Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment:

March 14, 2017 - 6:04 pm


Spicer says Trump confident on wiretap evidence

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Donald Trump is "extremely confident" that the Justice Department will produce evidence backing up his claim that his predecessor wiretapped his New York skyscraper during the election.

The comments from spokesman Sean Spicer come one day after the Justice Department asked lawmakers for more time to produce that evidence. The House intelligence committee gave the department until March 20, the first day of its hearings on Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible contacts between Trump advisers and Russians.

Spicer says the president is confident that information yet to be released will "vindicate him."

Earlier this month, Trump accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the campaign. Obama has denied the explosive allegations and there has been no evidence backing up Trump's claims.


Russian man faces US charges related to Citadel malware

ATLANTA (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Atlanta say a Russian man appeared in court on charges related to malicious software designed to steal personal financial information.

U.S. Attorney John Horn said in a news release that Mark Vartanyan, known as Kolypto, appeared in court Tuesday following extradition from Norway in December. Vartanyan faces a computer fraud charge.

Prosecutors say Vartanyan was involved in the development, improvement, maintenance and distribution of Citadel, which infects computer systems and steals financial and personal identification information. Industry estimates indicate it infected about 11 million computers worldwide and caused more than $500 million in losses.

Another Russian, Dimitry Belorossov, known as Rainerfox, was sentenced in September 2015 to serve four and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to charges stemming from an ongoing investigation into Citadel.


NEW: Reports: Kushner family company in possible Chinese deal

NEW YORK (AP) — The company owned by the family of President Donald Trump's son-in-law is reportedly negotiating to sell a $400 million stake in a New York City skyscraper to a Chinese insurer with ties to that country's ruling party.

The New York Times is reporting that a company run by Jared Kushner's father is hammering out a deal with Anbang Insurance Group for a stake in the family's building at 666 Fifth Avenue. Bloomberg News also reported on the deal. Jared Kushner is married to the president's daughter Ivanka and is a senior adviser to the president.

The deal would unite two politically powerful families in both countries and raise conflicts of interest questions.

A White House spokeswoman tells the Times that Jared Kushner previously sold his interest in the building.


NEW: Retired Navy admiral among 9 indicted in bribery case

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A retired Navy admiral is among 9 military officers who have been indicted in a burgeoning bribery scandal involving a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed "Fat Leonard."

The indictment unsealed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego alleged that retired Adm. Bruce Loveless and the other officers accepted the services of prostitutes, lavish meals and fancy trips from Leonard Francis in exchange for helping his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

Prosecutors say Francis overbilled the Navy of $35 million by overcharging for his company's services supplying Navy ships in the Pacific with food, water, fuel and other necessities.

The new indictment in the three-year-old case also charged a former Marine colonel.

More than two dozen people have been charged so far, including another admiral who was convicted last year.

Francis has pleaded guilty to fraud and is awaiting sentencing. His nickname comes from his wide girth.


Winter storm leads to hazardous roads

GILFORD, N.H. (AP) — Police say a 16-year-old girl has been killed in a traffic accident in New Hampshire after losing control of her car on a snowy road and hitting a tree.

A late-winter storm featuring snow, ice and high winds has caused dangerous driving conditions from the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast.

New Hampshire State police say the accident happened about 7 a.m. Tuesday in Gilford. The girl was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her identity was being withheld until her family could be notified.

Around the region, officials have urged people to stay off the roads. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy imposed a travel ban on state roads.


Plows escort child needing transplant

DANVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A 23-month-old in need of a heart transplant has been escorted by snowplows and state police troopers through a heavy snowstorm from one hospital to another in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf says the Tuesday afternoon trip was made between hospitals in East Stroudsburg and Danville, some 80 miles apart.

The governor says the child made the trip safely.

The storm dropped more than 20 inches of snow and sleet in parts of eastern Pennsylvania, and snow was continuing to fall Tuesday afternoon.


Pelosi calls for GOP to strip King of chairmanship

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Democrat in the House is calling on Republican leaders to strip Iowa Rep. Steve King of a chairmanship after his inflammatory comments about immigration.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday that Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP leaders should immediately take the chairmanship of a House Judiciary subcommittee from King. Pelosi said King's "racist statements must be called out as unacceptable," and complained that the "tepid, brush-off" response from leadership was disgraceful.

King said this weekend that America can't restore "our civilization with somebody else's babies." He stood by those comments in an interview with CNN on Monday.

Ryan said Monday night on Fox News that he disagreed with King. Other Republicans have criticized King's comments.


White nationalist hopes to regain tax exemption

WASHINGTON (AP) — Prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer says he doesn't have any evidence that his nonprofit organization lost its tax-exempt status for politically motivated reasons.

Spencer told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he is confident his group, the National Policy Institute, can regain its tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The Los Angeles Times first reported that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service recently revoked the group's tax exemption for failing to file tax returns for three consecutive years.

