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News Wrap: Pentagon official resigns in impeachment fallout

In our news wrap Wednesday, John Rood, a top Pentagon official, is the latest to be purged since President Trump's impeachment trial over the delay in sending military aid to Ukraine. Rood said he is leaving at the president's request. Also, the U.S. Justice Department is denying reports that Attorney General William Barr might quit over frustration with Trump's tweeting.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Six Democratic presidential candidates face off tonight in Las Vegas, and, for the first time, Michael Bloomberg will be on the debate stage.

    The former New York City mayor is not officially competing in Saturday's caucuses in Nevada, but he has been surging in national polls.

    We will have a report from Las Vegas after the news summary.

    The U.S. Justice Department is denying reports that Attorney General William Barr might quit over frustration with President Trump. The president has ignored Barr's plea to stop tweeting about ongoing investigations and court cases. But a spokesman at Justice said last night that Barr has no plans to resign, and a White House spokesman said much the same today.

  • Hogam Gidley:

    The president and the attorney general actually do agree that there have been some grave injustices throughout the federal government. And we have confidence that Attorney General Barr will do what's right to make sure that justice is served.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president said Tuesday that he will go on speaking his mind and using social media to do it.

    A top Pentagon official is resigning, the latest government employee to be purged since President Trump's impeachment trial. John Rood signed off a certification last year to allow the release of U.S. military aid to Ukraine. But Mr. Trump's delay in sending the aid triggered the impeachment inquiry.

    In his resignation letter, Rood said he is leaving at the president's request.

    Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was back home today, after President Trump commuted his prison sentence. Supporters cheered as he walked out of his home in Chicago with his wife and daughters. He declared himself a freed political prisoner and — quote — a Trumpocrat.

  • Rod Blagojevich:

    How do you properly thank someone who's given you back a freedom that was stolen from you? He didn't have to do this. He's a Republican president. I was a Democratic governor. And doing this does nothing to help his politics.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Blagojevich served eight years of a 14-year sentence. He had been convicted of trying to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois that was vacated by President Obama.

    In China, health inspectors finished door-to-door inspections in Wuhan, the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak. The city's hospitals are still full of patients, with China reporting 74,500 cases nationwide and 2,100 deaths. But officials counted only a few hundred new cases today.

    And, in Japan, officials ended a two-week quarantine of a cruise ship, while confirming 79 more cases.

    We will return to this story later in the program.

    Turkey issued a new warning to Syria today to stop attacks that are driving thousands of people toward the Turkish border. It followed failed talks with Russia. Moscow is backing the Syrian offensive in Idlib province. It's the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria.

    In Ankara, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that time is running out for the Syrians to stop.

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (through translator):

    We are entering the last days for the Syrian regime to end its offensive in Idlib and retreat to the boundaries of the existing agreement. We are delivering our final warnings.

    The operation in Idlib is imminent. To the regime and those who encourage it, who haven't understood our determination on this subject, we will not leave Idlib.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Since December, some 900,000 Syrians have fled to makeshift camps at the Turkish border in bitter cold. U.N. officials said today that scores are being killed by Russian and Syrian airstrikes.

    Back in this country, a federal appeals court found today that Florida has wrongly barred former felons from voting unless they pay their court fees. That upholds a lower court's ruling against a law that was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature. But the Republican governor plans to appeal. A state referendum in 2018 approved restoring voting rights to 1.6 million ex-convicts.

    On Wall Street today, stocks again shook off worries about the virus outbreak in China. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 115 points to close at 29348. The Nasdaq rose 84 points, to a new record high. And the S&P 500 added 15 points, also hitting a new high.

    And today marked 75 years since the Battle of Iwo Jima began in World War II. U.S. Marines landed on the Pacific island, touched off 36 days of savage fighting. Nearly 7,000 Americans and 22,000 Japanese troops were killed. The battle is best known for the image of victorious Marines raising the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi.

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