In our news wrap Friday, the impasse over a Senate impeachment trial of President Trump is ending. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she'll move next week to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Also, the final U.S. jobs report of 2019 shows hiring was a little slower in December. The Labor Department announced the economy added a net of 145,000 jobs -- a bit below projections.
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The impasse over a Senate impeachment trial of President Trump is ending.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today, the House will move next week to send the two articles of impeachment to the Senate. She with — withheld them, rather, for three weeks, hoping Senate Republicans would allow witnesses at the trial.
Today, the speaker wrote to House Democrats, saying — quote — "Every senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the president or the Constitution."
It remains unclear exactly when the Senate trial would begin.
The final jobs report of 2019 shows U.S. hiring was a little slower in December. The Labor Department announced today the economy added a net of 145,000 jobs, a bit below projections. The unemployment rate held at 3.5 percent. That is still a 50-year low. Overall, the economy added 2.1 million jobs last year. That is down from 2.7 million in 2018.
Iran issued new denials today that one of its own missiles shot down a Ukrainian airliner outside Tehran this week. The crash killed all 176 people on board. The U.S., Canada, and others say it is likely the Iranians accidentally fired on the plane.
But Iran's top aviation official insisted today that's not true.
Ali Abedzadeh (through translator):
What we can say with absolute certainty is that no missile has hit this plane. As I said last night, the plane flew while on fire for more than 1.5 minutes, and the crash site shows that the pilot had decided to return to the airport.
Later, Iran's ambassador to Britain denied reports that the crash site has already been bulldozed.
But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised — quote — "appropriate response" if Iran did indeed shoot down the plane.
It now appears the U.S. killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani one week ago was part of a broader plan. Reports today said a U.S. airstrike that same day failed to kill a senior Iranian commander operating in Yemen.
Meanwhile, Secretary Pompeo insisted again that Soleimani posed an imminent threat. He also echoed President Trump's new claim that U.S. embassies in Iraq and elsewhere were at risk.
We had specific information on an imminent threat, and that threat stream included attacks on U.S. embassies, period, full stop.
I don't know exactly which minute. We don't know exactly which day it would have been executed. But it was very clear Qasem Soleimani himself was plotting a broad, large-scale attack against American interests, and those attacks were imminent.
Pompeo said he relayed the same information in briefings to Congress this week, but several Democratic lawmakers disputed that claim.
Also today, the U.S. announced more sanctions against Iran, this time on the country's manufacturing, mining and textile sectors, plus eight senior officials.
The Trump administration has rejected Iraq's call for the withdrawal of 5,200 U.S. troops deployed there. Today, caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi asked Washington to send a delegation to Baghdad to work out departure details. The State Department dismissed the request, saying U.S. troops are — quote — "a force for good in Iraq."
We will focus on this in detail after the news summary.
In Syria, airstrikes hit a pro-Iranian militia today, killing at least eight fighters. Activists said unidentified warplanes struck in the Al-Bukamal area, near the Iraqi border, hitting weapons depots and vehicles. The militia claimed the planes were from Israel. The Israelis didn't comment, but they have repeatedly hit targets linked to Iran in Syria in recent years.
Nearly a quarter of a million people in Southeastern Australia were urged to leave their homes today, as extreme wildfire conditions returned. People in New South Wales and Victoria states faced triple-digit temperatures and winds up to 60 miles an hour.
In Victoria, planes dropped fire-retardant chemicals and water. Leaders called for patience in the long days ahead.
With so much fire in the landscape, we're just going to continue to see fires getting a run on, fires flaring up for weeks to come.
Even with rain in Melbourne, even with forecast better conditions next week, there is a long way to go in what has been an unprecedented fire event, certainly so early on in the fire season.
At least 27 people have died in the fires.
Back in this country, much of the South is on high alert tonight for possible tornadoes, flooding rains and hail the size of baseballs. Multiple tornado warnings were issued in Oklahoma during the day. Parts of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas are also at risk, involving more than 18 million people.
Texas will become the first state to reject new refugees, after taking in more than any other state in the last fiscal year. Governor Greg Abbott said today Texas has done more than its share. In November, President Trump administration mandated that agencies get written consent from cities and states before resettling refugees; 42 other states have agreed to take in new refugees.
Boeing is facing new disclosures that employees hid problems with the 737 MAX, and expressed doubts about its safety. A batch of internal e-mails and texts was released on Thursday. In one, an employee said — quote — "I still haven't been forgiven by God for the covering up I did."
Another employee wrote — quote — "This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn are supervised by monkeys."
The 737 MAX was grounded in March after two crashes killed 346 people.
Today, a major supplier to Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, announced it will lay off 2,800 workers in Wichita, Kansas.
And, on Wall Street, stocks retreated after December jobs numbers came in slightly lower than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 133 points to close at 28823. The Nasdaq was down 24 points, and the S&P 500 slipped nine.
And the Democratic presidential field has contracted again. Self-help author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson ended her run today. She said she could not get the votes to compete in caucuses and primaries that begin next month.
Her departure leaves 13 Democrats still running.