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Associated Press

No. 9 Florida State getting big contributions from its bench

Florida State sophomore Terrance Mann has dubbed the ninth-ranked Seminoles’ bench the “Boom Squad.” So far the nickname has proven to be appropriate considering how productive the reserves have been in conference play.

The Seminoles’ reserves are averaging 22.5 points and the team is 16-1 and off to a 4-0 start in Atlantic Coast Conference play for the first time in school history.

They are one of two ACC teams that have 12 players averaging in double figures in minutes played. The other is 11th-ranked North Carolina (15-3, 3-1 ACC) — and FSU plays the Tar Heels Saturday in Chapel Hill.

“They are like a second starting unit because it wears other teams down which we use to our advantage,” Mann said. “They bring everything — energy, scoring and defense.”

With the depth and no set rotation, coach Leonard Hamilton has often subbed three or four players at a time to get the freshest combination on the court. According to KenPom’s minutes analytics, FSU is the only ACC team to not have anyone play more than 70 percent of their team’s minutes. The past three seasons, Hamilton has had three or more players do that.

The Seminoles have seen 41 percent of playtime go to bench players, which is sixth among Power Five conference schools and 22nd in Division I.

“We haven’t had a lot of quality depth the past couple years,” Hamilton said. “We just now have our full complement that allows us to use everyone. We’re fortunate that those guys are not coming in just to spell guys but contributing at a high level and improve.”

While Florida State’s bench has been mostly populated by newcomers, it has also had a nice mix between youth and experience.

Senior Jarquez Smith (6-foot-9) and sophomore Christ Koumadje, who is the tallest player in program history at 7-4, provide plenty of size in the frontcourt. Koumadje is fifth in the conference in blocks with 24 while Smith is averaging 10 points and 4.5 rebounds in the past two games.

Freshmen CJ Walker and Trent Forrest have been effective at both ends of the court. Walker leads the team in free throw percentage (80.8 percent) and Forrest is sixth in the conference in steals with 28.

“We know when we come in, we’re going to try to make something positive happen. So I just feel like we’ve accepted the role and we enjoy it,” Forrest said.

Sophomore PJ Savoy, who is a junior college transfer, has added the biggest offensive impact with his perimeter shooting off the bench. He is 22 of 50 on 3-pointers during the team’s school-record, 12-game winning streak including a pair of 3-pointers during Tuesday’s 88-72 win over No. 7 Duke.

Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said after his team lost last Saturday that he thinks this is the best team Hamilton has ever had.

“I think they can play a lot of different ways,” Williams said. “I don’t necessarily look at it as a platoon but if you are platooning, obviously that means there are a lot of different options relative to what’s going on in the game.”

The advantage in bodies has been apparent during the second half of games. In conference play, the Seminoles have outscored teams 43-34 after halftime.

If there is a team though that can match FSU’s depth it is the Tar Heels, who have four players averaging in double figures and six averaging at least 7.2 points overall. UNC has the ACC’s top scoring attack at 89.3 points with FSU second at 86.7.

The Tar Heels though will be thin up front with freshman forward Tony Bradley Jr. out due to a concussion. Isaiah Hicks has frequently battled foul trouble while junior swingman Theo Pinson has played in only two games after missing the first 16 due to October foot surgery.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he considers Saturday’s game to be a challenge due to Florida State’s length and depth.

“It’s effective for them defensively because they have good feet and then the length, so they bother your shot,” he said. “They use their length and athleticism and their brain, because I think they’re a really intelligent team too.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Week 1: Cabinet picks contradict Donald Trump stands on some issues

The lack of fireworks surrounding Senate consideration of President-elect Donald Trump‘s Cabinet picks may reflect a slew of statements his choices have made contradicting the billionaire businessman’s position on key issues.

Trump acknowledged the differences early Friday, posting a message on his Twitter account saying: “All my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”

This week’s confirmation hearings produced an odd political chemistry where, for instance, one of the harshest examinations of a Trump Cabinet choice came from one of Trump’s fellow Republicans, presidential campaign rival Sen. Marco Rubio.

Despite Democrats’ dismay over some of Trump’s selections, the hearings were relatively tranquil, with Democrats generally restrained even in quizzing the more contentious picks. The reason, according to a few Democrats: The nominees are proving more palatable than Trump himself.

