AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST - 660 NEWS
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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

Last Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 9:20 pm MST

Trump blasts Bannon over book, says ex-aide ‘lost his mind’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump launched a scathing attack on former top adviser Steve Bannon on Wednesday, responding to a new book that portrays Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and quotes Bannon as calling his son’s contact with a Russian lawyer “treasonous.”

Hitting back via a formal White House statement rather than a more-typical Twitter volley, Trump insisted Bannon had little to do with his victorious campaign and “has nothing to do with me or my Presidency.”

“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said.

It was a blistering attack against the man who helped deliver the presidency to Trump. It was spurred by an unflattering new book by writer Michael Wolff that paints Trump as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of the presidency and spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the phone to old friends.

White House aides were blindsided when early excerpts from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” were published online by New York magazine and other media outlets ahead of the Jan. 9 publication date.

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Manafort sues Mueller, Justice Department over Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman sued special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department on Wednesday, saying prosecutors had overstepped their bounds by charging him for conduct that he says is unrelated to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The lawsuit by Paul Manafort, filed in federal court in Washington, is the most direct challenge to date to Mueller’s legal authority and the scope of his mandate as special counsel. It comes amid Republican allegations of partisan bias among members of Mueller’s team, which for months has been investigating whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the U.S. election.

The lawsuit also takes aim at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s investigation and recently said he was satisfied that the former FBI director was staying within the scope of his authority.

Manafort was indicted in October on charges, including money-laundering conspiracy, related to his lobbying work on behalf of a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. He has pleaded not guilty. He is one of four Trump associates — including former national security adviser Michael Flynn — to be charged so far in Mueller’s investigation.

In his complaint , Manafort alleges that the investigation into “decade-old business dealings” is “completely unmoored” from the mandate Mueller was given when he was named in May to probe possible ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. He argues that a paragraph in Rosenstein’s order appointing Mueller, which allows him to pursue new matters he comes across during his investigation, is too broad to be permitted under the regulation that governs special counsels.

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. TRUMP BLASTS STEVE BANNON OVER BOOK

The new book portrays the president as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and quotes Bannon as calling contact by Trump’s son with a Russian lawyer “treasonous.”

2. PAUL MANAFORT SUES SPECIAL COUNSEL

Trump’s ex-campaign chair says that prosecutor Mueller and the Justice Department overstepped their bounds by charging him for conduct that he says is unrelated to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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Iran says Trump’s ‘absurd tweets’ have incited disruption

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran charged Wednesday that the U.S. “has crossed every limit” in international relations by expressing support for Iran’s anti-government protesters and said President Donald Trump’s “absurd tweets” have encouraged disruption.

In a letter to U.N. officials, Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo complained that Washington was intervening “in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs.” He said Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence were personally stirring up trouble.

“The President and Vice-President of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts,” the ambassador wrote to the U.N. Security Council president and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The U.S. didn’t immediately respond to the letter, which maintains that Washington “has crossed every limit in flouting rules and principles of international law governing the civilized conduct of international relations.”

At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds arrested in Iran during a week of anti-government protests and unrest over economic woes and official corruption. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people took part in counter-demonstrations Wednesday backing the clerically overseen government, which has said “enemies of Iran” are fomenting the protests.

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Storm slaps coastal South with most snow in nearly 3 decades

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A brutal winter storm smacked the coastal Southeast with a rare blast of snow and ice Wednesday, hitting parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with their heaviest snowfall in nearly three decades.

Forecasters warned that the same system could soon strengthen into a “bomb cyclone” as it rolls up the East Coast, bringing hurricane-force winds, coastal flooding and up to a foot of snow.

At least 17 deaths were blamed on dangerously cold temperatures that for days have gripped wide swaths of the U.S. from Texas to New England.

A winter storm warning extended from the Gulf Coast of Florida’s “Big Bend” region all the way up the Atlantic coast. Forecasters said hurricane-force winds blowing offshore on Thursday could generate 24-foot (7-meter) seas.

Schools in the Southeast called off classes just months after being shut down because of hurricane threats, and police urged drivers to stay off the roads in a region little accustomed to the kind of winter woes common to the Northeast.