Spencer describes the move as a "bump in the road" and says he doesn't' see it as "political assassination." He also acknowledged that "ignorance of the law is not an excuse," but he said he delegated the group's bookkeeping responsibilities to others.

The IRS posted a notice of the group's revocation on its website Monday, but the loss of its tax status is retroactive to May 15, 2016, the date when its most recent tax return was due.


NEW: Muslim neighbors slain: Defendant faces families in court

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — A man accused of gunning down his Muslim neighbors was emotionless during a brief court appearance where he faced his victims' relatives for the first time in nearly two years.

Defendant Craig Hicks appears to have lost a significant amount of weight since the fatal shootings in February 2015. He wore an orange jumpsuit and said nothing during the pretrial hearing Tuesday in which attorneys discussed discovery issues.

Hicks is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the killings of 23-year-old Deah Barakat; his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha; and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

Deah Barakat's brother, Farris, said it was the first time the families had seen Hicks in person since an April 2015 hearing at which a judge ruled that he can face a death penalty trial.


Officer argues he's broke, asks for public defender

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The former South Carolina police officer charged with killing an unarmed black man running from a traffic stop has asked a judge to allow a publicly funded lawyer to represent him.

News outlets report Michael Slager made that request Tuesday during a hearing in Charleston. Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman says he'll issue a ruling later.

Slager says his family of five lives under the poverty line. Slager was fired and charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Walter Scott following an April 2015 traffic stop in North Charleston.

Slager's first trial ended in a hung jury. Prosecutors have said they would retry him, and that's set for August.

Savage still represents Slager in federal court, where he'll be tried on civil rights charges in May.


Secret police possible at Arkansas Capitol, perhaps colleges

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The agency that protects Arkansas' state Capitol and grounds now has the authority to operate in secret after the governor let a Freedom of Information exemption become law without his signature.

A spokesman said Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not sign the bill, which was intended to close loopholes that some believed would let anyone access security assignments. Spokesman J.R. Davis said he could comment later.

As the bill is written, it would prevent disclosure of any information about the force: its size, its racial or gender makeup or any officer's salary. A similar bill extending privacy to police forces at state-funded colleges and universities passed the Senate on Tuesday.

Open records advocates say the rollbacks would be the greatest ever for the state's 50-year-old Freedom of Information Act.


Prosecutors: Florida men smuggled Cuban players to get rich

MIAMI (AP) — Federal prosecutors have told jurors that a Florida sports agent and a baseball trainer orchestrated an illegal smuggling ring to get rich by bringing Cuban ballplayers to the Major Leagues.

Defense lawyers for agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada countered Tuesday that both stayed within the law while helping players escape communist Cuba and sign lucrative contracts in the U.S.

Now that closing arguments are done in the six-week trial, jurors should begin deliberations Wednesday.

Prosecutors say the smuggling network included boat captains, handlers and forgers of phony paperwork to get players quickly to the U.S.

Some of the dozens of smuggled players testified, including Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Leonys Martin of the Seattle Mariners. Neither Hernandez nor Estrada took the witness stand.


US: Colombia coca production surges to record levels

PUERTO BELLO, Colombia (AP) — Coca production in Colombia has surged to levels unseen in two decades of U.S. eradication efforts.

A new White House report released Tuesday shows an 18 percent increase from 2015-2016 in the Andean country's production of the plant used to make cocaine. An estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres) of Colombian land were planted with coca plants last year.

U.S. officials attribute the skyrocketing coca production to a combination of culprits, including an end to aerial fumigation in 2014 and implementation of a peace agreement with rebels that provides subsidies to coca growers who agree to plant alternative crops.

Production of the leaf began rising in 2013 after years of decline.


Officials worried about impact of cold on DC's cherry trees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Park Service is concerned about the impact of cold weather on Washington's famous cherry blossoms.

National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst says that the snow Monday into Tuesday didn't appear to do damage, but upcoming cold temperatures are concerning. Litterst says that if the temperature gets down to 24 degrees there could be a 90 percent loss of blossoms that were expected to be at their peak in about a week.

National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Lasorsa says Washington's low temperature is forecast to be around 22 degrees Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The National Park Service had forecast peak bloom to occur between March 19 and March 22. Peak bloom is the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees around the city's Tidal Basin are blossoming.


Energy stocks lead Wall Street lower

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended lower on Wall Street as another slide in crude oil prices pulled energy companies lower.

Marathon Oil slumped 3.3 percent Tuesday. Pioneer Natural Resources dropped 2.8 percent.

Pandora Media slumped 6.4 percent after the streaming music company announced it will launch an on-demand service to compete with Apple Music and Spotify.

Small-company stocks fell more than the rest of the market.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 8 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,365.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 44 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,837. The Nasdaq composite fell 18 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,856.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.60 percent.

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