“As I meet members of the Cabinet I’m puzzled because many of them sound reasonable,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “Far more reasonable than their president.”

That could change in weeks to come, because some of the most potentially explosive hearings are still pending, including the scrutiny of former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary.

Several of Trump’s Cabinet selections this week made statements this week contradicting policy stances espoused by their soon-to-be boss on issues ranging from Russia and NATO to climate change and Muslims.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, picked for attorney general, said he’s against any outright ban on immigration by Muslims, in contrast to Trump’s onetime call to suspend admittance of Muslims until U.S. officials could learn more about nature of the threat of extremism.

His secretary of state candidate, Rex Tillerson, took a relatively hard line on Washington’s dealings with Russia, even though Trump has been talking about improving relations between Washington and Moscow and held out for days before saying he accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow meddled in the U.S. election process.

Tillerson demurred, however, when one senator tried to lure him into calling President Vladimir Putin, whom he knows, a “war criminal,” although he emphasized support for NATO commitments that Trump had questioned. The secretary-of-state designate also said the United States should not back away from its efforts against nuclear proliferation, notwithstanding Trump’s suggestion earlier this year that some key U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea provide their own defense.

Some of the toughest questioning of Tillerson came not from Democrats but from Rubio, who grilled the Exxon Mobil executive on human rights issues.

As Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing approaches, Democrats have set up a website to solicit stories from the thousands of people whose homes were foreclosed on by OneWest Bank while he headed a group of investors who owned the bank. They hope to use Mnuchin’s nomination hearing to attack Trump’s populist appeal with working-class voters and cast themselves as defenders of the middle class.

Thus far, though, Republicans are congratulating themselves for generally smooth sailing. And overall, the lack of drama may also be due to the decision by Democrats while in the Senate majority to lower the vote threshold for Cabinet nominees and others from 60 votes to 50, allowing Republicans to ensure approval as long as they can hold their 52-seat majority together.

“The purpose of confirmation hearings is to examine the record and views of potential nominees and I think that’s what these hearings are doing,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “I think it’s likely that all of the Cabinet nominees are going to be confirmed, I think the hearings have gone quite well this week.”

A hearing Thursday for neurosurgeon Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development featured some pointed questioning from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but also warm exchanges between Carson and other committee Democrats. Afterward Carson thanked the panel and said that it “was actually kind of fun.”

Sessions was denied confirmation once before by the Senate, but that was three decades ago for a federal judgeship. This time around the Alabaman is a sitting senator and was treated gently, for the most part, by his colleagues, even when Democrats brought up the racial issues that brought him down him last time around. There was potential for drama as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., broke with Senate tradition to testify against his colleague, but it came on the second day of the hearing after Sessions had finished testifying, so he was not even in the room.

Tillerson had the rockiest outing thus far, with Rubio pressing him on Russia and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon confronting him about climate change and other issues. With Rubio and others undecided on supporting Tillerson, his ultimate confirmation is in question. But even with Tillerson, Democrats seemed to pull their punches at times.

“I don’t want to argue with you,” Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico remarked at one point, seeming to speak for several colleagues.

And it was practically bipartisan lovefests at the hearings for the choices for Central Intelligence Agency, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo; retired Gen. James Mattis for Defense; and retired Gen. John Kelly for Homeland Security.

“Pompeo’s very popular, Mattis, Kelly — these are popular selections,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The hearings seemed to underscore some emerging dynamics of Trump’s relations with Capitol Hill. Despite his highly unconventional approach, and his lack of Capitol Hill experience, many of his appointees and aides could have been selected by any other Republican, and the Senate is responding accordingly.

And even where Trump’s surprising approach raises the potential for problems, congressional Republicans are working overtime to paper them over, not highlight them.

“We are in complete sync,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., insisted Thursday in a discussion about a different topic, health care.

That could change in weeks to come, as the Senate holds hearings on Mnuchin and other more divisive selections. These include conservative Rep. Tom Price for Health and Human Services; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a vocal denier of climate change science, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; and fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to head the Labor Department.

Still, given that it’s the Senate, not daytime TV, there may be a limit to the potential for conflict, said Ben Marter, Durbin’s communications director. “You have to adjust your excite-o-meter down a little bit, because it’s a Senate hearing. It’s not Maury Povich.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Obama scrapping ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy for Cubans

The Obama administration is ending the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that granted residency to Cubans who arrived in the United States without visas.

