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    For nearly 100 days, President Donald Trump has rattled Washington and been chastened by its institutions. He's startled world leaders with his unpredictability and tough talk, but won their praise for a surprise strike on Syria. He's endured the steady drip of investigations and a seemingly endless churn of public personnel drama. 'It's a different kind of a presidency,' Trump said in an Oval Office interview with The Associated Press, an hour-long conversation as he approached Saturday's key presidential benchmark. Trump, who campaigned on a promise of instant disruption, indirectly acknowledged that change doesn't come quickly to Washington. He showed signs that he feels the weight of the office, discussing the 'heart' required to do the job. Although he retained his signature bravado and a salesman's confidence in his upward trajectory, he displayed an understanding that many of his own lofty expectations for his first 100 days in office have not been met. 'It's an artificial barrier. It's not very meaningful,' he said. Trump waffled on whether he should be held accountable for the 100-day plan he outlined with great fanfare in his campaign's closing days, suggesting his 'Contract with the American Voter' wasn't really his idea to begin with. 'Somebody put out the concept of a 100-day plan,' he said. One hundred days are just a fraction of a president's tenure, and no president has quite matched the achievements of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who set the standard by which all are now judged. Still, modern presidents have tried to move swiftly to capitalize upon the potent, and often fleeting, mix of political capital and public goodwill that usually accompanies their arrival in Washington. Trump has never really had either. A deeply divisive figure, he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton and had one of the narrower Electoral College victories in history. Since taking office on Jan. 20, his approval rating has hovered around 40 percent in most polls. Trump's early presidency has been dogged by FBI and congressional investigations into whether his campaign coordinated with Russians to tilt the race in his favor. It's a persistent distraction that Trump would not discuss on the record. Furthermore, his three months-plus in office have amounted to a swift education in a world wholly unfamiliar to a 70-year-old who spent his career in real estate and reality television. For example, his two disputed travel ban executive orders are languishing, blocked by federal judges. On Capitol Hill, majority Republicans muscled through Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, but had to blow up long-standing Senate rules to do so. Then there was the legislative debacle when Trump's own party couldn't come together to fulfill its long-sought promise of repealing President Barack Obama's health care law. H.W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said Trump is learning that 'the world is the way it is for a whole bunch of complicated reasons. And changing the guy at the top doesn't change the world.' Trump won't concede that point. But he acknowledged that being commander in chief brings with it a 'human responsibility' that he didn't much bother with in business, requiring him to think through the consequences his decisions have on people and not simply the financial implications for his company's bottom line. 'When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria,' Trump said of his decision to strike a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack. 'I'm saying to myself, 'You know, this is more than just like 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that's involved because people could have been killed. This is risk that's involved.'' 'Here, everything, pretty much everything you do in government involves heart, whereas in business most things don't involve heart,' he said. 'In fact, in business you're actually better off without it.' As for accomplishments, Trump cited 'tremendous success' on an undefined strategy for defeating the Islamic State group. He talked at length about saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on the price of F-35 fighter jets. Trump held meetings during the transition and in the White House with the CEO of Lockheed Martin, which produces the F-35, but the cost-savings were already in the works when he took office. He promised a tax overhaul plan that would give Americans a tax cut bigger than 'any tax cut ever.' A man accustomed to wealth and its trappings, Trump has embraced life in the Executive Mansion, often regaling guests with trivia about the historic decor. With the push of a red button placed on the Resolute Desk that presidents have used for decades, a White House butler soon arrived with a Coke for the president. It's too soon to say whether the presidency has changed Trump in substantive ways. He's backpedaled on an array of issues in recent weeks, including his critiques of NATO and his threats to label China a currency manipulator. But his self-proclaimed flexibility means he could move back to where he started just as quickly. Stylistically, Trump remains much the same as during the campaign. He fires off tweets at odd hours of the morning and night, sending Washington into a stir with just a few words. Trump still litigates the presidential campaign, mentioning multiple times during the interview how difficult it is for a Republican presidential nominee to win the Electoral College. He is acutely aware of how he's being covered in the media, rattling off the ratings for some of his television appearances. But he says he's surprised even himself with some recent self-discipline: He's stopped watching what he perceives as his negative coverage on CNN and MSNBC, he said. 'I don't watch things, and I never thought I had that ability,' he said. 'I always thought I'd watch.' For the moment, Trump seems to have clamped down on the infighting and rivalries among his top White House staffers that have spilled into the press and created a sense of paranoia in the West Wing. He praised his national security team in particular and said his political team in the White House doesn't get the credit it deserves for their work in a high-pressure setting. 'This is a very tough environment,' he said. 'Not caused necessarily by me.' ___ Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC EDITOR'S NOTE _ One in a series of stories assessing the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency. The 100-day milestone is Saturday.
