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Report says officials blocked Trump’s efforts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia and President Donald Trump (all times local):

12:20 p.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller says President Donald Trump’s efforts to influence the Russia investigation “were mostly unsuccessful,” but that was because the people surrounding the president “declined to carry out orders to accede to his requests.”

Mueller’s report details instances by several officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, former White House counsel Don McGahn and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, ignoring or refusing Trump’s requests to interfere in the investigation.

The Justice Department released a redacted version of Mueller’s report on Thursday.

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12:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s lawyer is defending him after the special counsel’s report said Trump tried to seize control of the Russia investigation.

Rudy Giuliani, speaking to Fox News, said Trump “did not have a guilty motive.”

A redacted version of Robert Mueller’s report was released Thursday. The incidents scrutinized by Mueller’s team include Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, the president’s directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate.

Giuliani did not dispute the facts of those incidents, but said Trump was an innocent man reacting normally in the face of what he said was a heavily biased investigation. The former New York City mayor said the efforts were “an attempt not to get framed.”

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12:10 p.m.

Three House Republican leaders say the special counsel’s report on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian interference in that election have vindicated the president.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says the report by Robert Mueller shows it’s time to move on from Democrats’ effort to “vilify a political opponent.” The California lawmaker says the report lacks “imaginary evidence” incriminating Trump that Democrats have sought.

No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise says Trump didn’t cooperate with Russians or obstruct investigators. The Louisianan says Democrats should apologize for “this smear campaign.”

The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee is Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, and he says Democrats’ claims that Trump obstructed the probe were unfounded.

Top Senate Republicans were more cautious, praising the investigation but saying they looked forward to learning the report’s details.

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12 p.m.

The spokesman for Vladimir Putin says it’s not yet clear if the Russian president will be informed in detail of the special counsel’s report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Dmitry Peskov spoke to state news agency Tass shortly after the report was released in Washington on Thursday.

He said, “First we will have to leaf through it and understand if there is something deserving analysis.”

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11:45 a.m.

The Mueller report appears to be most heavily redacted in its first section, which covers Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and examines contacts between Russian representatives and the Trump campaign. The report concludes there was no criminal culpability by Trump aides.

Several pages in that first section are almost entirely blacked out. The report’s second section, examining possible obstruction by President Donald Trump, appears more lightly redacted.

The Justice Department’s careful excisions begin as early as the fourth page of the report.

Barr said he was withholding grand jury and classified information as well as portions relating to ongoing investigation and the privacy or reputation of uncharged “peripheral” people.

In referencing an oligarch who headed up a team of Russian tech experts who used U.S. social media to exploit American political controversies, Justice officials blacked out details about the man’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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11:40 a.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller found that contacts between Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Trump campaign officials in April 2016 and at the 2016 GOP convention were “brief, public, and non-substantive.”

Mueller’s assessment came as part of his investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Mueller’s report adds that his office “did not establish” that efforts to alter the GOP platform’s language on Ukraine at the convention were done at the behest of Trump or Russia.

Additionally, Mueller did not establish that a conversation between Kislyak and then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions in September 2016 included “any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.” Sessions later served as Trump’s attorney general.

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11:35 a.m.

Two of the Senate’s top Republicans are praising Attorney General William Barr for releasing the special counsel’s report on the 2016 election. But they’re stopping short of joining Barr in proclaiming that the report vindicates President Donald Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says in a written statement, “I look forward to carefully reviewing the report.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham says his panel is studying the report. The South Carolina Republican says he’s eager to hear Barr’s May 1 testimony to his panel.

Both lawmakers issued their statements minutes after the Justice Department released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Barr told reporters earlier that Mueller found that Trump’s campaign did not cooperate with Russians who interfered in the election and that there was insufficient evidence to say Trump obstructed investigators.

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11:32 a.m.

Donald Trump’s legal team says the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are a “total victory for the president.”

The lawyers say in a statement that Mueller’s report is “nothing more than an attempt to rehash old allegations.” The statement came as Mueller’s report was publicly released.

Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russia government to interfere in the 2016 election. He did not exonerate Trump on the question of whether he committed obstruction of justice.

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11:30 a.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team was dissatisfied with written responses from President Donald Trump, but decided against issuing a subpoena for an interview.

In Mueller’s report released Thursday, prosecutors call Trump’s answers “inadequate.” They considered issuing a subpoena for Trump, but decided against it after weighing the likelihood of a long legal battle.

