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The words Trump had to hear: Investigations, Biden , Clinton

There were three words President Donald Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine president: Investigations, Biden, Clinton.

That's according to the transcript, released Thursday, of an impeachment inquiry interview with career State Department official George Kent.

"Potus wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton," Kent testified. "Basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand."

Kent told investigators that that was his understanding of what Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to say in order to unlock U.S. military aid, as relayed to the official by others, including those in direct contact with the president.

Numerous current and former Trump officials have testified that the president was conditioning U.S. aid on Ukraine publicly investigating Democrats including his potential 2020 political foe Joe Biden and Biden's son.

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Senior US envoy in Syria highly critical of troop withdrawal

A senior American diplomat has written a highly critical assessment of the Trump administration's abrupt withdrawal of troops from northeast Syria last month, a decision that paved the way for an attack on U.S.-allied forces in the area, officials said Thursday.

In an internal memo, William Roebuck, the top American diplomat in northern Syria, takes the Trump administration to task for not doing more to prevent Turkey's invasion or protect the Kurds, who fought alongside U.S. forces in the battle against the Islamic State group, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

One of the officials described the memo, which was obtained and first revealed by The New York Times, as "lengthy and harsh." The officials were not authorized to discuss internal documents publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Roebuck's memo highlights how Trump's decision to withdraw American troops was deeply divisive, even within his own administration. The move was widely criticized by Democrats and Republicans as abandoning a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State.

Turkey invaded days after President Donald Trump ordered the small number of U.S. special forces in the area to leave.

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Mexico farm town buries 3 of 9 slain Americans

As Mexican soldiers stood guard, a mother and two sons were laid to rest in hand-hewn pine coffins in a single grave dug out of the rocky soil Thursday at the first funeral for the victims of a drug cartel ambush that left nine American women and children dead.

Clad in shirt sleeves, suits or modest dresses, about 500 mourners embraced in grief under white tents erected in La Mora, a hamlet of about 300 people who consider themselves Mormon but are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some wept, and some sang hymns.

Members of the extended community — many of whom, like the victims, are dual U.S-Mexican citizens — had built the coffins themselves and used shovels to dig the shared grave in La Mora's small cemetery. Farmers and teenage boys carried the coffins.

Mourners filed past to view the bodies and pay their final respects to Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her sons Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2.

They were laid to rest together, just as they died together Monday when attackers fired a hail of bullets at their SUV on a dirt road leading to another settlement, Colonia LeBaron. Six children and three women in all were killed in the attack on the convoy of three SUVs.

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Bloomberg opens door to 2020 Democratic run for president

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, is opening the door to a 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, warning that the current field of candidates is ill equipped to defeat President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg, who initially ruled out a 2020 run, has not made a final decision on whether to jump into the race. If he were to launch a campaign, it could dramatically reshape the Democratic contest less than three months before primary voting begins.

The 77-year-old has spent the past few weeks talking with prominent Democrats about the state of the 2020 field, expressing concerns about the steadiness of former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign and the rise of liberal Sen. Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, according to people with knowledge of those discussions. In recent days, he took steps to keep his options open, including moving to get on the primary ballot in Alabama ahead of the state's Friday filing deadline.

In a statement on Thursday, Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson said the former mayor believes Trump "represents an unprecedented threat to our nation" and must be defeated.

"But Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that," Wolfson said.

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Sessions , an Alabama icon, faces uncertain path to Senate

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday he wants to reclaim his old Senate seat from Alabama, where he's been a conservative icon and dominant vote-getter since the 1990s.

But it's already clear that President Donald Trump's enmity toward him, along with an established field of competitors, means he'll have to battle his way to the Republican nomination.

And early indications are that he may not have robust help from former GOP Senate colleagues, either.

"The people in Alabama will figure this out," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told The Associated Press on Thursday when asked if it's a good idea for Sessions to run. "We do want to get that seat back, and I'm hopeful we will."

Sessions, 72, announced his 2020 run on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight," which touted Sessions' appearance as his first national television interview since he resigned from the Trump administration in November 2018.