  • With a budget deadline looming, President Donald Trump plans a whirlwind of activities seeking to highlight accomplishments while putting fresh pressure on congressional Democrats to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, even if that pressure risks a possible government shutdown. Trump approaches the symbolic 100-day mark for his administration this coming week juggling a renewed health care push and his demands that a must-pass government funding bill should include money for the wall. In a tweet Sunday, Trump jabbed at Democrats, who vigorously oppose wall funding. 'The Democrats don't want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members.' He added: 'Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.' The 100-day mark falls on Saturday, the same day government could shut down without a budget deal. Trump has announced a rally in Pennsylvania that day. Despite Trump's dismissal that the 100-day marker is 'artificial,' the White House has packed his schedule. Trump will sign executive orders on energy and rural policies, meet with the president of Argentina and travel to Atlanta for a National Rifle Association event. Top aides will also fan out around the country to promote the administration. Trump also plans to outline an ambitious tax cut plan on Wednesday, telling The Associated Press last week that it would include a 'massive' tax break for both individuals and corporations. Aides stressed on Sunday talk shows that funding for a border wall and a vote on an effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health care law were immediate priorities. They asserted that both still could be accomplished in the coming week. 'I don't think anyone foresees or expects or would want a shutdown,' said budget director Mick Mulvaney on 'Fox News Sunday.' Trump would like to revive a failed effort by House Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act, or 'Obamacare.' He also hopes to use the $1 trillion catchall spending bill to salvage victories on his promised border wall, a multibillion-dollar down payment on a Pentagon buildup, and perhaps a crackdown on cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities. So far, negotiations have proven difficult, with disputes over the wall and health law subsidies to help low-income people afford health insurance. House members received little information from leaders on a conference call this past Saturday. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said on NBC's 'Meet the Press' that he's confident the spending bill will include something 'satisfactory' to reflect Trump's desire to build a wall. The legislation would keep the government running through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal 2017 budget year. 'We expect the priorities of the president to be reflected,' Priebus said, citing ongoing talks with the House and the Senate. 'It will be enough in the negotiation for us to move forward with either the construction or the planning, or enough for us to move forward through the end of September to get going on the border wall and border security.' House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California described a border wall as 'immoral' and 'expensive' when asked if there was any scenario in which Democrats would agree to money for a wall. 'Democrats do not support the wall,' she said, speaking also on NBC. 'Republicans on the border states do not support the wall.' Pelosi noted that when Trump promised to build a wall during the presidential campaign, he never indicated he would 'pass billions of dollars of cost of the wall onto the taxpayer.' With Republicans now controlling Congress and the White House, she said, the burden to keep government open 'is on Republicans.' Trump has repeatedly asserted that Mexico would pay for the wall, which he says is necessary to stop the flow of immigrants crossing the border illegally, as well as drug smugglers. On Obama's health law, Priebus said he'd like to have a vote on the GOP repeal-and-replace bill in the House this week. But he insisted it didn't make too much difference to the White House whether the vote came 'Friday or Saturday or Monday.' 'In the grand scheme of things, it's a marathon, not a sprint,' Priebus said. Trump tweeted a separate warning at Democrats on Sunday, saying: 'ObamaCare is in serious trouble. The Dems need big money to keep it going — otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought.' On Trump's coming tax cut plan, Mulvaney said on Fox to expect 'some specific governing principles, some guidance, also some indication on what the rates are going to be.' He added: 'I don't think anybody expects us to roll out bill language on Wednesday.' The White House is eager to tout progress on the litany of agenda items Trump promised to fulfill in his first 100 days, despite setbacks including court bans on his proposed immigration limits and the high-profile failure in repealing and replacing 'Obamacare.' The president told the AP on Friday that he spent his first 100 days laying the 'foundation' for progress later in his administration, including by building relationships with foreign leaders.
