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- 07/24/17--15:30: _Myanmar’s Rohingya ...
- 07/24/17--15:35: _What happened in Ja...
- 07/24/17--15:35: _Death of migrants i...
- 07/24/17--15:40: _Why there is so muc...
- 07/24/17--15:40: _11 states sue over ...
- 07/24/17--15:45: _News Wrap: Trump tw...
- 07/24/17--15:50: _Kushner on Russia d...
- 07/25/17--15:01: _The moon may be hid...
- 07/25/17--15:14: _Pruitt rolls out pl...
- 07/25/17--15:15: _Seattle’s new seawa...
- 07/25/17--15:20: _The challenge of re...
- 07/25/17--15:25: _Schiff: Trump ‘want...
- 07/25/17--15:27: _New Justice Departm...
- 07/25/17--15:30: _Rep. Stewart: Kushn...
- 07/25/17--15:35: _Under attack from t...
- 07/25/17--15:40: _Will McCain’s speec...
- 07/25/17--15:45: _News Wrap: House ov...
- 07/25/17--15:50: _Republicans weren’t...
- 07/25/17--16:22: _House passes Russia...
- 07/25/17--16:32: _White House communi...
- 07/24/17--15:30: Myanmar’s Rohingya stuck in limbo between persecution and relocation
- 07/24/17--15:35: What happened in Jared Kushner’s 4 meetings with Russians?
- 07/24/17--15:35: Death of migrants in Texas shows dangers of human smuggling
- 07/24/17--15:40: Why there is so much focus on Jared Kushner’s Russia contacts
- 07/24/17--15:40: 11 states sue over EPA delay of new chemical safety rules
- 07/24/17--15:45: News Wrap: Trump tweets new criticism of Sessions
- 07/24/17--15:50: Kushner on Russia dealings: ‘I had no improper contacts’
- 07/25/17--15:01: The moon may be hiding a lot of water under its crusty exterior
- 07/25/17--15:14: Pruitt rolls out plan to streamline cleanup of Superfund sites
- 07/25/17--15:15: Seattle’s new seawall built to make life easier for fish
- 07/25/17--15:20: The challenge of reaching hungry kids when school is out
- 07/25/17--15:27: New Justice Department rules intensify crackdown on sanctuary cities
- 07/25/17--15:45: News Wrap: House overwhelmingly approves new Russia sanctions
- 07/25/17--16:22: House passes Russia sanctions bill curbing Trump’s power
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, we turn to Bangladesh and the plight of the Rohingya.
They are an ethnic minority group seeking refuge there, many having been forced from their homes in neighboring Myanmar.
But as special correspondent Tania Rashid found, they are hardly more welcome in Bangladesh. By the tens of thousands, they are stuck in a deadly limbo.
And a warning: Parts of this story may disturb some viewers.
TANIA RASHID: The island is isolated, covered in bushes, and underwater half of the year. It’s called Thenga Chor, and it lies on the coast of Bangladesh.
It’s a hard and long day’s boat ride from the nearest port. This rough spot might be the new home for the Rohingya, a group of more than 300,000 people the U.N. calls the most persecuted minority in the world.
But on a camp on the mainland, Hafez, a Rohingya activist, says that is no place they want to go.
HAFEZ, Rohingya Activist (through interpreter): If we go to Thenga Chor, we will get sick. We can die. We are used to being here, and we feel safe here.
TANIA RASHID: It’s only a relative safety. Close to half-a-million have fled murder and persecution by the army of Myanmar to seek refuge in camps in Southern Bangladesh.
The Muslim Rohingya have lived in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for centuries, but are viewed as illegal ethnic Bangladeshis by the Myanmar government.
The de facto leader of Myanmar, Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has denied a U.N. charge of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya’.
But in the last eight months, the numbers of Rohingya fleeing for their lives have surged to more than 70,000. But now their lives are more precarious than ever before.
Monsoon season and a punishing cyclone damaged many Rohingya settlements. So, the Bangladeshi government plans to resolve the Rohingya’s continued displacement by moving 60,000 of the refugees to this remote island.
Aid agencies like the UNHCR and Human Rights Watch have expressed alarm over the planned relocation.
Our journey to the island was difficult. We began a week before the cyclone. We traveled first by ferry, then by a private boat, where a local fishermen agreed to take us to the island.
It was a dangerous journey. Pirates are known to control these seas and take hostages for ransom. But the island is not easy to access. The tides are too high on the bigger ship, so we had to get a smaller boat to take us to the island.
We just made it on the island. We managed to find a muddy bog to land near, and get us across to the island. The government has already moved forward with the plan of making the island more habitable by planting trees. But this local official doesn’t want the Rohingyas moving into his district.
He thinks it will create more problems for his community.
MINAZUR RAHMAN, Local Government Official (through interpreter): In the past, the Rohingya were related to the drug problem. They are linked to drugs, linked to smuggling. Most of the people here, their main livelihood is fishing. The bad character and influence of the Rohingya people will impact the locals here.
TANIA RASHID: But the Bangladeshi government believe the Rohingyas cross the border at will, with the help of smugglers and corrupt border guards.
The government argues the relocation will guarantee their isolation from the rest of the population. But the island is formed by river sediment, making it unstable, and it could be eroded in five years’ time.
Dr. Ainun Nishat is a leading expert on climate change in Bangladesh.
DR. AINUN NISHAT: The main history of the coastal belt of Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to storm surges and cyclonic weather.
Due to impact of climate change, we believe that the frequency of climate change may not be increasing, but intensity of the storm surges are definitely going to increase. So, they should be accommodated in good concrete structure, where at the time of emergency people should we — can be moved to a height of 20 feet and above.
TANIA RASHID: Today, about one million Rohingyas live in apartheid-like conditions in internment camps in Rakhine State of Myanmar, separated from the Buddhist majority. They have no citizenship, and need permission to marry or to travel outside of their own villages.
On October 9 of last year, Rohingya militants killed nine Myanmar police officers. The Myanmar military then led a wide and brutal counterinsurgency campaign in retaliation, where they killed more than 1,000 Rohingyas, torched homes and mosques.
The Myanmar government calls these accusations exaggerations and denies charges of ethnic cleansing.
Dil Nawaz is one of 70,000 Rohingya’s who fled to Bangladesh. She was gang-raped by soldiers, and witnessed her husband’s murder in front of her eyes.
I’m looking at a photo of her husband who was hacked to death about five months ago, and this is a photograph she took shortly after she was murdered.
DIL NAWAZ, Rohingya Refugee (through interpreter): They used a machete on my husband in front of me on the road. I saw it with my own eyes. They chopped him into pieces in front of me in a rice field. Then, the army came and took all the women out to the rice fields and took several women.
Five men took turns raping them. They took people’s gold jewelry, rings and earrings. They killed some children. Then they burned all the houses down, followed by the mosque. Then the military went back to a Buddhist area. This is why we fled to Bangladesh.
TANIA RASHID: Activist Hafez says they have found refuge here.
HAFEZ (through interpreter): Bangladesh is small, and overpopulated, but they gave us a place to stand. This is a big thing.
TANIA RASHID: But like many other Rohingya, he wants a sense of permanence.
HAFEZ (through interpreter): Instead of sending us to Thenga Chor, if the Myanmar government could, we request that they grant us citizenship.
TANIA RASHID: Forty-five-year old Dilbar hopes for a last-ditch political solution.
DILBAR, Rohingya Refugee (through interpreter): If the Bangladesh government and the Myanmar government negotiate a deal and send us back, then we will be happy. If this doesn’t happen, then please bomb us. We came here, left our homes, rice. We came here to save our lives. If we have no peace, then it’s better to die.
Our children died there. We sacrificed everything and came here for peace. If you take us to the island, it will be like killing us, slaughtering us. We are like ants. We are nothing. It won’t take much to kill us. Just bomb us. Nobody will make a case against you, because we have no ground under our feet.
TANIA RASHID: Their hope, to find that safe ground one day. But, for now, they remain in limbo, not of this land and not pushed from it.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Tania Rashid on Thenga Chor Island, Bangladesh.
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, disclosed in a statement to members of Congress four distinct interactions with Russians during the presidential campaign and transition period. The 11-page statement provides his first detailed account of meetings over the last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States, a Russian lawyer and a Russian banker.
APRIL 27, 2016, MAYFLOWER HOTEL, WASHINGTON
Kushner described meeting Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a hotel reception before Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, was to deliver a major foreign policy speech on the campaign trail.
He said Kislyak was one of four ambassadors he greeted with a handshake and pleasantries. He said he thanked the dignitaries for attending and told them that he hoped they would enjoy Trump’s speech and the ambassadors, in turn, “expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election.”
He said each interaction lasted less than a minute and he never took up any of the ambassadors on their invitations to lunch at their embassies.
JUNE 9, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY
Though Kushner maintains that he didn’t even recall this meeting until recently reviewing his records, this gathering has caused significant headaches for the Trump White House since it was publicly reported on earlier this month.
Kushner said he was invited by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., to a meeting at Trump Tower with a person who turned out to be Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. He said he arrived late, heard discussion about Moscow’s ban on Americans adopting Russian children and concluded that the meeting was such a “waste of time” that he quickly looked for a way out.
“I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting,” Kushner said.
Emails that Trump Jr. released show that the president’s oldest son came to the meeting with the expectation that the lawyer would provide negative information about Hillary Clinton. Kushner said he hadn’t read or recalled those emails until his lawyers recently showed them to him when reviewing documents to submit to the committees.
DEC. 1, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY
Kushner said this meeting involved Kislyak and Michael Flynn, who would later become Trump’s national security adviser, and lasted between 20 minutes and a half-hour.
