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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Trump's New York hush money case is set for trial April 15 NEW YORK (AP) — The first of Donald Trump’s four criminal trials will begin April 15, a Manhattan judge ruled Monday after tearing into the former president’s lawyers for what he said were un

Trump's New York hush money case is set for trial April 15

NEW YORK (AP) — The first of Donald Trump’s four criminal trials will begin April 15, a Manhattan judge ruled Monday after tearing into the former president’s lawyers for what he said were unfounded claims that the hush-money case had been tainted by prosecutorial misconduct.

Judge Juan M. Merchan scoffed at the defense’s calls to delay the case longer or throw it out entirely because of a last-minute document dump that had bumped the first-ever trial of a former president from its scheduled Monday start. Trump vowed to appeal the ruling.

Barring another delay, the presumptive Republican nominee will be on trial as a criminal defendant in just three weeks — an inauspicious homecoming in the city where he grew up, built a real estate empire and gained wealth and celebrity that propelled him to the White House.

The trial, involving allegations related to hush money paid during Trump’s 2016 campaign to cover up marital infidelity claims, had been in limbo after his lawyers complained about a recent deluge of nearly 200,000 pages of evidence from a previous federal investigation into the matter.

Trump’s lawyers accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office of intentionally failing to pursue evidence from the 2018 federal investigation, which sent Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to prison. They contended prosecutors working under Bragg, a Democrat, did so to gain an unfair advantage in the case and harm Trump’s election chances. Cohen, now a vocal Trump critic, is poised to be a key prosecution witness against his ex-boss.


Court agrees to pause collection of Trump's massive civil fraud judgment if he puts up $175M

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York appeals court on Monday agreed to hold off collection of former President Donald Trump’s more than $454 million civil fraud judgment if he puts up $175 million within 10 days.

If Trump does, it will stop the clock on collection and prevent the state from seizing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's assets while he appeals. The appeals court also halted other aspects of a trial judge's ruling that had barred Trump and his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., the family company's executive vice presidents, from serving in corporate leadership for several years.

In all, the order was a significant victory for the Republican ex-president as he defends the real estate empire that vaulted him into public life. The development came just before New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, was expected to initiate efforts to collect the judgment.

Trump, who was attending a separate hearing in his criminal hush money case in New York, hailed the ruling and said he would post a bond, securities or cash to cover the $175 million sum in the civil case. Speaking in a courthouse hallway, Trump revisited his oft-stated complaints about civil trial Judge Arthur Engoron and the penalty he imposed.

“What he’s done is such a disservice and should never be allowed to happen again,” said Trump, who argues that the fraud case is discouraging business in New York.


Feds search Sean 'Diddy' Combs’ properties as part of sex trafficking probe, AP sources say

NEW YORK (AP) — Two properties belonging to music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs in Los Angeles and Miami were searched Monday by federal Homeland Security Investigations agents and other law enforcement as part of an ongoing sex trafficking investigation by federal authorities in New York, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

It’s not clear whether Combs was the target of the investigation. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

In a statement, Homeland Security Investigations said it “executed law enforcement actions as part of an ongoing investigation, with assistance from HSI Los Angeles, HSI Miami, and our local law enforcement partners.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment.

Messages to Combs’ lawyers and other representatives seeking comment were not immediately returned.


Japan approves plan to sell fighter jets to other nations in latest break from pacifist principles

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved a plan to sell future next-generation fighter jets that it’s developing with Britain and Italy to other countries, in the latest move away from the country’s postwar pacifist principles.

The contentious decision to allow international arms sales is expected to help secure Japan’s role in the joint fighter jet project and part of a move to build up the Japanese arms industry and bolster its role in global security.

The Cabinet also endorsed a revision to Japan’s arms equipment and technology transfer guidelines to allow coproduced lethal weapons to be sold to countries other than the partners.

Japan has long restricted arms exports under the country’s pacifist constitution, but has rapidly taken steps to deregulate amid rising regional and global tensions, especially from nearby China.

The decision on jets will allow Japan to export lethal weapons it coproduces to other countries for the first time.


Moscow theater shooting fans flames of a disinformation war

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Flames were still leaping from the Moscow concert hall besieged by gunmen when Russian officials began suggesting who was really to blame. They presented no evidence, only aspersions and suspicion and counterfactual speculation, but in Russia’s eyes the culprit was clear: Ukraine.

The allegations that Ukraine, now in its third year of fighting after Russia invaded, was behind Friday’s attack that killed at least 137 people, were the first salvo in a disinformation war that has clouded the hearts and minds of people trying to come to grips with the shocking attack.

First came Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president who was once regarded as a mild reformer but who has become a vehement hawk since the start of the Ukraine war.

“Terrorists understand only retaliatory terror … if it is established that these are terrorists of the Kyiv regime, it is impossible to deal with them and their ideological inspirers differently,” he wrote on the Telegram message app about 90 minutes after first news came of the attack.