  • Republicans have put President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee on the bench, and they're now in a position to fill dozens more federal judgeships — and reshape some of the nation's highest courts. Democrats have few ways to stop them. The Republican opportunity comes with the GOP in control of Congress and the White House, about 120 vacancies in federal district and appeals courts to be filled and after years of partisan fights over judicial nominations. Frustrated by Republican obstruction in 2013, then-majority Democrats changed Senate rules so judicial nominations for those trial and appeals courts are filibuster-proof, meaning it takes only 51 votes, a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, for confirmation. Today, Senate Republicans hold 52 seats. The Democratic rules change did not apply to Supreme Court nominations. But Senate Republicans are now in the majority, and they changed the rules in similar fashion this month to confirm federal Judge Neil Gorsuch to the high court over Democratic opposition. As a result, the GOP can almost guarantee confirmation of future Supreme Court justices, as well, if there are more openings with Trump in office and Republicans are in the majority. 'The Trump administration does have an opportunity to really put its mark on the future of the federal judiciary,' says Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society and an adviser to Trump on the Gorsuch nomination. Reflecting a conservative judicial philosophy, Leo says the unusual number of vacancies that Trump is inheriting could reorient the courts of appeals, in particular, 'in a way that better reflects the traditional judicial role, which is interpreting the law according to its text and placing a premium on the Constitution's limits on government power.' That philosophy was a priority for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch replaced, and Trump has said he wants the federal judiciary to reflect those values. There are currently 20 vacancies in the federal appeals courts, which are one step below the Supreme Court, and roughly 100 more in district courts, where cases are originally tried. Former President Barack Obama had around half that number of vacancies when he took office in 2009. Of the current vacancies, 49 are considered judicial emergencies, a designation based on how many court filings are in the district and how long the seat has been open. As the White House has focused on the Gorsuch nomination, Trump has so far only nominated one lower-court judge, Amul R. Thapar, a friend of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Republican senators say they hope to see more nominations soon from the White House. 'We've heard from them and we're talking to them,' says Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the No. 2 Republican leader. The number of vacancies is a monumental opportunity for conservatives looking to exert more influence on a judiciary that they see as too liberal and activist. But it also could work to Republicans' disadvantage. Democrats can't stop the process, but they can delay it, and they still can call for procedural votes that will delay other Senate business when Republicans are trying to confirm each individual judge. If they do that, says Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, 'we'll have more vacancies than we have now.' Democrats haven't signaled a strategy for lower court judges, but partisan tension over the judiciary is at a peak after McConnell blocked Obama's nominee for Scalia's seat, federal Judge Merrick Garland, then changed the Senate rules to avert a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch this month. They're also frustrated that Senate Republicans confirmed very few of Obama's picks once the GOP regained control of the Senate in 2015. Also unclear is whether the traditional practice will persist in which both senators from a state, regardless of party, consult with the White House on a nominee and then have to approve of the nominee for the Senate Judiciary Committee to move forward. Grassley said this month he is committed to honoring the practice, but said 'there are always some exceptions.' Of Democratic senators working with the White House, Grassley says 'it ought to be pretty easy' in states that have at least one Republican senator. But there are multiple vacancies in states with two Democrats, including eight district court openings in New York and six in California. In Texas, which has two Republican senators, there are two appeals court vacancies and 11 district court vacancies. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are continuing their practice of creating and consulting with a bipartisan panel of leading state attorneys to help identify the most qualified candidates for those jobs. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., a committee member, says he thinks the future of the bipartisan process is 'the real fight' going forward. He says he hopes it doesn't change. 'I think there's a lot of desire to keep that power within the Senate,' he said.
