AP COVERAGE

AP Top News at 4:01 a.m. EST

Malaysia awaits lab tests after nerve agent used in airport
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - One day after Malaysia revealed that VX nerve agent was used in a bizarre killing at the Kuala Lumpur airport, police said Saturday that they have raided a condominium and were awaiting lab results on what they found. The public poisoning of Kim Jong Nam, which took place amid crowds of travelers in a budget airport terminal, has boosted speculation that North Korea dispatched two killers to take out an outcast member of the ruling family. Kim's younger half brother is Kim Jong Un, the ruler of North Korea. Though Kim Jong Nam was not an obvious political threat to his sibling, he may have been seen as a potential rival in the country's dynastic dictatorship.


AP Analysis: Will China be North Korea's Trump card?
TOKYO (AP) - China's announcement it has suspended North Korean coal imports may have been its first test of whether the Trump administration is ready to do something about a major, and mutual, security problem: North Korea's nukes. While China is Pyongyang's biggest enabler, it is also the biggest outside agent of regime-challenging change - just not in the way Washington has wanted. Judging from Trump's limited comments so far, and the gaping chasm between Washington's long-held focus on sanctions and punishment and Beijing's equally deep commitment to diplomatic talks that don't require the North to first give up its arsenal, a deal between the two won't come easily.


AP Exclusive: Analysts downplay threat from 7 nations in ban
WASHINGTON (AP) - Analysts at the Homeland Security Department's intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump's travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States. A draft document obtained by The Associated Press concludes that citizenship is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria's civil war started in 2011. Trump cited terrorism concerns as the primary reason he signed the sweeping temporary travel ban in late January, which also halted the U.S.


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White House defends contacts with FBI over Russia reports
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House on Friday defended chief of staff Reince Priebus against accusations he breached a government firewall when he asked FBI Director James Comey to publicly dispute media reports that Trump campaign advisers had been frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents. President Donald Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, argued Priebus had little choice but to seek Comey's assistance in rebutting what Spicer said were inaccurate reports about contacts during last year's presidential campaign. The FBI did not issue the statement requested by Priebus and has given no sign one is forthcoming. "I don't know what else we were supposed to do," Spicer said.


White House bars major news outlets from informal briefing
News organizations including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Politico were blocked from joining an informal, on-the-record White House press briefing Friday. The Associated Press chose not to participate in the briefing after White House press secretary Sean Spicer restricted the number of journalists included. Typically, the daily briefing is televised and open to all news organizations credentialed to cover the White House. "The AP believes the public should have as much access to the president as possible," Lauren Easton, the AP's director of media relations, said in a statement. On Friday, hours after President Donald Trump delivered a speech blasting the media, Spicer invited only a pool of news organizations that represents and shares reporting with the larger press corps.


At town halls, GOP caught between Trump, angry voters
URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) - When hundreds of angry constituents chanted "no wall" at his Iowa town hall, Republican Rep. David Young agreed it wasn't necessary. When they demanded that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, the second-term congressman called it a "no-brainer." And, when they yelled at the mention of White House adviser Steve Bannon's name, Young quickly replied: "I don't know much about him." "On the subject of the president, I want you to know that although he's the president, he's not my boss," the lawmaker said, struggling to be heard over yet another round of raucous chants that echoed across the suburban Des Moines auditorium.


As party rebuilds, Democrats seek a new DNC leader
ATLANTA (AP) - Democrats are beginning the process of rebuilding their party by choosing a new national chairman charged with turning widespread opposition to President Donald Trump into more election victories. With the outcome of Saturday's vote uncertain, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison made a final push Friday to cajole support from the hundreds of state party leaders, donors and activists who make up the Democratic National Committee and determine the party's direction. Perez supporters say he's on the cusp of the required majority. Ellison maintains that he is still a viable candidate. A handful of other candidates are holding out hope that neither Ellison nor Perez can command a majority, opening up the race for an upset in later rounds of voting.


Syrian who worked on nominated film can't attend Oscars
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. immigration authorities are barring entry to a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on a harrowing film about his nation's civil war, "The White Helmets," that has been nominated for an Academy Award. According to internal Trump administration correspondence seen by The Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security has decided at the last minute to block Khaled Khateeb from traveling to Los Angeles for the Oscars. Khateeb was scheduled to arrive Saturday in Los Angeles on a Turkish Airlines flight departing from Istanbul. But his plans have been upended after U.S. officials reported finding "derogatory information" regarding Khateeb.


Transgender boy 2 wins away from girls state wrestling title
CYPRESS, Texas (AP) - Mack Beggs could win a Texas state wrestling title on Saturday. Win or lose, the debate over whether a 17-year-old transgender boy should be wrestling girls will continue. Beggs won two matches on Friday to advance to Saturday's semifinals, moving him within two victories of a gold medal. Beggs' family has said he would rather be wrestling boys. Some girls and their advocates agree, arguing that the testosterone treatments Beggs has been taking while in transition from female to male have made him too strong to wrestle fairly against women. But under the state's governing policy for athletics, students must wrestle against the gender listed on their birth certificates.


AP Explains: Who competes and how Carnival parades judged
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Rio de Janeiro's Carnival parade is world famous for the samba dancing, costumes that leave little to the imagination and the magnificent floats that roll down Avenida Marques de Sapucai, also known as the "sambadrome." For the competitors, getting to the big show is months in the making. Here are questions and answers about what goes into the big show that is Carnival: HOW DOES IT WORK? Competing schools of samba spend much of the year preparing for a 75-minute presentation that must include at least six floats to tell a story in an innovative way - while participants dance and sing, of course.