Irma lashes Bahamas, Cuba on a path toward Florida

HAVANA (Reuters) – Hurricane Irma lashed Cuba and the Bahamas as it drove toward Florida on Friday after hitting the eastern Caribbean with its devastatingly high winds, killing 21 people and leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake.

Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, was expected to hit Florida on Sunday morning, bringing massive damage from wind and flooding to the fourth-largest state by population. A historic evacuation, including from areas around Miami, has been made more difficult by clogged highways, gasoline shortages and the challenge of moving older people in the top retirement destination.

The storm could regain strength and hit the Florida Keys as a Category 5 hurricane, the most powerful designation by the National Hurricane Center, with sustained winds of 160 miles per hour (258 km per hour).

The United States has experienced only three Category 5 storms since 1851, and Irma is far larger than the last one to hit the United States in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“We are running out of time. If you are in an evacuation zone, you need to go now. This is a catastrophic storm like our state has never seen,” Governor Rick Scott told reporters, adding that the storm’s effects would be felt from coast to coast in the state.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a videotaped statement that Irma was “a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential” and called on people to heed recommendations from government officials and law enforcement. In Palm Beach, Trump’s waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate was ordered evacuated.

Irma, currently a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph (250 kph), was about 345 miles (555 km) southeast of Miami, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory.

Cuba was periodically drenched with rain and wind from the outer edge of the storm. Irma was forecast to bring dangerous storm surges of up to 20 feet (6 meters) to the southeastern and central Bahamas and up to 10 feet (3 meters) on parts of Cuba’s northern coast.

Cuba’s Communist government has traditionally made rigorous preparations when the island is threatened by storms, and the country was at a near standstill as Irma began to drive up the northern coast from east to west.

Irma was forecast to move closer to land as it passed the center of Cuba later in the day and on Saturday, when it could seriously damage resorts on vulnerable keys. Tourists, and even the dolphins that entertain them, were evacuated. The storm was then predicted to veer north, sparing western Cuba and Havana.

In the Cuban fishing town of Caibarien, residents secured their roofs and moved belongings from low-lying coastal areas to houses higher up inland as the skies clouded over. Most said they were worried but well prepared.

Residents in the central province of Camaguey hunkered down on Friday night for the arrival of the storm.“There are really strong gusts of wind. It is pouring off and on, and the lights are out,” Anaida Gonzalez, a retired nurse, said by telephone.

“DON‘T BE COMPLACENT”

Irma was set to hit the United States two weeks after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, killing about 60 people and causing property damage estimated at up to $180 billion in Texas and Louisiana. Officials were preparing a massive response, the head of FEMA said.

About 9 million people in Florida may lose power, some for weeks, said Florida Power & Light Co, the biggest power company in Florida serving almost half of the state’s 20.6 million residents.

View of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten Dutch part of Saint Martin island in the Carribean September 7, 2017. Picture taken September 7, 2017. Netherlands Ministry of Defence- Gerben van Es/Handout via REUTERS

Amid the exodus, nearly one-third of all gas stations in Florida’s metropolitan areas were out of gasoline, with scattered outages in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to Gasbuddy.com, a retail fuel price tracking service.

In Miami-Dade County alone, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said authorities had asked about 660,000 residents to evacuate, adding that this was the largest evacuation he could remember in the county.

Supermarkets in Miami were full of shoppers picking up last-minute supplies and food, and long lines of cars wrapped around the few gas stations still open.

People seeking shelter recalled Hurricane Andrew in 1992 as they braced for Irma.

A shelter in southwest Miami filled to capacity just hours after it opened its doors. People packed into a gymnasium were thinking about the past while worrying about the future.

“I‘m scared because it is bigger than Andrew,” said Ann Samuels, 49, as she arrived to the Robert Morgan Education Center. On the short trip from her home she said her mind went back to 1992 when Hurricane Andrew forced her and her two young children and eight others into a closet. “They say to not stress and not worry, but how can you not?” she added.

Steve Ortega, 29, decided to go home after peeking into the packed shelter. He was 5 years old when Andrew damaged his home.

“I will never forget the noise. That … was the scariest thing I ever heard in my life,” adding he was worried but optimistic his home would remain standing through Irma.