In his statement, Kushner denied media reports that said he discussed with Kislyak a secret back-channel for communications.
Instead, Kushner said, Kislyak asked him if there was a secure line for him to convey to Trump administration officials information about Syria that he said was coming from his “generals.”
Kushner said that given the importance of Syria and the “ongoing humanitarian crisis,” he asked if there was an existing communications channel at the Russian Embassy that Kislyak felt comfortable using to relay information to Flynn.
“The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration,” Kushner said. “Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel.'”
Flynn was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak in a phone call.
DEC. 13, 2016, NEW YORK CITY
Kushner said he attended a meeting in New York with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, after being asked to do so by Kislyak.
He said Gorkov introduced himself and provided him with two gifts: a bag of dirt from a village in Belarus where Kushner’s grandparents were from and a piece of art from the same location. He said Gorkov discussed his bank and the Russian economy and described himself as friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Kushner insisted that the meeting had nothing to do with his work as a businessman. He said the men did not discuss sanctions against Russia or anything about “my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.”
“I did not know or have any contact with Mr. Gorkov before that meeting, and I have had no reason to connect with him since,” Kushner said.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the latest on a human smuggling case in Texas that has left at least 10 people dead after they were packed into a sweltering tractor-trailer.
And again to John Yang.
JOHN YANG: The truck driver, James Bradley, was charged in federal court today with knowingly transporting people who are in the country illegally for money.
According to the criminal complaint, a Wal-Mart employee called police early Sunday to report the suspicious tractor-trailer in the parking lot after someone asked for water. Officers found dozens of people packed into the sweltering trailer.
In addition to the dead, nearly 20 others are still hospitalized. Bradley told police he was driving the tractor-trailer from Iowa to a new owner in Brownsville, Texas, and wasn’t aware of what or who he was hauling until he stopped at the Wal-Mart for a bathroom break.
Survivors said there was no air conditioning and described taking turns to breath through a hole in the trailer.
Jason Buch is covering the story and reports on border and immigration issues for The San Antonio Express-News.
Jason, thanks for joining us.
First, bring us up to date. What’s the latest today and what did we learn from the truck driver’s appearance in court?
JASON BUCH, The San Antonio Express-News: Well, there wasn’t a whole lot said in court this morning.
He’s going to be held until a bond hearing on Thursday. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office signed off on a complaint by immigration agents that detailed what they learned in their interviews with the driver and with the immigrants, and, as you described, this journey up from the border in an overheated container with a very limited ability to get air from one hole.
JOHN YANG: And talk about the charges he’s facing. They’re federal charges. What’s the maximum penalty?
JASON BUCH: So, most smuggling charges come with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
But because people died in this case, he actually faces up to life in prison or the death penalty. We had another incident here about 15 years ago in which several people died, 19 people died after being abandoned in a trailer.
The death penalty was overturned in that case, and that driver got 34 years. So, it would be difficult for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prove up a capital case here.
JOHN YANG: How widespread are these smuggling operations? What can you tell us about them?
JASON BUCH: I mean, people come across the border in South Texas every day.
The Border Patrol in Laredo, which is where these folks crossed, have reported in the last couple months an uptick in people using tractor-trailers to try to get through the Border Patrol checkpoint and reach the cities to the north.
It’s been a long time since we have had a fatal incident like this involving a tractor-trailer, but certainly there have been a number of incidents reported by Border Patrol recently of dozens of people packed into tractor-trailers.
JOHN YANG: And tell us how these operations work.
I mean, these people, some of the survivors said they crossed the river actually on a raft and then they were being taken farther north in this truck? How do they work in general?
JASON BUCH: Right.
So, what they described was being — paying a smuggler in Mexico to bring them across the border. They were then brought to most likely stash houses on the U.S. side. And then, when it was time to load the truck, it appears that people who were being smuggled by different groups were all brought to where this trailer was parked, loaded into the trailer, and then driven to Laredo.
And, in fact, they were given — each group was given a different color tape to determine who they should go with when they arrived in San Antonio. And some of the immigrants described to investigators that there were black SUVs waiting for them in the Wal-Mart parking lot when they pulled up.
JOHN YANG: And where they would be taken after that? Where would these SUVs take them?
JASON BUCH: Some people said that they were staying in San Antonio.
Others — another person interviewed by the immigration agents said that they were headed for Minnesota.
Usually, San Antonio is a pass-through because we’re on a major highway to the border. People are usually going on to major metropolitan areas or regions of the country that employ a lot of immigrant laborers, so, areas with large agriculture industries or construction booms.
JOHN YANG: And obviously, business — I’m sorry — border security, immigration issues are a big topic, with President Trump talking about the border wall. Has this incident gotten swept up in the politics of this issue?
JASON BUCH: Absolutely.
Our lieutenant governor was on Facebook yesterday blaming this on sanctuary cities. Our legislature recently passed a bill that would provide criminal penalties and fines for officials who ran what they call sanctuary cities.
So, the lieutenant governor was placing blame for this incident on cities and counties that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials.
JOHN YANG: Well, it’s a horrible, horrible incident, reminds us of the people behind these issues.
Jason Buch, thanks so much for joining us.
JASON BUCH: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: At the start of this week, the latest focus of the Russia investigations on Jared Kushner has exposed new details of the president son-in-law’s dealings with Moscow.
We break down what we know and the key questions that remain with special correspondent Nick Schifrin.
So, Nick, you have spent the day talking to a lot of people. What comes out of this? What new do we learn about Jared Kushner and his dealings with the Russians?
NICK SCHIFRIN: I think the new narrative is that this is the senior adviser to a president who has questioned whether there was any influence by Russia last year detailing Russia influence on him and perhaps on Trump policy.
And nobody in this administration has really done that before. And you have got three examples of that laid out. One is Ambassador Kislyak, the former Russian ambassador to the United States, asking for a direct line between the Trump transition team and Russian generals on Syria.
This is very unusual. Kislyak could have asked the Obama administration, could have used the U.S. government to do so, and he would be expected to do so. And he didn’t do that. He tried to circumvent the Obama administration and use Kushner to do that.
Secondly, Sergey Gorkov, the banker that John reported on, introduced to Kushner as a personal friend of Vladimir Putin, shows up with two gifts, art and dirt. And many of the people I spoke to today, that metaphor of dirt is not lost on them.
The idea, according to the intelligence officials I spoke to and former diplomats, is to prove that Russia has a connection to Kushner. This is dirt from Kushner’s grandparents’ home in Belarus and also perhaps to convince Kushner that Russia does its homework on Kushner.
And this is someone who is kind of part of the brotherhood, if you will, of businessmen with former intelligence ties, who keep those intelligence ties, and could therefore really represent the Russian government to Kushner, and reach out to someone very close to the Trump campaign or President Trump himself on behalf of the Russian government, and, again, using Kushner to do that.
And, thirdly, of course, the meeting we have been talking about for a few weeks now with Natalia Veselnitskaya, this lawyer who reached out to Donald Trump Jr. and to Kushner.
So, we have three examples of Russia trying to literally get into the Trump family. And those are the details that we saw today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, this on top of what we had learned before this, is all related to what’s happening in Congress, the Senate, even Republicans coming together with Democrats to impose these new sanctions on Russia.
NICK SCHIFRIN: It’s very clear that Republicans are helping lead this effort, certainly bipartisan effort, but certainly Republicans, fearing the president’s rhetoric on Russia, responding to the president’s rhetoric on Russia, frankly handcuffing the president on his ability to lift sanctions on Russia that were imposed because of Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, as well as the 2016 elections.
Now, Republicans wouldn’t use that word handcuff, but that is really what these have done. It’s the first time U.S. has penalized anyone the U.S. believes was part of the campaign last year to influence the elections directly.
It’s not designed to hit ordinary Russians. It’s designed to send a message to Russia that U.S. intelligence knows who’s doing these things. And it will make it harder for banks and for other companies — or countries, rather, to do business with Russia perhaps in the future.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Again, Nick, you talked to a lot of people today. Any sense that, as Jared Kushner says, he’s a babe in the woods, he doesn’t know American politics, he doesn’t know diplomacy, that he really was an unwitting figure in all this, as he says he was?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Some of this is described to me as normal, whether it’s Sergey Kislyak’s reaching out to someone who was a neophyte, reaching out to a campaign or a transition team that was brand-new to Washington.
And some people say, look, this is what any diplomat, any country would do with a new administration. But what is not normal is that the president has questioned his intelligence community’s findings about what Russia has done.
What is not normal is not to report some of these meetings that were set up with Russians, as Kushner admitted that he failed to do initially. And what’s not normal is not to report Ambassador Kislyak’s attempt to circumvent the U.S. government and administration to try and get to the Trump campaign. So that’s why there is so much focus on this meeting.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, just a couple seconds, Russian reactions to all this?
NICK SCHIFRIN: You know, what’s interesting, their focus is on sanctions.
They haven’t replied to any request for comment on Kushner. They say that the sanctions are — quote — “extremely negative,” if the sanctions go forward from Congress. And that is their focus. They don’t want these sanctions to go forward.
And Trump himself has questioned whether these sanctions should go forward in the past. And if they do, that may be one of the legacies of 2016, turning Congress against Russia to this point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nick Schifrin doing a lot of reporting on this, we thank you.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you.
The post Why there is so much focus on Jared Kushner’s Russia contacts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — A coalition of 11 states has filed a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to delay new chemical plant safety rules from taking effect for at least two years.
The group led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a petition for review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The states say Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt exceeded his legal authority by delaying the new Accidental Release Prevention Requirements until 2019.
