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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Fear escalated across Austin on Monday after the fourth bombing this month — this time, a blast that was triggered by a tripwire and demonstrated what police said was a “higher level of sophistication” than the package bombs used in the previous attacks.

Two men in their 20s were wounded Sunday night as they walked along a street and were hospitalized in stable condition. The three earlier bombings since March 2 left two people dead and two wounded.

“We are clearly dealing with what we believe to be a serial bomber at this point, based on the similarities between now what is the fourth device” and the previous ones, Police Chief Brian Manley said.

He said investigators have yet to establish a motive.

“Is this terrorism? Is this hate-related?” Manley asked. He said investigators will “have determine if we see a specific ideology behind this.”

He said the blast involved a tripwire, unlike the first three attacks, in which package bombs were left on people’s doorsteps. That represents a “significant change,” in that the previous bombings appeared targeted, while the latest one would have hurt any random person walking by, Manley said.

The device this time entailed “a higher level of sophistication, a higher level of skill,” the chief said.

Authorities canvassed the area in search of anything suspicious, and residents were warned to remain indoors and to call 911 if they needed to leave their homes. Manley asked anyone with surveillance cameras at their homes to make the footage available in case suspicious vehicles or people could be seen.

Sunday night’s explosion happened in the southwestern Austin neighborhood of Travis Country. That is far from the sites of the earlier bombings, which occurred over two-plus weeks in residential neighborhoods east of Interstate 35.

The 22- and 23-year-old men injured this time are white, unlike the victims in the earlier blasts, who were black or Hispanic.

Manley warned people not to touch suspicious bags, boxes or backpacks, especially if they had wires protruding.

“We need people paying attention to suspicious objects,” the chief said.

Mayor Steve Adler said the latest explosion only further raised anxieties in the city.

“That concern is legitimate and real,” Adler said, adding that residents should also be reassured by the massive police response to the attacks. Hundreds of federal agents are investigating, along with Austin police.

“That anxiousness is going to continue until we can find the answer,” Adler said.

Spring break ends Monday for the University of Texas and many area school districts, meaning people who were out of town have returned home to heightened fears.

The university’s campus police warned returning students to be wary and to tell their classmates about the danger, saying, “We must look out for one another.” None of the four attacks happened close to the campus near the heart of Austin.

Austin’s school district announced that buses wouldn’t be going into the Travis Country neighborhood and that any “tardies or absences due to this situation will be excused.”

But concern spread well past the immediate blast site.

Andrew Zimmerman, 44, a coffee shop worker on the city’s west side, said he’s lived in Austin his entire life.

“This makes me sick,” Zimmerman said, noting the use of a tripwire adds a “new level” of suspected professionalism that makes it harder to guard against such attacks.

“That’s what scares me a little bit,” he added.

Police said Sunday’s victims were hospitalized with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

The latest explosion came hours after authorities raised the reward by $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of whoever is responsible for the first three explosions. It now totals $115,000.

The PGA’s Dell Technologies Match Play tournament is scheduled to begin in Austin on Wednesday, and dozens of the world’s top golfers are set to begin arriving the day before.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional leaders and the White House are pressing to strike an accord on a $1.3 trillion catchall spending bill, though disputes remain over immigration, abortion and a massive rail project that pits President Donald Trump against his most powerful Democratic adversary.

An agreement by Monday would pave the way for a House vote on Wednesday. Action is needed by midnight Friday to avert another government shutdown.

The bipartisan measure is loaded with political and policy victories for both sides. Republicans and Trump are winning a long-sought budget increase for the Pentagon while Democrats obtain funding for infrastructure, the opioid crisis and a wide swath of domestic programs.

The bill would implement last month’s big budget agreement, providing 10 percent increases for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies when compared with current levels. Coupled with last year’s tax cut measure, it heralds the return of trillion-dollar budget deficits as soon as the budget year starting in October.

While most of the funding issues in the enormous measure have been sorted out, fights involving a number of policy “riders” — so named because they catch a ride on a difficult-to-stop spending bill — continued into the weekend.

Among them were uphill GOP-led efforts to add a plan to revive federal subsidies to help the poor cover out-of-pocket costs under President Barack Obama’s health law and to fix a glitch in the recent tax bill that subsidizes grain sales to cooperatives at the expense of for-profit grain companies.