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Judge fines Trump $2 million for misusing charity foundation

A judge Thursday ordered President Donald Trump to pay $2 million to an array of charities as a fine for misusing his own charitable foundation to further his political and business interests.

New York state Judge Saliann Scarpulla imposed the penalty after the president admitted to a series of abuses outlined in a lawsuit brought against him last year by the New York attorney general's office.

Among other things, Trump acknowledged in a legal filing that he allowed his presidential campaign staff to coordinate with the Trump Foundation in holding a fundraiser for veterans during the run-up to the 2016 Iowa caucuses. The event was designed "to further Mr. Trump's political campaign," Scarpulla said.

In a defiant statement issued Thursday evening, though, Trump suggested he was neither sorry nor in the wrong.

"I am the only person I know, perhaps the only person in history, who can give major money to charity (19M), charge no expense, and be attacked by the political hacks in New York State," he wrote.

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Iran 5.9 magnitude earthquake kills at least 5, injures 120

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck northwestern Iran early Friday, killing at least five people and injuring 120 others, officials said.

The temblor struck Tark county in Iran's Eastern Azerbaijan province at 2:17 a.m. local time, Iran's seismological center said. That's some 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Iran's capital, Tehran.

Over 40 aftershocks rattled the rural region nestled in the Alborz Mountains, and residents rushed out of their homes in fear.

The head of Iran's emergency medical services, Pirhossein Koulivand, gave the casualty figures to state television. There were no immediate video or images broadcast from the area.

Rescuers have been dispatched to the region, officials said. State TV reported the earthquake destroyed 30 homes at its epicenter.

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Huawei founder says US sanctions not his toughest crisis

For decades, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei stayed out of sight as his company grew to become the biggest maker of network gear for phone carriers and surpassed Apple as the No. 2 smartphone brand.

Now, Ren is shedding that anonymity as Huawei Technologies Ltd. mobilizes against the latest threat to its success: U.S. sanctions and warnings that is a security risk.

The billionaire entrepreneur embroiled in the Trump administration's fight with China over technology is a 75-year-old former army engineer who worked his way out of childhood poverty. He has survived competition that drove Western rivals out of the market, brushes with financial disaster and job stress so severe he contemplated suicide.

He sees American pressure as just the latest in a string of tests that have hardened him and his company.

"For three decades, Huawei has been suffering and no joy," Ren said in an interview. "The pain of each episode is different."

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Brazil top court's ruling could free ex-President Da Silva

Brazil's Supreme Court delivered a narrow decision Thursday night that could release almost 5,000 inmates still appealing their convictions, including jailed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva .

The court decided in a 6-5 vote that a person can be imprisoned only after all appeals to higher courts have been exhausted.

The decision appears to cover Da Silva and others convicted in cases arising from the sprawling "Car Wash" corruption investigation, which has ensnared dozens of top politicians and business leaders in Latin America's biggest nation.

The former president's attorneys said in a statement they will request his release Friday. That move will initially depend on a judge based in the southern city of Curitiba, where Da Silva is jailed.

The Supreme Court's debate began in mid-October and its result could throw Brazil's political landscape into uncertainty. Da Silva had been favored to win the 2018 presidential election, but his conviction prohibited him from running. He remains a popular figure on the left, whose politicians and voters have ceaselessly called for his release and celebrated Thursday's ruling.

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People puzzled by peculiar texts, and no one can say why

If you woke up Thursday to a weird text that seemed totally out of place, you aren't alone. A mysterious wave of missives swept America's phones overnight, delivering largely unintelligible messages from friends, family and the occasional ex.

Friends who hadn't talked to each other in months were jolted into chatting. Others briefly panicked.

The best explanation seems to be that old texts sent in the spring suddenly went through. Two people said they figured out the original messages were never received. It's not clear why this months-long delay happened. Phone companies blamed others and offered no further explanations.

Stephanie Bovee, a 28-year-old from Portland, woke up at 5 a.m. to a text from her sister that said just "omg." She immediately thought something had happened to her newborn nephew at the hospital.

She started calling everyone. Her sister and her sister's husband didn't answer. She woke up her mom, freaking her out. It was three hours before she learned that everything was fine and the text was an odd anomaly.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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