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Defence wants Trump voters in jury pool for Kansas bomb case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for three men accused of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali refugees urged a federal judge on Wednesday to include prospective jurors from rural western Kansas because they are more likely to have voted for President Donald Trump.

But the government countered that granting the request would as a matter of policy “wreak havoc,” saying the defence is seeking to pick a jury pool based on ideology while “opening a dangerous door” to similar requests in other cases.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren took the matter under consideration after a hearing in U.S. District Court in Kansas, saying he would try to rule quickly. The trial begins March 19 in Wichita.

Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights for allegedly planning to detonate truck bombs in the meatpacking town of Garden City the day after the November 2016 election. Wright also faces a charge of lying to the FBI.

The three men, who were indicted in October 2016, have pleaded not guilty.

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Q&A: Is there a chance for a breakthrough with the Koreas?

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After one of the most fraught years on the Korean Peninsula in recent memory — threats of war amid North Korea’s strongest-ever nuclear bomb test and repeated missile launches — an unexpected, very tentative interest in peace seems to have broken out.

In rapid succession: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un floats the idea in a New Year’s speech of better ties with his southern rival. Maybe, he says, he’ll even send a delegation to next month’s Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Seoul quickly offers to meet and talk. And on Wednesday, the North announces that Kim views the South’s offer positively and the two sides begin preliminary contact on a newly reopened cross-border communication channel.

Is it an elaborate ruse by the North? Wishful thinking in the South?

Some answers to questions about what it may all mean:

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Trump barrels into 2018 with fresh foreign fights on Twitter

WASHINGTON (AP) — You thought President Donald Trump might mellow out in 2018? Refrain from taunting world leaders tweet by tweet? Think again.

Trump is storming into the new year in exceptionally aggressive fashion, picking fresh fights on Twitter with such speed that his aides, international partners and the public are struggling to catch up. If he was brash on the global stage in Year 1, the first days of Year 2 suggest he was just warming up.

Pakistan? Liars and swindlers who enable terrorists, the president tweeted just hours after the world celebrated the arrival of a new year.

The Palestinians? No more U.S. aid until they get their act together and agree to peace talks with Israel.

Iran? “Failing at every level,” Trump tweeted as he declared full-throated U.S. support for protesters there opposing the government.

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Price tag on gene therapy for rare form of blindness: $850K

WASHINGTON (AP) — A first-of-its kind genetic treatment for blindness will cost $850,000 per patient, making it one of the most expensive medicines in the world and raising questions about the affordability of a coming wave of similar gene-targeting therapies.

The injectable treatment from Spark Therapeutics can improve the eyesight of patients with a rare genetic mutation that affects just a few thousand people in the U.S. Previously there has been no treatment for the condition, which eventually causes complete blindness by adulthood.

Pricing questions have swirled around the treatment due to a number of unusual factors — it is intended to be a one-time treatment, it treats a very small number of patients and represents a medical breakthrough.

Previously, Spark suggested its therapy, Luxturna, could be worth more than $1 million. But the company said Wednesday it decided on the lower price after hearing concerns from health insurers about the affordability of the treatment.

Consternation over skyrocketing drug prices, especially in the U.S., has led to intense scrutiny from patients, politicians, insurers and hospitals.

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US Skating execs warn against potential OLY boycott

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Two executives for U.S. Figure Skating warned against any potential boycott of the Pyeongchang Olympics by the United States.

USFS President Sam Auxier, asked Wednesday about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s comments that North Korea competing in next month’s games should prompt a U.S. team boycott, said Graham and others “need to be careful” about the American team not participating. Auxier added, “They shouldn’t be playing politics with this.”

Added U.S. Figure Skating Executive Director David Raith about political intervention in the Olympic process: “It doesn’t help anybody. We’ll be there.”

USOC spokesman Mark Jones, reiterating the governing body’s long-held position, said: “We intend to bring full delegations to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

On Monday, Graham said the United States now has a reason to stay away from the Olympics, which begin on Feb. 9.