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News Wrap: Trump signs orders on U.S. trade policy

March 31, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
In our news wrap Friday, President Trump moved to reshape American trade policy with a pair of executive orders, initiating a review of trade deficits and increasing the collection of duties on imports. Also, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned NATO allies to boost their defense spending within the next two months during his first meeting with his alliance counterparts in Brussels.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The request for legal immunity from President Trump’s former national security adviser drew sharply different responses today.

Michael Flynn said he will cooperate with congressional Russia probes, but only if he’s spared from the possibility of prosecution. Mr. Trump tweeted Flynn should ask for immunity because — quote — “This is a witch-hunt by the media and Democrats.”

But Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said it’s too early to consider such a deal.

We will take a closer look at the investigations right after the news summary.

President Trump moved to reshape American trade policy today, signing a pair of executive orders. One initiates a review of U.S. trade deficits. The other looks to increase the collection of duties on imports. Mr. Trump said the orders — quote — “set the stage for a great revival of American manufacturing.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today warned NATO allies to boost their defense spending within the next two months. During Tillerson’s first meeting with his alliance counterparts in Brussels, he said Washington is contributing a — quote — “disproportionate share” to defense.

But Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, balked at the call, saying that NATO’s spending targets are neither — quote — “reachable nor desirable.”

There’s word that the European Union may be open to talks later this year on its future relationship with Britain. But draft guidelines issued today say that the British — quote — “disentanglement” from the bloc must be settled first.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May wanted talks on a future trade deal with the E.U. to start quickly. But in Malta today, the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, said that won’t happen.

DONALD TUSK, European Council President: Once, and only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal can we discuss the framework for our future relationship. Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time, as suggested by some in the U.K., will not happen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Scotland’s first minister has formally requested a second popular referendum on its independence from the U.K. Britain’s government has said that it will deny the request.

In Venezuela, violence erupted today amid the country’s deepening political crisis. It followed the Supreme Court’s move to dissolve the country’s opposition-led congress, a move widely condemned as a power grab. In the capital, Caracas, scores of students squared off against police in riot gear, who retaliated with batons and buckshot. A number of people were arrested.

In Pakistan, a suicide car bomb near a Shiite mosque today killed at least 24 people. It happened in a key northwest town near the country’s border with Afghanistan. The powerful explosion damaged vehicles and nearby shops. More than 100 people were wounded. A breakaway Taliban faction claimed responsibility.

The Trump administration imposed a new round of sanctions on North Korea today. They targeted 11 North Korean individuals and one company that helped to finance or develop weapons of mass destruction. The Treasury Department said the people were working as agents of the North Korean regime in Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cuba.

Back in this country, traffic was snarled for miles in Atlanta today, after a fire brought caused the collapse of part of heavily traveled Interstate 85. Officials are still trying to determine how yesterday’s fire started. Authorities closed the section before it collapsed, and there were no injuries. But commuters in this densely populated area will likely have to find new routes for months.

On Wall Street, stocks ended the month on a down note. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 65 points to close at 20663. The Nasdaq fell more than two, and the S&P 500 slipped five. For the week, both the Dow and the S&P 500 gained a fraction of a percent. The Nasdaq rose more than a percent.

The private company SpaceX made history last night by successfully launching and retrieving its first recycled rocket. Rocket boosters normally drop into the Atlantic Ocean after liftoff and are not retrieved. This was the Falcon 9 booster’s second trip into orbit, launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It landed on the bullseye of an ocean platform and it could be used a third time.

And a rare photo of Harriet Tubman has been acquired at auction by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It shows a younger seated Tubman. Most photos of the Underground Railroad hero were taken later in her life. It was part of an album that sold for more than $160,000.

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