In the our news wrap Wednesday, President Trump is reportedly ending a secret CIA program that arms and trains moderate rebels in Syria. The program's goal was to combat the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but it had limited effects after Russia intervened to aid Assad. Also, Iran intensified its defiant response Wednesday to the latest round of U.S. sanctions.
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Senate Republicans are trying again to see if there is a way forward on health care reform. Their latest bill to replace Obamacare collapsed yesterday, but party leaders say it may not be dead yet, after a repeal-only option also ran into opposition.
President Trump called the caucus to the White House today. He said he is now ready to act, and insisted that inaction is not an option.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
Frankly, I don't think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we can give our people great health care, because we're close. We're very close.
Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you're fine with Obamacare.
Afterward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he still aims to hold a vote next week, but it's not clear on what.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader:
I think we all agree it's better to both repeal and replace. But we could have a vote on either. And if we end up voting on repeal only, it will be fully amendable on the Senate floor. And if it were to pass without any amendment at all, there's a two-year delay before it kicks in.
We will be talking to two Republican senators about the state of play on health care reform after the news summary.
Separately, there's word that President Trump is ending a CIA program to arm and train moderate rebels in Syria. The goal was to fight the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but it had only limited effects after Russia intervened to aid Assad.
The Washington Post reports the president made the decision nearly a month ago, before he met with Russian's President Putin at the G20 summit. Afterward, the U.S. and Russia announced a limited cease-fire in Syria. The Post account says that the aid decision is part of a strategy to negotiate more such deals.
Iran today stepped up its defiant response to the latest round of U.S. sanctions. They target 18 individuals and companies assisting the Iranian ballistic missile program.
In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani charged that the U.S. measures are inconsistent with the 2016 nuclear deal. And he warned of reciprocal acts.
PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter):
If Americans pass new sanctions in any form, or under any pretext in Congress or elsewhere, the great nation of Iran will have an appropriate answer. We won't ignore violations by the United States, and will stand up to them.
Also, the head of the hard-line Revolutionary Guards warned that the U.S. had better pull its military forces back at least 1,000 kilometers, or 600 miles, from Iran.
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a split ruling on enforcing the president's travel ban. The court today allowed the administration to strictly enforce a ban on refugees while an appeal moves through lower courts. But the justices expanded the list of people from six mostly Muslim nations who are allowed to visit the U.S.
Back in this country, the Justice Department is restoring authority to local police to seize money and property on suspicion they come from criminal activity. The assets can be taken even without criminal charges being brought. The Obama administration had curbed the practice, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions today eased the restrictions.
On Wall Street, tech and health care stocks fueled a day of record highs across the board. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 66 points to close at 21640. The Nasdaq rose 40, and the S&P 500 added 13.
And Salem, Massachusetts, today marked 325 years since five women were hanged in the infamous witch trials. They were among 19 people condemned and hanged for witchcraft in Salem in 1692. A descendant of one of them said it brings justice to the fact that they were wrongly accused.