That’s according to a senior administration official, who said the policy change was effective immediately.

The official said the U.S. and Cuba have spent several months negotiating the change, including an agreement from Cuba to allow those turned away from the U.S. to return.

The move comes about a week before President Barack Obama leaves office and is likely the last major change he will make to his overhaul of the U.S. relationship with Cuba.

The official insisted on anonymity in order to detail the policy ahead of an official announcement.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

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A farewell address, a news conference and White House change

The outgoing president somberly ruminated about the fragility of democracy and earnestly implored Americans to reject corrosive political dialogue. Fourteen hours later, the incoming president staged a defiant and frenetic news conference at his gilded New York City tower, dismissing critics, insulting reporters and likening the country’s intelligence officers to Nazis.

President Barack Obama‘s farewell address in his hometown of Chicago on Tuesday night and President-elect Donald Trump‘s news conference Wednesday morning offered a study in presidential whiplash, giving the country a striking look at how the White House will change next week.

“Historians are going to look at this period of Obama’s farewell and Trump’s press conference — they’re almost companion pieces in different styles,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “Everyone says that Obama and Trump are 180 degrees different and you can see why.”

The difference in ideology, of course, has been no secret. Trump campaigned on undoing nearly all of Obama’s major policies. But the back-to-back moments in the spotlight illuminated differences in tone and style that left little doubt Americans face a change unlike any in recent memory. It’s a coming shift — from reserved to aggressive, from controlled to wildly unpredictable, from cautious to unfiltered — that left some Americans pining for the Obama era before it had officially ended, and others embracing as refreshing an incoming president far less concerned with conforming to past notions of what is “presidential.”

“They say it’s not presidential to call up these massive leaders of business,” Trump told a crowd in Indianapolis in December after he negotiated a deal with an air-conditioning company to keep jobs in the state, a move many economists derided as unworkable national economic policy. “I think it’s very presidential. And if it’s not presidential, that’s OK. That’s OK. Because I actually like doing it.”

For weeks, voters have wondered if Trump would adjust his improvisational style to conform to the rigid and weighty responsibilities of the White House. Past presidents have described walking into the Oval Office for the first time as president as a sobering experience that makes clear their role as caretakers of the country’s historic legacy.

But in the weeks since his surprise victory, Trump has shown few signs of that transformation. Already, his early actions have broken decades of diplomatic protocol, tested long-standing ethics rules, flouted convention on press access, and continued his combative, deeply personal style of attack on Twitter and in person.

On Wednesday, he suggested leaks from the country’s intelligence agencies were “disgraceful” and likened the behavior to actions by “Nazi Germany.” He also battled with individual reporters — calling a CNN correspondent “rude” and “terrible,” and derided the network as “fake news.”

Obama included media criticism in his speech as well, though in his own way.

“Increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there,” Obama said.

Brinkley, the presidential historian, noted that the shift from Obama to Trump isn’t the first time Americans have faced a major change in the presidency. President Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s farewell address in January 1961 was aired on television in black-and-white while the inaugural parade of President John F. Kennedy a few days later was broadcast in color for the first time by NBC, providing a symbolic generational shift from the black-and-white 1950s to the technicolor 1960s.

“That is child’s play compared to the stark differences of the cerebral Obama being replaced by the in-your-face Trump,” he said.

Trump’s eagerness to shred the unwritten rules of presidential communication makes his news conferences more lively, if somewhat chaotic. Trump dropped a series of personnel and policy news almost in passing, naming his nominee for the Department of Veterans Affairs, revealing the timing of the announcement of his Supreme Court nominee and offering half-formed plans for repealing the health care law.

In another break from protocol, Trump refused to release his tax returns and argued that his victory showed that Americans don’t care about the issue. “You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only ones who ask,” he said.

Trump is betting both that Americans are craving that sort of change and that there are few political drawbacks to his disrupter approach to the presidency. It’s far too soon to test that theory.

On Wednesday, he spoke dismissively about South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former Republican primary rival who is now in position to hold up Trump’s legislative plans in Congress.

Obama, in his farewell address in Chicago, was true to his calibrated approach. He thanked Americans for making him “a better president” and a “better man” and included his trademark oratory that clearly aimed for history.

He made only one reference to Trump and gently pushed back when the crowd began to boo at the mention of the incoming president. “No, no, no, no, no,” Obama said. The “hallmark” of the nation’s democracy was “the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next,” he said.