The Obama-era regulations are aimed at preventing explosions, fires and poisonous gas releases at more than 12,000 chemical facilities across the country.
In addition to New York, the other states joining the lawsuit are Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: President Trump directed new criticism at his own attorney over the Russia probe. In a tweet, he called Jeff Sessions “our beleaguered A.G.” and asked why he and others are not investigating Hillary Clinton.
Last week, the president openly chastised Sessions for recusing himself in the Russia matter.
A diplomatic standoff between Israel and Jordan ended this evening. It had begun Sunday, when an Israeli Embassy guard in Amman killed two Jordanians after one stabbed him. The Jordanians said they wanted to question the guard, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted he has diplomatic immunity and must be returned home.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): I assured him that we will see to bringing him back to Israel. We are also holding contacts to end the incident and to bring our people back to Israel. And we are doing this determinedly and responsibly.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, the guard and other embassy staffers returned to Israel. The dispute added to tensions over new security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. They sparked protests on Friday, and several Palestinians were killed.
In Afghanistan, at least 24 people were killed today when a suicide car bomber rammed a bus carrying government employees. The Taliban said it was behind the attack targeting a Kabul neighborhood that’s home to leading politicians. At least 42 people were hurt.
Separately, in Lahore, Pakistan, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people, many of them police. The Pakistani Taliban claimed that attack.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte insisted today he will continue a drug crackdown that’s claimed thousands of lives. In a state of the union address, he called the victims beasts and vultures and he vowed he’d go to prison first before giving in.
PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE, Philippines: The fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop, because the alternative are either jail or hell.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As Duterte spoke, thousands of left-wing protesters marched in opposition. He met with them later, but warned he will order police to shoot anyone who causes disturbances.
In Poland, the country’s president broke with his own political party today, vetoing two bills aimed at curbing the independence of judges. The legislation had triggered mass demonstrations.
Diana Magnay of Independent Television News filed this report.
DIANA MAGNAY: For days and long into each night, they protested in cities across Poland against judicial reforms they felt might snuff out what’s left of liberal democracy here.
It’s not a phrase the ruling Law and Justice Party had much track with, certainly not party chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski. But the man he cherry-picked for president last year, Andrzej Duda, just broke with party ranks.
PRESIDENT ANDRZEJ DUDA, Poland (through interpreter): Poland badly needs reform of the judiciary and I fully support this reform. But I support a smart reform, which would guarantee an effective functioning of the judiciary and improve the sense of justice in Poland.
DIANA MAGNAY: Cue an emergency meeting of the ruling party. No comments from the press, but expect the president, who until now has signed pretty much everything that’s crossed his desk, to put his stamp on any new piece of legislation, likely some kind of compromise, on reforms his party says they have a mandate for.
DOMINIK TARCZYNSKI, Member of Polish Parliament: So far, the judges in Poland had no responsibility at all. We as members of Parliament can be, I don’t know, put on trial or lose our mandate or just people revolt and decide our future.
So, we wanted to have very equal rights for everyone, for member of the Parliament, for the judge, and from the man on the street.
DIANA MAGNAY: Some on the street today felt their president hadn’t gone far enough, blocking two pieces of legislation, but not a third, which grants sweeping powers to the justice minister, including the right to appoint the heads of lower courts.
This evening, another demonstration outside the presidential palace by those whose notions of law and justice are entirely different from Kaczynski and his ruling party.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That report from Diana Magnay of Independent Television News.
The parents of a critically ill baby in Britain have dropped their legal bid to keep him alive. They’d been trying to move 11-month-old Charlie Gard to the U.S. for experimental treatment, but British doctors argued it wouldn’t work.
Today, the father, Chris Gard, said they have made their decision after new tests showed the child’s muscle damage is now irreversible.
CHRIS GARD, Father of Charlie Gard: We will have to live with the what-ifs which will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Despite the way our beautiful son has been spoken about sometimes, as if he is not worthy of a chance of life, our son is an absolute warrior, and we could not be prouder of him and we will miss him terribly.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The case has garnered international attention, with both President Trump and the pope offering support to the family.
Back in this country, President Trump called for Senate Republicans to begin debate on a health care bill. Party leaders say they will try advancing a measure tomorrow, but it’s not clear which one: a version that repeals and replaces Obamacare or a repeal-only bill.
The president said — quote — “There’s been enough talk. Now is the time for action.”
And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 67 points to close at 21513. The Nasdaq rose 23 points, and the S&P 500 slipped two.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Denial and defense, the president’s son-in-law offered both today in the Russia investigation. He spoke privately for members of the U.S. Senate staff and briefly publicly for news cameras.
Our coverage begins with John Yang.
JOHN YANG: Outside the White House West Wing, Jared Kushner did something he rarely does: speak to reporters.
JARED KUSHNER, Senior Presidential Adviser: Let me be very clear. I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts.
JOHN YANG: He dismissed the idea that his father-in-law benefited from Russian meddling in the election.
JARED KUSHNER: Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign and that is why he won. Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him.
JOHN YANG: Kushner took no questions from reporters, but said he had answered all questions from Senate Intelligence Committee investigators in a two-hour closed-door session. His 11-page prepared remarks gave the first public explanation of four meetings he had with Russians during the campaign and transition.
He said he didn’t know the purpose of the June 9, 2016, meeting Donald Trump Jr. set up with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and others in hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Kushner said he arrived late and “quickly determined that my time wasn’t well-spent. It was,” he said, “a waste of our time,” a judgment his brother-in-law has also expressed.
DONALD TRUMP JR., Son of Donald Trump: It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.
JOHN YANG: Less than a month after President Trump won the election, on December 1, Kushner and national security adviser-designate Michael Flynn met with Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. According to Kushner, the envoy said he wanted to talk about Syria and convey information from his generals. Kislyak asked if there was a secure line in the transition office.
Told that there wasn’t, Kushner asked if the Russians had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use. The ambassador said that wouldn’t be possible.
On December 13, Kushner met, at Kislyak’s insistence, with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russian bank that is under U.S. sanctions. He said Gorkov told him he was friendly with President Putin and expressed hopes for a better relationship in the future. Kushner said he has not been in contact with Gorkov since.
As for the matter of Kushner’s original security clearance application not including any of his foreign contacts, the president’s son-in-law said it was an accident. He said it was submitted prematurely due to a miscommunication with an assistant. It’s been updated at least three times.
On Sunday, the White House appeared ready to accept a new sanctions bill scheduled for a House vote tomorrow. It would target Russia and limit Mr. Trump’s ability to lift the penalties.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, White House Press Secretary: We support where the legislation is now. We will continue working with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place.
JOHN YANG: But late today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president is still studying the legislation, which was introduced because of questions raised by the Russia investigation, which has now entered a new phase.
Kushner will be back on Capitol Hill tomorrow for a private session with members of the House Intelligence Committee.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House said later that President Trump was — quote — “very proud” of his son-in-law’s actions today.
We will go deeper on all of this right after the news summary.
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It’s been there all along. For years, scientists suspected our moon was a dry expanse, void of water — until now.
Planetary scientists from Brown University reported Monday that water exists across the lunar landscape in rocks called pyroclastics, and that those rocks originated from beneath the surface in the moon’s mantle. The findings, detailed in Nature Geoscience, challenge scientist’s understanding of how the moon formed.
“Almost all examined pyroclastics show enhanced water features, supporting that the lunar mantle is ‘wet’ at a global scale,” Shuai Li, a planetary scientist and the study’s lead author, said via email.
Scientists have been looking for water on celestial bodies beyond Earth as far afield as the dwarf planet, Pluto. But they’ve looked close to home, too. Pyroclastics — glass-like volcanic sediments captured during Apollo missions to the moon and brought back to Earth — contained trace amounts of water and even harbored as much H2O as some rocks on Earth do.
Li wondered if water existed elsewhere on the moon, so he turned to the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, or M3. That’s a special instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which captures near-infrared light bouncing off the moon’s surface. Different chemicals on the moon’s exterior interact with the light, producing characteristic reflections — “signatures” — that reveal the compounds’ identities.
Eight years ago, researchers used M3 to spot signs of water at the lunar poles, but doing the same for the rest of the moon is complicated.
The problem is that daytime temperatures on the moon’s surface — reaching upwards of 260 degrees Fahrenheit — can distort or obscure light measurements made by M3. So, Li developed a new model to analyze M3’s data that accounts for this lunar heat. He then mapped where water might be across the moon’s terrain, and estimated how much existed in those places.
He found scant evidence for water on the surface of the moon near the equator with one notable exception: glass-like pyroclastic deposits.
These pyroclastic rocks were made by volcanic eruptions, triggered when a Mars-sized meteorite violently collided with Earth around 4.5 billion years ago and formed the moon. These lunar eruptions continued up until 1 billion years ago, and Li’s results suggest water became embedded in the moon’s molten mantle during this period or soon after. The water is now chemically trapped inside the leftover volcanic rocks, and not sloshing around as a liquid.
But, the water could have come from other sources after the volcanoes ceased. Solar wind could have generated the water by reacting with oxygen on the lunar surface. Or, water-rich meteorites and comets could have crashed into the moon.
Li wanted to clarify the moon water’s origin. So, when he ran his model, he used a conservative threshold for all the water signatures that were possibly made by solar wind and then focused on sites with readings above this threshold. Many pyroclastic deposits detected in the study had three to four times more than this background limit. Meanwhile, the water signatures were not located near craters or other geologic formations suggestive of meteorite and comet impacts, ruling out the idea that the water was left behind by foreign objects.