A mandatory evacuation on Georgia’s Atlantic coast was due to begin on Saturday, said Governor Nathan Deal, who expanded a state of emergency to include 94 of 159 counties as the storm’s predicted track shifted west. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Friday added his state to those under a state of emergency.

The governors of North and South Carolina warned residents to remain on guard even as the storm took a more westward track, saying their states still could experience severe weather, including heavy rain and flash flooding, early next week.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended slightly lower as investors braced for potential damage from Irma as it moved toward Florida. Many economists are predicting that third-quarter gross domestic product will take a hit due to the hurricanes.

HURRICANE JOSE REACHES CATEGORY 4

As it roared in from the east, Irma ravaged small islands in the northeastern Caribbean, including Barbuda, St. Martin and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, flattening homes and hospitals and ripping down trees.

Even as they came to grips with the massive destruction, residents of the islands hit hardest by Irma faced the threat of another major storm, Hurricane Jose.

Jose, expected to reach the northeastern Caribbean on Saturday, was an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 150 mph (240 kph), the NHC said on Friday.

Reporting by Makini Brice in Cap-Haitien, Haiti; Delana Isles in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos; Sarah Marsh in Caibarien, Cuba; Marc Frank in Havana; Bernie Woodall in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Ben Gruber and Andy Sullivan in Miami; Bate Felix, Richard Lough and Dominique Vidalon in Paris; Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Neil Hartnell in Nassau, Bahamas; Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu and David Shepardson in Washington; Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Bernie Woodall in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Writing by Frances Kerry and Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Trump administration wants to make internet spying law permanent | Reuters

By Dustin Volz
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The Trump administration supports making permanent a law that allows for the collection of digital communications of foreigners believed to be living overseas and which pass through U.S. phone or internet providers, a senior White House official said.

The law, which is due to expire on December 31 unless Congress votes to reauthorize it, has been criticized by privacy advocates who argue it allows for the incidental collection of data belonging to millions of Americans without a warrant.

“We cannot allow adversaries abroad to cloak themselves in the legal protections we extend to Americans,” White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert wrote in an op-ed published in the New York Times on Wednesday.

The article, in which Bossert spoke on behalf of the White House, sets the stage for what is likely to be a contentious debate between a bipartisan group of lawmakers seeking to reform a part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as Section 702 and a conservative bloc that wants to make it permanent.

The statute, which allows the National Security Agency a wide berth in the collection of foreigners’ digital communications, normally comes with a “sunset” clause roughly every five years to allow lawmakers to reconsider its impact on privacy and civil liberties.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats defended Section 702 during his testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee and also called for its permanent renewal, saying it was necessary to keep the United States and its allies safe from national security threats.

Fourteen Republican senators, including every Republican member of the intelligence panel, are backing a bill introduced on Tuesday that would make Section 702 permanent.

Reuters reported in March that the Trump administration supported renewal of Section 702 without any changes, citing an unnamed White House official, but it was not clear whether it wanted the law made permanent.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Alden Bentley and Paul Simao)

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Amal and George Clooney welcome boy and girl twins | Reuters

By Jill Serjeant
| LOS ANGELES

LOS ANGELES Amal Clooney on Tuesday gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, the first children for the international human rights lawyer and her movie star spouse.

“This morning Amal and George welcomed Ella and Alexander Clooney into their lives. Ella, Alexander and Amal are all healthy, happy and doing fine,” George Clooney’s publicist Stan Rosenfield said in an email.

He added cheekily, “George is sedated and should recover in a few days.”

Amal Clooney, 39, and the 56-year-old Oscar-winning star of films like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Three Kings” married in Italy in 2014, making them one of the world’s biggest celebrity couples.

Rosenfield did not say where the twins were born but the couple appear to have been spending much of their time recently in England, where they have one of several homes.

The couple adopted a low profile during the pregnancy, keeping the news private for months before it was confirmed in February by the actor’s close friend, Matt Damon.

Amal Clooney largely continued her work as a human rights lawyer, addressing the United Nations in March and urging the international community to investigate crimes committed by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Nevertheless, celebrity news media speculated for months about the sex of the twins, where they would be born and in which country they will be raised.

On Tuesday, social media lit up with congratulatory messages and “Ella and Alexander” was among the top trending topics on Twitter in the United States.

Many contributors praised the choice of names as a refreshingly normal departure from a trend that has seen celebrity babies given names like Apple, Audio, Bronx, North West and Rocket.