Efforts to use the measure as a vehicle to extend protections for young immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA, appeared likely to fail, aides said. Trump killed the Obama-era program in September, but a court decision has essentially left it in place, for now. The White House had revived the idea in recent days, but conservative Republicans remained opposed.

“I’m urging the leaders to basically come together and understand there is an emergency at hand here — 780,000 young people have their lives hang in the balance because President Trump killed the DACA program. We have to move on a bipartisan basis to put it back in business,” said No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois on “Fox News Sunday.”

Trump, meanwhile, has privately threatened to veto the whole package if a $900 million payment is made on the Hudson River Gateway Project, a priority of Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Trump’s opposition is alarming Northeastern Republicans such as Gateway supporter Peter King, a House member from New York who lobbied Trump on the project at a St. Patrick’s luncheon in the Capitol on Thursday.

The Gateway Project would add an $11 billion rail tunnel under the Hudson River to complement deteriorating, century-old tunnels that are at risk of closing in a few years. It enjoys bipartisan support among key Appropriations panel negotiators on the omnibus measure who want to get the expensive project on track while their coffers are flush with money.

Most House Republicans voted to kill the funding in a tally last year, however, preferring to see the money spread to a greater number of districts.

“Obviously, if we’re doing a huge earmark … it’s troubling,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a leader of House conservatives. “Why would we do that … Schumer’s pet project and we pass that under a Republican-controlled Senate, House and White House?”

Schumer has kept a low profile, avoiding stoking a battle with the unpredictable Trump. One potential resolution is to include money for Gateway but not specifically earmark it for the project.

There’s also a continuing battle over Trump’s long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall. While Trump traveled to California on Tuesday to inspect prototypes for the wall, what’s pending now is $1.6 billion for earlier designs involving sections in Texas that double as levees and 14 miles (23 kilometers) of replacement fencing in San Diego.

It appears Democrats may be willing to accept wall funding, but they are battling hard against Trump’s demands for big increases for immigration agents and detention beds they fear would enable wide-scale roundups of immigrants illegally living in the U.S.

Republicans are holding firm against a provision by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., designed to make sure that Planned Parenthood, intensely disliked by anti-abortion Republicans, receives a lion’s share of federal family planning grants.

But another abortion-related provision — backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — that would strengthen “conscience protection” for health care providers that refuse to provide abortions remained unresolved heading into the final round of talks, though Democrats opposing it have prevailed in the past.

One item that appears likely to catch a ride on the must-pass measure is a package of telecommunications bills, including a measure to free up airwaves for wireless users in anticipation of new 5G technology.

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In Georgia, state GOP lawmakers are pushing a bill that would shrink the period in which Atlanta voters can cast their votes. A law passed in the 1970s let Atlanta polling places stay open until 8 p.m. Supporters of the new legislation, which would require polling places to close at 7 p.m. and eliminate Sunday voting statewide, say it’s a matter of restoring uniformity of the state. But opponents say it would restrict voting among those who participate in “souls to the polls” church voter drives, many of whom are African American. The legislation was filed after a Democrat won a special election in a district that includes parts of Atlanta.

For the last few months, Nevada Republicans have been trying to recall two Democratic state senators and an independent who caucuses with them. Supporters of the recall effort haven’t really hid the fact that it’s an attempt to replace these legislators with Republicans — giving control of the Senate back to the GOP — rather than punish any unethical conduct or wrongdoing. But Republicans were dealt a blow last week when a Nevada state court ruled that people who had signed recall petitions could choose to remove their names. It’s possible that enough people will abandon the petitions to bring Republicans below the number of signatures needed to force a recall election.

Lawmakers in Maryland are considering a number of bills that would make it easier to vote. An automatic voter registration bill passed the state Senate last week and is expected to coast through the House. Legislators are considering another bill that would amend the state constitution to allow same-day voter registration.

In Connecticut, meanwhile, lawmakers are weighing legislation that would restore voting rights to people on parole and allow those in custody but not yet convicted of a crime to vote.

