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News Wrap: McConnell asks for ethics probe after Franken accused of groping

In our news wrap Thursday, Leeann Tweeden says Sen. Al Franken insisted on rehearsing a kiss during a USO tour in 2006. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked for an ethics investigation into the matter. Also, a bipartisan group of senators has unveiled gun legislation to beef up the federal criminal background check system.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It has been a day marked by major news on two fronts.

    Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a $1.5 trillion tax package. President Trump hailed it a big step on the way to the first overhaul of our tax system in decades.

    And the cascade of accusations of sexual misconduct against men in positions of power continues. Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota is now the latest politician to face charges of harassment.

    John Yang has the story.

  • John Yang:

    A Los Angeles radio news anchor in Los Angeles, Leeann Tweeden, accused Minnesota Democrat Al Franken of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Kuwait.

  • Leeann Tweeden:

    He came at me. And before you even know, you would kind of get close and he just put his hand on the back of my head, and he mashed his face against — it happened to fast.

    And he just mashed his lips against my face. And he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast.

    And I said, "If you ever do that to me again, I'm not going to be so nice about it the second time."

    And I just walked out away from him.

    I don't know. I was violated. I just like felt he betrayed my trust.

  • John Yang:

    Tweeden also released a photo taken during the tour of Franken looking at the camera while his hands were over her chest as she slept.

    Franken apologized to Tweeden in a statement, saying he remembered the kissing incident differently. Of the photo, he said: "I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate."

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an ethics investigation, which Franken said he welcomed.

    Tweeden says she's not asking for him to leave the Senate.

  • Leeann Tweeden:

    You know, people make mistakes. I'm not calling for him to step down.

  • John Yang:

    Later, a second woman, Melanie Morgan, co-founder of a far-right Web site, Media Equalizer, said Franken harassed her after they appeared together on the show "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher" in 2000. Her claims were not sexual in nature.

    The response on Capitol Hill?

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham:

    I have no idea what the right answer is.

  • Sen. Jeff Flake:

    I just learned of it. We will see.

  • John Yang:

    Members of his own party also avoided weighing in.

  • Man:

    I think I should go vote.

  • Man:

    I cannot comment on any matter that may come before the committee.

  • John Yang:

    In Alabama, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was faced with three new allegations of sexual assault and harassment, including from two teenage girls.

  • Roy Moore:

    Many of you have recognized that this is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election.

    They got a call that said — asked me to step down from the campaign. Well, I want to tell you who needs to step down.

    That's Mitch McConnell.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • John Yang:

    On Capitol Hill today to talk taxes-

  • Question:

    Mr. President, should Roy Moore step aside? Should Roy Moore step aside?

  • Question:

    Is there any reaction to the Al Franken news, sir?

  • John Yang:

    President Trump ignored questions on both Franken and Moore.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm John Yang.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And late today, the Alabama Republican Party officially announced that it would stand by Judge Moore.

    In a statement, the party chair said — quote — "Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election, not the media or those from afar."

    We will talk to two influential members of Congress about the other lead story, a tax reform vote, right after the news summary.

    In the day's other news- A federal judge declared a mistrial in the bribery trial of Senator Robert Menendez. Jurors said they were deadlocked on all charges against the New Jersey Democrat, after a trial that lasted two-and-a-half months. We will have a full report later in the program.

    A bipartisan group of senators has unveiled gun legislation to beef up the federal criminal background check system. It comes after a man in Texas shot to death more than two dozen people at a church. His domestic assault conviction in the military was never reported to a national database. The bill would penalize federal agencies that fail to report relevant information.

    In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe was seen for the first time since Tuesday's apparent military coup put him under house arrest.

    John Ray of Independent Television News is in Zimbabwe. He reports from the capital city, Harare.

  • John Ray:

    The drama that will decide Zimbabwe's future glimpsed from a distance. Robert Mugabe's motorcade speeding to the presidential palace, still his, if only in name.

    Tonight, state media released pictures of Mugabe meeting the generals who want him out, not all carefully staged images. They suggest a deal might be close. No doubt who's in control. Just as slowly, just as surely as the army's convoys, this crisis is coming to a climax.

    Onto the stage, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai-

  • Morgan Tsvangirai:

    In the interests of the people of Zimbabwe, Mr. Robert Mugabe must resign, step down immediately, in line with the national sentiment and expectation.

  • John Ray:

    The adoring crowds that cheered Mugabe last week are gone. But he is stubborn. He wants safeguards for his wife, Grace.

    Her lavish lifestyle, more than anything, has angered Zimbabweans struggling in a country crumbling around them. Long weary of the greed, incompetence and corruption that's disfigured their politics, today, for the for the first time in a long time, Zimbabweans are daring to dream of a better tomorrow and hoping that this is not yet another false dawn.

    Ethel tells me she wants to be a lawyer. More likely, she will join the long ranks of jobless. But, already, the family speaks with a freedom they haven't known for years.

  • Maria Gwanzura:

    We are sick and tired of Mugabe. They must remove him for us to be better.

  • John Ray:

    If Robert Mugabe goes, what will that mean for you?

  • Ethel Gwanzura:

    Wow. To him, that would be a great blow, but, to us, that would be a great change. At least we have — we will have our Zimbabwe back.

  • John Ray:

    It was at the airport that Mugabe was last seen in public, renaming it in his own honor. His exit from power, if not the country, is surely close at hand.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That report from John Ray of Independent Television News.

    China today renewed its call for North Korea to halt nuclear and missile testing, if the U.S. halts military exercises with South Korea. It's called the freeze-for-freeze initiative, and Beijing said it's the most reasonable way forward.

    Just yesterday, President Trump said that China's President Xi had agreed the proposal is a nonstarter.

    A painting of Christ by Leonardo da Vinci has shattered the record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold. It was auctioned for $450 million last night at Christie's in New York. The work is titled Salvator Mundi, or Savior of the World, and depicts Christ holding an orb. It dates to around 1500. The winning bidder remains anonymous.

    And on Wall Street, stocks surged on strong corporate earnings from Wal-Mart and Cisco Systems. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 187 points to close at 23,458. The Nasdaq hit a record high, rising 87 points, and the S&P 500 added 21.

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