Similar to how lava disperses after a volcanic eruption, pyroclastic deposits with more water were spread out across a greater land area, further indicating the water originally came from the moon’s mantle and erupted out of now dormant volcanoes.
“The distribution of these water-rich deposits is the key thing,” Ralph Milliken, a planetary scientist and senior author of the study, said in a statement. “They’re spread across the surface, which tells us that the water found in the Apollo samples isn’t a one-off.”
“Lunar pyroclastics seem to be universally water-rich, which suggests the same may be true of the mantle,” Milliken said.
Yet Li and Milliken’s study leaves some questions unanswered, namely what is the source of water in the lunar interior. Was it brought by an asteroid or comet while the moon was still solidifying and covered in shifting pyroclastic flows? Or, did the lunar water somehow survive the heat generated during the moon’s formation and these early volcanic eruptions?
Regardless of its origins, the study authors said, the vast reservoir of water in the pyroclastic deposits may provide an untapped water resource for astronauts during future lunar explorations.
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s environmental chief issued a list of directives on Tuesday he says will revitalize the federal program that cleans up hazardous waste sites.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt unveiled 42 recommendations from a Superfund Task Force he appointed in March. Among the steps Pruitt outlined will be prioritizing sites that can be redeveloped or where nearby residents are still under threat from the spread of harmful chemicals.
Pruitt has pledged to make mitigating decades-old pollution a top priority for the EPA, even as he has moved to block or delay Obama-era regulations aimed at curbing ongoing contamination from coal-fired power plants and fossil-fuel production.
“There is nothing more core to the agency’s mission than revitalizing contaminated land,” Pruitt said, according to a media release. “I commend the team effort of the career and political staff on the Task Force, working together to develop recommendations that are detailed, but also workable – to ensure that we can expedite the protection of human health and the environment around these properties and accelerate the reuse.”
There are now more than 1,300 Superfund sites nationally, some of which have languished for years without cleanup plans or funding. President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget seeks to cut money for the program by 30 percent, though Congressional Republicans have indicated they are likely to approve less-severe cuts.
Money for Superfund is already about half what it was in the 1990s. The majority of cleanup money has been spent in just seven highly industrialized states, topped by New Jersey.
The EPA routinely tries to compel the companies responsible for the pollution to pay, but taxpayers often end up on the hook due to corporate spinoffs and bankruptcies. The work is typically carried out by private contractors.
Pruitt has played down the potential impact of the proposed budget cuts, saying the agency will accomplish more with less money under his leadership by improving oversight and efficiency.
The post Pruitt rolls out plan to streamline cleanup of Superfund sites appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
In our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We love donuts, too.
And now to our NewsHour Shares.
Seawalls help to protect developed shorelines, but they can also destroy crucial habitat.
One project in Washington state aims to fix that.
KEN CHRISTENSEN: The Seattle waterfront is changing right beneath your feet.
JEFF CORDELL, University of Washington: When you walk along Seattle’s sidewalk, you will be walking on glass panels.
KEN CHRISTENSEN: But look deeper, and you will see that the changes aren’t for tourists. They’re for natives.
JEFF CORDELL: Their function is to provide light to help thousands and thousands of little baby salmon.
KEN CHRISTENSEN: It’s one feature of Seattle’s new seawall, a $400 million infrastructure project that’s doubling as a really big science experiment, the biggest of Jeff Cordell’s career.
JEFF CORDELL: Nothing has ever been tried on this scale. You’re walking on foot after foot after foot of new habitat.
KEN CHRISTENSEN: Cordell wants to see if coastal cities can better coexist with fish. For 80 years, Seattle’s seawall was like most, a flat, concrete slab that held back the sea, but destroyed shallow water habitat that many species thrive on.
Every spring, young salmon would migrate from Seattle’s Duwamish River to the ocean, and they’re hard-wired to stay close to shore, which means they run right into this.
In the inky darkness under the pier, life can get confusing for a fish.
JEFF CORDELL: There’s a good example of a shadow line from a pier. And they don’t want to cross the shadow line, so they just mill about here.
KEN CHRISTENSEN: The new seawall is supposed to make life easier, not only by providing a naturally lit corridor for fish to pass through on their way to the ocean, but also by featuring overhangs and rocky surfaces along the way for fish food to grow on.
JEFF CORDELL: Look at the brown scum here. We love to see that, because that’s where the little crustaceans grow that the juvenile salmon feed on. You can’t count out brown scum.
KEN CHRISTENSEN: Most seawalls are still get built like Seattle’s was back in the 1930s. And construction is expected to increase.
JEFF CORDELL: There’s going to be much more need for coastal infrastructure and a lot more thinking about how we can best create habitat for the organisms that we’re removing it from.
KEN CHRISTENSEN: Once the seawall is complete, Cordell plans to begin a decade-long monitoring project to figure out if it does what it’s supposed to.
JEFF CORDELL: Even that brown stuff needs a good amount of sunlight to grow.
KEN CHRISTENSEN: If the experiment succeeds, the Seattle waterfront’s biggest change could be the change it inspires in seawalls around the world.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Ken Christensen in Seattle, Washington.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very cool.
The post Seattle’s new seawall built to make life easier for fish appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For American children, summer is supposed to be a time of fun and games, but, for many, it is also a time of true need.
During the school year, roughly 22 million children in this country get free and reduced-price lunch. In the summer, those numbers drop dramatically. Just under four million have access to subsidized meals.
There are 50,000 locations providing summer meals, but reaching those who need the food can be a challenge.
Special PBS correspondent Lisa Stark of our partner Education Week traveled to Nebraska to see how one food bank is trying to fill the gap.
LISA STARK: It’s a scorching summer day in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, about 40 minutes south of Omaha, as the food truck lumbers into view. Despite the heat, families are lining up for lunch at what’s called Kids Cruisin’ Kitchen.
BECKY HAM, Parent: They get milk. They get fruit and vegetables. It’s really a nice program.
LISA STARK: Becky Ham and her children rely on the food truck a few times a week.
BECKY HAM: We started doing this about three summers ago when my husband lost his job right before the end of the school year. And we were really panicked about how we were going to make everything work.
LISA STARK: Ham’s husband has a new job, but the budget remains tight. The family still qualifies for free school lunches, and is thankful for the summer help.
BECKY HAM: It’s really helping kids out. It’s really helping families out when they need it.
LISA STARK: Kids Cruisin’ Kitchen was launched six years ago by Omaha’s Food Bank for the Heartland and Salvation Army.
With four food trucks and 10 fixed locations, it serves 1,300 children a day.
Do you get enough to eat at the food truck?
MARLINE AHMED, Kindergartener: They give us a lot of meals.
LISA STARK: A lot of meals and a lot of food?
MARLINE AHMED: Yes.
LISA STARK: Yes?
Susan Ogborn is the food bank president.
Who are you trying to help? Who’s your target here for the summer meals?
SUSAN OGBORN, President, Food Bank for the Heartland: Primarily, the children of the working poor. They are the folks who won’t tell you that they need help. They are the folks whose children qualify for free or reduced price-lunches.
LISA STARK: Preparing these meals begins early in the morning in an industrial kitchen run by an Omaha area school district. They make meals for Kids Cruisin’ Kitchen and other summer meal programs.
JACKIE CAMBRIDGE, Contract Meal Services, Westside Community Schools: We do about 3,000 meals a day during the summer.
LISA STARK: In less than three hours on this morning, corn dogs are cooked, bananas packed, chocolate milk readied, sack lunches bagged, chicken patties, fruit and veggies prepped for later in the week.
JACKIE CAMBRIDGE: It’s the five food groups. It’s grains, meat, fruit, vegetables, milk.
LISA STARK: Meals are paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $3.83 each, and must meet government nutrition standards, which are a bit looser in the summer.
Jackie Cambridge manages this summer meal service.
JACKIE CAMBRIDGE: There’s always a whew when we get it out the door. And then we just hope that it’s getting to kids in need, and that they’re enjoying it, and we do it all again the next day.
LISA STARK: Shortly after 9:00 a.m., the Kids Cruisin’ Kitchen truck pulls up to load its food, hot meals to go. The truck makes four stops each weekday during most of the summer break.
After that first stop in Plattsmouth, it’s off to a public library, followed by a public housing project, then onto an affordable housing development, areas where more than half of children quality for free and reduced-price lunch, although anyone is welcome.
CHILD: You got corn dogs today? Bananas.
LISA STARK: Summer lunches are an outgrowth of subsidized school lunches, which expanded in the 1960s.
NARRATOR: A good lunch provides from a third to one-half of the student’s daily needs.
LISA STARK: As part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty.
LYNDON JOHNSON, Former President of the United States: Children just must not go hungry.
LISA STARK: The programs have grown enormously. Today, 85 percent of all breakfasts served at schools and 73 percent of school lunches are subsidized by the USDA; 12 million students depend on breakfast, 22 million on lunch. Nationwide, nearly 20 percent of children under age 18 live in poverty. That’s 14.5 million children.
LAURA HATCH, Director of National Partnerships, No Kid Hungry: Sometimes, schools are providing the only meals that kids get during the week.
LISA STARK: Laura Hatch is With No Kid Hungry, a national advocacy group trying to reduce childhood hunger. She says school meals make a big difference.
LAURA HATCH: We know that kids that eat breakfast do better on math tests. We know that serving breakfast as part of the school day can actually keep kids in their seat and lessen absenteeism.
LISA STARK: Serving school meals is easier. Students are all in one place. Summer meals are tougher. The food has to get to where the children are.
To make it work, the food bank hires 10 temporary staffers, and relies on 200 volunteers from Mutual of Omaha.