  • U.S. consumers filed nearly 300,000 complaints last year about their dealings with banks, credit card issuers and other financial services companies. Most of those complaints were compiled and made available for anyone to see as part of a database administered by the federal government. But Republicans working to overhaul the financial regulation law known as Dodd-Frank want to bar publication of information from that database, which industry groups have long criticized as potentially misleading and incomplete. 'Is the purpose of the database just to name and shame companies? Or should they have a disclaimer on there that says it's a fact-free zone, or this is fake news? That's really what I see happening here,' Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., said at a congressional hearing this month. 'Once the damage is done to a company, it's hard to get your reputation back,' responded Bill Himpler, executive vice president of the American Financial Services Association, a trade group representing banks and other lenders. 'Something needs to be done.' The exchange reflects what House Republicans are thinking as they try to make changes to Dodd-Frank, the law passed in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Initially, GOP lawmakers wanted to require that consumer complaints be verified as accurate before they were published. Now, members of Congress want to prohibit publishing the complaints entirely. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to begin discussing the Dodd-Frank replacement. The legislation would relax some of the law's financial rules and give Congress and the White House more control over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which runs the complaints database. That agency has published more than 730,000 complaints since launching the database nearly five years ago. Complaints are streaming in at a rate of more than 20,000 a month, but not all make it into the database. Some people don't fill out all the required information. Also, many complaints are referred to other government agencies for jurisdictional reasons. The information published includes the date, the consumer's ZIP code and the company involved. It includes how the company responded, whether it did so in a timely way and whether the consumer disputed the company's response. The database has more than 130,000 complaints in which consumers shared a narrative of their experience. Companies select from among nine responses, such as 'Company disputes the facts presented in the complaint' or 'Company believes complaint is the result of an isolated error.' The bureau does not verify whether the complaint is valid before making it public. Complaints are added to the database after the company responds or after the company has had the complaint for 15 days, whichever comes first. Some groups are alarmed at the potential changes. Consumers Union said the database is a vital tool that can help consumers make informed decisions. 'It's not as if the CFPB is taking information and putting it on the database without some due diligence,' said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. 'Everything is transparent. Everything is out in the open. People can reach their own conclusions.' She said 'consumers should not be kept in the blind' about trends that can emerge from listing the complaints, and that companies concerned about serving the public should find the information of great use. 'In my mind, if you're treating consumers fairly, you would be eager to see if there is a problem,' Banks said. Detractors note that the Federal Trade Commission maintains a database of consumer complaints regarding data security, deceptive advertising and identity theft. The FTC does not publish those individual complaints but makes them available to law enforcement to assist in fraud investigations. It publishes an annual summary of top complaints without getting into their details. Kate Larson, director of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it was 'a bit of a departure' from other regulatory agencies for the bureau to publish the complaints and consumer narratives. She said the Chamber has asked the bureau on occasion to take down complaints the Chamber considers inaccurate and to provide an appeals process, but that didn't happen. 'It shouldn't be kind of a gotcha game,' Larson said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau views the database as a tool to bring consumers and companies together, not to arbitrate their disputes. 'For the first time, individuals now have a place to turn to get the timely responses they deserve and the database gives consumers an important voice in the marketplace that they otherwise might not have,' said Darian Dorsey, a deputy assistant director at the agency. 'Complaints help us identify and prioritize problems, and we are seeing this valuable information being used by companies to identify pain points and inform the marketplace more broadly.' ____ Online: Complaint database: https://tinyurl.com/zrvpc9p ____ On Twitter, reach Kevin Freking at https://twitter.com/APkfreking
  • As pilots at Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways vote on a deal to combine seniority lists for the integration into a single carrier called Southwest, an alternate plan has already been floated if the deal is turned down. In an effort to encourage pilots to approve the deal, Southwest has raised the possibility of a Plan B: that AirTran may not fully integrate as planned into Southwest if the pilot proposal fails. 'If we receive a ‘no' vote, it means that we cannot execute the original integration plan and we will have to reset,' said Southwest spokesman Paul Flaningan in a written statement. A presentation to AirTran pilots by their union leadership laid out the Plan B scenario. It is unclear what effect the alternative plan would have on passengers. Southwest already has plans to launch its own service in Atlanta in February. But pilot jobs could be at risk. The prospect came up shortly after AirTran’s pilots union leadership voted against an initial deal, when Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly told employees that a process agreement leads to binding arbitration “in the event that we merge all of AirTran’s operations into Southwest.' He said at the time that the company would begin evaluating 'all options in addition to or in lieu of arbitration.” The presentation to AirTran pilots notes that Southwest executives briefed union leadership on Plan B after the first deal was rejected. Executives said Southwest must reexamine its options due to a softening economy, high jet fuel costs and 'unforeseen difficulties with AirTran integration.' Those issues include 'difficulty weaning' AirTran from $200 million a year in revenue from baggage fees and difficulty integrating AirTran's Boeing 717s, according to the presentation. The alternate plan would call for AirTran and Southwest to remain separate, the presentation said, although other options exist. In the meantime, Southwest continues work on integrating AirTran operations into its own. 'All of our efforts are focused on getting the integration deal with our pilots done. This is critical to the current pace of our integration efforts,' Flaningan said. But even if AirTran remains a subsidiary, major components to the merger likely remain the same: Southwest would still gain access to the Atlanta market; it would still get AirTran's international routes and planes; and it would remove a key competitor, the presentation notes. One integration possibility is the 'slow dismantling' of AirTran. In the 1980s, Southwest acquired competitor Muse Air, changed its name to Transtar, operated it separately and eventually shut it down. Southwest has pushed for a mutual pilot agreement from the early going, hoping to avoid bitter fighting among employees that could alter its prized company culture that depends on friendliness and collegiality. Pilots continue voting on the seniority integration deal through Nov. 7. In most airline mergers, pilot unions spend months trying to reach agreement on how to combine their seniority lists, butusually end up going to arbitration. Seniority carries extraordinarily high stakes for pilots, affecting their pay, work schedules and where they live. But arbitration, as US Airways has discovered in its merger with America West, does not necessarily translate into a quick and happy ending. The US Airways-America West pilot integration has dragged on for years. On Tuesday, AirTran pilots voted in favor of recalling three of their union leaders, amid discontent over the union leadership decision to decline the first offer. If Southwest and AirTran pilots vote to approve the seniority integration deal proposed to them by union leaders, it would be an unusual accomplishment in the airline industry. But some AirTran pilots are concerned about the deal because of the possibility they could get better terms on seniority if they proceed to arbitration.
