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News Wrap: Senate opens ethics probe into Franken allegations

In our news wrap Thursday, the Senate Ethics Committee opened an investigation into Sen. Al Franken as a fifth woman came forward to claim he groped her during a USO comedy tour in Kuwait. Also, music mogul Russell Simmons announced he is stepping down from Def Jam Recordings and his other companies over allegations of sexual misconduct.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news, the Senate Ethics Committee opened an investigation into Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, this on the day a woman became the fifth to accuse him of groping her. An Army veteran, she said it happened in Kuwait in 2003, when Franken was a comedian on a USO tour, and having pictures taken.

    Meanwhile, Congressman Joe Barton said that he will not run for reelection after a nude photo of him was posted online. Elected in 1984, Barton is the longest serving House member from Texas.

    Also today, music mogul Russell Simmons announced that he is stepping down from Def Jam Recordings and his other companies over allegations of sexual misconduct.

    And Matt Lauer issued an apology after being ousted from NBC's Today Show.

    He said, in part: "Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

    Washington was alive with talk today that Rex Tillerson may be pushed out as secretary of state, and replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The New York Times and others reported that it's being actively discussed inside the administration, but it said President Trump has not yet approved the plan.

    On camera, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders didn't directly deny the reports.

  • Sarah Sanders:

    When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they're in. The president was here today with the secretary of state. They engaged in a foreign leader visit and are continuing to work together to close out what we have seen to be an incredible year.

    The secretary of state's a pretty tough guy. I think he will be just fine carrying this job out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the State Department said today that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Tillerson's chief of staff today and told her that the news reports are not true.

    In Britain, the furor grew today over President Trump's using Twitter to spread anti-Muslim videos from a far-right British activist group. Politicians in and out of the government condemned Mr. Trump. Prime Minister Theresa May was in Amman, Jordan. She spoke out again after the president reacted to her criticism by urging her to focus on Islamist terrorism, instead of on him.

  • Prime Minister Theresa May:

    The fact that we work together doesn't mean that we're afraid to say when we think the United States has got it wrong, and to be very clear with them. And I'm very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Despite that criticism, May's government rejected new calls to cancel Mr. Trump's state visit planned for next year.

    The Pentagon now says that at least 800 civilians have died in airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group. The number released today includes deaths in Iraq and Syria since 2014. Various monitoring groups, however, say the count is far higher.

    Pope Francis appealed today for decisive measures to end the crisis engulfing the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands have fled a military crackdown in the Buddhist country. Now they're crowded into refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. The pope avoided using the term Rohingya today, as he arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar, but he sharpened his language.

  • Pope Francis (through interpreter):

    None of us can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation, the immense toll of human suffering involved, and the precarious living conditions of so many of our brothers and sisters, a majority of whom are women and children, crowded in refugee camps.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid, accused Myanmar of — quote — "ruthless atrocities" against the Rohingya.

    Back in this country, President Trump has nominated economist Marvin Goodfriend for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. The Carnegie Mellon University professor would fill one of three empty seats. The nomination, for a 14-year term, is subject to Senate confirmation.

    And the actor who gained fame as TV's Gomer Pyle in the 1960s, has died. Jim Nabors passed away today at his home in Hawaii. He first played the dim-witted, but good-hearted Gomer character on "The Andy Griffith Show." Then he had a five-year run as a Marine recruit in "Gomer Pyle, USMC." Nabors also had an operatic voice that he showcased on variety shows and Las Vegas stages. Jim Nabors was 87 years old.

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