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Doctors: John Jonchuck, father who dropped daughter off bridge, now competent

A state mental hospital evaluation concludes a Florida man is now competent to stand trial on charges that he threw his young daughter to her death off a Tampa Bay area bridge.

Pinellas Circuit Judge Chris Helinger said during a Wednesday hearing that she’s read the report on 27-year-old John Jonchuck and set a competency hearing for March 27.

Assistant Public Defender Jane McNeill says she’ll want to have doctors chosen by the defense also assess Jonchuck.

Authorities say that in January 2015, Jonchuck stopped his car on the bridge, grabbed 5-year-old Phoebe from the back and then walked to the edge, where he dropped her over.

Doctors have been treating Jonchuck to restore his competency to stand trial.

The Tampa Bay Times reports prosecutors will seek the death penalty

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Donald Trump denounces ‘disgrace’ of reports of Russian ties to him

A defiant President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday adamantly denied reports that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about him, calling it a “tremendous blot” on the record of the intelligence community if such material had been released.

The incoming president, in his first news conference since late July, firmly chided news organizations for publishing the material late Tuesday night. After weeks of scoffing at reports that Russians had interfered in the election, he conceded publicly for the first time that Russia was likely responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said and quickly added that the United States is hacked by other countries as well, including China.

Trump’s extraordinary defense against the unsubstantiated intelligence report, just nine days before his inauguration, dominated a highly anticipated press conference in which he also announced a new Cabinet member, detailed his plans to disentangle himself from his sprawling global business empire, gave his outlook on the future of the “Obamacare” health care law and said he would soon nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information, I read the information outside of that meeting,” he said, a reference to a classified briefing he received from intelligence leaders. “It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” Trump said in a news conference that saw him repeatedly joust with reporters. “It was gotten by opponents of ours.”

Asked about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump boasted that it is an improvement over what he called America’s current “horrible relationship with Russia” and did not criticize the Russian leader for any interference in the election.

“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks, that’s called an asset not a liability. I don’t know if I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin — I hope I do — but there’s a good chance I won’t.”

Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer also denounced the report about Russia’s influence on Trump, and the incoming president said it never should have been released. He thanked some news organizations for showing restraint.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday night that intelligence officials had informed Trump last week about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about him. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.

Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community’s findings last week, the official said.

Media outlets reported on the document late Tuesday and Trump denounced it on Twitter before his news conference as “fake news,” suggesting he was being persecuted for defeating other GOP presidential hopefuls and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election.

The dossier contains unproven information about close coordination between Trump’s inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts as well as unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Trump among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources. The Associated Press has not authenticated any of the claims.

Only days from his inauguration as the nation’s 45th president, Trump announced that he would nominate David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, elevating him from his current role as VA undersecretary.

He promised that a replacement for the health care overhaul would be offered “essentially simultaneously” with the repeal of Obama’s signature health law — something that would be virtually impossible to quickly pass given the complexity of the policy changes. Republicans agree on repealing the law but nearly seven years after its passage have failed to reach agreement on its replacement.

Trump has repeatedly said that repealing and replacing “Obamacare” was a top priority, but has never fully explained how he plans to do it. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that the House would seek to take both steps “concurrently.”

Turning to his plans to build a border wall along the southern border, Trump said he would immediately begin negotiations with Mexico on funding his promised wall after he takes office. He again vowed that “Mexico will pay for the wall but it will be reimbursed.” Trump recommitted to his plans to impose a border tax on manufacturers who shut plants and move production abroad. While the tax policy could retain jobs, it would also carry the risk of increasing prices for consumers.

Trump also said he would probably name his choice to fill the vacancy left by the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in about two weeks after the inauguration.

And he announced his plans for the future of the Trump Organization, bringing to the podium attorney Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, who worked with the Trump Organization on the arrangement.

Dillon said the Trump Organization would continue to pursue deals in the U.S., though Trump will relinquish control of the company to his sons and an executive, put his business assets in a trust and take other steps to isolate himself from his business. She said Trump “should not be expected to destroy the company he built.”

The move appears to contradict a previous pledge by the president-elect. In a tweet last month, Trump vowed to do “no new deals” while in office.

The lawyer said Trump would donate all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels to the U.S. treasury.

