AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT
Trump ousts Bannon, his influential, divisive strategist
WASHINGTON (AP) — Steve Bannon, the blunt-spoken and divisive strategist who rose from Donald Trump's conservative campaign to a top White House post, was pushed out by the president Friday, capping a turbulent seven months marked by the departure of much of Trump's original senior staff.
A favorite in the farther-right portions of the Republican Party, Bannon had pushed Trump to follow through on some of his most contentious campaign promises, including his travel ban for some foreigners and his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement. He returned Friday to Breitbart News, which he led before joining Trump's campaign, as executive chairman and chaired its evening editorial meeting, the news site announced.
Barely more than a half-year in, Trump now has forced out his hardline national security adviser, his chief of staff, his press secretary (whose last day will be Aug. 31) and two communications directors — in addition to the FBI director he inherited from Barack Obama.
Bannon's departure is especially significant since he was viewed by many as Trump's connection to his base of most-committed voters and the protector of the disruptive, conservative agenda that propelled the celebrity businessman to the White House.
"It's a tough pill to swallow if Steve is gone because you have a Republican West Wing that's filled with generals and Democrats," said former campaign strategist Sam Nunberg, shortly before the news of Bannon's departure broke. "It would feel like the twilight zone."
Soothing the nation? Trump struggles like no other president
WASHINGTON (AP) — For Susan Bro, mother of the woman killed at a rally organized by white supremacists, the president of the United States can offer no healing words.
She says the White House repeatedly tried to reach out to her on Wednesday, the day of Heather Heyer's funeral. But she's since watched President Donald Trump lay blame for the Charlottesville violence on "both sides."
"You can't wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying 'I'm sorry,'" she said in a television interview on Friday.
In moments like this, of national crisis or tragedy, presidents typically shed their political skin, at least briefly. They use the broad appeal of the presidency to unite and soothe, urging citizens to remember their humanity, their common bonds as Americans.
George W. Bush famously climbed atop a pile of rubble in New York City to speak through a bullhorn after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Barack Obama sang "Amazing Grace" during the eulogy for a black pastor killed in a racially motivated shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
Icahn steps down as unofficial Trump adviser
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has lost another informal adviser from the business world: billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who gave the White House guidance on its deregulation efforts.
Icahn said in a letter to Trump released Friday that he is stepping down to prevent "partisan bickering" about his unofficial role that Democrats suggested could benefit him financially. Trump lost a pair of business advisory councils on Wednesday over his inability to condemn the role white supremacists played in violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But Icahn — who made his name and fortune as a corporate raider in the 1980s — indicated that his resignation was due to criticism regarding the appearance of possible ethical conflicts.
"I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest," Icahn wrote.
He added that, out of an abundance of caution, he had limited his input to broad matters of policy about the oil-refining industry. Icahn controls a sizable stake in refiner CVR Energy. As an unofficial adviser, Icahn wasn't required to submit financial records to the Office of Government Ethics to address any conflicts of interest.
Spanish plan for carnage started with botched explosion
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A cell of at least nine extremists meticulously plotted to combine vehicles and explosives in a direct hit on tourists, and managed to carry off most of their deadly plan, killing 14 people, authorities said Friday. Police in Spain and France pressed a manhunt for any remaining members of the group, which Islamic State claimed as its own.
Only flawed bomb construction avoided a more devastating attack, authorities said after taking a closer look at a blast Wednesday evening in the town of Alcanar that was first written off as a household gas explosion. At least one person was killed and several injured in the home where police said the deadly plan took shape.
Eighteen hours later, a rented van veered into Barcelona's crowded Las Ramblas promenade, swerving along the walkway Thursday and killing 13 people. A surveillance video from inside a museum, which captured images of the van, showed it speeding down the promenade, barely missing a person with a stroller while others scattered.
Armed with an ax, knives and false explosives belts, attackers then drove a second vehicle to the boardwalk in the resort town of Cambrils early Friday, fatally injuring one person. Five of those attackers were shot to death, among them 17-year-old Moussa Oukabir, according to a Spanish police union official, confirming Spanish news reports.
Oukabir's name was first on a document listing four suspects sought in the attacks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. The Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper, Spanish national broadcaster RTVE and other outlets cited police sources as saying he was the driver of the van in Barcelona.
Cities seek creative ways to prevent car or van attacks
PARIS (AP) — From Barcelona to Times Square and beyond, extremists have used vehicles as deadly weapons with alarming frequency in recent years, whether to promote jihad, get attention or express despair.
In response, ugly concrete blocks as well as more aesthetic deterrents are sprouting up in front of landmarks and ordinary public places around the world. Security experts say such barriers would have minimized the fatal damage wreaked on Spain this week — yet warn that as long as motor vehicles exist, some risks will always remain.
