JUDY WOODRUFF: At the White House, and in the day’s other news: President Trump removed his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, from his position on the National Security Council. The appointment of the former head of Breitbart News after the inauguration had drawn criticism. Today, Bannon said his job was to — quote — “de-operationalize the NSC” after the Obama years. He said the new national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, has returned the council to its proper function.
The president now says former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime. It has been reported that Rice sought and leaked identities of Trump transition aides caught up in surveillance. She denies any wrongdoing. But the president told The New York Times that he thinks Rice broke the law. He provided no evidence.
He also defended FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly against allegations of sexual harassment, and said — quote — “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
North Korea test-fired another missile early today, and U.S. defense officials say it ended in a fiery crash at sea, this one day before President Trump and China’s president meet. It also followed Mr. Trump’s warning that — quote — “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry had this response today to the North’s latest launch:
HUA CHUNYING, Spokeswoman, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through interpreter): China has noticed the relevant report. We believe that under the current situation, all relevant parties should maintain restraint and not do anything that will add to tensions in the region.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. response came from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In a terse statement, he said: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
In Iraq, Islamic State attackers killed at least 31 people overnight in the northern city of Tikrit. The militants wore police uniforms and targeted police forces. When they ran out of bullets, they blew themselves up. More than 40 people were wounded.
Lawmakers in Malaysia today approved a law on sex crimes against children, but balked at banning child marriage. During the debate, one legislator declared that girls as young as 9 are — quote — “physically and spiritually ready to marry.” The mostly-Muslim nation allows girls younger than 16 to marry if their parents and Islamic courts permit it.
Back in this country, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly softened his stance today on separating parents and children who cross the border from Mexico illegally. He had said previously that he was considering that step as a deterrent, but at a Senate hearing today, North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp pressed Kelly on the issue.
SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP, D-N.D.: There’s been reports that you’re considering separating mothers and children at the border?
JOHN KELLY, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary: Only if the situation at that point in time requires it, you know, if the mother is sick or addicted to drugs or whatever.
SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP: So if you thought the child was in danger, that’s the only circumstance in which you would separate?
JOHN KELLY: Can’t imagine doing it otherwise.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Kelly also reported that apprehensions at the border fell sharply in March, to the lowest number in 17 years.
And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 41 points to close at 20648. The Nasdaq fell 34, and the S&P 500 slipped seven.