Prosecutors also said they had enough information from other sources to draw “relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility.”

Mueller’s team investigated contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia and whether the president obstructed justice. The written answers did not cover obstruction of justice.

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11:28 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he’s “having a good day” following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

And he says that no president should ever have to go through what he did again.

Speaking at an unrelated White House event, he says, “It was called no collusion, no obstruction.” And add, “there never was, by the way, and there never will be.”

Trump is also renewing his calls for an investigation into the origins of the inquiry, saying “We do have to get to the bottom of these things.”

He says: “this should never happen to another president again, this hoax.”

Trump is speaking an event honoring the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride, a multi-day bike ride for wounded veterans and service member.

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11:25 a.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation is two volumes and 448 pages long including attachments.

The report’s first volume details Russian election interference and the second relates to whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

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11:20 a.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report reveals how Trump repeatedly sought to seize control of the Russia probe.

The 10 episodes scrutinized by Mueller include Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, the president’s directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate.

The president’s lawyers have said Trump’s conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller’s team deemed the episodes were deserving of scrutiny to determine whether crimes were committed.

A redacted version of Mueller’s report was released Thursday morning.

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11:15 a.m.

Democrats vying for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination are condemning Attorney General William Barr for acting like a defender of President Donald Trump.

Barr held a news conference on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before it was released. He said it found no cooperation between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russians interfering in that election.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that it was “a disgrace” for Barr to act like “the personal attorney and publicist” for Trump.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called Barr’s news conference “a farce and an embarrassing display of propaganda” for Trump. And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said, “The American people deserve the truth. Not spin from a Trump appointee.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted that Barr’s news conference was “a stunt, filled with political spin.”

The Justice Department has provided Congress with a redacted version of the report. Democrats want the full report released.

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11:10 a.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report includes President Donald Trump’s written responses submitted in the Russia probe.

Trump’s responses are being released by Attorney General William Barr without redactions and comprise 12 pages.

Trump told Mueller he had no recollection of several key events in Mueller’s probe, including a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between top aides and a Russian lawyer offering aid to his campaign. Trump also told Mueller he had no recollection that he was told that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to aid his campaign or hurt Hillary Clinton’s 2016 effort, or that any foreign leader wanted to help his candidacy.

Trump declined a sit-down interview request from the special counsel.

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11:05 a.m.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report says President Donald Trump reacted to his appointment by saying it was the “end of his presidency.”

Mueller investigated multiple instances of Trump attempting to curtail the special counsel probe as part of determining whether the president committed obstruction of justice.

A redacted version of Mueller’s report was released Thursday morning.

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11:04 a.m.

Robert Mueller’s report reveals President Donald Trump’s efforts to seize control of the Russia probe and force the special counsel’s removal.

A redacted version of Mueller’s report was released Thursday morning.

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10:45 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Attorney General William Barr is involved in a “staggering public effort” by the Trump administration to put a positive face on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

The California Democrat is referring to Barr’s morning news conference, where he said the report found no cooperation between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russian interference in that election. Pelosi is also citing Barr’s statement that he gave Trump’s personal attorney an early look at the report, before its public release.

Pelosi says it is “more urgent than ever” that Mueller testify before Congress. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has formally invited Mueller to testify as soon as possible.

A redacted version of Mueller’s report is due to be released later Thursday morning.

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10:40 a.m.

The Senate’s top Democrat is mocking Attorney General William Barr’s news conference on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report as a “campaign press conference” for President Donald Trump.

The tweet by New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer also says it is time to release Mueller’s report on his investigation into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russian interference in the election. Schumer is Senate minority leader.

Barr told reporters at a news conference that the report found no cooperation between the campaign and Russia and no effort by Trump to thwart investigators.

The Justice Department planned to release the report later Thursday morning. Barr says portions of it will be blacked out to protect national security secrets, grand jury investigations and other sensitive information. Democrats have said they want the full report released.

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10:30 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr says he and deputy Rod Rosenstein disagreed with some of special counsel Robert Mueller’s “legal theories” pertaining to obstruction of justice, but that didn’t influence their decision that President Donald Trump didn’t commit a crime.

In a press conference ahead of the report’s expected release, Barr says Mueller reviewed 10 episodes as part of his investigation into whether Trump committed obstruction of justice. Barr says he and Rosenstein “felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law.”