This is Gary Hering’s third year helping out. He understands hunger.
GARY HERING, Volunteer, Mutual Omaha: There were times when, as a family, I know we struggled, and we’d go visit relatives just to eat, you know, have food every day.
LISA STARK: Do you think that’s true for some of these kids? Or what do you think?
GARY HERING: You bet. That’s the best part about it today, that these kids aren’t going to be hungry at lunch.
LISA STARK: Despite all this effort by the food bank and others, Nebraska ranks near the bottom of all 50 states when it comes to summer meals. For every 100 children who depend on the school lunch program, only eight are getting help during the summer.
That’s according to the Food Research and Action Network, which found that, last year, nationwide, that gap between filling the need during the school year and the summer got wider.
It’s especially difficult to reach children in rural areas. They are spread out, and USDA rules require all summer meals to be served and eaten in one place at one time.
WOMAN: You guys going to eat it over here today, OK?
LISA STARK: Regulars, like Michelle Brown and her sisters, are well aware of the rules.
CHILD: You just have to, like, eat here, and you have to come on time.
LISA STARK: USDA has a pilot program in seven states and two tribal areas to help families in need during the summer by temporarily increasing food stamps benefits.
Advocates would like this program offered more widely.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who recently visited a summer meal site in Washington, D.C., says he’s open to the idea.
SONNY PERDUE, U.S. Agriculture Secretary: I don’t think any of us want to fast over the summer, so just because school stops doesn’t mean that the needs for good, nutritious, healthy food and a good environment doesn’t stop.
LISA STARK: The food bank’s Susan Ogborn is eager to see regulations relaxed to make it easier to expand summer meals.
SUSAN OGBORN, President, Food Bank for the Heartland: The problem is, children are hungry every day. And so we hope that Secretary Perdue and the rest of his team at USDA get their rules and regulations figured out pretty quickly.
LISA STARK: For now, the food bank will continue to roll along with its current program, hoping one day to reach many more children, but committed to the mostly satisfied customers it already has.
What do you think about the food truck?
ALUAL AKUEI, Third Grader: I like it, but I would love it if they added donuts.
LISA STARK: Maybe next summer.
For the PBS NewsHour and Education Week, I’m Lisa Stark in Omaha, Nebraska.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We love donuts, too.
The post The challenge of reaching hungry kids when school is out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And now for a view from across the aisle, I’m joined by Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He’s the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, so, you had chance to talk to Jared Kushner today. What were your questions going in? And do you feel like he answered them satisfactorily?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-Calif.: We had a variety of questions certainly about the four meetings that he disclosed in his public statement the other day, but about a lot of other areas as well.
We’re looking at any of the Russian active measures that may have been employed here that we know they employ in other places. We’re looking at allegations concerning the social media campaign, whether there was any kind of cooperation or coordination through Cambridge Analytica.
We’re looking at some of the financial issues, because one of the things that the Russians do is, they use financial leverage, or sometimes they develop what the Russians call kompromat by engaging in a list of transactions with people as a way of being able to hold that over their head.
So, we went, with this witness, as we do with all, over the whole range of our concerns to do the best we can to get to the bottom of these allegations.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s talk about some of those particular allegations.
One of them was this issue of this federal disclosure form, where he failed initially to reveal that he had these meetings with dozens of foreign nationals, including these meetings with the Russians.
Jared Kushner yesterday said that this was an innocent mistake, that this was basically a rookie error. Do you buy that as an excuse?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, he doesn’t strike me as a rookie.
I think he’s quite sophisticated. I don’t want to characterize his testimony. We actually don’t really go into the details of testimony. I was surprised that my colleague was willing to do that.
I will say this, that the holder of that clearance, I do believe, needs to investigate this to find out whether Mr. Kushner’s explanations are satisfactory, what the circumstances are, what was disclosed, what wasn’t disclosed.
We have not yet obtained the SF-86s. So we’re really not in a position to evaluate what and when he disclosed different things. But I do believe that other individuals, not the son-in-law of the president, if they were to fail to disclose a meeting that they attended that was with people acting on behalf of the Russian government, promising dirt on a political opponent, or a meeting that wasn’t disclosed that involved setting up a secret back channel at a Russian diplomatic facility, it is very unlikely that an ordinary individual would be allowed to keep their clearance.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s touch on a few other issues that are swirling in Washington right now.
Obviously, as you have been hearing in our broadcast, the president has been very tough on Attorney General Sessions. Many people believe that the president would like him to either leave or would like to fire him.
If that were to happen, what would that do to these ongoing investigations?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I think you’re right.
In this case, the president is being very transparent, at least as far as his intentions are concerned. He wants to force Jeff Sessions to resign, and, therefore, he would less have his fingerprints on hit than if he fired Jeff Sessions.
And I think the motivation is quite simple. He wants to appoint a more malleable attorney general when it comes to the Russia investigation who is not recused, who can tell Bob Mueller, you will look at this, but you won’t look at these other areas that are evidently so concerning to the president, including whether there was any money-laundering going on with the Trump Organization.
What should we do about it? If there is any effort to interfere with Bob Mueller’s investigation, we may need to reenact the independent counsel law, and make sure that Bob Mueller has a completely free hand to look at anything relevant to the Russia investigation or that arises from it, which is his charter now, but something clearly the president is uncomfortable with.
The president needs to understand this is not his prerogative to determine what the investigators are investigating when it involves his own organization.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I’m curious what you think, though. The president has said — what’s really relevant here is probably what the GOP would do.
If Sessions were fired, we heard today many, many senators and congressmen supporting Jeff Sessions, but we also heard Speaker Ryan saying that, in essence, it is the president’s job to determine who is in his Cabinet.
Do you think if this — if Sessions were to be let go, that the GOP would — there would be a revolt in his own party?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I would certainly hope that that would be the case, if he either pushes Jeff Sessions out or he were to fire Bob Mueller, that both Democrats and Republicans would rise to their institutional responsibility of insisting that an independent investigation go forth.
I think it would be a constitutional crisis. And I have to say, I’m deeply disappointed once again to hear the speaker so downplay the significance of this, because that only encourages the president to engage in conduct which is, I think, very seriously at odds with our system of checks and balances.
When we meet with emerging democracies, we always emphasize a couple things. We emphasize, when you win an election, you don’t jail the losing party. And, here, one of the gripes apparently the president has is that Jeff Sessions is not acting to try to investigate and prosecute his political opponent.
That is something you see in a banana republic, not in the United States of America. So, members of both parties need to speak out. We shouldn’t wait until there is a crisis to do so. And I hope the speaker will think better of what he just said.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lastly, quickly, Congressman, the president clearly still chafes at this Russia investigation.
And his new communications director today seemed to indicate that the president still doesn’t believe that Russia was actually involved in trying to meddle in our election.
Given that huge chasm between what our intelligence agencies believe and what the president believes, how can this really go forward?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, look, there is only really one person in America that doesn’t believe the Russians were involved in hacking our election. And that’s, unfortunately, the president.
Even Vladimir Putin, of course, knows exactly what he’s done, so Russia is under no illusion about this.
What does this mean going forward? It means, of greater significance to the country, that we are not taking the steps to prepare ourselves when the Russians intervene again. And that is very serious, because there is no software patch here. We’re not going to be able to make the DNC or the RNC immune from Russian hacking. They’re too good, and it’s too difficult to defend.
The only real defense the country has is to bring the country together to forge a consensus that, no matter who it helps or who it hurts, we will reject foreign interference. And our president is simply not doing that, and this is exposing us to further harm.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Congressman Adam Schiff of California, thanks very much.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you.
The post Schiff: Trump ‘wants to appoint a more malleable attorney general’ for Russia investigation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says it won’t give cities some law enforcement grant money unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and alert them when someone facing deportation will be released from local custody.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions unrolled the new conditions Tuesday, escalating his promised crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities. Under old rules, cities seeking grant money needed only to show that they weren’t prohibiting local law enforcement from communicating with immigration authorities.
Police use the money for everything from bulletproof vests to body cameras.
Sessions unveiled the policy amid speculation about whether he will retain his job following President Donald Trump’s blistering public criticism for recusing himself from the Russia probe. Sessions and Trump had bonded during the campaign, largely over shared hardline views on illegal immigration.
The post New Justice Department rules intensify crackdown on sanctuary cities appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Late today, the Senate Judiciary Committee rescinded its subpoena for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Negotiations continue on when and how he will testify.
Earlier, it was round two for Jared Kushner. The president’s son-in-law and senior adviser answered more questions on Capitol Hill about his interactions with Russian officials during the campaign and beyond.
William Brangham has that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Yesterday, Kushner released an 11-page document detailing several meetings he had with Russian citizens and officials while working on his father-in-law’s campaign and transition.
Kushner said there was absolutely no collusion and no improper contacts, even though he initially failed to disclose these meetings, as required by law.
For more on this, we talk with two lawmakers who questioned Kushner today in that closed session.
First, earlier today, I spoke with Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah, who’s on the House Intelligence Committee. I asked him what questions he had going into today’s meeting.
REP. CHRIS STEWART, R-Utah: You know, we wanted to know some of the details about obviously his meetings with some of the people associated with Russia and who set up those meetings, what he knew about those meetings, what came out of those meetings.
I got to tell you, though, that for those who are hoping and looking for the impeachment of Donald Trump, Jared Kushner is not that guy. I mean, he’s not going to carry that narrative chord.
He’s very sincere, very honest, and he just didn’t have much to add to this story in those who are looking for evidence of collusion.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One of the issues that I know came up yesterday, and I’m assuming today, was his federal disclosure form, where he, as an incoming member of the administration, is supposed to disclose all these meetings he may have had with foreign officials.