And pushing back against some ethics experts, Dillon said the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution does not apply to foreign payments to Trump’s company. While some ethics officials have said that foreign leaders who pay for rooms and services at his various hotels would run afoul of the constitutional ban on foreign gifts or payments to the president, Dillon referred to it as a “fair-value exchange.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Life or death legal journey for airport shooting suspect

A legal journey that could mean life or death for the suspect in the Florida airport mass shooting has begun with appointment of a public defender to represent the Iraq war veteran blamed for killing five people and wounding six more.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Valle told Esteban Santiago, 26, at a hearing Monday that the three federal charges lodged against him could mean the death penalty if he is convicted.

“We are telling you the maximum penalty allowed by law so that you understand the seriousness of the charges,” the judge said.

Shackled in a red jumpsuit in the heavily guarded federal courtroom, Santiago answered mostly yes or no to questions, and told the judge he understands the charges, which include committing violence against people at an international airport resulting in death, and two firearms offenses.

He said he had been in the Army, where he made about $15,000 a year. He mentioned expenses including $560 in monthly rent, plus phone and other utility bills. He said he owns no property and doesn’t have a vehicle. He said he had worked for a security company, Signal 88, in Anchorage, Alaska, until November, making $2,100 a month, but currently only had $5 to $10 in the bank.

Given his finances, the judge decided he’s eligible for government lawyers at taxpayer expense.

Valle ordered Santiago held without bail and also set a detention hearing for Jan. 17, followed by an arraignment for entering a plea for Jan. 23.

More than a dozen officers kept watch outside the courthouse, carrying rifles and wearing bulletproof vests. There were also mounted police and K-9 units.

The charges don’t specifically use the word murder, but the effects of one of the gun charges and the airport charge are the same because they cover actions that result in a person’s death and can result in capital punishment, said former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein.

“Under federal law, there are many statutes that cover the killing of another human being and unlike state statutes, they are not specifically titled murder. But the elements of the crime and the definition of murder are the same,” he said.

State authorities could file first-degree murder charges against Santiago, but that’s unnecessary for now, Weinstein added, because there is no statute of limitations on murder. If something were to go wrong in federal court, the state could then proceed against him, he said.

No links to international terrorism have been found, the FBI has said. But if they surface, federal prosecutors could obtain an updated grand jury indictment to add terror-related charges, Weinstein added.

“Their focus right now will be on the existing three charges and the continuing investigation,” he said.

Santiago has been in custody since Friday’s shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The FBI said Santiago flew on a one-way ticket aboard a Delta flight from Anchorage to Fort Lauderdale. The 11-hour flight has a 2-hour layover in Minneapolis, one of the longest itineraries within the U.S.

He checked a single piece of luggage: a gun box for his Walther 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and two magazines of ammunition, according to an FBI affidavit. Agents say he retrieved the box in baggage claim and loaded his weapon in a bathroom stall before opening fire on fellow passengers.

In November, Santiago walked into an FBI field office in Alaska with a handgun and his infant child, saying the U.S. government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, authorities said.

Officers seized the weapon and local officers took him to get a mental health evaluation. His girlfriend picked up the child. On Dec. 8, the gun was returned to Santiago. Authorities wouldn’t say if it was the same gun used in the airport attack.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Airport shooting suspect gets public defender in court

The Iraq war veteran held in the fatal shooting of five people inside Fort Lauderdale’s airport was appointed a federal public defender on Monday after telling a judge that he has no job and only $5 or $10 in the bank.

Esteban Santiago, 26, spoke clearly during a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Valle, who ordered him held until his next hearings.

Shackled in a red jumpsuit in the heavily guarded federal courtroom, Santiago answered mostly yes or no to questions, and told the judge he understands the charges, which include committing violence against people at an international airport resulting in death, and two firearms offenses.

She told him the death penalty could apply.

“We are telling you the maximum penalty allowed by law so that you understand the seriousness of the charges,” the judge said.

He said he had been in the Army, where he made about $15,000 a year. He mentioned expenses including $560 in monthly rent, plus phone and other utility bills. He said he owns no property and doesn’t have a vehicle. He said he had worked for a security company, Signal 88, in Anchorage, Alaska, until November, making $2,100 a month, but currently only had $5 to $10 in the bank.

Given his finances, the judge decided he’s eligible for government lawyers at taxpayer expense.

