Feb 19, 2016 12:11 AM

The Latest: Trump promises cease-and-desist letters to China

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) The Latest on the 2016 campaign for president (all times local):

11:50 p.m.

Donald Trump says if he's elected to the White House he plans to send cease-and-desist letters or similar threats to countries he believes are giving the U.S. raw deals.

The Republican presidential contender and his attorneys have threated several lawsuits over the course of his campaign, including one against rival Ted Cruz questioning his eligibility to serve as president because he was born in Canada.

Trump says he would send letters "to China to stop ripping us off. I would be sending them to other countries to stop ripping us off. I'd send them to Mexico."

Trump was speaking during a televised town hall event in South Carolina.

He did add that instead of sending letters, "maybe I do it with my mouth."


11:35 p.m.

Donald Trump is softening his rhetoric on Pope Francis after blasting the leader of the Catholic Church for suggesting the billionaire businessman's plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border made him "not Christian."

Trump said during a town hall event on CNN that he now believes the pope's remarks were "probably a little bit nicer" than first reported.

Trump says he believes the pope has only heard one side of the story, as told by the Mexican government, and isn't aware of the problems Trump claims are caused by a porous border.

Trump also says he has great respect for Pope Francis. Still, he couldn't help but offer a dig, noting that, "He's got an awfully big wall at the Vatican."


11:20 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says she stands by President Barack Obama's plan to visit Cuba even though the country has regressed recently on some human rights issues.

Clinton says she's sure Obama will raise human rights concerns on the trip he announced Thursday, and says his visit is a powerful way to deliver a message of freedom.

She was responding to a question at a Las Vegas Democratic town hall on Thursday about whether a visit would take away U.S. leverage to force change in Cuba now that the two countries are restoring diplomatic relations.

Clinton says there's a new generation in Cuba and Obama can tell them the U.S. is committed to a brighter future.


11:10 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is invoking a top Republican financial donor and Las Vegas casino magnate as he courts Nevada Democrats.

Sanders says at a Clark County Democratic dinner that he doesn't represent "the billionaire class. I do not represent Sheldon Adelson," referring to the billionaire casino magnate who has pumped millions into Republican campaigns.

The Vermont senator joked that the first presidential caucus wasn't in Iowa instead, it was the "Sheldon Adelson caucus" in which GOP candidates met privately with the billionaire to tell him what they would do for him.

Sanders says: "This is not democracy. This is oligarchy."

10:45 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to attend the funeral of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday.

Cruz's campaign spokeswoman Alice Steward said Thursday that Cruz will attend the funeral in Washington. Cruz has been praising Scalia since his death Saturday, using it as a major part of his stump speech in South Carolina.

Cruz criticized President Barack Obama on Thursday for not going to the funeral of the conservative justice.

The funeral is being held on the day that South Carolina votes in the Republican primary for president. Cruz plans to return to the state for a party after the polls close Saturday night.


10:40 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says all the candidates in the presidential race have given speeches to big banks not just her.

The Democratic presidential candidate made the comments at a Thursday town hall in Las Vegas when an audience member asked her to release transcripts or recordings of the speeches.

Clinton said she would be happy to release anything she had.

She said voters know where she stands because she's constantly been in public.


10:25 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says the country faces a "legitimate dilemma" over whether to hack the phone of the gunman in a California mass shooting.

Clinton says she sees both sides of the issue and wasn't offering a specific solution, but wanted to bring tech companies and the government together to find common ground.

She says there may be a way that law enforcement officials can get information about crimes and terrorism "on a very specific basis" without jeopardizing privacy.

Clinton answered the question at a Las Vegas town hall event on Thursday. A court this week ordered Apple to help the FBI break into the phone of a gunman who killed 14 people in San Bernardino in December.


10:22 p.m.

Hillary Clinton is expressing bafflement at Bernie Sanders' criticisms of the administrations of Barack Obama and her own husband.

Clinton says the past two Democratic presidents "weren't perfect" but were far better than the Republican alternatives.

Clinton drew boos and cheers at a town hall in Las Vegas when she noted that Sanders was a registered Independent until he decided to run in the Democratic presidential primary.

Sanders earlier Thursday criticized Bill Clinton's welfare reform and support of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He briefly called for a primary challenger to President Obama before the 2012 election but has also often praised Obama.


10:20 p.m.

Jeb Bush says he would probably nominate someone to the Supreme Court if he were in President Barack Obama's position.

Bush says he believes people should respect the Constitution. But he says the president ought to use whatever powers the Constitution affords him. He says those powers are there for a purpose.

Bush's comments in a CNN town hall are stronger than what he'd said on the matter previously. In Saturday's GOP debate Bush said Obama would be within his right to nominate someone but the Senate should be wary of confirming an Obama-nominated justice who would be out of the mainstream.

Bush is drawing an implicit contrast with his GOP rivals, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Both of those Republicans oppose allowing Obama to select a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.