The attorney general maintains that they set their feelings on the matter aside and accepted Mueller’s “legal framework for purposes of our analysis” when they determined that the evidence gathered by Mueller was “not sufficient to establish” that Trump had violated the law.

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10:25 a.m.

A Republican Ohio congressman who’s been one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders is hailing Attorney General William Barr’s statements that the special counsel’s report has concluded there is no evidence that Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election or that he tried thwarting investigators.

Rep. Jim Jordan is tweeting, “No collusion! No obstruction! Complete cooperation from the President. No executive privilege asserted.”

Jordan issued his remarks shortly after Barr spoke to reporters. The report was expected to be released later Thursday morning.

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10:15 a.m.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is asking special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before his panel as soon as possible about his report on the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler released a three-sentence letter to Mueller requesting his appearance, minutes after Attorney General William Barr ended a news conference in which he described the special counsel’s report. The New York Democrat tweeted that Congress and the public need to hear directly from Mueller to “better understand his findings.”

Nadler wrote in his letter that he wants Mueller to testify by May 23 and asked for his “prompt attention” to the request.

Barr said at his news conference that he did not object to Mueller testifying.

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10:05 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr says he will allow Congress to view special counsel Robert Mueller’s report with nothing redacted other than grand jury information.

Barr says three other categories of information also were redacted in the publicly released report, including information pertaining to ongoing prosecutions and sensitive intelligence sources and methods.

Barr says he hopes that giving Congress access to the less redacted report and his upcoming testimony on Capitol Hill “will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the special counsel’s investigation.”

Barr spoke Thursday at a news conference with reporters shortly before the report’s release.

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10 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr says he has “no objection” to special counsel Robert Mueller testifying before Congress about his investigation.

Barr says: “I have no objection to Bob Mueller personally testifying.”

Mueller remains a Justice Department employee, and Barr could have blocked Mueller from speaking to Congress. Democrats have discussed calling Mueller to testify but have yet to formally ask.

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9:50 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr says President Donald Trump did not exert executive privilege over any information included in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

He said the White House counsel reviewed a redacted version of the report before Trump decided not to invoke executive privilege.

Barr said “no material has been redacted based on executive privilege.”

Barr spoke Thursday at a news conference with reporters.

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9:45 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr says special counsel Robert Mueller’s report recounts 10 episodes involving President Donald Trump that were investigated as potential acts of criminal obstruction of justice.

Barr says Mueller did not reach a “prosecutorial judgment” and that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded the evidence was not sufficient to establish the president committed an offense.

Barr spoke Thursday at a news conference with reporters.

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9:40 a.m.

Lawyers for President Donald Trump reviewed the final redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before its public release.

That’s according to Attorney General William Barr, who said in Thursday’s press conference that Trump’s personal attorneys requested and were granted access to the report “earlier this week.”

Barr says Trump’s lawyers “were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions.”

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9:35 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr says he will give Congress a redacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative report at 11 a.m.

He told reporters at the Justice Department that he would transmit to Congress copies of the public version of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Democrats complained that Barr’s news conference was an effort to influence reaction to the report ahead of its release.

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8:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is blasting the investigation into Russian election meddling as “The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!” hours before the long-awaited released of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report Thursday.

Trump’s first tweet of the day blasted investigators.

Trump tweeted, “Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats,” although there is no evidence of that. Trump frequently calls the probe into contacts between his 2016 campaign and Russia a “witch hunt.”

After nearly two years of waiting, America will get its first glimpse of Mueller’s report later Thursday— but not before Attorney General William Barr weighs in at a 9:30 a.m. press conference.

A redacted version of the nearly 400-page report will be delivered to Congress on CDs between 11 a.m. and noon and then be posted for the public on the special counsel’s website.

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7:55 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr’s news conference Thursday will address the Justice Department’s interactions with the White House over special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

That’s according to a Justice Department official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Barr has faced intense criticism from Democrats over his decision to hold a news conference before releasing Mueller’s report to the American people and Congress.

Barr is scheduled to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report. Lawmakers have said they want to see the full report, without redactions.

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6:45 a.m.

Congress’ top Democrats are calling for special counsel Robert Mueller to appear before Congress “as soon as possible” to testify about his report on Russia election meddling and contacts with the Trump campaign.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Thursday that Attorney General William Barr’s “partisan handling” of Mueller’s report has “resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality.”

