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News Wrap: Alabama governor resigning over ethics charges

April 10, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
In our news wrap Monday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is resigning amid allegations he used state resources to hids a romantic affair with an aide. Also, a state of emergency has gone into effect in Egypt after a suicide bombing Sunday that left at least 45 people dead.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Neil Gorsuch has been sworn in as the 113th Supreme Court justice. The 49-year-old former appeals court judge fills the nearly 14-month vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia, and it restores the court’s conservative majority.

During a White House Rose Garden ceremony, Gorsuch received praise from President Trump, and took the second of two oaths, this one administered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch once served as clerk.

NEIL GORSUCH, Supreme Court Associate Justice: And to the American people, I am humbled by the trust placed in me today. I will never forget that to whom much is given, much will be expected. And I promise you that I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will take a closer look at the impact Justice Gorsuch could have on the high court a little later in the program.

In the day’s other news, there’s word the governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, is resigning amid allegations he used state resources to hide a romantic affair with an aide. Jail records in Montgomery County showed that Bentley was booked today on two campaign and ethics charges. Alabama’s lieutenant governor, Kay Ivey, is expected to succeed him.

Don Dailey, who is the host of Alabama Public TV’s Capital Journal, has been following the story.

Don Dailey, thank you for being here.

Tell us what the governor is accused of.

DON DAILEY, Alabama Public Television: All these charges, as you mentioned, relate to his alleged inappropriate relationship with his former top political aide, Rebekah Mason. The legislature here a year ago initiated impeachment articles against the governor.

And, as a matter of fact, hearings in those articles of impeachment started today, while, at the same time, officials were behind closed doors negotiating a resignation deal with Governor Bentley under which he would plead to lesser charges, thus the campaign finance charges that you talked about.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the governor has denied this for the longest time. Is that right?

DON DAILEY: He has. He has denied any wrongdoing.

He said that he and his former top political aide never had a physical affair, that he made inappropriate remarks to her, and he apologized for those a year ago. He has also insisted that he has done nothing illegal in the furtherance of that alleged affair.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And since it came out so many months ago, why, Don Dailey, has it taken this long to get to this point?

DON DAILEY: Alabama has never impeached a governor. In fact, there has never been but one other impeachment process against a constitutional officer in 100 years.

So, once these articles of impeachment were brought, the legislature basically had to create the process from scratch. It began doing that about a year ago. It then hired a special counsel to investigate the charges against the governor. And it was finally ready to present those findings in the hearings that started today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And so the governor was actually booked in a county jail today on these ethics charges?

DON DAILEY: He had to go to the Montgomery County Jail to be booked and fingerprinted on these misdemeanor charges as part of the process, and then he was expected to go over to the Capitol and meet the press, where he was formally expected to resign.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the reaction of Alabama citizens so far?

DON DAILEY: Alabama citizens, by and large, have been clamoring for a resolution to this one way or the other for quite some time, at least according to a lot of lawmakers that we have spoken with.

In the last 24 hours, both the heads of the Alabama House and Senate have also called for Bentley to step down.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Don Dailey with Alabama Public Television, we thank you very much.

DON DAILEY: Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meantime, a state of emergency has gone into effect in Egypt, after yesterday’s Palm Sunday suicide bombings at two Coptic Christian churches. At least 45 people were killed in the ISIS-claimed attacks in Alexandria and Tanta. Mourners carried wooden coffins through the streets today, as relatives began burying their loved ones. It was the deadliest day for Egyptian Christians in decades.

Officials in China are calling for restraint today, amid heightening tensions around the Korean Peninsula. The comments come after a U.S. Navy strike group moved closer to the area over the weekend, in a show of force.

In Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called for dialogue in addressing North Korea’s nuclear and weapons activities.

HUA CHUNYING, Spokeswoman, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through translator): China has been paying close attention to the development of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. We think that, under current conditions, the parties involved should exercise restraint, and should avoid conducting activities that will deteriorate and escalate difficulties in this region.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the nuclear envoys from China and South Korea met in Seoul today. They agreed to take — quote — “strong measures” if Pyongyang carries out more nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

There’s been another staffing shuffle at the National Security Council. It’s been widely reported K.T. McFarland, one of President Trump’s top national security advisers, will be reassigned to become the next U.S. ambassador to Singapore. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has been reorganizing his team since his predecessor, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign.

United Airlines faced public outcry today, after video posted online showed a passenger being dragged off an overbooked flight in Chicago. In the cell phone sequence, authorities pull a screaming man from his seat, and then drag him down the aisle by his arms, as other passengers shout.

Airline officials asked for customers by name to leave the plane. Three did voluntarily. Chicago’s Aviation Department says an officer involved in the incident has been placed on leave.

Wells Fargo is clawing back an additional $75 million from two former executives over an account fraud scandal. A new report out today from the bank’s board said an aggressive sales culture led employees to open millions of checking and credit accounts without customers’ permission. It said former CEO John Stumpf and community bank executive Carrie Tolstedt were both involved or tolerated aggressive sales marketing over a period of years.

And stocks finished flat on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained less than two points to close at 20658. The Nasdaq rose three, and the S&P 500 added over a point-and-a-half.

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced today in New York. Writer Colson Whitehead won the prize for fiction for his book “The Underground Railroad.” David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post won in the National Reporting category for investigating President Trump’s philanthropy claims.

And the Breaking News reporting prize went to The East Bay Times in California, for its coverage of last year’s deadly Oakland warehouse fire.

And Spain’s Sergio Garcia has ended his golf major drought. The 37-year-old won the coveted Green Jacket at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, last night. Garcia rallied to beat Englishman Justin Rose on the first hole of a sudden death playoff. It comes 18 years after he joined the professional golf tour.

Congratulations.

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