10:18 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is brushing off South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's decision to endorse rival Marco Rubio this week.

Bush says at a CNN televised town hall event that "I'm marking her down as neutral," drawing laughs.

He insists he has a path forward in the race, despite his low poll numbers in many states.

He says he has "momentum if you look at the polls and you look at the crowd sizes of our town hall meetings. And the enthusiasm that exists."

He is also touting his endorsement from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, whom he describes as "probably the leading national security expert in the United States Senate."


10:15 p.m.

GOP candidate John Kasich says if he's elected president he would consider appointing one of his former rivals to his Cabinet: Chris Christie.

Kasich says during a televised CNN town hall that he's been friends with the New Jersey governor for a while and considers him "a terrific guy."

He says the two are "kind of buddies" and go out to dinner together with their wives.

Christie ended his presidential bid after a disappointing finish in New Hampshire and his endorsement is now up for grabs.


10 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders suggests racism is behind efforts to undermine Barack Obama's presidency.

The Vermont senator says nobody questions whether he's eligible for the post because his father is from Poland, but they question Obama's legitimacy because his father is from Kenya.

Sanders asks: "Gee, what's the difference? Maybe the color of our skin?"

Sanders was responding a question at a Las Vegas town hall about how he'd deal with Islamophobia.

He says it's OK to disagree about immigration but it's unacceptable for people, including Donald Trump, to scapegoat Muslims and Latinos.


9:45 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich says he's staunchly "pro-Pope" amid the war of words between the pontiff and Donald Trump.

Kasich is telling viewers of a CNN town hall to "put me down in the pro-Pope column."

Pope Francis on Thursday criticized Trump's proposal to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border, saying, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."

Trump called the pope's remarks "disgraceful."

But Kasich says Francis "has opened the walls and the doors of the church to lots of people who didn't understand it."

Kasich says: "We have a right to build a wall. But I gotta tell you. There are too many walls between us. We need bridges between us if we're going to fix the problems in Washington 'cause all they do is have walls."


9:40 p.m.

Former President Bill Clinton is touting his wife's candidacy ahead of the Nevada caucuses, with campaign stops at Las Vegas.

Bill Clinton surprised some patrons at downtown Las Vegas' Container Park on Thursday afternoon when he visited Simply Pure Vegan Cafe. Clinton said he sticks to a mostly vegan diet and ordered vegan nachos to go.

The former president then headed to Harrah's casino on the Las Vegas Strip. He visited casino workers at an employee dining room and took selfies with dealers, chefs and housekeepers.

Hillary Clinton has also been visiting casino workers and urging them to back her in Saturday's Democratic caucuses.

Bill and Chelsea Clinton have scheduled events in Nevada to help Hillary Clinton in a tight race against Bernie Sanders.


9:35 p.m.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders says he considers himself a strong feminist and was even named an "honorary woman" years ago by renowned feminist Gloria Steinem.

Sanders was responding to an audience question at a Thursday town hall in Las Vegas about how a man could understand problems women face.

The Vermont senator says women are paid less than men and the disparity is even greater for women of color. He said the inequity has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with sexism.

Sanders says he and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid have tried desperately to pass pay equity legislation and he is promising to continue the fight.


9:30 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is defending his opposition to a 2007 immigration bill, saying the legislation included worker provisions that were "akin to slavery."

Sanders says he backed a 2013 effort to reform the country's immigration system.

He says, "It's not a question of being perfect, nothing is perfect, but that one had particularly egregious provisions in it."

Clinton backers have accused Sanders of failing to support Latino activists, saying he backed bills that hurt immigrants.

He says he'd make an immigration overhaul a "top priority."

He says, "I'm not a dictator here it has to do with a little bit of cooperation from the Congress but it is a major priority."


9:25 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is putting the stakes of the presidential election in stark terms.

He is telling Republicans gathered at the Conservative Review convention Thursday in Greenville, South Carolina, that "our very Bill of Rights hangs in the balance."

Cruz has been emphasizing the importance of electing a president who will nominate a conservative to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia since Scalia's death last week.

Cruz does not believe the Senate should vote on confirming any nominee President Barack Obama may put forward.

Cruz is telling voters that he is the only Republican candidate for president who can be trusted to nominate a proven conservative to the court. He says if a liberal justice is seated, the court's ideological balance will tilt, putting gun rights, religious liberty and abortion restrictions in jeopardy.


9:15 p.m.

Bernie Sanders says he thinks there's middle ground on whether the government should be able to access encrypted information on a terrorist's phone.

Sanders said at a Democratic town hall in Las Vegas that he's very fearful about "Big Brother" and worries about government or corporate officials knowing people's library book choices or buying habits.

But he says he's also worried about the potential of a terrorist attack.

He says voters can count him in as a strong civil libertarian.

The question comes after a court this week ordered Apple to help hack the phone of a gunman involved in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.