Valle set a detention hearing for Jan. 17, followed by an arraignment for entering a plea for Jan. 23.

More than a dozen officers kept watch outside the courthouse, carrying rifles and wearing bulletproof vests. There were also mounted police and K-9 units.

The charges don’t specifically use the word murder, but the effects of one of the gun charges and the airport charge are the same because they cover actions that result in a person’s death and can result in capital punishment, said former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein.

“Under federal law, there are many statutes that cover the killing of another human being and unlike state statutes, they are not specifically titled murder. But the elements of the crime and the definition of murder are the same,” he said.

State authorities could file first-degree murder charges against Santiago, but that’s unnecessary for now, Weinstein added, because there is no statute of limitations on murder. If something were to go wrong in federal court, the state could then proceed against him, he said.

No links to international terrorism have been found, the FBI has said. But if they surface, federal prosecutors could obtain an updated grand jury indictment to add terror-related charges, Weinstein added.

“Their focus right now will be on the existing three charges and the continuing investigation,” he said.

Santiago has been in custody since Friday’s shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The FBI said Santiago flew on a one-way ticket aboard a Delta flight from Anchorage to Fort Lauderdale. The 11½-hour flight has a 2½-hour layover in Minneapolis, one of the longest itineraries within the U.S.

He checked a single piece of luggage: a gun box for his Walther 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and two magazines of ammunition, according to an FBI affidavit. Agents say he retrieved the box in baggage claim and loaded his weapon in a bathroom stall before opening fire on fellow passengers, killing five and wounding six others.

In November, Santiago walked into an FBI field office in Alaska with a handgun and his infant child, saying the U.S. government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, authorities said.

Officers seized the weapon and local officers took him to get a mental health evaluation. His girlfriend picked up the child. On Dec. 8, the gun was returned to Santiago. Authorities wouldn’t say if it was the same gun used in the airport attack.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Airport shooting suspect due for court appearance

The Iraq war veteran accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding six at a crowded Florida airport baggage claim is due for his first court appearance.

Esteban Santiago is scheduled to be in Fort Lauderdale federal court Monday morning. The 26-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska, faces airport violence and firearms charges that could mean the death penalty if he’s convicted.

The initial hearing Monday is likely to focus on ensuring Santiago has a lawyer and setting future dates. Santiago has been held without bail since his arrest after Friday’s shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The FBI has says Santiago flew on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Florida with a handgun in his checked bag. Agents say he retrieved the gun and emerged from an airport bathroom firing.

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Days from inauguration, Donald Trump still owns/controls 500 companies that make up the Trump Organization

President-elect Donald Trump pledged to step away from his family-owned international real estate development, property management and licensing business before taking office Jan. 20. With less than two weeks until his inauguration, he hasn’t stepped very far.

Trump has canceled a handful of international deals and dissolved a few shell companies created for prospective investments. Still, he continues to own or control some 500 companies that make up the Trump Organization, creating a tangle of potential conflicts of interest without precedent in modern U.S. history.

The president-elect is expected to give an update on his effort to distance himself from his business at a Wednesday news conference. He told The Associated Press on Friday that he would be announcing a “very simple solution.”

Ethics experts have called for Trump to sell off his assets and place his investments in a blind trust, which means something his family would not control. That’s what previous presidents have done.

Trump has given no indication he will go that far. He has said he will not be involved in day-to-day company operations and will leave that duty to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. The president-elect has not addressed the ethical minefield of whether he would retain a financial interest in his Trump Organization.

A look at what’s known about what Trump has and hasn’t tried to resolve his business entanglement before his swearing-in:

FOREIGN INVESTMENTS

Trump has abandoned planned business ventures in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Georgia, India and Argentina. The Associated Press found he has dissolved shell companies tied to a possible business venture in Saudi Arabia.

It’s unclear whether those moves are signs that Trump is dismantling the web of companies that make up his business. Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten has insisted none of the closures is related to Trump’s election. He calls them “normal housecleaning.”

The Trump Organization still has an expanding reach across the globe: The Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is set to open next month.

Trump has said there will be “no new deals” while he’s in office. But Eric Trump, an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, told Argentinian newspapers last week that the company was open to another business venture in the country.

“We would like to find something,” Eric Trump told Clarin, as he toured a Trump building construction site. “We’ll find a project.”

The younger Trump did rule out expansion in Russia, at least any time soon.

