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News Wrap: Trump and Putin agree to step up Syria diplomacy

May 2, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
A combination of file photos showing Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump. Photos by Ivan Sekretarev and Lucas Jackson/Reuters
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin have been on the phone again, and they agreed to step up diplomacy in Syria. The two men spoke today for the first time since the U.S. attacked a Syrian air base last month.

Earlier, Putin met with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi, Russia. He claimed again that Moscow didn’t meddle in the U.S. election.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): We never interfere into political lives and political processes in other countries, and we would very much like that nobody interfered into our political life and into the political life in Russia. These are just rumors used in the internal political struggle in the U.S.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton said today that Putin certainly interfered in order to help Donald Trump and defeat her. U.S. intelligence agencies and the Congress are investigating whether the Russians coordinated with Trump aides during the campaign.

The head of Thailand’s military junta says he is now expecting much-improved relations with the U.S. They cooled sharply after he seized power in a 2014 coup and became prime minister. But, today, he said President Trump assured him in a weekend phone call that — quote — “Thai-U.S. relations will now be closer than ever before.” The president also invited him to visit the White House.

Mr. Trump gave out conflicting messages today on the compromise measure to fund the government through the end of this fiscal year. First, in a tweet, he signaled displeasure, and suggested shutting the government down in the next budget fight. Later, though, as he honored the Air Force Academy football team, he praised the spending deal, and said — quote — “This is what winning looks like.”

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This bill is a clear win for the American people. We brought lawmakers together from both sides of the aisle to deliver a budget that funds the rebuilding of the United States military, makes historic investments in border security, and provides health care for our miners and school choice for our disadvantaged children.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Mr. Trump is unhappy with portrayals that Democrats won the budget fight.

MICK MULVANEY, White House Budget Director: The president is frustrated with the fact that he negotiated in good faith with the Democrats and they went out to try and spike the football and make him look bad.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that his frustrations were manifested in that way. We have got a lot to do — we have got a lot to between now and September. I don’t anticipate a shutdown in September, but, if negotiations — if the Democrats aren’t going to behave any better than they have in the last couple of days, it may be inevitable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The leader of Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer, said that shutting down the government at any time would be a bad idea.

A guilty plea today from a white former policeman who shot a black man to death in Charleston, South Carolina. Michael Slager shot Walter Scott five times as Scott ran from his car in 2015. A state court jury deadlocked on murder charges, but, today, Slager pleaded to federal civil rights violations. Under the deal, the state agreed to drop its murder case. No sentencing date was set.

There are two reports tonight that the Justice Department will not charge police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the killing of Alton Sterling last July. He was shot dead after being pinned on the ground. But the incident was videotaped and sparked tense protests in that city. A little over a week later, a gunman killed three Baton Rouge officers.

There’s word today that the overall death rate among African-Americans dropped sharply from 1999 to 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that it fell 25 percent in that period. However, the overall life expectancy for African-Americans is still four years less than that for whites. Black Americans are also far more likely to die of heart disease and cancer than are whites.

Airline executives found themselves in the hot seat at a congressional hearing today on the issue of overbooking flights. It followed United Airlines’ forced removal of a passenger who refused to give up his seat last month.

United CEO Oscar Munoz was one of four airline representatives at the hearing. He called the incident a turning point for his company.

OSCAR MUNOZ, CEO, United Airlines: It will accelerate, at least from United’s perspective, and as you heard from others, this will make us better. Once you sit on our aircraft and you are on a seat, other than for safety or security reasons, we will not take you off that flight.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans and Democrats alike warned the airlines to shape up. Committee Chair Representative Bill Shuster said customer service had better improve, or else.

REP. BILL SHUSTER, R-Pa.: Get together collectively and figure this out. Seize this opportunity, because, if you don’t, we’re going to come, and you’re not going to like it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: United reached a settlement with the ejected passenger last week for an undisclosed sum.

U.S. auto sales tumbled last month. Six major companies today reported weaker showings than a year ago.

And, on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 36 points to close near 20950. The Nasdaq rose more than three points, and the S&P 500 added nearly three.

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