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News Wrap: House GOP passes two immigration bills

June 29, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives pushed through two bills on illegal immigration. One toughens prison terms for deportees who reenter the U.S. illegally. The other blocks some federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to assist immigration officials.

The secretary of homeland security and congressional Democrats traded arguments today over that second bill.

JOHN KELLY, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary: The word sanctuary calls to mind some place safe. But too often for families and victims affected by illegal immigrant crime, sanctuary cities are anything but safe. Instead, these cities are places that allow some criminal go free, undermine federal law enforcement and make our communities less safe.

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, D-N.Y.: A sanctuary city is a city that allows a mom to take her kid to school without being fearful that the principal will call Homeland Security on her. It allows a domestic violence victim the ability to go to the local precinct and report a batterer. It is a safety net for people that are part of our family.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The bills now move to the Senate, but it’s not clear that either can pass there.

Senate Republican leaders struggled again today to revise their health care bill, and win enough Republican votes to pass it. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there’s been — quote — “good progress.” But Senator Susan Collins of Maine warned that the bill needs a major overhaul.

Also today, further analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found the bill would cut federal Medicaid spending by 35 percent over 20 years.

A top Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, was charged today with sexual assault in his native Australia. He’s the top financial adviser to Pope Francis, and the highest-ranking Vatican official implicated in the long-running scandal of clergymen abusing children.

Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News has our report.

SHANE PATTON, Commissioner, Victoria State Police: Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges, in respect to historic sexual offenses. And there are multiple complaints relating to those charges.

JONATHAN MILLER: Last year, the former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, who is now one of the pope’s top advisers, testified to a royal commission investigating child sex abuse.

The commission found shocking levels of abuse by the clergy over decades. Pell supported, by bishops as a man of integrity, conceded institutional errors, but denied any sexual offenses himself.

News from Australia reached the Vatican overnight, and before dawn on the fifth day of Saints Peters and Paul, Cardinal Pell released his first statement, saying he would return home next month to clear his name. Then early this morning, he spoke to the press.

CARDINAL GEORGE PELL, Vatican Treasurer: I am looking forward finally to having my day in court. I am innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.

JONATHAN MILLER: Pope Francis, who Pell said he talked things over with, later presided over mass in St. Peter’s Square. Aussies in the square today wanted God’s truth to shine through.

WOMAN: Well, there’s been a lot of bad press about Pell in the Australian media. He is not very well-liked. And a lot of people are very angry that the church in Australia didn’t do enough to cover any of the sex abuse for many years.

JONATHAN MILLER: A song by musician Tim Minchin which pleaded with the ailing cardinal to return to Australia to testify to the royal commission went viral last year.

Now Cardinal George Pell, ordained 51 years ago, is coming home to face his accusers. He will appear before Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on the 18th of July.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That report from Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

In Russia, five men were found guilty today in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in 2015. One was the man who pulled the trigger, a former security officer in the Chechnya region. But Nemtsov’s allies say that authorities have done nothing to find out who ordered the killing.

President Trump will come face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week, for the first time since taking office. The White House and the Kremlin announced today that they will meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany.

Meanwhile, Syria and Russian accused the U.S. today of making baseless allegations that Damascus is preparing a new chemical attack. The White House issued the warning on Tuesday. Today, Syrian state TV today called the accusation — quote — “devoid of truth.” The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of trying to destabilize the Syrian regime.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman (through interpreter): The goal of it is obvious: to reanimate the theme of so-called crimes of the government and to return the situation in Syria to the same dead end where it has been led by the West, saying that Assad needs to leave. At the same time, it’s a provocation for the rebels to commit crimes linked to mass deaths of civilians.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The State Department dismissed the comments from both governments and said there’s no doubt the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons in the past.

Back in this country, the Federal Bureau of Justice statistics reports that most hate crimes over the past decade went unreported. That’s based on a survey of households. It found an average of 250,000 hate crimes each year between 2004 and 2015. More than half were not reported, most often because they were handled some other way. The report says that others decided the incidents were not important, or they doubted police would do anything.

More than 800 firefighters are now battling a Northern Arizona wildfire that’s scorched almost 39 square miles. Officials say that lighter winds today would help them make progress on the Goodwin Fire. Already, evacuations for one small town outside Prescott have been lifted. Major wildfires are also burning in Utah, Southern California and Washington state.

Dozens of employees at The New York Times staged a walkout today against a new round of job cuts. Reporters and editors tweeted pictures of staffers leaving, as well as signs in support of the staff. The newspaper is considering restructuring the newsroom, and possibly laying off half of its copy editors.

And on Wall Street, technology stocks took another hit, and pulled the broader market down. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 167 points to close at 21287. The Nasdaq fell 90, and the S&P 500 gave up 21.

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