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News Wrap: Michael Flynn accused of breaking the law by House Oversight leaders

April 25, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked President Trump’s order on so-called sanctuary cities. It sought to withhold some federal funds from localities that don’t cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities. The district judge said today that the president has no authority to take that step. His ruling is in effect nationwide while a lawsuit against the order is being heard.

The bulls had the run of Wall Street today, and the Nasdaq hit a milestone. The rally was fueled by strong earnings at Caterpillar, McDonald’s and other companies. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 232 points to close at 20996. The Nasdaq rose 41 points, to close above 6000 for the first time ever. And the S&P 500 added 14.

Congress is back in session, and raising new questions about contacts between Trump advisers and the Russians. Leaders of the House Oversight Committee said today that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn broke the law by taking money from Russian organizations in 2015. As a retired general, he was barred from doing so.

Republican Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings spoke after reviewing classified material.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-Md.: There is no evidence, as the chairman said, anywhere in these documents that said he reported the funds he received for this trip. There is also no evidence that he sought permission to obtain these funds from a foreign source.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R-Utah: He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia, to not only accept that payment, but to engage in that activity.

JUDY WOODRUFF: An attorney for Flynn defended his actions.

Meanwhile, Representative Cummings complained that the White House refused to hand over relevant documents on Flynn. Separately, a Senate subcommittee announced that it will hear next month from former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, who played a role in Flynn’s firing. The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will also testify.

Russia denied again today that it is arming Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. That is after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said that he wouldn’t refute such reports. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the claims.

SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): As to statements about alleged supplies of arms by us to the Taliban, these are unprofessional, they are baseless. Whatever negative things they say about Russia now, simply look into it. No one is providing a single fact that would prove such negative statements.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia has said that it does maintain ties with Taliban officials, but only to push for peace negotiations.

North Korea held mass live-fire exercises today for the 85th anniversary of its military, but it didn’t carry out a nuclear test, as feared. Instead, Pyongyang marked the occasion with celebrations. Many people left flowers at the statues of the country’s former leaders.

Turkish warplanes targeted Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria today, drawing criticism from the U.S. Turkey’s military released video of the operations, and activists in Syria said more than 20 combatants were killed. Most belonged to a Syrian Kurdish militia that is fighting the Islamic State. Turkish officials claimed the group is linked to rebels who are battling the government of Turkey.

The state of Arkansas has carried out the nation’s first double execution in 17 years. It happened last night, when two men were put to death within three hours.

William Brangham has our report.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For 12 years, the death chamber at the state prison in Varner, Arkansas, sat unused. But last night, both Jack Jones and Marcel Williams died there. Both had been on death row for more than 20 years, both for rape and murder. Jones went first, as witnesses looked on.

DAVID LIPPMAN, KTHV Reporter/Execution Witness: He said: “I’m so sorry. I’m so genuinely sorry. I hope someday you can learn more about me to learn that I’m not a monster.”

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The daughter of Jones’ victim, Mary Phillips, had survived the attack in 1995. She was just 11 years old.

LACY PHILLIPS SEAL, Victim’s Daughter: I’m glad it’s done. I’m glad that part of my life is — that chapter is closed.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lawyers for Marcel Williams charged that Jones had been gulping for air as he died. But after a brief delay, Williams was given the lethal injection as well. He’d expressed remorse last month.

MARCEL WILLIAMS: To those I hurt, I’m sorry is not enough. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The mother of Stacy Errickson, the woman killed by Williams in 1994, said he’d finally gotten what he deserved.

Arkansas has now put three men to death in the last week. This sudden rush is because one of the state’s lethal injection drugs, midazolam, expires at the end of April, and the drugmakers, citing concerns over how the drugs were obtained and how they are being used, are trying to block the state from getting any more.

Governor Asa Hutchinson defended the process.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON, R-Ark.: I don’t want to go back to these victims’ families and say, well, we’re worried about how this looks, or the speed of this, and so we’re not going to be able to carry out the will of the jury and courts and the sentencing.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The state hoped to execute eight men this month. Four have been blocked by courts. A final execution is set for Thursday.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, a special commission in Oklahoma recommended a continued moratorium on executions until the system for carrying them out is reformed.

And first daughter Ivanka Trump got a rough reception today at a women’s summit in Berlin, Germany. At one point during a panel discussion, the audience groaned and hissed as she argued that her father is a — quote — “tremendous champion” of enabling women and families. Later, she dismissed the reaction as — quote — “politics” and said, “I’m used to it. It’s fine.”

Still to come on the NewsHour: the White House and Congress attempting to avert a government shutdown; Senator Bernie Sanders weighs in on what Democrats need to do to get back on top; a new tariff President Trump has levied against Canada, and much more.

One of the biggest obstacles to keeping the United States government funded beyond this Friday’s deadline may have been averted today.

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