While cars and trucks have been used for scattered violence for generations, the last 13 months have seen nearly a dozen vehicle-ramming attacks in Europe and the U.S., as well as car bombings in the Mideast and beyond. Here are some ways cities and governments are countering the threat:
THE BASIC BOLLARD — AND HOW TO IMPROVE IT
Whether a post dug into a sidewalk or an unwieldy hunk of concrete, bollards are the most common anti-car shield. Impact engineers study the ideal height and shape of such barriers to resist damage from various vehicles. Intelligence agencies are increasingly working with manufacturers on optimal bollard design.
Dashcam video shows white cop punching black man during stop
CLEVELAND (AP) — A dashcam video of a traffic stop that led to a white police officer with a history of disciplinary issues repeatedly punching a black man and hitting his head on pavement appears to show a different sequence of events than police had originally described.
The initial statement from police in the Cleveland suburb of Euclid said Richard Hubbard III, who was pulled over on suspicion of having a suspended driver's license, had refused Officer Michael Amiott's orders to "face away" after getting out of his car Aug. 12 and then began resisting. But the video obtained this week in a public records request appears to show Amiott not giving Hubbard a chance to comply, Hubbard's attorney said Friday.
"Your own two eyes and common sense can lead to only one reasonable conclusion as to the propriety of the level of force used for a basic traffic stop and whether or not my client had a chance to comply," attorney Christopher McNeal said.
The dashcam video shows Amiott opening the car door and Hubbard getting out. Within a second of Amiott ordering him to "face away," the video shows the officer grabbing Hubbard's arms and wrestling him to the ground in the middle of a street as Hubbard's girlfriend jumps out of the car and rushes over.
The video shows Amiott bashing Hubbard's head against the pavement several times and then punching him in the head more than a dozen times as Hubbard tries to defend himself.
A look at US-S. Korea war games and how North might respond
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — America's annual joint military exercises with South Korea always frustrate North Korea. The war games set to begin Monday may hold more potential to provoke than ever, given President Donald Trump's "fire and fury" threats and Pyongyang's as-yet-unpursued plan to launch missiles close to Guam.
Will the allies keep it low-key, or focus on projecting strength? An examination of this year's drills and how the North might respond to them:
THE WAR GAMES
The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills will be the first joint military exercise between the allies since North Korea successfully flight-tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July and threatened to bracket Guam with intermediate range ballistic missile fire in August.
Trump studying options for new approach to Afghan war
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is "studying and considering his options" for a new approach to Afghanistan and the broader South Asia region, the White House said Friday after the president huddled with his top national security aides at Camp David.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a brief statement saying Trump had been briefed extensively on a new strategy to "protect America's interests" in the region. She did not specifically mention Afghanistan.
"The president is studying and considering his options and will make an announcement to the American people, to our allies and partners, and to the world at the appropriate time," she said.
The administration has struggled for months to formulate a new approach to the war. But stepping up the fight in a way that advances peace prospects may be even more difficult, in part because the Taliban has been gaining ground and shown no interest in peace negotiations.
Trump met at the presidential retreat in nearby Maryland with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, top intelligence agency officials and other top military and diplomatic aides. Mattis said earlier this week the administration was "very close" to finalizing a new approach.
Trump won places drowning in despair. Can he save them?
ABERDEEN, Wash. (AP) — One-hundred-fifty baskets of pink petunias hang from the light posts all over this city, watered regularly by residents trying to make their community feel alive again. A local artist spends his afternoons high in a bucket truck, painting a block-long mural of a little girl blowing bubbles, each circle the scene of an imagined, hopeful future.
But in the present, vacant buildings dominate blocks. A van, stuffed so full of blankets and boxes they are spilling from the windows, pulls to the curb outside Stacie Blodgett's antiques shop.
"Look inside of it," she says. "I bet you he's living in it."
Around the corner, a crowded tent city of the desperate and addicted has taken over the riverbank, makeshift memorials to too many dead too young jutting up intermittently from the mud.
America, when viewed through the bars on Blodgett's windows, looks a lot less great than it used to be. So she answered Donald Trump's call to the country's forgotten corners. Thousands of her neighbors did, too, and her county, once among the most reliably Democratic in the nation, swung Republican in a presidential election for the first time in 90 years.
Judge refuses to end Roman Polanski sex assault case
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles judge on Friday denied the impassioned plea of Roman Polanski's victim to end a four-decade-old sexual assault case against the fugitive director.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon ruled that Polanski must return to California if he expects to resolve charges of sexually abusing a teen. The Oscar winner fled the country on the eve of sentencing in 1978.
Gordon's ruling follows a fervent request by Samantha Geimer to end a "40-year sentence" she says was imposed on both perpetrator and victim. It was issued on Polanski's 84th birthday and blamed the director for the fact that the case was still alive.
"Her statement is dramatic evidence of the long-lasting and traumatic effect these crimes, and defendant's refusal to obey court orders and appear for sentencing, is having on her life," Gordon wrote.
Harland Braun, Polanski's attorney, said the ruling came after the judge asked for proposals on how to resolve the case. Braun's proposals include several that previously were rejected by the court.