  • How do you feel about the Republican field after the Bloomberg debate Tuesday, October 11th?
  • In an Associated Press interview, President Donald Trump claimed more progress than he's achieved on his 100-day plan and showed he was not completely familiar with what he had promised in that 'contract' with voters. A look at some of his assertions in the interview conducted Friday and other statements he made over the past week: TRUMP, on his 100-day plan: 'I'm mostly there on most items.' — AP interview THE FACTS: He's not. Many have yet to be taken up. Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day 'contract' with voters, he's accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don't require legislation. For example, he's withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, created a violent crime task force and lifted restrictions on fossil fuel development. Of the 10 pieces of legislation he promised, none has been achieved and most have not been introduced, with the notable exception of the health care overhaul that was put in play but withdrawn from Congress because of insufficient support. That proposal is being reworked. He hasn't started on 15 of his 100-day promises, which include several immigration laws, college affordability, infrastructure incentives and punishment for companies that move jobs overseas. Saturday will be his 100th day. ___ TRUMP: 'I think the 100 days is, you know, it's an artificial barrier. It's not very meaningful.' — AP interview THE FACTS: He's right that a 100-day measurement of a new president is artificial. As for whether it's meaningful, that depends on how much meaning a presidential candidate invests in that benchmark. Trump invested it with a series of promises by which he was to be measured in 100 days, released in an appearance at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 22. 'What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again,' says the manifesto. 'It is a contract between myself and the American voter.' It continued: 'On November 8th, Americans will be voting for this 100-day plan to restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities, and honesty to our government. This is my pledge to you.' Trump has grown dismissive of the 100-day mark, calling it 'ridiculous,' and now plays down his manifesto even as he boasts of his achievements. In the AP interview, he appeared to attribute the plan to his campaign staff, saying 'Somebody, yeah, somebody put out the concept of a 100-day plan.' ___ TRUMP: 'I didn't put Supreme Court judge on the 100 (day) plan, and I got a Supreme Court judge.' — AP interview THE FACTS: He actually did promise in his plan to 'begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia.' On this, he delivered more than promised - not only starting the process of finding a new Supreme Court justice but winning Senate confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, who now sits on the court. ___ TRUMP: 'No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.' — Tuesday at the Kenosha, Wisconsin, headquarters of Snap-on tools THE FACTS: Trump's legislative victories are minor, surpassed by those of a variety of high achievers in the White House. Taking office in the Great Depression, Roosevelt quickly declared a banking holiday to quiet panic, called a special session of Congress and won passage of emergency legislation to stabilize the banking system. He came forward with a flurry of consequential legislation that set the pillars of the New Deal in place within his first 100 days, 'the most concentrated period of U.S. reform in U.S. history,' say Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer in 'The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency.' No fewer than 14 historic laws were enacted in that time. Trump's big agenda items, like his promised tax overhaul and infrastructure plan, have yet to reach Congress. His attempt to secure the borders from people from terrorism-prone regions is so far blocked by courts. His first attempt to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health care law failed in Congress. Trump needn't look as far back as FDR to see a president who got off to a fast start. Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus package into law in his first month, while also achieving laws expanding health care for children and advancing equal pay for women in that time. Like Roosevelt, Obama came to office in an economic crisis, the worst since the Depression. Lawmakers from both parties were inclined to act quickly and did, even as they fought over the details of the big stimulus package that defined Obama's early days. President Ronald Reagan's 100 days were considered the hardest-driving since FDR's time, even though Reagan was shot March 30, 1981. He presented Congress with the most consequential tax, spending and government-overhaul plan it had seen in decades, a comprehensive package that exceeds in scope anything Trump has brought