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AP Top Political News at 5:57 p.m. EDT

Obama's top civil rights lawyer to lead advocacy coalition
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration's top civil rights lawyer announced Thursday she will lead a coalition of civil and human rights organizations at a time when they see the Justice Department softening its focus on a number of their priorities....

VA urges 'hiring surge' to reduce veterans' appeals backlog
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is warning of a rapidly growing backlog for veterans who seek to appeal decisions involving disability benefits, saying it will need much more staff even as money remains in question due to a tightening Trump administration budget....

AP FACT CHECK: Trump's truths can come from wisps of info
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sitting atop that vast apparatus of institutional knowledge, hard-won intelligence and data known as the U.S. government, President Donald Trump forms some of his most contentious opinions from other sources entirely. It could be a pundit's half-remembered comment on TV, a single word in a newspaper headline or the most self-persuasive source of all - his own instinct....

Obamacare repeal vote put off in stinging setback for Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After seven years of fervent promises to repeal and replace "Obamacare," President Donald Trump and GOP congressional leaders buckled at a moment of truth Thursday, putting off a planned showdown vote in a stinging setback for the young administration....

White House defends GOP lawmaker's decision to brief Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House on Thursday defended the House intelligence committee chairman's extraordinary decision to openly discuss and brief President Donald Trump on typically secret intelligence intercepts, even as Rep. Devin Nunes privately apologized to his congressional colleagues....

Lawmakers reject plan to expand casinos in North Dakota
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Republicans who control the North Dakota House rejected their leader's plan Thursday to more than double the number of casinos in the state, a push some lawmakers viewed as a threat of payback against American Indian tribes for protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline....

AP Exclusive: US probe of ex-Trump aide extends to Cyprus
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. government investigation of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, crossed the Atlantic earlier this year to the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, once known as a haven for money laundering by Russian billionaires....

Democrats threaten delay on Supreme Court nominee
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats vowed Thursday to impede Judge Neil Gorsuch's path to the Supreme Court, setting up a political showdown with implications for future openings on the high court....

New Congress, all-GOP, same political divisions
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With control of the White House and Senate and a commanding majority in the House, Republicans were supposed to brush off any challenge from the hardline Freedom Caucus and work their will with impunity....

Next steps on health care: To be decided
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican House leaders delayed a planned vote Thursday on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," because they lacked the votes. The delay was a stinging setback for President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis....