News Wrap: Another round of volleys over Supreme Court nomination
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GWEN IFILL: Good evening. I’m Gwen Ifill. Judy Woodruff is on assignment.
On the “NewsHour” tonight: the race for the White House moves from coffee shops to tarmacs, as the map expands to 12 more states for Super Tuesday.
Also ahead: missiles, bombers, and submarines. We look at America’s aging nuclear triad.
And former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden talks about his new book on American intelligence in the age of terror.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), Author, “Playing to the Edge”: I sat there with the order to authorize extended sleep deprivation on one of the detainees, Mohammad Rahim, and I never forgot he was a human being.
GWEN IFILL: All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”
GWEN IFILL: President Obama today insisted he will send a resistant Senate a Supreme Court nominee. Senate Republican say they will hold no hearings or vote and will, instead, wait until a new president takes office next year.
But in an Oval Office meeting with the king of Jordan, the president said he’s going to his job, and senators should do theirs.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I recognize the
politics are hard for them, because the easier thing to do is to give in to the most extreme voices within their party and stand pat and do nothing. But that’s not our job. Our job is to fulfill our constitutional duties.
GWEN IFILL: At the same time, it was widely reported the White House is vetting Republican Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada as a possible nominee. He confirmed he’s discussed it with the state’s two senators, Minority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Dean Heller. We will delve into all of the court fight later in the program.
The Senate did confirm a new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration today. Robert Califf has been the agency’s number two official. Before that, he was a well-known cardiologist and medical researcher at Duke University.
Also today, the president nominated Carla Hayden to be the 14th librarian of Congress. She’s currently head of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, and will be the first woman, and African-American, to serve in the post.
House Republicans now say they’re gearing for a legal fight if President Obama tries to close the Guantanamo detention center and transfer prisoners to U.S. soil.
Speaker Paul Ryan today warned the president not to use executive action to bypass a congressional ban against moving inmates.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: We are making legal preparations, if the president tries to break the law. And what boggles my mind is that the president is contemplating directing the military to knowingly break the law.
Our law is really clear. And, by the way, Democrats wrote this law when they were in the majority, when they ran Congress, which is these detainees cannot come to American soil.
GWEN IFILL: Top Senate Republicans said they would join in any legal challenge.
Austria and Balkan nations agreed in Vienna today to tighten border controls against migrants. Government ministers met amid rising security concerns and shrinking resources. Greece complained it wasn’t invited, but the Austrians said Athens has done nothing to stop the flow.
Meanwhile, an estimated 20,000 people are stranded in Greece, after countries to the north began barring migrants. U.N. workers handed out blankets and other aid. Russia has ramped up diplomatic efforts to sell a cease-fire in Syria. President Vladimir Putin made phone calls today to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, plus the king of Saudi Arabia, the president of Iran and the prime minister of Israel.
And Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, chiding those who’ve questioned the cease-fire.
SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): On the very day when the presidents of Russia and the United States approved the joint initiative on the cease-fire in Syria, voices could be heard both from the capitals of the U.S. allies and from Washington which doubted the feasibility of this agreement. There is a call for war, and not for peace, in these voices.
GWEN IFILL: Secretary of State John Kerry said again today he cannot vouch that the truce will work. He and Lavrov also spoke today by phone.
Severe weather threatened nearly 90 million people along the U.S. East Coast today. The powerful system killed three people in Virginia after killing three others in the Gulf states overnight. Officials say at least seven tornadoes struck Louisiana and Mississippi, and left thousands without power. Drone video captured the destruction in Pensacola, Florida, where more than 70 homes were damaged.
Meanwhile, a major snowstorm blasted parts of the Midwest today, canceling more than 1,000 flights to and from Chicago.
Stanford University has announced the world’s largest fully-endowed scholarship program. Nike co-founder Phil Knight is donating $400 million to an endowment that’s expected to reach $750 million. It will fund 100 full scholarships each year for master’s and doctorate degrees. Candidates will be nominated by their undergraduate programs.
Wall Street managed to stave off another day of losses. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 53 points to close at 16485. The Nasdaq rose 39 points, and the S&P 500 added eight.
And the Big Apple is no longer home to the most billionaires in the world. A Chinese firm reports that that its latest yearly rankings — in its latest yearly rankings, Beijing is the new title holder, with 100 billionaires. New York has only 95. The shift highlights how China’s elite are piling up vast wealth, even as the nation’s economy cools.
Still to come on the “NewsHour”: Donald Trump gains momentum ahead of Super Tuesday; a look at the showdown between the president and the Republican Congress; should the U.S. rebuild its entire nuclear arsenal?; and much more.