In our news wrap Friday, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert resigned from his law firm after being indicted on federal charges. The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times reported that the misconduct was of a sexual nature. Also, in Iraq, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for car bombs that killed at least 15 people, targeting two prominent hotels in Baghdad.
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Kansas Governor Sam Brownback also warned residents of his state to be prepared for high waters, noting that many of the reservoirs are already at flood stage.
President Obama made a last-minute appeal to lawmakers today to extend the authorities of key Patriot Act provisions before they expire at midnight on Sunday. He said a handful of senators are standing in the way of the U.S. government losing surveillance powers that could help prevent terror attacks.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
I don’t want us to be in a situation in which, for a certain period of time, those authorities go away, and suddenly we’re dark, and heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity, but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling the Senate back into session on Sunday, just hours before the midnight deadline.
Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert has resigned from his law firm, amid federal charges of misconduct.
Multiple media outlets reported today the misconduct involved sexual abuse allegations by an unnamed man. The Illinois Republican was indicted yesterday and accused of agreeing to pay millions in hush money. The indictment itself didn’t describe the misconduct, but it did say that it involved a person Hastert knew from a high school where he taught and coached from 1965 to 1981.
In Iraq today, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for car bombs targeting two prominent hotels in Baghdad. The blasts lit up the night sky last night, killing at least 15 people and wounding scores more. Hours later, daylight revealed how badly the newly renovated hotels had been hit. Windows were shattered and wreckage was everywhere. A third bomb was defused early this morning.
Islamic State militants also targeted a mosque in Saudi Arabia today, killing at least four people. The explosion erupted outside a Shiite mosque in an eastern port city. The suicide bomber, who was disguised as a woman, detonated his explosives as worshipers gathered for Friday prayers. A week ago, a similar attack killed 21 people.
The U.S. has officially removed Cuba from its list of states that sponsor terrorism. Today’s move paves the way for fully restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries after more than five decades.
But, in Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said negotiations are still under way to determine when to open embassies in each country.
JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:
There continue to be issues that need to be worked out. In the discussions that were convened last week, there was important progress that was made. I don’t have a time frame to give you in terms of any specific announcement. But that obviously is among the next milestones here, which is the opening of a Cuban embassy here in the United States and the opening of an American embassy on the island of Cuba.
Top Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner immediately lashed out after the terror designation was rescinded. Boehner charged the Obama administration — quote — “handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing.”
U.S. surveillance imagery shows China is putting weapons on one of the islands it is building up in the South China Sea. The Wall Street Journal reported that two motorized artillery pieces are on one of the islands, citing American officials. They said it poses no military threat, but it goes against China’s public statements that the reclaimed islands are for civilian use.
The Obama administration released new biofuel usage targets today, scaling back on how much agricultural product must blend with the nation’s fuel supply. The Environmental Protection Agency announced ethanol in gasoline would increase, but not by as much as set out in federal law. It was a blow to the ethanol and farming industries, who have lobbied for higher levels.
The U.S. economy shrank during the first three months of the year after a harsh winter that kept people at home and businesses closed. That government report had an impact on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 115 points to close at 18010. The Nasdaq fell 28 points. And the S&P 500 dropped 13. For the week, the Dow and S&P lost around a percent, and the Nasdaq lost half-a-percent.