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News Wrap: House Democrats move closer to holding Barr, Ross in contempt

In our news wrap Wednesday, House Democrats have moved closer to holding Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress. The two men had refused to provide documents behind the administration's plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Meanwhile, Mexican drug kingpin “El Chapo” was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison, without parole.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump says tonight he is beating Democrats in a battle being fought along the dividing lines of race. It began with his attacks on four freshman Democratic women in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last night, the House voted to condemn his attacks as racist.

    But as he left the White House late today for a campaign rally in North Carolina, Mr. Trump said he has no regrets.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I do think I'm winning the political fight. I think I'm winning it by a lot. I think that they are not espousing the views of our country. I'm not relishing the fight. I'm enjoying it because I have to get the word out to the American people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president is trying to distract people from criticisms of his policies. She also told reporters today that last night's congressional resolution condemning Mr. Trump's tweets was — quote — "benign."

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    It condemned the words of the president, not the president, but the words of the president — saying that he was racist — we were saying that the words that he used were racist. So that was as gentle as it could be, considering the inappropriateness and the disgusting nature of what the president said.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The speaker also moved today to block action on impeaching the president. Texas Democratic Representative Al Green offered an impeachment resolution, but the House tabled it. Pelosi said Democrats need time first to finish investigations of Mr. Trump.

    House Democrats, meanwhile, moved this evening to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress. The two men had refused to provide documents behind the plan to plan a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The president has now abandoned that effort, but the issue was still very much alive on the House floor.

  • Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.:

    The departments have refused to provide key unredacted documents that we need to understand the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about why they really made this decision.

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    If the Democrats can't impeach President Trump, they will instead hold his Cabinet in contempt of Congress. This is just another episode in political theater. This exercise is not a responsible use of the contempt authority.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Despite the House action, it is unlikely the U.S. Justice Department will actually prosecute Barr or Ross on the contempt citation.

    The Pentagon announced today that it is sending another 1,000 Texas National Guard and an additional 1,100 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. They will join about 4,500 troops already deployed for logistical support and aerial surveillance. The Trump administration has said the troops are needed to backstop border agents, who face a surge of migrants.

    The Mexican drug kingpin known as El Chapo has been sentenced to life in a U.S. prison without parole. A federal judge in New York imposed the penalty on Joaquin Guzman today. Prosecutors said that Guzman's Sinaloa cartel smuggled mountains of cocaine into the U.S. over 25 years and killed those who stood in the way.

  • Brian Benczkowski:

    The long road that led Chapo Guzman from the mountains of Sinaloa to the courthouse behind us today was paved with death, drugs and destruction. But it ended today with justice.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The judge also ordered Guzman to pay more than $12 billion in drug earnings.

    Newly released federal data shows pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. stepped up shipments of opioid painkillers as the addiction epidemic exploded. Between 2006 and 2012, the shipments rose more than 50 percent, totaling 76 billion pills. The data was released by a federal judge in Ohio who is presiding over hundreds of lawsuits against the drugmakers.

    The World Health Organization has declared an international health emergency over the Ebola outbreak in Congo. Today's action follows the virus spread into Goma, a city of two million people close to neighboring Rwanda. Ebola has also appeared in Uganda. The year-old outbreak has infected thousands in Congo and left more than 1,600 dead. But until now, the WHO had declined to declare an emergency.

    In Sudan, the ruling military council and pro-democracy leaders signed an agreement today to share power, following months of political deadlock. Representatives from the two sides met in Khartoum for the signing. Opposition leaders said it was the beginning of a new era.

  • Ibrahim Al-Amin (through translator):

    Today, we look forward to a new phase, one where we can rely on ourselves, and move away from all that divides us. Sudan is for all Sudanese people, and, yes, those who signed here today are a part of the revolution and are a part of the Sudanese people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Protest leaders had demanded an immediate transfer of power. Instead, it will take place over three years. The parties also have to work out the exact division of powers. All of this follows the overthrow of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir back in April.

    Senior citizens in Hong Kong took to the streets today in support of young pro-democracy activists. Thousands marched to the central government offices holding banners that read "Support the youngsters." They also accused police of using too much force. Demonstrations have engulfed the city in recent months, sparked by a proposal to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China.

    Back in this country, prosecutors in Massachusetts today dropped a sexual assault case against actor Kevin Spacey. He was accused of groping a young man at a Nantucket restaurant in 2016. But his accuser refused to testify about a missing cell phone. Spacey's lawyers said that text messages on it could vindicate him. Spacey has faced other allegations of sexual misconduct, but, so far, no other criminal charges.

    And on Wall Street, stocks gave ground on disappointing earnings reports and ongoing worries about trade tensions with China. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 115 points to close below 27220. The Nasdaq fell 37, and the S&P 500 was down 19.

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