AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Trump's lawyers try to discredit testimony of prosecution's first witness in hush money trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump's defense team attacked the credibility of prosecutors' first witness in his hush money case on Friday, seeking to discredit testimony detailing a scheme to bury negative stories to protect the Republican's 2016 presidential campaign.

On the witness stand for a fourth day, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker was grilled about his memory and past statements as the defense tried to poke holes in potentially crucial testimony in the first criminal trial of a former American president.

Two other witnesses followed Pecker as prosecutors built the foundation of their case involving a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had a sexual encounter with Trump. Trump's longtime executive assistant told jurors she recalled seeing Daniels in a reception area of Trump Tower, though the date of the visit wasn’t clear.

Pecker’s testimony provided jurors with a stunning inside look at the supermarket tabloid’s “catch-and-kill” practice of purchasing the rights to stories so they never see the light of day. He's believed to be a key witness to bolster prosecutors' theory that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 race by suppressing negative stories about his personal life.

Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, slammed the prosecution as he left the courthouse Friday after spending most of the week in his role as criminal defendant instead of political candidate. Trump seized on President Joe Biden's remarks Friday that he's willing to debate Trump. Trump told reporters he's up for it anytime, anywhere.


The Latest | Trump speaks with reporters after 4th day of witness testimony in hush money trial ends

NEW YORK (AP) — Defense lawyers in Donald Trump’s hush money trial dug Friday into assertions of the former publisher of the National Enquirer and his efforts to protect Trump from negative stories during the 2016 election.

David Pecker returned to the witness stand for the fourth day as defense attorneys tried to poke holes in his testimony, which has described helping bury embarrassing stories Trump feared could hurt his campaign.

Pecker has painted a tawdry portrait of “catch and kill” tabloid schemes — catching a potentially damaging story by buying the rights to it and then killing it through agreements that prevent the paid person from telling the story to anyone else.

The prosecution later called to the stand Rhona Graff, Trump’s former longtime executive assistant who has been described as his “gatekeeper,” and Gary Farro, a private client adviser who previously worked at First Republic, which was used by former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen. Farro will continue his testimony Tuesday when the trial resumes, with Monday being a long-scheduled day off.

Testimony from the prosecution's three witnesses capped a consequential week in the criminal cases the former president is facing as he vies to reclaim the White House in November.


Columbia protesters say they're at an impasse with administrators and will continue anti-war camp

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University students who inspired pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the country said Friday that they reached an impasse with administrators and intend to continue their encampment until their demands are met.

The announcement after two days of exhaustive negotiations came as Columbia’s president faced harsh criticism from faculty. Professors and staff at several other universities across the country have similarly condemned leadership over the use of police against demonstrators, which has led to fierce clashes, injuries and hundreds of arrests. The tensions add pressure school officials from California to Massachusetts who are scrambling to resolve the protests as May graduation ceremonies near.

As the death toll mounts in the war in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis worsens, protesters at universities across the country are demanding that schools cut financial ties to Israel and divest from companies they say are enabling the conflict. Some Jewish students say the protests have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus.

Student negotiators representing the Columbia encampment said that after meetings Thursday and Friday, the university had not met their primary demand for divestment, although there was progress on a push for more transparent financial disclosures.

“We will not rest until Columbia divests,” said Jonathan Ben-Menachem, a fourth-year doctoral student.


Paramedic who injected Elijah McClain with ketamine before his death avoids prison

BRIGHTON, Colo. (AP) — A former paramedic who injected Elijah McClain with a powerful sedative avoided prison Friday and was sentenced to 14 months in jail with work release and probation in the killing of the Black man that helped fuel the 2020 racial injustice protests.

Jeremy Cooper had faced up to three years in prison after being found guilty in a jury trial last year of criminally negligent homicide. He administered a dose of ketamine to McClain, 23, who had been forcibly restrained after police stopped him as the massage therapist was walking home in a Denver suburb in 2019.

The sentencing cap s a series of trials that stretched over seven months and resulted in the convictions of a police officer and two paramedics. Criminal charges against paramedics and emergency medical technicians involved in police custody cases are rare.

Cooper, who was fired after his conviction, was sentenced to four years of probation including 14 months in jail under a program that will allow him to leave for work and return to jail at night and on weekends, said Lawrence Pacheco with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

The other paramedic involved in McClain’s death received a more severe punishment after being convicted on an additional charge of felony assault.


Dozens of deaths reveal risks of injecting sedatives into people restrained by police

Demetrio Jackson was desperate for medical help when the paramedics arrived.

The 43-year-old was surrounded by police who arrested him after responding to a trespassing call in a Wisconsin parking lot. Officers had shocked him with a Taser and pinned him as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Now he sat on the ground with hands cuffed behind his back and took in oxygen through a mask.

Then, officers moved Jackson to his side so a medic could inject him with a potent knockout drug.

“It’s just going to calm you down,” an officer assured Jackson. Within minutes, Jackson’s heart stopped. He never regained consciousness and died two weeks later.

Jackson’s 2021 death illustrates an often-hidden way fatal U.S. police encounters end: not with the firing of an officer’s gun but with the silent use of a medical syringe.