“Good lord, the Clooneys have given their twins lovely ordinary names. Shocking. And they call themselves celebrities…,” wrote British journalist Nicola Jane Swinney on Twitter.

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres posted a Twitter message saying, “Congratulations, George and Amal, or as I’m now calling you, Ocean’s Four.”

Congratulations also came from actress Mia Farrow and U.S. journalist Katie Couric.

People magazine reported on Tuesday that former U.S. President Barack Obama paid a long, private visit with the Clooneys at their home in the countryside west of London on May 27.

George Clooney canceled a visit to Armenia for a humanitarian event this past weekend, saying in a message to organizers that “if I came there and my wife had twins while I was there, I could never come home.”

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Additional reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)

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Labor Department to ramp up fraud probes of foreign visa programs | Reuters

By Sarah N. Lynch
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Labor Department said on Tuesday it is stepping up efforts to root out potential fraud in its visa programs for foreign workers, a move that will include increases in both civil investigations as well as criminal referrals.

The announcement by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta follows President Donald Trump in April ordering a review of the U.S. visa program as part of his “America First” campaign pledge.

The April executive order specifically entailed a review of the H-1B visa program, which is routinely used by technology firms like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp and Infosys Ltd to bring skilled foreign workers, such as engineers and programmers, to jobs in the United States.

Critics of the program, including Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, have argued that the laws governing these visas are lax and make it too easy for companies to replace U.S. workers with less-expensive foreign labor.

The U.S. Labor Department and Department of Homeland Security each play a role in reviewing the applications for foreign guest workers.

In April, Homeland Security said it was planning to take steps as well to prevent fraud in the H-1B visa program.

On Tuesday, the Labor Department said its new policy will be to “enforce vigorously all laws within its jurisdiction governing the administration and enforcement of non-immigrant visa programs.”

The steps it will take include directing the department’s wage and hour division to “use all its tools” to conduct civil probes. The department is also asking its employment and training office to work on proposing changes to the labor condition application that companies file when they seek to hire foreign guest workers.

In addition, the department will be more aggressive in making criminal referrals to its inspector general’s office and create a new working group to better oversee and coordinate enforcement efforts.

“Entities who engage in visa program fraud and abuse are breaking our laws and are harming American workers, negatively affecting Americans’ ability to provide for themselves and their families,” Acosta said in a statement.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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White Las Vegas officer charged in chokehold death of black | Reuters

Officer Kenneth Lopera was charged on the same day the Clark County Coroner’s Office ruled the May 14 death of Tashii Farmer, 40, near the Las Vegas Strip was a homicide due to police restraint.

The coroner also found Farmer’s enlarged heart and methamphetamine intoxication were contributing factors.

The two charges of involuntary manslaughter and oppression under color of office brought against Lopera, which could each carry a maximum sentence of four years in prison if he is convicted, follow a number of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of the police in the United States that have spawned protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The charges are the result of the coroner’s findings along with evidence gathered from video surveillance, (police) body-worn cameras and witness statements,” Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, who overseas the police department that employs Lopera, said at a news conference.

Farmer, who also went by the last name Brown, approached the officer on May 14 inside the Venetian Hotel, saying he believed people were chasing him, police have said. Farmer, who was sweating and looked panicked, then ran into a restricted area.

Lopera ran after Farmer, catching up to him outside the hotel where he tried to arrest Farmer, police have said.

With hotel security guards helping him, the officer used a Taser in an unsuccessful attempt to stun Farmer into submission and later held him in a chokehold, according to police.

After Lopera released Farmer from the chokehold, Farmer was no longer breathing. Paramedics rushed him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Lopera, who has been placed on unpaid leave, was arrested and booked into jail on Monday. The Las Vegas Police Protective Association paid $6,000 to have him released on bail, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, citing the police union’s president, Steve Grammas.

“We will be representing the officer to the fullest extent that we can,” Grammas told the newspaper.

Grammas could not be reached for comment late on Monday.

Lopera tried to arrest Farmer because the officer believed Farmer was trying to hijack a truck, but investigators later concluded Farmer would not have been charged with a crime for his actions had he lived, police have said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Cosby arrives for start of Pennsylvania sex assault trial | Reuters

By Joseph Ax
| NORRISTOWN, Pa.