The Kansas proof-of-citizenship voter registration trial gets back underway today. The court was in recess for the second half of last week. We left off last Tuesday with attorneys questioning two rebuttal witnesses that the ACLU picked to respond to “experts” that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach called on to claim significant rates of noncitizen voting. Kobach is expected to bring in a pollster the state commissioned to survey Kansans on the law, and the ACLU is expected to put a rebuttal witness on the stand to respond to that testimony as well.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the latest request from Pennsylvania Republicans. State legislators want the Supreme Court to address the new congressional map that a court-appointed expert drew after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the old map. Justice Samuel Alito — who handles such requests from Pennsylvania — asked the parties in the case to submit responses to the GOP request two weeks ago. Alito previously rejected Republican entreaties to get involved, so court observers speculate that the delay this time could be because justices are writing opinions explaining why or why not they should intervene.

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President Donald Trump in recent days is feeling more emboldened to behave how he wants to, rather than listening to the advice from his closest allies, The New York Times reported Sunday.

According to more than a dozen sources who are close with Trump and who spoke with the Times, the President has thrown caution to the wind when it comes to keeping quiet on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. That was evidenced in Trump’s tweet this weekend, calling out Mueller for the probe. Trump has reportedly previously been encouraged by aides to stay silent on the issue, so as to avoid provoking Mueller, according to the Times.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted about Mueller’s team of “13 hardened Democrats,” suggesting bias within that probe. Sources close with Trump, like longtime political operative Roger Stone Jr., have suggested that Trump’s recent moves mark a new age of confidence for Trump who is not concerned about getting rid of White House officials he doesn’t want to work with any longer. 

Last week, Trump fired his secretary of state, and accepted the resignation of his chief economic adviser. He is reportedly expected to announced further shakeup later this week.

Read the full NYT report here.   

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WASHINGTON (AP) — When the ax fell on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his spokeswoman was half a world away, a distance he and his inner circle preferred and enforced.

Now, it’s Tillerson who’s on his way out after his unceremonious firing by President Donald Trump, and Heather Nauert whose star is ascendant.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Nauert are among the few women in the Trump administration with high-profile voices on foreign policy. Only three State Department officials — all men — now outrank Nauert, a former Fox News anchor who declined comment for this story.

Nauert’s meteoric rise comes even though just a week ago she seemed not long for the job. Then Tillerson lost his.

She was denied the kind of close access to the boss that all recent successful State Department press secretaries enjoyed. So Nauert tried to defend Trump’s top diplomat and explain his activities to reporters from around the world without being able to travel on any of Tillerson’s international trips or attend most of his Washington meetings.

Frustrated at being sidelined, Nauert almost quit several times. She had been telling associates she was ready to move on.

The moment that Trump canned Tillerson by tweet, Nauert was in a Hamas-built tunnel on the border near the Gaza Strip, on a tour organized by the Israeli military to show U.S. officials the smuggling routes used by militants. Caught by surprise by the move back in Washington, Nauert cut the tour short and returned to Jerusalem to deal with the crisis. Soon, Trump also fired the undersecretary of state who publicly defended Tillerson.

The president named Nauert to that suddenly vacant position, near the top of the hierarchy of American diplomacy.

Nauert told associates she was taken aback and recommended a colleague for the job. But when White House officials told her they wanted her, she accepted.

The new role gives Nauert responsibilities far beyond the regular news conferences she held in the briefing room. She is overseeing the public diplomacy in Washington and all of the roughly 275 overseas U.S. embassies, consulates and other posts. She is in charge of the Global Engagement Center that fights extremist messaging from the Islamic State group and others. She can take a seat, if she wants, on the Broadcasting Board of Governors that steers government broadcast networks such as Voice of America.

Less than a year ago, Nauert wasn’t even in government.

Nauert, who was born in Illinois, was a breaking news anchor on Trump’s favorite television show, “Fox & Friends,” when she was tapped to be the face and voice of the administration’s foreign policy. With a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she had come to Fox from ABC News, where she was a general assignment reporter. She hadn’t specialized in foreign policy or international relations.

It was almost clear from the start that Nauert wasn’t Tillerson’s first choice.

She resisted the ex-oilman’s efforts to limit press access, reduce briefings and limit journalists allowed to travel with him. Tillerson had preferred Genevieve Wood at the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to several individuals familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss Tillerson’s personnel decisions.

When Nauert arrived at the State Department in April 2017, she found relations between Tillerson and the diplomatic press corps in crisis. No longer were there daily briefings that had been a State Department feature for decades. Journalists accustomed to traveling with Republican and Democratic secretaries for decades found they were blocked from Tillerson’s plane. Department spokespeople had no regular access to Tillerson or his top advisers.