And apparently he had to update that document three different times, saying he forgot initially. He chalked it up yesterday to something of a rookie mistake.
Did your questions to him today assuage any doubts you might have about that particular issue?
REP. CHRIS STEWART: Yes, you know, that was one things we did want to talk about. And it really was answered I think to all of our satisfaction.
And it’s really very simple. The SF-86 is a very complicated document. I had to do one as an Air Force pilot. You go back 10 years, in some cases, more than that. You have to provide in some cases hundreds of pages of information.
And it’s not at all unusual for someone to update or to modify that document. In fact, they expect that you will. They expect that, as you kind of dive into this process, you’re going to remember things.
And in this case, the explanation was even more simple than that. It was more than it is a complicated document. It was that they admit that they filed that document by mistake and didn’t have some of this information on.
But they recognized that immediately, and within a day had updated it. And so it wasn’t just Russian officials that they didn’t include. There were officials with — or meetings with King Abdullah, a meeting with some other — Benjamin Netanyahu, people that they clearly would have remembered. They just didn’t have it on that form, recognized that error, and, I would say within 24 hours had already corrected it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There is also a question about whether Kushner had participated in or asked the Russian ambassador to help set up this back-channel line of communications with the Russians.
Did you talk with him about that today, and what did he say about that?
REP. CHRIS STEWART: Yes, our conclusion is that he didn’t intend for there to be any back-channel communications. It was just to facilitate what they thought was one conversation that some Russian officials wanted to have about, you know, developing relationships with the incoming administration.
They didn’t have any secure phones, and so they just simply asked, do you have a secure phone? That conversation didn’t take place, and that was really kind of the beginning and end of it.
So, it is one of those things where you do wonder when you hear about this and you read the press reports, but then when you actually have a chance to talk to the witness, you realize, again, there is a very reasonable explanation for it, and there isn’t much more to pursue.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some of your colleagues and some others have said that, given the questions swirling around Kushner, that he shouldn’t have a security clearance to see top-secret national security information. Do you think that that’s — do you think he should lose his privileges?
REP. CHRIS STEWART: No, I just think that’s nuts.
Look, if he’s this done something wrong and if someone has evidence that he did something wrong and that we can actually say, OK, that’s a security violation or a security concern, then, well, let’s deal with that.
But if your only objection to him is saying that he had to add additional information to this form that they requested, then I just think it’s inappropriate for someone to say that that would preclude him from holding a security clearance.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lastly, Congressman, just shifting gears a tiny bit, the president, as you know, has been quite tough recently on his attorney general.
And I’m just curious for your take on that. As a member of his own party, what does that atmosphere do to this ongoing investigation?
REP. CHRIS STEWART: Yes. You know, I support our president and I defend him when it’s appropriate when I think that he’s being, you know, unfairly attacked or criticized.
But, on the other hand, there are times when I disagree with him. And this is one of those times. I think the attorney general is one of the most honorable, sincere men in government. That’s certainly been my interactions with him. And when you see him testify and others, I think most American people feel that that way.
And I don’t — just don’t understand why he wouldn’t and I, in fact, expect that he should continue as our attorney general.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Congressman Chris Stewart, thank you very much for being here.
REP. CHRIS STEWART: All right, thank you.
The post Rep. Stewart: Kushner testimony ‘didn’t have much to add’ to Russia story appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The escalation of President Trump’s criticism of Jeff Sessions exposes a rare public divide between an American president and his attorney general.
Jeffrey Brown reports.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m disappointed in the attorney general. He shouldn’t have recused himself.
JEFFREY BROWN: The president’s latest salvo came this afternoon, at his news conference with Lebanon’s prime minister. That followed a morning broadside on Twitter, declaring: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes and intel leakers.”
And, yesterday, another tweet that called Sessions “our beleaguered A.G.” and plaintively asked why he’s not investigating Hillary Clinton.
So, what is next? The president said this today:
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want the attorney general to be much tougher on leaks from intelligence agencies. We will see what happens. Time will tell.
JEFFREY BROWN: Sessions was a veteran Republican senator from Alabama, and in early 2016 became the first in that body to endorse the Trump candidacy.
After he won, president-elect Trump nominated him as attorney general. But less than a month after Sessions’ confirmation, it emerged that, despite earlier denials, he had, in fact, met with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. Attorney General: I shouldn’t be involved in any campaign investigation.
JEFFREY BROWN: In early March, Sessions he recused himself from Russia-related investigations, a decision still angers the president, as he made clear to The New York Times last week.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: How do you take a job, and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, thanks, Jeff, but I can’t — I’m not going to take you.
It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.
JEFFREY BROWN: The next day, Sessions said he has no plans to resign.
JEFF SESSIONS: We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.
JEFFREY BROWN: The attorney general has not been heard from since, but several Republican senators have rallied to their former colleague.
Today, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham called the president’s rebuke of Sessions for not prosecuting Hillary Clinton highly inappropriate.
And Utah’s Orrin Hatch said he was surprised.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-Utah: Jeff has been very loyal to the president, and I think he deserves loyalty back.
JEFFREY BROWN: Democrats warned that forcing out Sessions would spark a new firestorm.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Many Americans must be wondering if the president is trying to pry open the office of attorney general to appoint someone during the August recess who will fire special counsel Mueller and shut down the Russia investigation.
JEFFREY BROWN: Even so, the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the die may be cast.
HUGH HEWITT, Radio Talk Show Host: It’s clear the president wants him gone, isn’t it, Anthony?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, White House Communications Director: I have an enormous amount of respect for the attorney general, but I do know the president pretty well. And if there’s this level of tension in the relationship, that that’s public, you’re probably right.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal — we could use some more loyalty. I will tell you that.
JEFFREY BROWN: that level of tension may have been in play last night at the Boy Scouts’ National Jamboree.
The president brought with him Cabinet members and former Scouts Ryan Zinke and Rick Perry, but Eagle Scout Jeff Sessions was nowhere to be seen.
A very high-level rift now out in the open.
We get more from our own John Yang, reporting from the White House, and Sari Horwitz, who covers the Justice Department for The Washington Post.
John, you were at that press conference today. Where does this leave things as far as Jeff Sessions holding on to his job?
JOHN YANG: Well, you know, the president rejected the suggestion of a reporter that he had been leaving Jeff Sessions slowly twisting in the wind, to use an old Watergate phrase.
But, at the same time, as you heard in your report, he said he’s got no timeline for when he’s going to make a decision. It is clear that the president sees a direct line from Jeff Sessions’ recusing himself from the Russia investigation to the appointment of Robert Mueller as the special counsel and this investigation that is dogging him still.
He told The Wall Street Journal in an interview before that news conference, if Jeff Sessions didn’t recuse himself, we wouldn’t even be talking about this subject.
So it’s clear he is still very frustrated, very, in his words, disappointed in his attorney general.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, Sari Horwitz, is there anything more coming out of the Justice Department? Do we know how the attorney general is taking all this?
SARI HORWITZ, The Washington Post: Well, you know, it’s just been an extraordinary spectacle playing out here in Washington.
And I have been at the Justice Department all day, and all indications are that Jeff Sessions is not going to resign and that he’s moving forward with his conservative agenda. He, really more than any other Cabinet member, has been putting many place, moving quickly, methodically to undo Holder, Eric Holder, and Obama policies at the Justice Department, and he’s moving forward on that.
He’s compartmentalizing these disparaging comments by the president, which I’m being told by people at the Justice Department he’s been doing since he got in as attorney general in February. You know, he recused himself in March, and this has been going on since March.
JEFFREY BROWN: Sari, you and your colleagues reported today on discussions within the White House about replacing Jeff Sessions and how that might happen.
So, those discussions are taking place?
SARI HORWITZ: We heard they had been taking place up until now, but it’s interesting. Today, the conservative media, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, conservative senators came out and said, we like the policies Jeff Sessions has been putting in place.
And actually, today, late afternoon, Jeff Sessions announced another new policy, a conservative policy, to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities and tie very important federal grants to local cities and states, to tie those grants to restrictions. Like, if the states seem to be harboring illegal immigrants, undocumented immigrants, they won’t give them the money.
And what we’re hearing is, tomorrow or the next day, he’s going to be announcing that the Justice Department is indeed doing leak investigations.
JEFFREY BROWN: John, what do you make of the support that has been ever more vocal today, in fact, for Jeff Sessions from friends and allies?
JOHN YANG: Well, I think, Jeff, it really is one of the conundrums of this, is that he is extremely popular among Mr. Trump’s base, largely because of what Sari has just been talking about, his stand on illegal immigration, on sanctuary cities.
Remember that he was actually Steve Bannon’s first choice to be a presidential candidate because of his immigration policies. But then it became clear that he wasn’t going to run. So I think that — and one of the outside people that President Trump talked to, has been talking to about this tells me that this is something he did remind him, that Jeff Sessions is very popular among his base.
And you heard it from a lot of particularly Southern conservative Democrats on the hill today.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, John, we did hear also at the press conference the president again raising the issue of leaks today. So, that remains connected to all of this.
JOHN YANG: And you also have to wonder if that’s — if what he’s talking about with his tweets — and, by the way, you know, as Sari points out, he is going after a member of his own Cabinet as if he was one of his primary opponents in last year’s election — if this constant pressure on Sessions isn’t some sort of leverage to get the Justice Department to act on these leaks, which have been his real bugaboo in all these stories coming out of the Russia investigation.
JEFFREY BROWN: Sari, just in our last 30 seconds, what about that? What about the leaks connection to all this sort of public furor we’re hearing?