NORRISTOWN, Pa. Comedian Bill Cosby arrived at a Pennsylvania courthouse on Monday for the start of a sexual assault trial, the culmination of years of allegations that have torpedoed his show business career.

Cosby, 79, once a beloved entertainer known for his family-friendly brand of comedy, is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004.

He smiled and nodded at journalists but did not speak when he arrived at the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. Cosby entered the courthouse with the assistance of two associates.

Jurors for the trial have been brought from Pittsburgh at the request of defense lawyers.

Constand will appear as the prosecution’s key witness during the trial, which is expected to last two weeks. She is a former basketball player at Cosby’s Temple University alma mater and more than three decades his junior.

Out of dozens of similar allegations by women against Cosby over decades, Constand’s accusation is the only one to result in criminal charges. Cosby has denied ever assaulting anyone, saying the encounters with Constand and others were consensual.

It was Constand’s own civil lawsuit that eventually led the Montgomery County district attorney’s office to prosecute Cosby in 2015. She filed the lawsuit in 2005, weeks after that office declined to bring charges.

In what was then a sealed deposition, Cosby acknowledged he had obtained Quaaludes, a sedative, to give them to young women with whom he wanted to have sex. A federal judge released parts of the deposition in 2015, prompting prosecutors to reopen the case.

Constand has told investigators that she viewed Cosby as a mentor and that he plied her with wine and unidentified pills, leaving her unable to resist his sexual advances.

Defense lawyers will aim to undermine Constand’s credibility, asking why she failed to report the incident for a year and then could not recall certain details like the month when it occurred.

Prosecutors will also call a second accuser, whose name is not yet public, to bolster Constand’s testimony. The woman, known as Kacey, says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1996.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Von Ahn)

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Trump supporters confront counter-protests in Portland, Oregon | Reuters

By Terray Sylvester
| PORTLAND, Ore.

PORTLAND, Ore. Riot police turned out in force in downtown Portland on Sunday to maintain order as supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump faced off in dueling political rallies, a week after racially charged killings that shook Oregon’s largest city.

The Trump Free Speech Rally drew hundreds of demonstrators to a public square near City Hall, where a far larger throng of counter-protesters and onlookers massed on three sides of the park in a heated encounter that grew tense at times but remained mostly peaceful.

Dozens of black-clad, masked anti-Trump protesters waved an “Antifascist Action” flag at pro-Trump activists across the street at one point, yelling: “Nazis, go home,” while members of the opposing rally, some carrying American flags, chanted: “USA, USA.”

A phalanx of helmeted police officers took up positions to keep the two sides apart, break up scuffles and detain protesters seen crossing police lines to agitate the other side.

Police reported at least four arrests, and displayed photos on Twitter of weapons seized from demonstrators, including a hunting knife, brass knuckles, clubs, roadside flares, a slingshot and several homemade shields.

Tempers and shoving matches flared periodically, but law enforcement kept violence mostly in check. Late in the day, as the pro-Trump rally was coming to an end, police ordered counter-demonstrators to disperse from two adjacent parks, prompting some in the crowd to hurl rocks and other projectiles at officers.

Officers responded by firing volleys of “pepper ball” rounds. Police earlier reported seeing protesters removing bricks from the exterior of a public restroom.

The confrontation appeared to be winding down after police corralled a group of about 200 stragglers on a nearby street, then herded them single file through a checkpoint where each was photographed and ordered to show identification before being released. Several more arrests were made during that process.

TENSIONS HIGH

Tensions were already running high a week after a man yelling religious and racial slurs at two teenage girls on a Portland commuter train stabbed three passengers who intervened, killing two of them.

One of the girls accosted in the incident, which the FBI is investigating as a suspected hate crime, was black, and the other wore a Muslim head scarf.

Jeremy Christian, a 35-year-old with a prior felony record, was arrested and charged with murder in the May 26 attack, which Trump condemned as “unacceptable” while saluting the victims for “standing up to hate and intolerance.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler urged federal authorities last week to rescind a permit for Sunday’s pro-Trump rally, saying he worried about inflaming passions after the stabbings.

But the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages the protest site, denied Wheeler’s request, saying the permit was lawfully obtained weeks earlier.

Still, left-wing activists seized on the stabbings as a rallying cry for counter-protests on Sunday.

“I’m here today to stand against the hate he was spewing out,” said Sharon Maxwell, 52, of Portland. “As a woman of color, I’m not going to stand for that.”

