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AP Top News at 11:51 p.m. EST

President Donald Trump says he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia probe that has shadowed the White House for much of the year
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump said Sunday that he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia probe that has shadowed the White House for much of his initial year in office. Trump returned to the White House from Camp David and was asked if he was considering triggering the process to dismiss Mueller, who is investigating whether the president's Republican campaign coordinated with Russian officials during last year's election. The president answered: "No, I'm not." But he did add to the growing conservative criticism of Mueller's move to gain access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, yielding attacks from transition lawyers and renewing chatter that Trump may act to end the investigation.


Republican Sen. John McCain's office says he has returned home to Arizona after being hospitalized for a viral infection and will miss a crucial Senate vote on the GOP tax package
WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican Sen. John McCain has returned home to Arizona after being hospitalized for a viral infection while battling brain cancer and will miss a crucial Senate vote on the GOP tax package, his office said Sunday. The 81-year-old senator will undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in the state after spending several days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. In a brief statement, the office provided an assessment from Dr. Mark Gilbert, chief of neuro-oncology at the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute. "Senator McCain has responded well to treatment he received at Walter Reed Medical Center for a viral infection and continues to improve," Gilbert said.


Among 10 Things to Know: What President Trump says about Robert Mueller's future; Who may be absent for critical GOP tax vote; Fire crews battle to keep wildfire from burning Santa Barbara.
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday: 1. WHAT TRUMP SAYS ABOUT ROBERT MUELLER'S FUTURE The president says he is not planning to fire special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration grapples with the growing Russia probe. 2. 'WE ARE STUCK HERE' An electrical fire triggers a power outage, bringing the world's busiest airport to a standstill, grounding scores of flights in Atlanta. 3. AP SOURCES: GREEN BERET DIED IN HAIL OF GUNFIRE A military investigation concludes that Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson wasn't captured alive, dispelling a swirl of rumors about the October ambush in Niger, the AP learns.


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Power outage brings Atlanta airport to standstill days before Christmas travel rush
ATLANTA (AP) - A sudden power outage caused by a fire in an underground electrical facility brought the world's busiest airport to a standstill Sunday, grounding more than 1,000 flights in Atlanta just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush. More than 10 hours after the blackout began, authorities announced that electricity had been restored to several areas of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Georgia Power said on its Twitter page late Sunday that power was back in the airport's atrium and several concourses. It tweeted to the Associated Press that several more were still being worked on. The utility said earlier it expected power to be fully restored by midnight.


The Associated Press has learned that an American soldier died in a hail of gunfire and fought to the end after fleeing militants who had just killed three comrades in an October ambush in Niger
WASHINGTON (AP) - Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson died in a hail of gunfire, hit as many as 18 times as he took cover in thick brush, fighting to the end after fleeing militants who had just killed three comrades in an October ambush in Niger, The Associated Press has learned. A military investigation has concluded that Johnson wasn't captured alive or killed at close range, dispelling a swirl of rumors about how he died. The report has determined that Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from members of an Islamic State offshoot, according to U.S.


Flames threaten California coastal communities; funeral for fallen firefighter
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Thousands of firefighters tried Sunday to shield coastal communities from one of the biggest wildfires in California history while a funeral procession rolled past burn-scarred hillsides in honor of one of their colleagues who was killed battling the flames. Crews cleared brush and dug containment lines above hillside neighborhoods in Santa Barbara County, taking advantage of slightly calmer winds a day after gusts fanned a flare-up that prompted more evacuations. "Everything's holding really well," fire information officer Lisa Cox said. "Thousands of homes have been saved." While gusts had eased somewhat, even lower intensity winds were still dangerous, she warned.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has called U.S. President Donald Trump to thank him for a CIA tip helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg
MOSCOW (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned U.S. President Donald Trump Sunday to thank him for a CIA tip that helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin and the White House said. During the call, the two leaders' second in three days, Putin expressed gratitude for the CIA information. The Kremlin said it led Russia's top domestic security agency to a group of suspects that planned to bomb St. Petersburg's Kazan Cathedral and other crowded sites this weekend. "The information received from the CIA proved sufficient to find and detain the criminal suspects," the Kremlin said.


GOP is betting that its prescription for US economy will defy warnings of economists
WASHINGTON (AP) - The tax overhaul of 2017 amounts to a high-stakes gamble by Republicans in Congress: That slashing taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals will accelerate growth and assure greater prosperity for Americans for years to come. The risks are considerable. A wide range of economists and nonpartisan analysts have warned that the bill will likely escalate federal debt, intensify pressure to cut spending on social programs and further widen America's troubling income inequality. Congress is expected to vote this week on the bill, the most far-reaching rewrite of the U.S. tax code since 1986. It would shrink corporate taxes, prod companies to return trillions in profits they've kept overseas, cut taxes on wealthy estates and drop tax rates - but only temporarily - for individuals.


AP FACT CHECK: Trump oversells the likely effects of repatriating corporate profits held overseas
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump speaks often of a pile of money sitting overseas that will come rushing back into the U.S. once his tax plan is in place. That's something of a mirage. Here's what he told reporters Saturday in the roar of Marine One waiting to take him to Camp David, Maryland: TRUMP, asked about the $20 trillion U.S. debt and his tax overhaul's effect on it: "Well this is going to bring money in. As an example, $4 trillion will come flowing back into the country. That's money that's been stuck overseas for years and years." THE FACTS: First, his comment should not be read to mean that the debt is going to shrink by $4 trillion because of money returning from abroad.


The Latest from the NFL: Marshawn Lynch sits during national anthem; AP counts 18 players protesting around NFL
Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the national anthem before Sunday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys, as he has done routinely this season. That brought to 18 the number of NFL players The Associated Press observed protesting during the anthem this week. The players who protested Sunday have been doing so for most of the season. Ten Seattle Seahawks players either knelt or sat for "The Star-Spangled Banner." Three San Francisco 49ers also knelt ahead of their home game with Tennessee. Three players protested during early games. Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting and later kneeling during the national anthem last season to protest racial injustice.

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