Midwest tornadoes flatten homes in Nebraska suburbs and leave trails of damage in Iowa

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A tornado plowed through suburban Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday, damaging hundreds of homes and other structures as it tore for miles along farmland and into subdivisions. Some injuries were reported but there were no immediate reports that anyone was killed.

Multiple tornadoes were reported in Nebraska and Iowa on Friday, but the most destructive storm moved from a largely rural area into suburbs northwest of Omaha, a city of 485,000 people. Photos on social media showed the small city of Minden, Iowa, about 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) northeast of Omaha also sustained heavy damage.

Three people were injured in Nebraska's Lancaster County when a tornado hit an industrial building, causing it to collapse with 70 people inside. Several were trapped, but everyone was evacuated and the injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

Hundreds of houses sustained damage in Omaha, mostly in the Elkhorn area in the western part of the city, Omaha police Lt. Neal Bonacci said. Police and firefighters moved door-to-door to help people. Crews went to the “hardest hit area” and had a plan to search anywhere someone could be trapped, Omaha Fire Chief Kathy Bossman said.

“They're going to be putting together a strategic plan for a detailed search of the area, starting with the properties with most damage,” Bossman said. “We'll be looking throughout properties in debris piles, we'll be looking in basements, trying to find any victims and make sure everybody is rescued who needs assistance.”


US announces new Patriot missiles for Ukraine as part of new $6 billion aid package

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will provide Ukraine additional Patriot missiles for its air defense systems as part of a massive $6 billion additional aid package, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Friday.

The missiles will be used to replenish previously supplied Patriot systems. The package also includes more munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and additional gear to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles and radars into Ukraine's existing weaponry, much of which still dates back to the Soviet era.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the need for Patriots early Friday with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 countries gathering virtually in a Pentagon-led meeting. The meeting fell on the second anniversary of the group, which Austin said has “moved heaven and earth” since April 2022 to source millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket systems, armored vehicles and even jets to help Ukraine rebuff Russia's invasion.

Zelenskyy said at least seven Patriot systems are needed to protect Ukrainian cities. “We urgently need Patriot systems and missiles for them,” Zelenskyy said. “This is what can and should save lives right now.”

At a Pentagon press conference following the meeting, Austin said the U.S. was working with allies to resource additional Patriot systems but did not commit to sending more U.S. versions. He said he has been speaking one-on-one with a number of his European counterparts in recent days to hash out this issue and others.


Biden officials indefinitely postpone ban on menthol cigarettes amid election-year pushback

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s administration is indefinitely delaying a long-awaited menthol cigarette ban, a decision that infuriated anti-smoking advocates but could avoid a political backlash from Black voters in November.

In a statement Friday, Biden’s top health official gave no timeline for issuing the rule, saying only that the administration would take more time to consider feedback, including from civil rights groups.

“It’s clear that there are still more conversations to have, and that will take significantly more time,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

The White House has held dozens of meetings in recent months with groups opposing the ban, including civil rights organizers, law enforcement officials and small business owners. Most of groups have financial ties to tobacco companies.

The announcement is another setback for Food and Drug Administration officials, who drafted the ban and predicted it would prevent hundreds of thousands of smoking-related deaths over 40 years. The agency has worked toward banning menthol across multiple administrations without ever finalizing a rule.


Harvey Weinstein due back in court, while a key witness weighs whether to testify at a retrial

Harvey Weinstein will appear in a New York City court next week, the first step in potentially retrying the film mogul after his 2020 rape conviction was overturned.

New York’s highest court on Thursday threw out Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction, ordering a new trial. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has said it intends to pursue a retrial, but gave no indication about the agenda for Wednesday's hearing.

“We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement Friday.

Meanwhile, a woman Weinstein was sent to prison for sexually assaulting said Friday she is considering whether she would testify at any retrial.

Mimi Haley said she is still processing Thursday's decision by the state Court of Appeals and is considering numerous factors, including the trauma of having to prepare for another trial and again relive what happened to her.


Jerry Seinfeld's commitment to the bit

NEW YORK (AP) — Jerry Seinfeld has been responsible for more movies than you think.

Yes, he co-wrote and lent his voice to 2007's “Bee Movie." But before that, “Seinfeld” — where going to the movies, with or without the aid of Moviefone, was nearly as regular a destination as the coffee shop — gave birth to dozens of (fake) films. “Rochelle, Rochelle." “Prognosis Negative.” “Sack Lunch."

But nearly three decades after Seinfeld was, in one episode, cajoled into bootlegging “Death Blow," he has finally made his first film. Seinfeld directed, co-wrote and stars in “Unfrosted,” a star-studded comedy about the invention of the Pop-Tart premiering May 3 on Netflix.

The film, which co-stars Melissa McCarthy, Jim Gaffigan, Hugh Grant and others, is an outlandish, “Mad Men”-inspired ‘60s-set satire in which Kellogg’s and Post Cereal are engaged in a cutthroat race to “upend America’s breakfast table.”

“When you see any scene of it you go, ‘What is that?’ And I was very happy about that,” Seinfeld said in a recent interview. “I like that you look at it and go, ‘I don’t know what this is.’”

The Associated Press