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News Wrap: White House interviews FBI director candidates

May 15, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
In our news wrap Monday, President Trump announced the White House is “moving rapidly” to replace former FBI director James Comey. At least eight candidates were interviewed over the weekend. Also, the United Nations is nearly doubling its appeal for humanitarian aid in South Sudan, a country facing brutal civil war and famine.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: The president said the White House is moving rapidly to replace the man he fired last week as director of the FBI, James Comey. At least eight candidates were interviewed over the weekend.

They included, among others, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and a former Republican congressman, Mike Rogers.

Meanwhile, the White House press insisted today that the president wants a full FBI review of Russian meddling in the election, no matter what it concludes.

SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: The actions that he took, he knew could be detrimental to himself, but none of those things mattered, because the president had to do the right thing for the American people because he believes that Jim Comey was the wrong man for that position.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president himself has called the investigation a charade. Spicer also refused, again, to confirm or deny that Mr. Trump audiotaped his conversations with James Comey or with anyone else.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will brief the full Senate on the firing this Thursday.

The United Nations is nearly doubling its appeal for humanitarian aid in South Sudan, facing a brutal civil war and famine. The director of the World Food Program warned today that the suffering is — quote — “unimaginable.” U.N. agencies said they need at least $1.4 billion to provide assistance to refugees.

The United States accused the government of Syria today of killing thousands of prisoners, and burning the bodies to hide the evidence. A top State Department official said mass executions are taking place about 45 minutes outside Damascus at a large prison facility.

STUART JONES, Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary for Near East Affairs: The regime is responsible for killing as many as 50 detainees per day at Sednaya. Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves.

We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Sednaya prison complex, which could dispose of detainees remains with little evidence.

JUDY WOODRUFF: State Department officials also called for Russia to use its influence with the Damascus regime to stop the atrocities.

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification law. Today’s announcement leaves a lower court ruling in place. It found that the law targeted African-Americans with what it called — quote — “almost surgical precision.” The law imposed stricter I.D. requirements, rolled back early voting and eliminated same-day registration.

For the second Monday in a row, a federal appeals court has heard arguments on President Trump’s travel ban. This time, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Seattle, heard a challenge by the state of Hawaii. Judges pressed a top Justice Department lawyer on whether the ban on travel from six Muslim nations is, indeed, religious discrimination.

JUDGE MICHAEL HAWKINS, Ninth Circuit of Appeals: Has the president ever disavowed his campaign statements?

Has he ever stood up and said, I said before I wanted to ban all members of the Islamic faith from entering the United States of America, I was wrong?

JEFFREY WALL, Attorney: Over time, the president clarified that what he was talking about were Islamic terrorist groups, and the countries that shelter or sponsor them. And, over time, he and his advisers clarified that what he was focused on were groups like ISIS and al-Qaida.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Last week, an appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, heard similar arguments in another suit against the travel ban.

The Trump Cabinet is now complete. Robert Lighthizer was sworn in today as U.S. trade representative. Vice President Mike Pence presided over the ceremony. Lighthizer is the last Cabinet official to be confirmed by the Senate. He’s expected to play a key role in renegotiating trade deals.

And on Wall Street, stocks rose, as oil prices surged. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 85 points to close near 20982. The Nasdaq rose 28, and the S&P 500 added 11.

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