John Turano, 49, a welder from Los Angeles dressed in red, white and blue with a metal breastplate and helmet, said he was attending the pro-Trump rally as a “defender,” accusing the other side of trying “to take away the rights of people here.”

Stewart Rhodes, a leader of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia, told Reuters that members of his group provided security for the Trump rally at the request of a local Republican Party chairman.

(Reporting in Portland, Ore. by Terray Sylvester; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney and James Dalgleish)

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Trump urges end to political correctness in wake of London attack | Reuters

By David Morgan
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday urged the world to stop being “politically correct” in order to ensure security, after three attackers drove a van into pedestrians and stabbed revelers in London, killing seven.

At least 48 people were injured in the attack, the third to hit Britain in less than three months and occurring days ahead of a snap parliamentary election on Thursday.

“We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people,” Trump wrote on Sunday morning. “If we don’t get smart it will only get worse.”

He continued: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!'”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan — elected last year and the first Muslim to head a major Western capital — had earlier said Britons should not be alarmed to see a higher police presence on the streets of London following the incident.

Earlier, Trump offered U.S. help to Britain and promoted his controversial travel ban as an extra level of security for Americans.

“Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U.K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!” Trump wrote on Saturday.

Trump also spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May to offer condolences and offered Washington’s “full support” in investigating and bringing the perpetrators to justice, the White House said in a statement.

In another tweet on Saturday, Trump said “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a statement late Saturday saying “At this time, we have no information to indicate a specific, credible terror threat in the United States.”

TRAVEL BAN

Trump’s appeal for his travel ban, which he says is needed to protect Americans from terrorist attacks, followed his emergency request that the Supreme Court reinstate the executive order that would bar people entering the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries.

Critics say his reasoning is flawed and assail the ban, which has been blocked by lower courts, as discriminatory.

The U.S. State Department condemned what it called “the cowardly attacks targeting innocent civilians” in a statement, and echoed Trump’s readiness to provide any assistance that British authorities request.

“All Americans stand in solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the statement.

Trump was briefed earlier about the London Bridge incident by his national security team, according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who said on Twitter that security officials would continue providing the president with updates.

The State Department also said it was monitoring the situation and advised Americans in Britain to heed the advice of local authorities and maintain their security awareness.

Law enforcement officials in major U.S. cities said they were not aware of any threats but were on alert.

“There is no credible threat or nexus to LA,” the Los Angeles Police Department tweeted. “We ask Angelenos to stay vigilant.”

The New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau said on Twitter that its critical response teams had been deployed to heavily traveled pedestrian areas.

“Go about your Sat. night, NYPD cops are protecting you” the department’s official account tweeted.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement he had directed state law enforcement officials to step up security and patrols at high-profile locations, including airports, bridges, tunnels and mass transit systems.

Ariana Grande, the U.S. singer whose May 22 concert in Manchester, England was hit by a suicide bombing that killed 22 people and wounded 116, tweeted “Praying for London” after Saturday’s attacks.

(Editing by Chris Michaud and Catherine Evans)

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Trump to hit the road for a jobs-focused reset in tough week | Reuters

By Roberta Rampton
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump will hit the road next week to ramp up his long-promised plan to overhaul the nation’s aging airports, roads and railways, a push that could energize his supporters and distract from political intrigue in Washington.

The infrastructure push – which will include a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio – comes as the White House seeks to refocus attention on core promises to boost jobs and the economy made by Trump last year during his campaign for office.

Those pledges have been eclipsed by the political furor over Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. That drama will come to a head on Thursday when former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, who was leading the Russia probe until Trump fired him, testifies before a U.S. Senate panel.

Trump – who has denied any collusion between Russia and his campaign – has struggled to keep the spotlight on plans that could give him a political lift. The four events next week on infrastructure, which were in the works before Comey’s hearing was scheduled, will give Trump the opportunity to provide some counterprogramming to the drumbeat of Russia news.

It is a deft messaging move, said Chris Barron, a pro-Trump Republican strategist, who says the president is at his best when he is on the offensive.

“I think we need to see Trump out of D.C. I think we need to see Trump out on the road. I think we need to see Trump engaging his base, firing up his base,” Barron told Reuters.