SARI HORWITZ: We know Trump is angry about the leaks, and as I said, we have been hearing late afternoon at the Justice Department that within the next day or two Attorney General Sessions is going to make an announcement that the Justice Department has been doing leak investigations, maybe showing his tougher side to the president, and indicating that, along with illegal immigration and criminal justice policy, he’s also moving forward on finding the leakers.
JEFFREY BROWN: Sari Horwitz of The Washington Post, and John Yang, our own, thank you both very much.
SARI HORWITZ: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: As we heard, it was a dramatic and consequential return for John McCain to the Senate floor, his first public appearance since being diagnosed with brain cancer.
While his vote helped Republicans open up debate on health care, he laid out the difficult road ahead to replace the Affordable Care Act, and he called on his colleagues to change the tone and behavior of the Senate more broadly as well.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately.
And, right now, they aren’t producing much for the American people. Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they will find we all conspired in our decline, either by deliberate actions or neglect.
We have all played some role in it. Certainly, I have. Sometimes, I have let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.
I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us.
Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: They don’t want anything done for the public good.
Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order.
We have been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.
That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.
We’re getting nothing done, my friends. We’re getting nothing done.
And all we have really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Our health care insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet. And I’m not sure we will.
All we have managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator John McCain on the Senate floor today.
We asked more than 20 Republican senators to join us tonight. None accepted our invitation.
But we stay on Capitol Hill for a Democrat’s perspective. He is Senator Jon Tester of Montana. He has served in the Senate since 2007.
Senator, we’re very glad to have you join us.
What did you make of what John McCain had to say today?
SEN. JON TESTER, D-Mont.: Well, I think he was spot on.
John’s a statesman, and he certainly has respects from both sides of the aisle.
But this place is broken. And we do need to work across the aisle, and compromise shouldn’t be a dirty word. And we need to negotiate and we need to take everybody’s input and come up with the best possible legislation.
And that’s certainly not what happened with the health care bill that we have dealt with over the last seven months, the various ones that have come out. But the bottom line is this, Judy. This country was built by people working together. Washington, D.C., is far, far, far too partisan.
And we need to start working together. And I think John McCain is right on that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any sign that that’s going to happen? Is one senator’s speech on the floor going to make a difference?
SEN. JON TESTER: Well, no, I think it’s going to take more than that.
And I will just tell you that I am blessed to be able to work with a guy by the name of Johnny Isakson on the VA Committee. And together, a Republican and a Democrat, along with a really good committee, have been able to pump out some pretty good bills that the president has been able to sign.
And we have done that by communicating with one another, not embarrassing one another, but working for the best interests of our veterans.
And I think that if the Senate would take a look at the successes we have had over the last many years, it’s been by people communicating and working together and negotiating and compromising.
And I think we start to doing that more and more in the Senate. And there is no better place to start than with a bill that impacts one-sixth of our economy, this health care bill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about that health care bill.
Now that Republicans have been able to get it on the floor, debate has begun. Do they have the votes, do you believe, to get it to a point where they repeal the Affordable Care Act and come up with a substitute that they like?
SEN. JON TESTER: I have no idea, because I don’t know of anybody that voted today that knew what they were voting on.
They were voting on potentially a House bill that was going to be replaced with something else, but we don’t know what it is. And I will go back to John McCain’s words. Let’s go back to the committee process and start working together.
But that’s going to have to be something that Mitch McConnell requires, rather than trying to craft something with a limited number of people and a limited number of input that actually doesn’t move the health care system forward and make it more accessible and more affordable, especially for folks in Middle America, because we really get pounded by proposals like the House bill or, what’s even worse, the Senate health care bill that came forth.
I mean, it could literally shut down health care facilities. And that’s what they have told me as I have gone around the state and visited face-to-face with these folks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, what we’re hearing now is what — the version that may have the best chance is what they’re calling skinny repeal, which wouldn’t do away with everything, but it would do away with the individual mandate.
It would do away, I gather, with employer mandate penalty and the medical device tax. Is that something that comes any closer to a consensus?
SEN. JON TESTER: I don’t know that that’s the kind of reform that we need in our health care system. And I think it may be more of a bait-and-switch to be able to get a bill that you could get a number of votes to pass it out and then take it to conference and replace with it a really bad bill. And that’s my concern.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you don’t think that that version, which some Republicans are saying would make them happy, bring some conservatives on board, and perhaps entice moderates, you’re saying you don’t see that as moving the ball?
SEN. JON TESTER: Look, I don’t think it’s going the move the ball.
I think there is another agenda here. And the agenda is to do some really bad things with Medicaid expansion and to block-grant Medicaid, which really hurts rural states — I think it hurts the whole country — and not to address preexisting conditions and lifetime caps.
And if that’s the direction we’re headed, then that’s not the direction I want to go. I think that that skinny bill, that bait-and-switch bill, whatever you want to call it, Trojan horse repeal bill, that bill is not where we will end up at.
And I don’t think you get the conservatives with that bill. And I don’t think you get the moderates either. So, I think what’s happened here is, you have got Mitch McConnell, who has his vote today on something we don’t know what it is going to end up at, and him crafting another bill to put it up to be able to change the bill in conference.
That’s all very convoluted, in the weeds, but that’s where we’re headed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Senator, you mentioned Medicaid expansion in your own state of Montana.
I’m reading an Associated Press report that talks about the number of Medicaid enrollees having far exceeded the number that were expected. A number of people in your state worrying this program can’t be sustained. I guess they were expecting maybe 30,000 to sign up. It’s been 80,000 who have signed up.
And there’s worry that Montana can’t continue this. Isn’t this the exact sort of thing that Republicans say is what making this whole process unsustainable?
SEN. JON TESTER: I think the Medicaid expansion has been an incredible success in Montana and has really helped people get health care for the first time in their life, the working folks out there that couldn’t afford health care before.
I think this is about priorities. And if our priority is to make sure that people have access to affordable health care, then we need to move forward. But we have got 77,000 folks that signed up for Medicaid expansion in the state of a million and 50,000 people.
I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing, because now we have people that are going to school that are healthy, that are going to work that are healthy, that own small businesses that healthier, and I think it’s an important step to take.
But I think it’s about priorities. We need to make health care a priority in this country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana, we thank you very much.
SEN. JON TESTER: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: President Trump today kept sawing on the tree limb where he’s recently placed his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. He charged that Sessions has been very weak on investigating Hillary Clinton, and needs to be — quote — “much tougher.”
As for whether Sessions will keep his job, the president said, “Time will tell.”
One of Mr. Trump’s advisers said he probably wants Sessions to resign. We will have a full report later in the program.
The State Department denied today that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is increasingly frustrated in his job. Several news outlets reported that the former ExxonMobil chief is chafing at curbs on his independence. The reports said he’s told friends that he may not last a year.
But spokesperson Heather Nauert rejected any such talk.
HEATHER NAUERT, State Department Spokeswoman: That is false. We have spoken with the secretary. The secretary has been very clear he intends to stay here at State Department. We have a lot of work that is left to be done ahead of us. He recognizes that. He is deeply engaged in that work.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nauert said that Tillerson is currently taking a little time off.
The U.S. House of Representatives today voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions on Russia, partly over its meddling in the 2016 election. This bars President Trump from relaxing the penalties without congressional approval.
Meanwhile, in the Russia investigations, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met privately with the House Intelligence Committee. And former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort spoke with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers. We will return to this story later in the program.
In Jerusalem, Muslim clerics urged worshipers to keep up protests and avoid entering a contested holy site until further notice. They had objected to Israel installing metal detectors at the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary site after an attack on police. Overnight, the Israelis dismantled the metal detectors, in favor of high-tech cameras, but protests continued and Palestinian officials remained adamant.
RAMI HAMDALLAH, Prime Minister, Palestinian National Authority (through interpreter): We condemn all the Israeli measures that take away our people’s right for worship. We reject all obstacles that hinder the freedom of worship granted by international laws. And we demand that we return to the situation where things stood before.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Palestinians warned that the new cameras could see through clothing and embarrass female worshipers. Israeli police said they will not use cameras that violate anyone’s privacy.
An outbreak of cholera in Yemen was set to reach 400,000 cases today. It has struck a population already ravaged by war and hunger.
We have a report from Neil Connery of Independent Television News.
But be aware, some of the images are graphic and disturbing.
NEIL CONNERY: Tagrid Tatan barely has the strength to cry. She’s 12 years old.
For months, Yemen’s children have paid the highest price in a war now in its third year. Zara is 15. This is what hunger has done to her.
And now a cholera epidemic is spreading, with more than 5,000 cases every day. At Todada (ph) hospital, they’re overwhelmed by cholera victims. More than 40 percent of those affected are children.
Yemen was already on its knees, but now a disease which should have been left in the 19th century is in every part of the country. In the villages, this waterborne infection is claiming lives, as one father who lost his 4-year-old son, Ali, told us.
MAN (through interpreter): My son died of cholera because the water is contaminated, and we do not have a solution for this well. We need a solution to stop this illness that has killed our children.
NEIL CONNERY: In the nearby clinic, Tagrid is finally receiving help, but, across Yemen, hunger and cholera cast the darkest of shadows.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So hard to watch that report from Neil Connery of Independent Television News.
The U.S. and Iran have had a new confrontation in the Northern Persian Gulf. An American patrol ship fired warning shots today near an Iranian vessel. U.S. military officials said it ignored warnings and came within 150 yards. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard charged that the U.S. vessel provoked the incident.