forward, including his first run at health care. Congressional approval came later. ___ TRUMP:  'The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!' — tweet, Tuesday THE FACTS: Obama can't be blamed for allowing MS-13 to form as a nationwide gang because that happened long before he became president. A fact sheet from Trump's own Justice Department states that the gang, which originated in the 1980s in the Central American community in Los Angeles, 'quickly spread to states across the country.' The department indirectly credits the Obama administration, in its early years, with helping to rein in the group: 'Through the combined efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement, great progress was made diminishing or severely (disrupting) the gang within certain targeted areas of the U.S. by 2009 and 2010.' The U.S. carried out record deportations during the Obama administration and, on MS-13 specifically, took the unprecedented action of labelling the street gang a transnational criminal organization and announcing a freeze on its U.S. assets. Such actions were not enough to bring down the group and the Trump administration says it will do more. According to an FBI assessment from January 2008, before Obama took office, the gang was operating in at least 42 states and the District of Columbia, roughly the same number of states estimated now. The assessment said the group was made up of Salvadoran nationals and first-generation Salvadoran-Americans. The FBI at the time did not provide a breakdown of how many of the gang's members were immigrants or U.S. citizens. ___ TRUMP: 'I didn't soften my stance' on China. 'Nobody's ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China, and then the fake media goes 'Donald Trump has changed his stance on China.' I haven't changed my stance. China's trying to help us.' — Fox interview Tuesday THE FACTS: It's hard to imagine a clearer switch in positions than the president's abandonment of his campaign pledge to declare China a currency manipulator, a move that would have set the stage for trade penalties. China had once devalued its currency to make its exports artificially cheaper, crowding out other countries' products, but in recent years has let market forces do more to shape currency exchange rates. Even as Trump railed against Chinese currency manipulation in the presidential campaign, there already were signs that China was taking steps to keep the value of the yuan from sinking further against the dollar. Trump didn't let go of his accusation easily. As recently as April 2 he told The Financial Times that the Chinese are 'world champions' of currency manipulation. ___ TRUMP, speaking about fellow NATO members, says he wants to 'make sure these countries start paying their bills a little bit more. You know, they're way, way behind.' — remarks in Kenosha THE FACTS: That's an oversimplification of NATO financial obligations, and one Trump has made repeatedly. NATO members are not in arrears on payments. They committed in 2014 to ensuring that by 2024, they would be spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their military budgets. Most NATO countries are spending less than that now, and Washington is putting pressure on them to do more. In any event, the commitment is for these nations to spend more on their own military capabilities, which would strengthen the alliance, not to hand over money. ___ Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Alicia A. Caldwell, Josh Boak and Robert Burns contributed to this report. ___ Find all AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd EDITOR'S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures
  • The head of Bethel Heights Vineyard looked out over the 100 acres of vines her crew of 20 Mexicans had just finished pruning, worried about what will happen if the Trump administration presses ahead with its crackdown on immigrants. From tending the plants to harvesting the grapes, it takes skill and a strong work ethic to produce the winery's pinot noir and chardonnay, and native-born Americans just aren't willing to work that hard, Patricia Dudley said as a cold rain drenched the vineyard in the hills of Oregon. 'Who's going to come out here and do this work when they deport them all?' she asked. President Donald Trump's hard line against immigrants in the U.S. illegally has sent a chill through the nation's agricultural industry, which fears a crackdown will deprive it of the labor it needs to plant, grow and pick the crops that feed the country. Fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and cattle farmers and owners of plant nurseries and vineyards have begun lobbying politicians at home and in Washington to get them to deal with immigration in a way that minimizes the harm to their livelihoods. Some of the farm leaders are Republicans who voted for Trump and are torn, wanting border security but also mercy toward laborers who are not dangerous criminals. Farming uses