Barr is scheduled to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report Thursday after he holds a news conference about it.

Pelosi and Schumer criticized Mueller’s plan to “spin the report in a press conference” before allowing Congress and the public to see it. They said “the American people deserve to hear the truth.”

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12:24 a.m.

A redacted version of the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference and the Trump campaign is stirring controversy even before its release.

Democrats say a news conference ahead of the redacted report’s release on Thursday allows Attorney General William Barr to spin its contents before lawmakers and the public have a chance to read it.

The nearly 400-page report is expected to reveal what special counsel Robert Mueller uncovered about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia that fell short of criminal conduct.

Democrats have vowed to fight in court for the disclosure of additional information from the report. They are expected to seize on any negative portrait of the president to demand the release of the full report.

Wednesday racing in Oskaloosa rained out

Mother Nature got in the way of Wednesday night’s (4/17) racing at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa. Just as the track was being laid down, it started to rain.  A second attempt at packing the track was also met with rain.  There won’t be racing next Wednesday in Oskaloosa, due to the Redneck Rally on April 26 and 27.  The next night of racing at Southern Iowa Speedway will be Wednesday, May 1, which will be Memorial Night.

April 18 – On This Day

In 2010 – Lady Antebellum won in three categories, Top Vocal Group, Single Record and Song of the Year, for “Need You Now”, at the 45th Academy of Country Music Awards from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Carrie Underwood became the first woman in history to win the Entertainer of the Year award at the Academy of Country Music Awards twice. Underwood previously won the award at the 2009 ceremony.

Carrie Underwood Inducts Kelsea Ballerini into the Grand Ole Opry

by 

CMT – Ever since she made her Grand Ole Opry debut on Valentine’s Day in 2015, Kelsea Ballerini, 25, has been absolutely crushing it.

She’s released two albums, joined the CMT Next Women of Country program, won two ACM awards, become a two-time Grammy nominee and a platinum-selling artist. She’s recorded with The Chainsmokers, toured with Kelly Clarkson, rocked the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and she’s has hosted TV shows, including the annual CMA Fest concert special.

On Tuesday (April 16), Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban helped induct Ballerini as the Grand Ole Opry’s newest and youngest member live on Nashville’s Opry stage. Urban and Ballerini toured together on 2018’s Graffiti U tour, and Ballerini and Underwood were among last year’s CMT Artists of the Year. Ballerini’s first performances as an Opry member were “Peter Pan,” “In Between,” her current Top 10 hit, “Miss Me More” and Trisha Yearwood’s “Walk Away Joe,” the latter of which was a collaboration with Underwood.

“I want to thank [the Opry] for asking this incredible, talented, smart, sweet, beautiful, woman to be a member,” Underwood said of Ballerini onstage while becoming visibly emotional. “You have accomplished so much in your career, and you will accomplish undoubtedly infinite amounts more in your career and in your life — awards, No. 1s, sales, tours, fans and just all of it — this is better than all of that. This is the heart and soul of country music. The Opry has been and always will be here — the heart and soul of country music, the family. You are in it.”

“I think that especially since I moved to Nashville, I had this big dream to do all these kinds of things,” Ballerini said after Underwood’s formal induction. “I’ve rarely looked up. There’s rarely been a moment that’s made me just stop, take a minute, be grateful and look up. One that I remember is Feb. 14, 2015, and that is when I made my Opry debut. One is right now.

“I just want to say, that it’s so nice and comforting to know that no matter where life takes me, and no matter if the radio stops playing me tomorrow, and whatever happens, I can always come here, and I can always play country music.”

Ballerini also made time to thank family and friends who were there and listening at home.

“Thank you for loving me regardless,” she said, “and thank you for showing up for me for my mountaintop moments and for the moments that aren’t so glamorous. And Grand Ole Opry, thanks for seeing something in me and for believing that I’ll always love you like I do, because I do, but I will.”

CMT Hot 20 Countdown will have a full recap of Ballerini’s Opry induction on Saturday and Sunday (April 20-21) at 9 a.m. ET.

Ballerini’s Opry induction follows the sold-out opening weekend of The Miss Me More tour with Brett Young and Brandon Ratcliff. The tour will visit her hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday (April) for arena show at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.