9:10 p.m.

Republican John Kasich says emotional exchanges like one he had Thursday with a young man at a town hall event have been happening throughout his campaign.

Kasich was at a town hall in South Carolina this afternoon when he gave a hug to a man who said a person he was close to had recently killed himself, his parents had divorced and his father had lost his job. He said that he'd found hope in God and his friends as well as the Ohio governor and GOP presidential contender.

At a televised town hall on CNN Thursday evening, Kasich says he's heard similar stories from people across the country, including a man who drove from New York to New Hampshire to say he was guilt-stricken over not warning his cancer-stricken son about the risks of testicular cancer.

Kasich says the exchanges have made him realize that "we need to slow down."

He says, "There are a lot of people out there who are lonely and are looking for a place to tell people about their issues."


8:50 p.m.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson says it is not compassionate to give people in need food stamps, housing subsidies and health care.

The Republican presidential candidate is telling a Conservative Review convention in Greenville, South Carolina, on Thursday that progressives try to paint conservatives as heartless and uncaring. But he says those who give out benefits to poor people are the ones who are heartless and uncaring because it makes the poor dependent on others.

Carson says that is "taking advantage of people and making them subject to you. That is what we've got to change in our country."

Carson also says "people with common sense have been beaten into submission by the secular progressives."


8:30 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is joining a protest by union workers at a Las Vegas hospital.

Sanders is speaking into a bullhorn and thanking the workers for "standing up for affordable health care."

Members of the Culinary Union and the Bartenders Union are holding a demonstration in front of Sunrise Hospital to protest negotiation tactics by Hospital Corporation of America. Hillary Clinton was at the protest earlier Thursday.


8:10 p.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is mulling a third-party presidential run, says the leading candidates are "trying to exploit" Americans' worries.

Bloomberg says the campaign to this point "has been a race to the extremes." He says one way to solve the nation's problems is by "recognizing that compromise is not a bad word."

While he is not signaling an intention to run, he says the political landscape is dominated by a "corrupt, gridlocked and broken two-party system that answers to lobbyists and special interests instead of the American people."

Bloomberg is said to be unhappy with the rise of Bernie Sanders among Democrats and Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the Republican side. His advisers believe he could fill a vacant centrist, pragmatic lane to the White House. He has set a March deadline to decide if he will jump in the race.

Bloomberg spoke Thursday night at a book party he hosted for Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.


8 p.m.

Vice President Joe Biden says it's "very possible" that Republicans will nominate Donald Trump for president. But he says he would be surprised if Trump got elected.

Biden is commenting on the 2016 race in an NBC News interview. Biden says he frequently gets asked how Trump is able to win over Americans. He says he takes Trump's prospects seriously because Trump appeals to fear.

Biden says he believes Republican leaders declared opposition to considering President Barack Obama's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee because they wanted to "make sure they got out ahead of Ted Cruz." The Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate has vowed to filibuster Obama's pick. But Biden says he doesn't believe GOP leaders believe in their heart that the approach they're taking makes sense.

Biden also says he dreamed about his late son, Beau Biden, one day becoming president. He says the former Delaware attorney general's death is a "lost opportunity for the country."


7:40 p.m.

John Kasich's campaign is launching radio ads in Nevada, where the Ohio governor has no plans to campaign in person before its GOP caucus next Tuesday.

One ad promises Kasich will transfer power over land management back to Nevada from Washington and declares, "John Kasich says this land should be your land."

The battles over federal control of publicly owned lands intensified recently during a weekslong standoff at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon. Much of Nevada's land is publicly owned.

The second ad focuses on Kasich's work to balance the federal budget while in Congress and to cut taxes in Ohio.

Kasich plans to spend Tuesday, the day of the Nevada caucus, campaigning in Georgia.


7:30 p.m.

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn is ready to endorse Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

A person close to Clyburn tells The Associated Press that the congressman will publicly back Clinton before the Feb. 27 primary. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak ahead of the formal endorsement.

Clyburn is one of the top African-American leaders on Capitol Hill and the highest ranking elected Democrat in the state.

Clyburn's backing should provide Clinton with a boost in a state where black voters are likely to make up a majority of the Democratic primary electorate.


6:50 p.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says rapper Killer Mike's recent comments that a "uterus doesn't qualify you to be president of the United States" have been "blown out of proportion" by the media.

Sanders tells reporters traveling with him to Nevada that the rapper was essentially saying that "people should not be voting for candidates based on their gender but what they believe." Sanders says, "I think that makes sense."

The Democratic presidential candidate was responding to questions about the rapper's recent comments at a Sanders rally in Atlanta.

Killer Mike said at the event that he had talked to anti-racism activist Jane Elliott, who told him, "Michael, a uterus doesn't qualify you do be president of the United States."

Sanders says the scrutiny of the comments is an example of "gotcha media politics."


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