a higher percentage of illegal labor than any other U.S. industry, according to a Pew Research Center study. Immigrants working illegally in this country accounted for about 46 percent of America's roughly 800,000 crop farmworkers in recent years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture. Stepped-up deportations could carry 'significant economic implications,' a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture study said. If America's unauthorized labor force shrank 40 percent, for example, vegetable production could drop by more than 4 percent, the study said. The American Farm Bureau Federation says strict immigration enforcement would raise food prices 5 to 6 percent because of a drop in supply and because of the higher labor costs farmers could face. In addition to proposing a wall at the Mexican border, Trump wants to hire 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and has served notice that he intends to be more aggressive than the Obama administration in deporting immigrants. ICE agents have arrested hundreds of immigrants since Trump took office, though how much of a change from the Obama administration that represents is a matter of debate. Field hands have been among those targeted, with apple pickers detained in upstate New York and Guatemalans pulled over in Oregon on their way to a forest to pick a plant used in floral arrangements. It doesn't appear the arrests themselves have put a sizable dent in the agricultural workforce yet, but the fear is taking its toll. Some workers in Oregon are leaving for job sites as early as 1 a.m. and staying away from check-cashing shops on payday to avoid dragnets. Farm employers are worried about losing their workforces. 'They say, 'Don't go out, don't get drunk, don't do nothing illegal' because they need us too. They worry too,' said Moses Maldonado, who is in the U.S. illegally and has worked for nearly four decades tending wine grapes and picking fruit in Oregon. In Los Banos, California, asparagus farmer Joe Del Bosque said workers are so afraid of being arrested in the field that he struggled to find enough hands in March to pick his crop. When immigration attorney Sarah Loftin held a recent seminar in the Oregon wine-region town of Newberg to talk about immigrants' legal rights, she was surprised to see about half of those present were winery owners or farmers. By law, job seekers must provide documents establishing their eligibility to work in the U.S. But the papers are often fake. Many agricultural employers say that it's not their responsibility — and that they lack the expertise — to determine if they're genuine. At the same time, they say that U.S.-born workers have little interest at laboring in the dirt and the cold at the crack of dawn. As 18 Guatemalans in hoodies and rubber boots toiled in such conditions recently in Oregon's Willamette Valley, their boss expressed admiration for their willingness to do the back-breaking work he said native-born Americans won't do. 'Homeless people are camped in the fir forest over there,' the farmer said, pointing to a stand of trees. 'And they're not looking for work.' He lamented that crackdowns may force him to retire because he won't be able to find workers. Fearing reprisals from federal agents, he spoke on condition of anonymity and didn't want even his crop identified. Some immigration hardliners say people who are in the U.S. illegally steal jobs from Americans. But a 2013 study by an economist at the Center for Global Development looked at farms in North Carolina and found that immigrant manual laborers had 'almost zero' effect on the job prospects of native-born U.S. workers. 'It appears that almost all U.S. workers prefer almost any labor-market outcome — including long periods of unemployment — to carrying out manual harvest and planting labor,' Michael Clemens wrote. While lobbying for visa and immigration reforms, agricultural employers are also looking into contingency plans such as mechanization or a switch to less labor-intensive crops. In Vermont, officials are considering a vocational program to train inmates in dairy farming. Dudley, the vineyard owner, isn't optimistic about some of the alternatives. 'I don't trust that temps off the street, or jailhouse labor, or whatever alternative they come up with would work,' she said. ___ AP reporters Scott Smith in Fresno, California; Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vermont; Gillian Flaccus in Salem, Oregon; and Paul Wiseman in Washington contributed to this story. ___ Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky
  • The jackpot for Saturday's Powerball drawing climbed to $105 million after no players matched all six numbers in Wednesday night's game. One ticket sold in Georgia matched the first five numbers drawn Wednesday -- 10, 12, 23, 43 and 47 -- but not the 'Power Ball,' which was 18. That player won $200,000. The top prize in Friday's Mega Millions multi-state lottery is $30 million.