“Is there a possibility sometime in the next 20, 30 years we end up in Russia? Absolutely. Is it right for us right now? Probably not,” Eric Trump said, in a video interview with La Nacion posted on the newspaper’s website.

Asked about the potential for conflicts of interest if the business continues to operate, Eric Trump compared the separation between the Trump-led government and Trump-led company to the separation between church and state. “These two things will be unfailingly separate,” he said, adding, “we will not share functions.”

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DOMESTIC BUSINESSES

Of Trump’s U.S. portfolio, no venture has become more emblematic of the potential conflicts of interest facing Trump than his hotel at the Old Post Office in the nation’s capital. The federal government, which he soon will oversee, holds the lease on the building he turned into a sparkling luxury hotel that opened shortly before Election Day.

The terms of Trump’s contract with the government expressly prohibit elected officials from having a financial interest in the property. Democratic senators said the General Services Administration told them that the moment Trump takes office, he would violate the terms of his contract

Neither GSA nor Trump transition officials responded to inquiries about what steps, if any, Trump has taken with regard to that contract provision.

Trump is still listed as a producer for the reality TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” He has said he will not spend time working on the show. Financial disclosures he filed during the campaign show his company, Trump Productions, earned about $5.9 million from “The Apprentice” shows in 2015.

Trump has a considerable amount of business debt that could put creditors in the position of having leverage over an enterprise with close ties to the U.S. president and his family. Last May, Trump reported on his financial disclosure that he had at least $315 million in debt related to his companies. The disclosed debt, mostly mortgages for his properties, is held by banks, including Deutsche Bank and investors who bought chunks of the debt from the original creditors.

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CHARITIES

Last month, Trump announced that he would shutter his charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, to avoid conflicts of interest.

The decision came after the foundation admitted in a tax filing that in 2015 and an unspecified number of previous years it violated IRS prohibitions against self-dealing, broadly defined as using charity money or assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies or substantial contributors to the foundation.

The New York attorney general’s office has said the foundation cannot dissolve until it completes its investigation into whether Trump used the foundation for personal gain. The attorney general’s office has not said whether the investigation will be wrapped up by Trump inauguration.

Eric Trump has decided to shut down his charity, which primarily raised money for St. Jude’s children’s hospital, to pre-empt conflicts of interest. That move came after the younger Trump was found to be offering in a charity auction a coffee date with his sister, Ivanka Trump, who is expected to take a position in the White House.

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FAMILY

Questions remain about how Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, who is planning to advise the president, will separate from their own businesses.

On Saturday, representatives for Kushner told the AP that he has been talking with the Office of Government Ethics and is exploring taking steps to disentangle himself from his business, The Kushner Companies, in preparation for taking a White House role.

Under those plans, Kushner representatives say he would resign as CEO of the real-estate development business, which has been involved in some $7 billion in acquisitions in the past 10 years.

Kushner would divest “substantial” assets including his stake in a New York City skyscraper that has been the subject of months of negotiations between Kushner and Anbang Insurance Group, a real estate giant with close ties to the Chinese government. Kushner’s negotiations with the company were first reported by The New York Times.

Ivanka Trump, in addition to serving as an executive at her father’s company, has developed a lifestyle brand selling shoes, jewelry and other products. She caught heat after her fine jewelry company marketed the $10,800 bracelet she wore during a postelection “60 Minutes” interview with her father.

Representatives for Ivanka Trump and her companies did not respond to requests for comment about her business plans. In order to take posts in the administration, both Kushner and Ivanka Trump would need to argue that a federal anti-nepotism law that bar officials from appointing relatives to government positions does not apply to them.

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LAWSUITS

Trump also is set to take office while battling a number of lawsuits. The president-elect sat for a videotaped deposition on Thursday involving a dispute with a celebrity chef who pulled out of a deal to open a restaurant at his new hotel in the Old Post Office building. When Jose Andres scuttled his plans for the restaurant citing Trump’s campaign comments about some Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals, The Trump Organization sued him for breach of contract.

Trump also sued another celebrity chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, for similar reasons.

Trump did act to close out one of the highest-profile disputes, over his now-defunct Trump University real estate school. After his election in November, he agreed to pay $25 million to settle two class-action suits and one by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that alleged the school misled and defrauded students. Trump admitted no wrongdoing and has yet to pay the fine, according to court records.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

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