Shut out from the top, Nauert developed relationships with career diplomats. Barred from traveling with Tillerson, she embarked on her own overseas trips, visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar last year to see the plight of Rohingya Muslims, and then Israel after a planned stop in Syria was scrapped. Limited to two briefings a week, she began hosting a program called “The Readout” on State Department social media outlets in which she interviewed senior officials about topics of the day.

All the while, she stayed in the good graces of the White House, even as Tillerson was increasingly on the outs. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Nauert as “a team player” and “a strong asset for the administration.”

And she didn’t shy from taking on foreign foes.

“The idea that Russia is calling for a so-called humanitarian corridor, I want to be clear, is a joke,” Nauert said at one recent briefing where she took Moscow to task for its actions in Syria, where it has used military power to support President Bashar Assad’s government.

Such comments have earned her the wrath of Kremlin officials and state-run media. Faced with pointed questioning by reporters from Russian news outlets at her briefings, Nauert often has lashed out, accusing them of working for their government.

“You’re from Russian TV, too. OK. So hey, enough said then. I’ll move on,” Nauert told a reporter last month after Russian President Vladimir Putin presented an animated film clip showing a missile headed toward the U.S.

The comment sparked an intercontinental war-of-spokeswomen.

“If the StateDept dares to shun our journalists alongside with calling them Russian journalists one more time, we will carry our promise. We will create special seats for so called ‘US journalists,'” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova tweeted.

It didn’t end there.

First, the Russian Embassy in Washington congratulated Nauert “and, of course, all female employees” of the State Department on International Women’s Day. Nauert responded with gratitude and a dig, saying Moscow should use the day to “live up to its international commitments & stop bombing innocent men, women & children in #Syria.”

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After firing off a series of tweets aimed at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and fired FBI official Andrew McCabe on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, Trump again lashed out at the Russia probe Monday morning.

Trump often fires off tweets on weekend mornings, but his ire toward Mueller was especially apparent this past weekend. He also openly celebrated the firing of McCabe just two days before the FBI official’s retirement benefits would have kicked in, renewing his claims that McCabe was biased toward Democrats.

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Hillary Clinton on Saturday apologized for comments she made earlier this month when she claimed that states that supported her during the election were more wealthy than those who supported President Donald Trump.

In a lengthy Facebook post Saturday, Clinton clarified the intention of her remarks, that cities that do better economically “typically lean Democrat and and places where there is less optimism about the future lean Republican.”

“That doesn’t mean the coasts versus the heartland, it doesn’t even mean entire states,” she wrote. “In fact, it more often captures the divisions between more dynamic urban areas and less prosperous small towns within states. As I said throughout the campaign, Trump’s message was dark and backwards looking.”

She claimed that she meant for her “backwards” comments to reference his policy stances, not be reflective of the people or places that went for Trump.

I don’t need to list the reasons, but the foundation of his message, ‘Make America Great AGAIN’ suggests that to be great we have to go back to something we are no longer. I never accepted that and never will,” she said.

Read her full statement here.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jim Carrey is being criticized on social media for a portrait he painted that is believed to be White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The actor and comedian on Saturday tweeted the painting with the caption: “This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!”

Some Twitter users accused Carrey of shaming because of the unflattering portrait. Others were critical of his use of Christian.

A spokeswoman for Carrey confirms it is his painting. But she would not confirm it is Sanders.

The White House has not returned a message seeking comment.

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When Hope Hicks announced last month that she would resign from her role as White House communications director, she had been contemplating the move for a while, according to a profile of Hicks published by New York magazine Sunday night.

Hicks had considered leaving her prominent role twice before, according to New York magazine. In August 2017, Hicks told Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner that she was unhappy and floated moving to a different role in the administration, but Ivanka Trump and Kushner encouraged her to wait for chief of staff John Kelly to bring changes to the West Wing, per the report. In December 2017, Hicks considered leaving again when her lease in Washington, D.C. was up, according to New York magazine.

Hicks resigned in late February a couple of weeks after key White House aide Rob Porter, whom Hicks was reportedly dating at the time, was ousted from the administration over accusations from his ex-wives that he was abusive.

Read New York magazine’s profile of Hick here.

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