King The Pit Bull Terrier Mix

Our Pet of the Week this week is King the 1-1/2 year old Pit Bull Terrier mix who was  surrendered to the shelter because his owner could no longer care for him. He’s a handsome guy and loves attention. He loves to play with balls and tug toys and likes to play fetch and wrestle!!  He knows “sit” and “come” and would love to have more training.  He will jump up on you, so he will need to work on that. Come on out and meet King!!  Call Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter at (641) 673-3991 for more information about King or a wide variety of other loving and adoptable pets!

Young woman ‘infatuated’ with Columbine is found dead

By KATHLEEN FOODY and COLLEEN SLEVIN

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — A young Florida woman who traveled to Colorado and bought a shotgun for what authorities feared would be a Columbine-inspired attack just days ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said 18-year-old Sol Pais was discovered by the FBI with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The manhunt had led to the closing of Denver-area schools as a precaution.

During the manhunt, the FBI said Pais was “infatuated” with Columbine and made threats ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the attack that killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999. The FBI described her “extremely dangerous.”

The Miami Beach high school student flew to Colorado on Monday night and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, authorities said.

“We deal with a lot of threats at Columbine,” John McDonald, executive director of security for the Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly got our attention.”

Agents had focused the search around the base of Mount Evans, a popular recreational area about 60 miles southwest of Denver.

All classes and extracurricular activities for about a half-million students were canceled as a precaution, though sheriff’s spokesman Mike Taplin said the young woman’s threats were general and not specific to any school.

Authorities said Pais was last seen not far from Columbine — in the Jefferson County foothills outside Denver — in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots. Police were instructed to detain her for a mental health evaluation.

In Pais’ hometown of Surfside, Florida, Police Chief Julio Yero asked that the family be given “privacy and a little time to grieve.”

“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset. They provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” he said.

Pais’ parents last saw her on Sunday and reported her missing to Florida authorities on Monday night, Surfside police said.

Because of the threats, Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver locked their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled evening activities or moved them inside.

Adam Charni, a Miami Beach High School senior, said Pais dressed in black and kept mostly to herself. He said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for.

Two teenage gunmen attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives.

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Associated Press writers Ellis Rua in Miami Beach, Florida and James Anderson and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.

 

AARON WATSON UNFURLS HIS SUMMER 2019 THE RED BANDANA TOUR

THE BOOT – Aaron Watson will be kicking off his summer in style, with 13 just-announced stops for his 2019 The Red BandanaTour. The show will launch in Abilene, Texas — the country star’s hometown town — on June 28.

“Touring is what we do, it’s how we built the business and met so many amazing fans over the years,” says Watson of the new dates, according to Rolling Stone. “I can assure everyone that we plan on coming to your market over the course of this record with a brand-new stage and production as well as set list.”

The tour takes its name from Watson’s forthcoming new record, which will drop on June 21, just a week before the jaunt kicks off. “I am so excited to announce the new tour this summer with the release of my new album, Red Bandana,” the singer states in a press release. “Of course, kicking it off in my hometown of Abilene means the world to me … We’ll be playing the old favorites and a lot of new songs from Red Bandana.”

Tickets for all announced tour stops are on sale now, with more dates to be revealed in the coming weeks. For details and ticketing information, visit Watson’s official website.

Aaron Watson, 2019 The ‘Red Bandana’ Tour Dates:

June 28 — Abilene, Texas @ Taylor County Expo Center
June 29 — Houston, Texas @ White Oak Music Hall (Outdoors)
July 6 — Big Lake, Texas @ Big Lake Festival
July 11 — Rhinelander, Wisc. @ Hodag Country Festival
July 12 — Cincinnati, Ohio @ Riverfront Live
July 13 — Varysburg, N.Y. @ Jam In The Valley
July 18 — Hastings, Neb. @ Adams County Fair
July 19 — Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. @ Lazy Gators
July 26 — Yerington, Nev. @ A Night In The Country
Aug. 10 — Beaumont, Texas @ Ford Park Arena
Aug. 15 — Kansas City, Mo. @ Power & Lights District
Aug. 23 — Pueblo, Colo. @ Colorado State Fair
Sept. 5 — Puyallup, Wash. @ Washington State Fair

April 17 – On This Day

In 1970 – Johnny Cash played at the White House with June Carter and The Statler Brothers for President Nixon, who requested that he played “A Boy Named Sue.” Cash declined Nixon’s request to do Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” but did perform “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Peace In The Valley” and “What Is Truth.”