  • Workers were to begin removing the first memorial, one that commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans, overnight in an attempt to avoid disruption from supporters who want the monuments to stay, some of whom city officials said have made death threats. Three other statues to Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis will be removed in later days now that legal challenges have been overcome. 'There's a better way to use the property these monuments are on and a way that better reflects who we are,' New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press. Nationally, the debate over Confederate symbols has become heated since nine parishioners were killed at a black church in South Carolina in June 2015. South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds in the weeks after, and several Southern cities have since considered removing monuments. The University of Mississippi took down its state flag because it includes the Confederate emblem. New Orleans is a majority African-American city although the number of black residents has fallen since 2005's Hurricane Katrina drove many people from the city. The majority black City Council in 2015 voted 6-1 to approve plans to take the statues down, but legal battles over their fate have prevented the removal until now, said Landrieu, who proposed the monuments' removal and rode to victory twice with overwhelming support from the city's black residents. People who want the Confederate memorials removed say they are offensive artifacts honoring the region's slave-owning past. But others call the monuments part of the city's history and say they should be protected historic structures. Since officials announced the removals, contractors hired by the city have faced death threats and intimidation in this deep South city where passions about the Civil War still run deep. Landrieu refused to say who the city would be using to remove the statues because of the intimidation attempts. And the removal will begin at night to ensure police can secure the sites to protect workers, and to ease the burden on traffic for people who live and work in the city, Landrieu said. 'All of what we will do in the next days will be designed to make sure that we protect everybody, that the workers are safe, the folks around the monuments are safe and that nobody gets hurt,' Landrieu said. Landrieu said the memorials don't represent his city as it approaches its 300th anniversary next year. The mayor said the city would remove the monuments, store them and preserve them until an 'appropriate' place to display them is determined. 'The monuments are an aberration,' he said. 'They're actually a denial of our history and they were done in a time when people who still controlled the Confederacy were in charge of this city and it only represents a four-year period in our 1000-year march to where we are today.' The first memorial to come down will be the Liberty Monument, an 1891 obelisk honoring the Crescent City White League. Landrieu has called the Liberty Monument 'the most offensive of the four' and said it was erected to 'revere white supremacy.' 'If there was ever a statue that needed to be taken down, it's that one,' he said. The Crescent City White League attempted to overthrow a biracial Reconstruction government in New Orleans after the Civil War. That attempt failed, but white supremacist Democrats later took control of the state. An inscription added in 1932 said the Yankees withdrew federal troops and 'recognized white supremacy in the South' after the group challenged Louisiana's biracial government after the Civil War. In 1993, these words were covered by a granite slab with a new inscription, saying the obelisk honors 'Americans on both sides' who died and that the conflict 'should teach us lessons for the future.' The Liberty Monument had been the target of a previous lawsuit after the city removed it from a location on the main downtown thoroughfare of Canal Street during a federally-financed paving project in 1989. The city didn't put the monument back up until it was sued, and moved the monument to an obscure spot on a side street near the entrance to a parking garage. ___ Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. Contact him at jholland@ap.org, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jessejholland .
  • The state of Arkansas plans to conduct a double execution on Monday. Two condemned killers who admit they're guilty but fear poor health could lead to extreme pain during lethal injections might become the first inmates put to death in a double execution in the U.S. in more than 16 years. Jack Jones (pictured, left) and Marcel Williams are set to die Monday night. If put to death, they would be the second and third Arkansas inmates executed this month. Arkansas originally wanted to execute eight inmates before one of its lethal injection drugs expires at the end of the month in the nation's most aggressive execution schedule since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976. Arkansas put Ledell Lee to death last week in its first execution since 2005. Another inmate, Kenneth Williams, is set for execution Thursday.
  • Saturday, funeral services were held in Tulsa, for Oklahoma State Rep. David Brumbaugh. He passed away last weekend due to an apparent heart attack. Friends, family and colleagues had nothing but good things to say about Brumbaugh. “Every time that he spoke, he did it not because of what he thought politically, but because it’s what he thought was right,” one colleague said.  “Hopefully, those of us that are still there will be able to follow that.” The service was held at Tulsa Bible Church.  During the service, Brumbaugh was remembered as a man dedicated to public service and to his faith.
  • A cashier is said to be in stable condition, after getting shot during an armed robbery Friday night. The shooting happened around 7:29 p.m., at the RK Food Mart on North Utica Avenue. “After the cashier cooperated and handed over an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect shot him in the foot one time,” Tulsa police said.  “The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment.” A description of the suspect hasn’t been released.   Anyone with information regarding the robbery is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS.
  • The heavens opened up in and around the Tulsa area on Friday, but how much rain did we actually get? National Weather Service Meteorologist Robert Darby has the answer. “We did see wide-spread 3 to 4 inches across a large portion of northeast Oklahoma and Tulsa County,” Darby said.   There is a chance of rain in the forecast for Saturday as well.   Sapulpa suffered some damage in Friday’s storms.   While driving around, we found uprooted trees, a destroyed gazebo and one resident received quite the surprise when he woke up. “Getting my dogs ready to go outside and kind of noticed I had no roof towards the bathroom area,” the resident said.   Crews were out helping with the debris around the city.
  • United Airlines is apparently trying to make the 'bumping' process a little less confrontational. A United passenger tells People magazine that when he was checking in for his flight on the airline's website, a pop-up screen asked him if he would be interested in taking a different flight in exchange for a travel certificate of at least $200. A United spokesman says they've done it for years, but the passenger said he didn't see it on the United check-in he did a few days before. Whether it’s new or not, the airline is taking other steps to try to avoid the ugly situation where Dr. David Dao was dragged down the aisle of a plane. United also now has a rule in place that passengers cannot be bumped if they're already seated on their flight. You can read more about the story here.