While not overtly accusing Ukraine, the strong implication was in line with Russia’s portrayal of Ukraine as a nest of vipers and suggested that Russia was prepared to step up its air assaults on Ukraine, which already had notably intensified in recent days.


Russian massacre suspects' homeland is plagued by poverty and religious strife

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — The four men charged with the massacre at a Moscow theater have been identified by authorities as citizens of Tajikistan, some of the thousands who migrate to Russia each year from the poorest of the former Soviet republics to scrape out marginal existences.

Along with grinding poverty, Tajikistan is rife with religious tensions. Hard-line Islamists were one of the main forces opposing the government in a 1990s civil war that devastated the country. The militants claiming responsibility for the Moscow massacre that killed 139 people — a branch of the Islamic State group in neighboring Afghanistan — reportedly recruit heavily from Tajikistan.

The four suspects who were arraigned in a Moscow court late Sunday on terrorism charges appeared to have been beaten or injured during their detention. One was wheeled in on a gurney clad only in a hospital gown.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday described the suspects as “radical Islamists,” and he repeated his accusation that Ukraine might have played a role despite its strong denials.

Here is a look at the people, militant groups and political history connected to the Moscow attack:


UN demand for Gaza cease-fire provokes strongest clash between US and Israel since war began

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations Security Council on Monday issued its first demand for a cease-fire in Gaza, with the U.S. angering Israel by abstaining from the vote. Israel responded by canceling a visit to Washington by a high-level delegation in the strongest public clash between the allies since the war began.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the U.S. of “retreating” from a “principled position” by allowing the vote to pass without conditioning the cease-fire on the release of hostages held by Hamas.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the administration was “kind of perplexed” by Netanyahu’s decision. He said the Israelis were “choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to do that.”

Kirby and the American ambassador to the U.N. said the U.S. abstained because the resolution did not condemn Hamas. U.S. officials chose to abstain rather than veto the proposal "because it does fairly reflect our view that a cease-fire and the release of hostages come together,” Kirby said.

The 15-member council voted 14-0 to approve the resolution, which also demanded the release of all hostages taken captive during Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel. The chamber broke into loud applause after the vote.


New York police officer fatally shot during traffic stop

A New York City police officer was shot and killed Monday during a traffic stop, the city’s mayor said. It marked the first slaying of an NYPD officer in two years.

“We lost one of our sons today and it is extremely painful. It is extremely painful,” Mayor Eric Adams said, addressing reporters at a hospital in Queens.

The shooting happened just before 5:50 p.m. in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, police said. Officer Jonathan Diller and his partner were part of the NYPD Community Response Team and were conducting a traffic stop at the time.

As they approached the vehicle, the suspect pointed a gun toward the officers and shot Diller beneath his bullet-proof vest, said Police Commissioner Edward Caban, who identified the slain officer on X, formerly known as Twitter. He said Diller’s partner returned fire and shot one of the people in the vehicle, who was taken to an area hospital.

Diller was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center but could not be saved, officials said. A three-year veteran of the police department, he was married with a young child, Caban said.


Shohei Ohtani says he never bet on sports, interpreter Ippei Mizuhara stole money, told lies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shohei Ohtani said Monday he never bet on sports or knowingly paid any gambling debts accumulated by his longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara.

Instead, the Los Angeles Dodgers star claims his close friend lied to him for years and stole millions from the two-time MVP.

Ohtani gave his version of events during a news conference at Dodger Stadium, five days after Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers following reports from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN about his alleged ties to an illegal bookmaker and debts well over $1 million.

"I am very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this,” the Japanese star said while sitting next to Will Ireton, the team’s manager of performance operations, who translated.

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies,” Ohtani said. “I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker.”


AP PHOTOS: India celebrates Holi, the Hindu festival of color that marks the reawakening of spring

NEW DELHI (AP) — Millions of Indians celebrated Monday the Hindu Holi festival, dancing to festive music, exchanging food and drink and smearing each other with red, green, blue and pink powder, turning the air into a joyful kaleidoscope of color.

Widely known as the Hindu festival of colors, Holi marks the arrival of the spring season in India, Nepal and other South Asian countries as well as the diaspora. It celebrates the divine love between the Hindu god Krishna and his consort Radha, and signifies a time of rebirth and rejuvenation, embracing the positive and letting go of negative energy

Across the country, people — some dressed in all white — celebrated the festival by drenching one another in colored powder while others flung water balloons filled with colored pigment from balconies. Some used squirt guns to chase down fellow revelers in parks, and others danced on the streets to music blaring from speakers.

Food and drink are a big part of the festivities. Vendors in parts of India sold Thandai — a traditional beverage prepared with milk, dry fruits and can sometimes be laced with cannabis.

Another tradition that marks Holi is Bhang, a paste made by grinding the leaves of the cannabis plant and is used in drinks and snacks. It is connected to Hinduism, particularly to Lord Shiva, and is eaten during some religious festivals in the region. The paste's sale and consumption are permissible under Indian law, although a few states have banned it.

The Associated Press