Osky boys track team aiming for Drake Relays

This is the time of year when a young athlete starts thinking about the Drake Relays.  Oskaloosa’s boys’ track team could send three relay teams to the Relays based on Tuesday’s (4/16) results at Mid-Prairie in Wellman.  The Indians’ distance medley team of Aaron Blom, Casey Hill, Brayden VanKampen and Carter Huyser won in a time of 3:37.69 seconds—which is the top time in Iowa Class 3A track this season. Oskaloosa’s 4 by 400 relay team of Brayden VanKampen, Iszac Schultz, Aaron Blom and Carter Huyser ran a season best 3:27.31, which is second best in the state in Class 3A.  And Osky’s 4 by 100 relay team of Aaron Blom, Reed Brown, Brayden VanKampen and Casey Hill reduced their time to 44.93 seconds, which Indians Coach Mike Sterner says should qualify them for the Drake Relays.  Those Drake Relays are next week in Des Moines.  The Indians boys’ track team will run again Thursday (4/18) at Newton.

Columbine attack shapes schools, families 20 years later

By KATHLEEN FOODY, ALLEN G. BREED and P. SOLOMON BANDA

DENVER (AP) — Dropping her kids off at school used to be the hardest part of Kacey Ruegsegger Johnson’s day. She would cry most mornings as they left the car, and relied on texted photos from their teachers to make it through the day.

Now, the mother of four — and Columbine shooting survivor — sees mornings as an opportunity. She wakes early, makes breakfast and strives to send a clear message before her kids leave home: I adore you.

Twenty years after teenage gunmen attacked Columbine High School, Ruegsegger Johnson and other alumni of the Littleton, Colorado, school have become parents. The emotional toll of the shooting that killed 12 classmates and a teacher has been amplified by fears about their own kids’ safety , spiking each time yet another shooter enters yet another school.

“I’m grateful I have the chance to be a mom. I know some of my classmates weren’t given that opportunity,” Ruegsegger Johnson said, tears springing to her eyes. “There are parts of the world I wish our kids never had to know about. I wish that there would never be a day I had to tell them the things I’ve been through.”

As the survivors of Columbine entered adulthood, they watched the attacks at their school and so many others — Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Parkland — alter the American classroom.

Drills teaching students to “lock down” inside classrooms became routine. Schools formed teams to assess threats, particularly from students. Security firms forged a multibillion-dollar industry, introducing surveillance video, panic buttons and upgraded doors and locks. And police changed their strategies for responding to a gunman intent only on killing.

Some of the Columbine survivors find comfort in students being shielded by high fences or locked doors. Others find themselves frustrated by the ready acceptance of active-shooter drills in schools.

Now, many of these students-turned-parents grapple with crippling fear dwarfing pride as their children walk into their own schools.

Ruegsegger Johnson has developed her own ritual for the school drop-off. On a recent sunny spring morning, she helped her kids find their book bags and tie their shoes before ushering them to the car. She prayed aloud as they neared the school, giving thanks for a beautiful morning and asking for a day of learning and friendship.

As always, she made a silent addition: Keep them safe.

She coaches her daughter when she ventures to places outside her mom’s control: Where is the closest exit? What street are you on? Who is around you?

“I never want my kids to feel an ounce of pain, the way that I felt pain,” Over said. “I know that that’s something that I can’t control. And I think that’s hard on me.”

Over was in the Columbine cafeteria when the gunmen approached the school, targeting students eating lunch outside. She escaped with no physical injuries, but has struggled emotionally for years.

Therapy and family support helped. But waving goodbye to her daughter on the first day of preschool triggered a panic attack — the first of many. She was diagnosed with chronic panic disorder, resumed therapy and found new strategies for her life as a mother of two.

Over’s daughter, Brie, was 11 when her mother first told her about Columbine, a few days before the anniversary. That April 20, they visited the school for a memorial ceremony that included a reading of the names of the 13 people killed. Afterward, the Overs walked together through the quiet school.

Here is where she hid in the cafeteria, Amy Over showed her daughter. And that is the staircase where she last saw her basketball coach, Dave Sanders, who died in a classroom awaiting rescue after valiantly trying to help evacuate the school.

For Over, opening up to her daughter was cathartic and so they have continued to attend annual memorial events, now imbued with a gentler tone with the girl by her side.

