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News Wrap: Trump treason comment was a joke, says White House

In our news wrap Tuesday, the White House says President Trump was joking when he suggested it might have been treasonous for Democrats not to applaud his State of the Union speech. Some Republicans joined Democrats in objecting to the president's words. Also, the Turkish president aimed a new warning at U.S. troops in Syria, telling them to leave Manbij.

Read the Full Transcript

  • John Yang:

    In the day's other news- The White House says President Trump was joking yesterday when he suggested Democrats it might have been treasonous not to applaud his State of the Union speech.

    Press Secretary Sarah Sanders faced a barrage of questions.

  • Sarah Sanders:

    The president was clearly joking with his comments, but what isn't a joke is that Democrats refuse to celebrate the accomplishments of last year that has helped all Americans.

    Democrats are going to have to make a decision at some point really soon- Do they hate this president more than they love this country? And I hope the answer to that is no.

  • John Yang:

    A number of Democrats strongly objected to the president's words, and some Republicans joined them.

    Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona spoke on the Senate floor.

  • Sen. Jeff Flake:

    I have seen the president's most ardent defenders use the now-weary argument that the president's comments were meant as a joke, just sarcasm, only tongue in cheek. But treason is not a punchline, Mr. President.

  • John Yang:

    The president himself didn't mention the criticism of his comments at his lone public event today.

    The White House declined to say today whether President Trump will agree to be interviewed by the special counsel in the Russia investigation.

    The New York Times reported Mr. Trump's lawyers are concerned that the president could be charged with lying to investigators. The Times reported that some of his legal team are recommending he decline to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

    The president of Turkey has aimed a new warning at U.S. troops in Syria. Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the U.S. today of working against Turkish interests by supporting Kurdish militia fighters. Turkey's military is now attacking the Kurds around Afrin on Northwest Syria. U.S. troops are near Manbij, less than 100 miles to the east.

    In Ankara, Erdogan warned the American forces to leave Manbij.

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogant (through interpreter):

    Why are you standing around? Go ahead and leave. And you are still telling us not to come to Manbij. We will come to Manbij to deliver the land to its true owners. This is our difference.

  • John Yang:

    Turkey insists the Kurdish fighters in Syria are allied with Kurdish rebels inside Turkey.

    Meanwhile, Russian and Syrian government forces launched heavy new airstrikes in a rebel area near Damascus. They blasted a string of towns in the eastern Ghouta region. Activists and a war monitoring group says that at least 45 people were killed. A top U.N. investigator said the attacks amount to international crimes.

    The president of Poland signed a law today that makes it illegal to blame the Polish nation for Holocaust crimes. Israel and the United States argued the law whitewashes Polish collaboration with Nazi invaders in World War II. But President Andrzej Duda joined with far-right nationalist groups and insisted Poles were not responsible for what the Nazis did.

  • President Andrzej Duda (through interpreter):

    This is my decision. I think this is a solution which secures Polish interests, our dignity, historical truth, that we are judged fairly in the world and that we shouldn't be blamed as a state and as a nation.

  • John Yang:

    The measure would impose prison sentences of up to three years for using such phrases as Polish death camps.

    Back in this country, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to revamp how it handles sexual harassment claims. From now on, House members themselves, and not taxpayers, will have to foot the bill to settle harassment claims.

    In addition, employees no longer have to undergo counseling and mediation before pursuing a claim.

    And SpaceX scored a coup today, launching the world's largest operating rocket. The Falcon Heavy blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on its very first test. It carried a Tesla Roadster toward a solar orbit. Billionaire Elon Musk owns both Tesla and SpaceX.

    We will have a full report later in the program.

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