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News Wrap: Commerce Department says economic growth slowed in 2nd quarter

In our news wrap Friday, the U.S. economy is showing signs of losing some steam, with growth rate down sharply in the second quarter from its level in the first. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow blamed Fed interest rate hikes. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, pro-democracy protesters flooded the airport, trying to focus international attention on their cause. They plan another march Saturday.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. economy is showing signs of losing some steam. The Commerce Department reports growth ran at an annual rate of just 2.1 percent in the second quarter of this year. That was down sharply from a rate of 3.1 percent in the first quarter.

    At the White House, economic adviser Larry Kudlow blamed interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

  • Larry Kudlow:

    We have faced, in the last two years, severe monetary tightening. We have had seven rate hikes. That's tough. In some sense, it's a miracle we have done as well as we have done, and that with the absence of inflation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Consumer spending actually surged in the second quarter, but that was offset by a growing U.S. trade deficit and a drop in business spending.

    The U.S. House of Representatives began a six-week recess today amid questions about whether Democrats will try to impeach President Trump. The issue arose again this week, as former special counsel Robert Mueller testified on the Russia investigation.

    Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said again the time is not ripe, but denied she is trying to — quote — "run out the clock."

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed, not one day sooner. And everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined , positive way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler announced that the committee is going to court for access to grand jury material in the Mueller report. He said it is — quote — "in effect" part of an impeachment investigation.

    Our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, is here now to fill us in on the significance of all this.

    So, Lisa, explain, what exactly are the Democrats doing? How is it different from what they have done before?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is different and significant, because now House leadership, Jerry Nadler — and Nancy Pelosi is on board with this as well — are saying, we are launching an impeachment investigation.

    They are formally declaring that they are looking into whether they will have to file later articles of impeachment. That's what Pelosi was talking about.

    Ultimately, will they decide to file those articles of impeachment? She has not made the decision yet. But they have made the decision to begin a formal investigation on the road to impeachment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Taking note of that.

    So why are they doing this and why right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Two reasons.

    It helps them in court to say, we need to exercise a very prominent constitutional authority, because we believe the president may have done something impeachable. That has in the past made a difference in court hearings — in our rulings.

    The other, Judy, is political. We have known Democrats for weeks have been in favor or not in favor of an impeachment inquiry. The semantics have been a problem for Democrats. Now they're trying to wash that all away by saying, listen, we have been investigating, and now we are investigating and we are formally saying, this is an impeachment investigation.

    They're not going to take a separate vote on whether to open an investigation. They're simply doing it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And they're doing it, as you say, in the form of a court filing.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. That's where they announced it, but they also had a phone call with reporters.

    Some of us were confused at first over what this meant. They told us on that call very firmly, this is an impeachment investigation now. We are calling it that. We think it's been this way the whole time, but we're now saying, this is what it is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, explaining it, thank you very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    North Korea, in other news, has declared that its test of a new missile this week was — quote — "a solemn warning" to South Korea.

    The message from leader Kim Jong-un was delivered today on North Korean state TV. It called for the South to stop buying new weapons and to end military drills with the U.S.

    In Hong Kong, pro-democracy protesters flooded the city's airport, trying to focus international attention on their cause. More than 1,000 people staged a sit-in to condemn police use of force and last Sunday's gang attack on activists at a subway station. They plan another march tomorrow in the area where that attack took place.

    Blistering heat began to ease across Western Europe today after racking up records yesterday at well over 100 degrees. Still, tourists in Rome and elsewhere had to work to stay cool today with water bottles and public fountains. Others brought along umbrellas for shade.

    Meanwhile, in Geneva, United Nations weather experts warned the superheated air from Africa is heading for Greenland where an earlier heat wave already left its mark.

  • Clare Nullis:

    There has been quite rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet in recent weeks. In July alone, it lost 160 billion tons of ice through surface melting. That's roughly the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The heat also gave way to severe storms in France. One storm dropped so much hail that it brought the Tour de France cycling race to a halt for the day.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Justice Department approved T-Mobile's takeover of rival Sprint. The merger would cost $26 billion, and unite the nation's third and fourth largest wireless carriers. Consumer advocates argued that that could lead to higher prices, but the companies agreed to ensure continued competition by selling assets to satellite TV service Dish Network, making it a major wireless provider, too.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 51 points to close at 27192. The Nasdaq rose 91 points, to a new record close. And the S&P 500 added 22, also finishing at a record, just under 3026.

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