There’s word that North Korea could field an intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead to a target by next year. The Washington Post is reporting the new Pentagon estimate shaves two years off the previous forecast. U.S. intelligence analysts say that the North could conduct new missile tests this week during a national holiday.
Upbeat corporate profits pushed Wall Street higher today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 100 points to close at 21613. The Nasdaq rose one point, and the S&P 500 added seven.
And Barbara Sinatra died today at her home in Rancho Mirage, California. She became Frank Sinatra’s fourth wife in 1976, and the union lasted until the legendary singer’s own death in 1998. With his help, the former showgirl-turned-socialite raised millions of dollars to help abused children. Barbara Sinatra was 90 years old.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States Senate tonight has begun debating what to do about Obamacare after weeks of waiting. Republicans finally mustered the votes to proceed in a showdown today, with the aid of a cancer patient and a vice presidential tiebreaker.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
LISA DESJARDINS: In the Senate today, high-stakes politics with high-volume drama. As the health care vote began, protesters chanted “Kill the bill” and “Shame” from the Senate gallery.
After they were removed, the vote itself was in doubt. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted no. One more no, and the debate would be blocked. All eyes were on Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson, who didn’t initially vote at all. He spent minutes speaking with GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, before he finally voted yes.
VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: On this vote, the yeas 50 and the nays are 50. The Senate, being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative, and the motion is agreed to.
LISA DESJARDINS: Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking 51st vote.
Majority Leader McConnell:
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: We have wrestled with this issue. We have watched the consequences of the status quo. The people who sent us here expect us to begin this debate.
LISA DESJARDINS: Adding to the emotion, the return of Arizona Senator John McCain following his diagnosis with brain cancer. He voted for debate.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments be offered. I will not vote for this bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that.
LISA DESJARDINS: It’s still far from clear what, if any bill will ultimately emerge from the Senate.
The multiple versions include the original Senate bill, with dramatic reductions in Medicaid and an end to most of Obamacare’s taxes. The Congressional Budget Office said it would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026.
Last week came talk of a full repeal bill, with a replacement to be determined later. That would mean 32 million more uninsured if no replacement is ever enacted.
And, finally, what’s called a skinny repeal, ending Obamacare’s individual mandate, but not much else. It would likely add another 15 million uninsured.
Democrats remained uniformly opposed, and their leader, Chuck Schumer, condemned Republican maneuvering.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Now the best the majority leader’s been able to cook up is a vague plan to do whatever it takes to pass something, anything, to get the bill to a House and Senate conference on health care.
My colleagues, plain and simple, it’s a ruse. The likeliest result of a conference between the House and Senate is full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or something very close to it.
LISA DESJARDINS: From the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Trump hailed the vote to start debate.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to congratulate American people, because we’re going to give you great health care. And we’re going to get rid of Obamacare, which should’ve been frankly terminated long Ago. It’s been a disaster for the American people.
LISA DESJARDINS: As for the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, today, his caucus is waiting for the Senate’s next move.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, R-Calif., House Majority Leader: We will be on call. At any time that the Senate is able to pass a health care bill — we have already passed one — that we will call the House back in to finish the job.
LISA DESJARDINS: But when that day might come, if it comes, remains a mystery.
Again, the vote today was just to start debate. Over the next two days and likely nights, we will see scores of amendments and amendment votes on the Senate floor. Any senator can offer an amendment. In fact, Democrat Chris Murphy says, Judy, he has got 100 ready to propose.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, tell us more about how this is going to work. The Republicans have been saying, for example, there is going to be a vote on straight repeal. When would that be?
LISA DESJARDINS: Right. This is going to be important to follow the process. Votes could happen as soon as tonight, though I’m told by sources in both parties that that’s unlikely at this time.
Here’s how it’s likely to work. We will see two large amendments being proposed near the top of this voting scheme. One will be that straight repeal bill. The other will be some version of the Senate bill that we have seen crafted recently.
Both of those are expected to fail. After that, we will see perhaps a day or many hours of a flurry of different amendments. Those will generally require 60 votes. It will be hard for those to pass.
In the very end, Judy, we will see probably this skinny repeal, a sort of pared-down version of repeal. It will be the Republicans’ last vote. They hope to get 50 on that. It’s not clear yet how they will do that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, this was quite an extraordinary day, as you just showed in your piece. You were there. What does this drama say about the state of the Senate right now, this debate, and the state of governing?
LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, I have to tell you, it was breathtaking. It was rather unbelievable to be in that Senate today.
For one, as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, the senators who voted no, cast those opposing votes, they stood up. They were emphatic about their positions.
And at that time, Judy, looking around the chamber, it was clear that Republicans didn’t know if they were going to pass this bill. I looked down below me, and I saw Vice President Pence write on a sheet of paper, “The Senate will be in recess.” That made it clear that they were ready to lose this vote.
When Ron Johnson came in to vote yes, they weren’t sure how it was going to end up. Judy, I think that’s an indication of where we are in general. They don’t know how they finish this. They’re glad to open the process, but much is still in flux. They also don’t know, we don’t know if anyone is willing to compromise, as Senator McCain asked for today on the floor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So much to watch.
Lisa Desjardins with another long day at the Capitol, thank you, Lisa.
LISA DESJARDINS: My pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will talk to Montana Senator Jon Tester about the day’s drama right after the news summary.
WASHINGTON — Eager to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, the House on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a new package of sanctions against Moscow that prohibits President Donald Trump from waiving the penalties without first getting permission from Congress.
Lawmakers passed the legislation, 419-3, clearing the far-reaching measure for action by the Senate. If senators move quickly, the bill could be ready for Trump’s signature before Congress exits Washington for its regular August recess. The Senate, like the House, is expected to pass the legislation by a veto-proof margin. The bill also slaps Iran and North Korea with sanctions.
The 184-page measure serves as a rebuke of the Kremlin’s military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed President Bashar Assad. It aims to hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him by targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.
“It is well past time that we forcibly respond,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Trump hasn’t threatened to reject the bill even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior administration officials had objected to a mandated congressional review should the president attempt to ease or lift the sanctions on Russia. They’ve argued it would infringe on the president’s executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication and cooperation between the two former Cold War foes.
But Trump’s persistent overtures to Russia are what pushed lawmakers to include the sanctions review. Many lawmakers view Russia as the nation’s top strategic adversary and believe more sanctions, not less, put the U.S. in a position of strength in any negotiations with Moscow.
Trump’s “rhetoric toward the Russians has been far too accommodating and conciliatory, up to this point,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.
“Russian behavior has been atrocious,” Dent said. “They deserve these enhanced sanctions. Relations with Russia will improve when Russian behavior changes and they start to fall back into the family of nations.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Congress “is uncomfortable with any rapprochement with Moscow without getting some things for it.” But he said the legislation isn’t intended to be a message to Trump.
“We’re sending a message to Moscow,” Kinzinger said. “But if the president had any intention of trying to give Vladimir Putin what he wants on certain areas, I think he’ll think twice about it.”
Heavy support for the bill from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate has effectively scuttled the potential for Trump to derail the legislation. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated Sunday the president would sign the sanctions bill. But on Monday, Sanders said Trump is “going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.”
Signing a bill that penalizes Russia’s election interference would mark a significant shift for Trump. He’s repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favor. He’s blasted as a “witch hunt” investigations into the extent of Russia’s interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of the sanctions on Russia. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.
“There’ll be no side deals or turning a blind eye to (Russia’s) actions,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.
The North Korea-related sanctions bar ships owned by the reclusive nation or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.
The sanctions package also imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo. Democrats said the new sanctions on Iran don’t conflict with the Iran nuclear deal
A version of the sanctions legislation that only addressed Russia and Iran cleared the Senate nearly six weeks ago with 98 votes. Lawmakers have questioned whether the bill may hit a hurdle in the Senate, which hasn’t yet fully considered the North Korea section of the bill. But Royce said he made specific procedural tweaks to get the bill passed and to Trump before Congress leaves town for a month.
“We cannot afford any more delay,” he said.
The three House members who voted against the bill are Republican Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Justin Amash of Michigan and John Duncan of Tennessee.
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s new communications director says he’s prepared to clean house in order to stop the leaks plaguing the administration.
Anthony Scaramucci, the Wall Street financier tapped for the role last week, said Tuesday that he was prepared to “fire everybody” to stop unauthorized information coming from the press office.
Speaking to reporters, Scaramucci said that he was “not doing an investigation. I’m just going to get the leaking to stop.” He stressed that he had “the authority from the president to do that.”
“You’re either going to stop leaking or you’re going to get fired,” Scaramucci said.
The Trump administration has been troubled by numerous damaging leaks amid the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the vote. The president has criticized the leaks and urged authorities to prosecute the alleged leakers.
White House press aide Michael Short abruptly resigned Tuesday, not long after a report in Politico that Scaramucci was planning to fire him. Scaramucci confirmed Short had left, saying he did not know him, but “the person who wanted me to fire him outranks me.”
Scaramucci said he did not know if Short had leaked information and said he wished him well. He also said the rest of the communications staff had “amnesty” as long as they “stop leaking.”
Incoming White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday that she had accepted Short’s resignation. Short could not be immediately reached for comment.
Trump appointed Scaramucci to the job Friday. The hedge fund manager is a polished television commentator, but has limited experience running a communications operation. He is taking over the role crafting the president’s message at a time when Trump faces dropping approval ratings and is struggling to advance his legislative agenda.
Sanders was tapped to take over the role of press secretary after Sean Spicer resigned the job in protest over the hiring of Scaramucci.
Over the weekend, Scaramucci pledged on Fox News to begin “an era of a new good feeling” and said he hopes to “create a more positive mojo.”
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