BIPARTISAN APPEAL

During his campaign, Trump promised a 10-year, trillion-dollar program to modernize decrepit infrastructure – a plan that holds bipartisan appeal because of its job-creating potential, and that will require backing from the U.S. Congress.

Legislative wins have eluded Trump thus far. He kicked off his policy push with healthcare and tax reform, initiatives that have become bogged down in process and controversy. The infrastructure push will offer some fresh ideas for the White House and lawmakers alike to discuss.

“It doesn’t matter who you are – whether you’re a farmer in the Midwest or a mother driving your kids to and from school, or work, or a college kid flying back and forth to school – you’re affected by infrastructure,” Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, told reporters during a preview of the events.

On Monday, Trump will propose privatizing the air traffic control system, calling on lawmakers to hive it off from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Trump will make remarks in the Rose Garden and explain how the plan will save travelers time and save fuel costs for airlines, Cohn said.

On Wednesday, Trump will travel to the banks of the Ohio River to talk about improvements to the 12,000 miles (19,300 km) of inland waterways, dams, locks and ports critical for shipping farm products, and will deliver a speech about his vision for infrastructure, Cohn said.

He will huddle with a bipartisan group of governors and mayors at the White House on Thursday to discuss their needs and plans, Cohn said. Most U.S. infrastructure is owned by state and local governments.

Trump will wrap up his push on Friday with a visit to the Department of Transportation to discuss regulatory reform for roads and rail, Cohn said.

BILL STILL IN WORKS

Trump last month asked Congress for $200 billion for infrastructure over 10 years, a plan that would encourage state and local governments to lease assets to the private sector to generate funding for other projects.

Some projects in rural areas may need traditional federal grants, an administration official told reporters, but most funds will be used to try to attract and leverage outside spending.

His administration has said it wants states to expand the use of tolling on interstate highways.

The White House does not plan to release its own infrastructure bill, and officials told reporters the timing for legislation is not set.

On the air traffic control overhaul, Trump plans to share the “principles” he supports, but will leave the drafting of legislation to lawmakers, officials told reporters.

Trump has said in the past that he would consider packaging infrastructure with healthcare or tax reform legislation as an incentive to obtain support from lawmakers.

The infrastructure plan has already attracted some private-sector interest. Last month, U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group LP and Saudi Arabia’s main sovereign wealth fund said they planned to create a $40 billion vehicle to invest in infrastructure projects, mainly in the United States.

(Additional reporting by Luciana Lopez in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)

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Man released after arrest with guns at Trump’s Washington hotel | Reuters

By Ian Simpson
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON A U.S. judge on Friday released a Pennsylvania doctor arrested this week with guns and ammunition at President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel who authorities say wanted to meet the president and bring down “big pharmacy.”

Bryan Moles, 43, of Edinboro, faces weapons charges after police found an assault rifle, pistol and 90 rounds of ammunition on Wednesday in his BMW at the Trump International Hotel, where he had checked in.

The former Navy corpsman’s arrest, prompted by a tip from Pennsylvania authorities to the U.S. Secret Service and Washington police, averted a “potential disaster,” the capital city’s police chief said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather on Friday said Moles could remain free from custody while the case was pending but ordered him to stay away from the White House and Trump’s hotel, as well as Washington unless in the city for something related to his case. He also must surrender the more than 20 firearms at his home, she said.

The judge ordered Moles to report for a mental health evaluation at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Georgia, where he will live with a friend. He told Meriweather he was married with two children.

Moles, who faces a federal charge of unlawful possession of a firearm and a local charge of unlawful transportation of a firearm, was released on the local charge under similar conditions.

He and his lawyer, public defender Loui Itoh, declined to comment after the hearing.

A criminal complaint said Moles had told an acquaintance in voicemails that he was heading to the White House and would stay there until he met Trump.

Moles said he “was a refugee intent on bringing down big pharmacy and big business medicine,” the filing said.

He told the acquaintance his car “looked like Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph was going on a camping trip,” referring to men convicted of deadly bombings in the 1990s.

Police found $10,000 in his room, and Moles told officers he had $4.19 left in his checking account. The number was important to him because it corresponded to the date of the April 19, 1995, bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City by McVeigh that killed 168 people, the filing said.

Moles, a physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Meriweather he had been suspended from his job and owed between $6,000 and $7,000 a month in debt payments.

A federal preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 22.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lisa Shumaker)

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