most part, and visitors can only make them on three rides a day.
Universal opens that concept to everybody, not just advanced planners, with its two new attractions, while also offering entertainment during the wait.
“Everybody is trying to do this, working not only on the rides but how to get you on the rides,” said Dennis Speigel, who heads the theme park consulting firm, International Theme Park Services. “Universal is at the forefront right now.”
The Jimmy Fallon attraction and the Volcano Bay water park take different approaches to virtual lines.
At the Jimmy Fallon attraction, which opens next month, visitors enter an area made to look like the lobby of a Rockefeller Center building. Instead of getting in line, they can meander through the lobby looking at photos and memorabilia of past and present “Tonight Show” hosts and watch TVs playing clips of hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon. Up a flight of stairs are a lounge with couches, half a dozen consoles with touch screens displaying “Tonight Show” videos and a theater stage. Visitors can hang out in the lounge area, charging their phones or talking while they wait. They can dance or take photos with an actor in the costume of Hashtag the Panda, a staple character from Jimmy Fallon’s show or listen to a performance from “The Ragtime Gals,” an incarnation of the barber shop quartet which is also a staple of the TV show.
When they enter the building, visitors are given a card with one of the colors in the NBC peacock logo. When it’s their turn to go on the ride, lights in the waiting area will flash their color and the singers will announce the color. If they don’t want to wait in the building, they can return at a designated time.
Universal hasn’t released many details about how virtual lines will work at Volcano Bay, other than to say a watch-like device named “TapuTapu” will be given to visitors. It will flash “Ride Now” when it’s their time to go on a ride.
Technology and our growing impatience with waiting are driving the move toward virtual lines, Speigel said.
The proliferation of cell phone apps, along with the development of wristbands that emit radio signals, pioneered by Disney and able to track movement, made the virtual lines technically possible. America’s growing impatience with waiting, from speed dating to Amazon Prime’s two-hour deliveries makes it culturally imperative.
“Nobody wants to stand in line. We want to be first,” Speigel said. “It’s just the way society is evolving.”
Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mikeschneiderap . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/Mike-Schneider .
MOSCOW (AP) — Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was doused in bright green antiseptic by an unknown assailant Monday on a campaign trip to Siberia, and quickly sought to make the best of it on his blog.
Navalny, speaking on his video blog from the Siberian city of Barnaul, said his colleagues likened him to the film characters Shrek, the Hulk and the lead character from the movie “The Mask,” among others.
“May be they thought in the Kremlin that I wouldn’t record videos if I have a green face. But I certainly will, as even more people will see me!” he said.
Navalny is traveling around Russia opening campaign headquarters and campaigning to run in Russia’s 2018 presidential election. A criminal conviction for fraud officially bars him from running, but he has called the charges politically motivated and vowed to appeal them.
President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to easily win another six-year term in the vote.
The charismatic Navalny, a lawyer who has campaigned against official corruption, was a driving force behind the massive anti-Putin protests in Moscow in 2011-12.
Navalny said an unknown man sprayed the green liquid, a common Russian antiseptic that remains on skin for days, in his face while pretending that he wanted to greet him. He said the man then jumped into a car that drove him to the regional administration headquarters.
“My stylish green face perfectly fits the interiors of our headquarters,” he said.
Navalny posted pictures in which he was trying to clean the green liquid from his face with a cloth soaked in solvent, which just made it more evenly colored all over.
“I’m a bit worried about my teeth: they are green too! I hope they will be white again,” he declared.
LONDON (AP) — A British court has disclosed that an Islamic State-linked extremist has pleaded guilty to five offenses after being found with incriminating information stored in a cuff link.
Samata Ullah had a USB-equipped cufflink with a Linux operating system loaded onto it that was used to store extremist data, including a blog.
He pleaded guilty earlier this month at the Old Bailey courthouse to five offenses including possession of an article for terrorist purposes. The court withheld the information until Monday for legal reasons.
The 34-year-old from Wales was arrested in September and admitted ties to the so-called Islamic State group. He was found to have provided instructional videos on how to protect sensitive data and remain anonymous online through encryption programs.
UIlah has not been sentenced.
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — The young Palestinian women don baseball caps on top of their Islamic headscarves and field tennis balls with fabric gloves, giving a decidedly local feel to the great American pastime.
They are trying to bring baseball to the Gaza Strip, an effort that is still in its early innings.
The players, who work out on a small soccer pitch in a southern Gaza town, admit they are still trying to understand the rules of the complicated sport. With pitches lobbed underhand, the game they play is closer to softball.
“I only know it through TV,” said Valentina Shaer, a 23-year-old English literature student.
Mahmoud Tafesh, the team’s coach, said he has dreamed of bringing baseball to Gaza since he was introduced to the game last year.
Although baseball is a fringe sport throughout the soccer-crazy Middle East, the game has grown in popularity. Iraq has a national team, and one of the country’s coaches introduced Tafesh to baseball last year while both were in Egypt, which now boasts a baseball and softball federation.
Tafesh admits he still has much to learn. He is unfamiliar with any of the teams or players in Major League Baseball and gets most of his knowledge from YouTube videos.
When he returned to Gaza, he was concerned about the lack of equipment and whether the conservative society, which is governed by the Islamic militant group Hamas, would accept the idea of girls playing the sport.
He first approached girls at the only sports education college in Gaza. To his surprise, he found interest in baseball was stronger among girls than boys.
“We targeted this group because they had permission from their families to play sport as sports students. Through them, we started to spread, attracting girls from other fields such as journalism and accountants,” he said after finishing a two-hour training session for the girls.
The women say their families had no objection, and some parents even encouraged them. But the society overall has not been as receptive.
Shaer said people “on social media had a bad idea about us,” noting abusive comments when their pictures first appeared.
On Sunday, the team, which includes 20 to 30 members, had its weekly practice on a soccer pitch in the female section of Al-Aqsa University, built on lands that were part of Jewish settlements before Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.
There were no males except for the coach, and some other students gathered to watch the women playing catch and taking batting practice. The batters took wild swings, often missing but occasionally making solid contact.
The players wore headscarves as well as long-sleeve running tops and loose pants, in keeping with local norms.
“While we face difficulties, we would like a specialized softball field to learn it correctly and train freely without any obstacles,” said Iman Shahin, an athlete who studies sports education.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power in 2007, heavily restricting travel and trade, and making it difficult to acquire specialized sports equipment.
Tafesh said he found just one baseball glove in all of Gaza, at the Sports Ministry building, and took it to local tailors who used it to make replicas out of black fabric.
With no proper bats in the territory, the team took a piece of wood and shaped it to look like one.
While seeking funding and real equipment, the women dream of eventually competing abroad.
“All of us share the same goal: participate and represent the name of Palestine outside and show that there are sports for the girls in Gaza,” said 24-year-old Iman Mughaier.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police in Philadelphia are searching for a group of teenagers involved in a subway station fight.
Authorities say the brawl began after a street-level snowball fight around 3:45 p.m. Thursday. Officials say the teens eventually moved down to the subway station and fought within the group.
Video released by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority also shows some teenagers from the group kicking, stomping and punching two men who are curled up on the ground.
Police say at least three victims sustained minor injuries.
No criminal charges have been filed. SEPTA police want to interview the teens to determine what happened.