News Wrap: Syrian secret police officer sentenced to life in prison for war crimes

In our news wrap Thursday, a court in Germany convicted a former Syrian secret police officer for crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison over the torture of more than 4,000 detainees, the top House Republican defended his refusal to cooperate with Jan. 6 probe, and the Republican National Committee plans to forbid presidential nominees from participating in election debates.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: The leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia was arrested in last year's attack on the U.S. Capitol.

    Stewart Rhodes and 10 alleged members of his group are charged with seditious conspiracy. It's the most serious charge yet in connection with the January 6 assault.

    We will get the details after the news summary.

    The top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives is defending his refusal to cooperate with a congressional probe of January 6. Investigators want to ask Kevin McCarthy about contacts with President Trump before — former President Trump before, during, and after that day.

    McCarthy said today that their discussion of January 6 itself would be of no help.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):

    My conversation was very short, advising the president what was happening here. There is nothing that I can provide the January 6 Committee for legislation of them moving forward. There is nothing in that realm.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Also today, the committee subpoenaed social media giants Meta, Alphabet, Twitter, and Reddit. The focus is on how they helped spread misinformation in the run-up to January 6.

    The Republican National Committee is threatening to boycott presidential debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The RNC said today that it will bar its 2024 nominee from taking part unless the commission addresses GOP complaints of unfair treatment. In turn, the nonpartisan body defended its handling of the debates.

    President Biden and congressional Democrats opened a new push today for voting rights legislation, but made little headway. The House passed two bills aimed at blunting new laws in Republican-run states. Democrats say those laws will limit voting.

    Later, the president met with Democratic senators, who still lack the votes to pass their bills. He heatedly insisted they won't give up.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: I don't know that we can get it done, but I know one thing. As long as I have a breath in me, as long as I'm in the White House, as long as I'm engaged at all, I'm going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures have moved.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Democrats had vowed to change the Senate's filibuster rules to eliminate a 60-vote threshold for passing bills.

    But that effort also crumbled when Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema affirmed that she is opposed.

  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ):

    I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division affecting our country.

    In recent years, nearly every party-line response to the problems we face in this body, every partisan action taken to protect a cherished value has led us to more division.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fellow Democrat Joe Manchin that said he too will oppose changing the filibuster.

    We will return to this later in the show.

    In Germany, a court convicted a former Syrian secret police officer of crimes against humanity. Anwar Raslan was given life in prison for the torture of more than 4,000 detainees in Syria, before he sought asylum in Germany. Russia and China have blocked such cases from going to the International Criminal Court.

    Britain's Prince Andrew has been stripped of his military titles and royal public duties as a sexual abuse case moves forward in the U.S. Buckingham Palace announced the move today. It said that Andrew will act as a private citizen in facing charges that he abused a 17-year-old girl in 2001.

    Back in this country, Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, has again been denied parole. California Governor Gavin Newsom rejected Sirhan's bid today, saying that he has never accepted responsibility for his crime. Sirhan is now 77 years old.

    Thousands of inmates will begin transferring out of federal prisons this week and into home confinement or halfway houses. It's part of a criminal justice overhaul that former President Trump authorized in 2018. Inmates will earn time off sentences for taking part in programs ranging from anger management to drug treatment.

    A major student loan collection firm, Navient, has settled charges that it misled students into running up even more debt. The agreement with 39 states cancels debts of $1.7 billion. It affects more than 66,000 borrowers.

    In economic news, wholesale inflation rose just 2/10ths of a percent in December, after jumping a full point in November.

    And, on Wall Street today, tech stocks led the way lower. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 176 points to close at 36113. The Nasdaq fell 381 points. That's 2.5 percent. The S&P 500 slipped 67.

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