News Wrap: Sean Spicer steps down as press secretary
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Moving and shaking today in the White House communications staff. Sean Spicer resigned as press secretary after just six months, saying the president needs a — quote — “clean slate.”
But it was widely reported that he objected to the naming of Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.
At a White House briefing, Scaramucci sought to play down talk of any discord.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, White House Communications Director: For me, as it relates to Sean, it speaks volumes to who he is as a human being, who he is as a team player. OK? So his attitude is, if Anthony’s coming in, let me clear the slate for Anthony. And I do appreciate that about Sean, and I love him for it. But I don’t have any friction with Sean.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Scaramucci also named Spicer’s deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to be the new press secretary.
In a statement, President Trump praised Spicer’s work, and said — quote — “Just look at his great television ratings.”
The spokesman for the president’s legal team, Mark Corallo, also resigned today. That came amid reports that the lawyers are hunting possible conflicts of interest by special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The White House would neither confirm nor deny the reports. The president’s lead lawyer did deny a Washington Post account that they’re examining whether Mr. Trump could pardon relatives, aides and even himself.
We will take a closer look at all of this after the news summary.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions erupted into street battles today between police and protesters in Jerusalem and the West Bank. At least three Palestinians were killed, and nearly 400 hurt.
Exploding stun grenades drowned out Friday prayers in Jerusalem, as ambulance sirens wailed. Palestinians called it a day of rage, protesting Israel’s installation of metal detectors at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews.
RAFIQUE HAYAT, Muslim Resident of Jerusalem (through interpreter): This place is made for worshipping God. They cannot prevent Muslims from entering to pray. They are acting against God.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Israelis put up the metal detectors after Arab-Israeli gunmen killed two police officers last Friday. It happened at the complex known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.
Inside, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and the Dome of the Rock, they’re bordered by the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. Tensions have been building ever since the shooting. Overnight, the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City were filled with protesters throwing stones and security forces firing back with grenades.
Today, police refused to remove the metal detectors, and barred Muslim men younger than 50 from entering the holy site. Security checkpoints also blocked busloads of Muslims traveling to Jerusalem.
MICKY ROSENFELD, Israeli Police Spokesman: The security measures will continue in and around the area of the Old City and the Temple Mount, in order to prevent any further terrorist attacks.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But the grand mufti of Jerusalem rallied thousands of Muslims to pray outside the gates of the old city, under the watch of Israeli forces. He predicted a long test of wills.
AMIN AL-HUSSEINI, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (through interpreter): We do accept any restrictions on the door of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Therefore, all the Palestinian people reject these gates and refuse to accept or enter through them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The violence broke out after prayers, and spilled over to towns across the West Bank. Later, the day of rage turned to grief, as mourners held a funeral for one of the Palestinian dead. And a Palestinian stabbed three Israelis to death in a West Bank settlement.
Tonight, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he’s freezing contacts with Israel on all levels.
In Afghanistan, the U.S. military confirms that a NATO airstrike mistakenly killed Afghan troops today. Officials say it happened during an operation against Taliban fighters in Helmand Province in the south. The provincial governor says at least two Afghan commanders died.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is urging Gulf nations to lift their economic blockade of Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE have imposed sanctions on Qatar over charges of financing terror groups. Today, Tillerson met with the Omani foreign minister. He commended the oil state’s efforts to comply with an agreement on curbing terror financing.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: They have been very aggressive in implementing that agreement. So we are — I think we’re satisfied with the effort they are putting forth. I think they also have indicated a willingness to sit with the four parties and negotiate, discuss the demands.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, Qatar’s emir denounced the blockade as a smear campaign, but said he’s open to dialogue.
President Trump is demanding that Iran release the American citizens it is holding. In a statement this evening, the White House warned of new and serious consequences unless Tehran frees all unjustly imprisoned Americans. At least three U.S. citizens are currently jailed in Iran.
A powerful earthquake shook the coasts of Turkey and Greece early today, killing at least two people. The quake was centered near the Greek island of Kos, and the Turkish tourist hub of Bodrum. Nearly 500 people were injured, and the tremor caused heavy damage to buildings, roads and historical sites. Thousands of tourists were forced to sleep outdoors. Some tried to leave, but got stranded.
MIREILLE COUZEIDAKIS, French Tourist (through interpreter): We were woken up at 1:30 in the morning. We were wondering what happened. Everything was shaking. We panicked and didn’t know what was going on. So, we quickly gathered our stuff and went out of the hotel, because, as it was several floors high, we didn’t want it to fall on our heads. Everyone was out in the street. It was a massive panic. In the hotel lobby, vases and lamps were upside down.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The two people killed were identified as tourists from Turkey and Sweden.
The State Department has announced a ban on Americans traveling to North Korea. A statement today cited the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention in the North. The move follows the death of college student Otto Warmbier. He was jailed in North Korea on a charge of stealing a propaganda poster, then sent home in a coma. He died last month.
And on Wall Street, stocks ended the week in retreat. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 31 points to close at 21580. The Nasdaq fell two points, and the S&P 500 lost about one point. For the week, the Dow was down a fraction of a percent. The Nasdaq rose more than 1 percent, and the S&P was up half-a-percent.