“It’s a day of reflection,” Over said. “It’s a day of love and hope. And I get to share that with my daughter.”

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Though it sometimes seems mass shootings inside schools are a commonplace occurrence, they are relatively rare, and statistics show the number has not substantially increased since 2000.

But that is of little consolation to a swath of American parents. About 2 in 10 parents said they are not at all or not very confident in their children’s safety while at school, while a third of parents are very or extremely confident, according to a March survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Austin Eubanks, who survived being shot in the Columbine library, is among those who doesn’t fear the schools his sons, ages 13 and 9, attend.

Instead, he laments that active-shooter drills, video surveillance and armed guards are all too routine for them — as natural as a tornado drill was for him growing up in Oklahoma.

“We are so unwilling to actually make meaningful progress on eradicating the issue,” said Eubanks, who remains scarred by watching his best friend, Corey DePooter, die. “So we’re just going to focus on teaching kids to hide better, regardless of the emotional impact that that bears on their life. To me, that’s pretty sad.”

Isolation, depression, addiction and suicide are among the larger dangers he sees facing his kids’ generation, and he knows firsthand the damage those can cause.

For more than a decade after the attack, Eubanks was addicted to prescription pain medication. He got sober in 2011 and began repairing his family, including his relationship with his sons and their mother. He works at an addiction treatment facility and travels the country telling his story.

At home in Colorado, he tries to help his sons become attuned to pain others may be feeling. He encourages them to talk to an adult when peers seem so angry or afraid that they may need help. He tries to remember that — for them — all of the changes in schools are just normal.

He was horrified by videos that Marjory Stoneman Douglas students shot in Parkland, Florida, as they hid inside a classroom while a gunman moved through the halls of the high school. He has urged his own boys to always try to escape first — whatever it takes — even if the drills advise staying put.

“These are my children, and what I care about most is their safety,” he said. “And I know that for them, in a situation like that, getting away from it as quickly as possible is the best likelihood of success.”

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When Kacey Ruegsegger Johnson’s daughter Mallory was 8, a classmate saw her mom on a Denver news station. Mallory had a question: Was her mother famous?

Ruegsegger Johnson knew it was time for the conversation she and her husband had anticipated for years. During a family vacation, she pulled her oldest daughter aside for a private talk — the one that finally explained the scars marking Ruegsegger Johnson’s right shoulder and why she was unable to reach up toward high shelves or use her right arm to lift the kids.

In 1999, Kacey Ruegsegger was reading a magazine in the school library when a teacher entered, shouting that someone had a gun. The junior crouched under a computer desk, pulling a chair in front of her body. She felt well-hidden, but the shooters’ taunting voices and the sound of gunshots grew louder and got closer. Then one of the gunmen leaned down and fired a shotgun at her.

The blast shredded her right shoulder. She tried not to move or cry out, praying the shooter would believe she was dead and walk away. When the pair left the library, other students helped her flee.

For the last 20 years, she has lived with post-traumatic stress disorder, along with physical pain. She worked as a nurse until the injuries to her arm forced her to stop.

Ruegsegger Johnson was thrilled to become a mother, but struggled to leave her infant daughter at daycare during church services. She considered home schooling, terrified that sending her children into a school was akin to exposing them to danger.

Leaning on her religious faith and family support, she worked hard to push the terror down as her children got older. She avoided media coverage of school violence and became a resource for other survivors of shootings. She grew tired of living in fear and unwilling to let her past affect her kids’ experience.

Though she still struggles occasionally, she resolved to make mornings before school a positive time, focused on building her children up. And she finds at least some comfort in their school’s evacuation plans and security measures. She told her children that lockdown drills were like fire drills — practice to keep them safe from an unlikely danger.

But when Mallory confessed to feeling afraid that “a bad person” could still find her in the evacuation location used during one drill, Ruegsegger Johnson flashed back to herself crouched under that computer desk in the Columbine library.

“The bad guys found me, and I thought I had a really great hiding spot,” she said. “So what am I going to say to a little girl who has that same fear that the bad guy might find her? It was a really hard moment for me.”

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Breed reported from Cary, North Carolina. Associated Press researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York and writer Reese Dunklin in Dallas contributed to this report.

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The prospect of Amy Over’s 13-year-old daughter starting high school could have triggered a panic attack in the not-too-distant past. But now she’s focused on helping the girl prepare for the unexpected.

 

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