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News Wrap: Trump team says transition is going smoothly despite reports of turmoil

November 16, 2016 at 6:50 PM EST
In our news wrap Wednesday, the message from the Trump transition team is that the turnover is going smoothly, amid reports to the contrary. The president-elect denied on Twitter news accounts of moderate figures being "purged" from the process and of power struggles between advisers. Also, House Democrats formally asked that Steve Bannon not be made a senior advisor in the White House.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: From the top of Trump Tower in New York on down, the message today was emphatic: There is no turmoil in the transition.

News accounts told of more moderate figures being purged, of advisers fighting for power, and of foreign officials unable to reach Trump aides. The president-elect denied it all in a series of tweets. Instead, he wrote, it is going so smoothly, and his spokesman echoed the claim.

JASON MILLER, Communications Director, Trump Transition Team: Inside, there’s a very solid plan. There’s a methodical approach to all this being put together.

I have read a number of the news reports that want to make us kind of like — there’s all sorts of descriptions I have heard. It’s very calm, it’s very structured. And anyone saying anything else is either, A, bitter because they’re not on the inside and not being considered, or they’re someone who is just bitter because the election was last week and they didn’t get the result that they wanted.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, in Washington, vice president-elect Pence met with Vice President Biden, who said he’s confident everything will be in good hands on day one of the new administration.

But House Democrats formally asked that Steve Bannon not be made a senior adviser. They cited allegations of racial bigotry and anti-Semitism, which Bannon denies.

President Obama also offered reassurance about the political transition on his farewell tour of Europe. Mr. Obama visited the ancient Acropolis in Athens, Greece, the cradle of democracy. And in a speech, he again promised a peaceful handover of power.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As you may have noticed, the next American president and I could not be more different.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have very different points of view, but American democracy is bigger than any one person.

HARI SREENIVASAN: From Greece, the president flew on to Germany.

The president of Turkey today criticized anti-Trump protesters in the U.S. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his message is show some respect and wait to see how he actually governs.

And in a TV interview, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad praised Mr. Trump’s campaign comments on fighting Islamic State forces in Syria.

PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, Syria (through translator): If — I say if — if he is going to fight the terrorists, of course, we’re going to be ally, natural ally in that regard, with the Russians, with Iranians, with many other countries.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The president-elect has said he would prioritize fighting ISIS over regime change in Syria.

In Russia, the Supreme Court has overturned a criminal conviction against opposition leader Alexei Navalny. He was convicted for embezzlement in 2013, but, in February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled his right to a fair trial had been violated. Navalny will now get a new trial, but that could still hinder him from running for office again.

Back in this country, a Minnesota policeman was charged today with second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Philando Castile during a traffic stop last summer. Officer Jeronimo Yanez has said he opened fire after Castile said he was armed and appeared to be reaching for something. The aftermath was streamed live by his girlfriend and triggered protests.

A prosecutor said today the shooting was totally unjustified.

JOHN CHOI, Ramsey County Attorney: To those who may say that this incident was Philando Castile’s fault, I would submit that no reasonable officer, knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time, would’ve used deadly force under these circumstances.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Yanez could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if he’s convicted.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate picked their leaders today. Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell was reelected to serve as majority leader. New York Democrat Chuck Schumer will take over as minority leader, replacing the retiring Harry Reid. Both men talked of looking past the election and cooperating where they can.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader: we’re going to address the real concerns of the American people, not go back and relitigate what anybody on either side may have said during a very hotly contested presidential race.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.): Where we can work together, we will. But I have also said to the president-elect, on issues where we disagree, you can expect a strong and tough fight.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Democrats’ new leadership team also includes former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

It’s been another long day for crews trying to douse flames in seven states across the South. Wildfires have burned roughly 128,000 acres in woodland areas, much of that in North Carolina, and fueled by drought conditions. More than 5,000 firefighters are on the job. Officials say heavy smoke from the fires is causing breathing problems in a number of communities.

On Wall Street, bank shares gave up some post-election gains, and stocks finished mostly lower. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 55 points to close at 18868. The Nasdaq rose almost 19 points, but the S&P 500 slid three.

And President Obama has named 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The list includes singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, actor Tom Hanks, basketball great Michael Jordan, and mathematician and computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, among others. They will be recognized in a White House ceremony on Tuesday.

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