In our news wrap Wednesday, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions locked horns over the Russia investigations, with the president tweeting disapproval over Session’s use of the inspector general to look into possible FBI abuse of surveillance powers. Also, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty to updated federal charges.
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In the day’s other news- President Trump got into a new dispute with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, over the Russia investigation. Sessions had announced the Justice Department’s inspector general will look into whether the FBI abused its surveillance powers.
This morning, Mr. Trump tweeted the review — quote — “will take forever” and he asked- “Why not use Justice Department lawyers? Disgraceful.”
Sessions responded in a statement that said- “I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.”
Meanwhile, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty today to updated federal charges in the Russia investigation. They involve money laundering and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. The judge set Manafort’s trial date for September 17.
In Syria, there was no sign of a truce in the Damascus suburbs, despite Russia’s call for a daily pause in fighting. No civilians turned up at a checkpoint to exit Eastern Ghouta today, as Syrian and Russian forces waited. No aid went in, either.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin claimed that some civilians did get out of Eastern Ghouta, despite rebel attacks.
President Vladimir Putin (through interpreter):
There is constant shelling from there. On some days, there are up to 50 or 80 rocket and mortar strikes. We have managed to get out quite a big group of those who wanted to leave from there. But the second group that was prepared could not leave because the militants just didn’t give them an opportunity to do that.
Syrian war monitors said they could not confirm that anyone has been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta.
The government of Afghanistan offered today to recognize the Taliban as a lawful political party if it joins in a peace process. The goal is to end more than 16 years of war. President Ashraf Ghani addressed an international conference in Kabul, and he called for the militant group to help save the country.
Ashraf Ghani (through interpreter):
The Taliban leadership and every other Taliban, you have the decision to make. Accept peace, accept it with honor and come together, so we can make this country safe and secure, which is the heritage of our sacrifices, jihad and our blood.
The Taliban had no immediate response to the offer.
Back in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case that focuses on what to wear when voting. Justices heard arguments today on a Minnesota law that bars most politically themed clothing at the polls. A number of states have similar laws, but Minnesota’s is broader than most.
Teachers in at least two West Virginia counties are refusing to go back to work tomorrow after a five-day strike. That’s despite the governor’s offer to raise pay 5 percent. Most teachers are expected back tomorrow, but some are holding out for lower health insurance premiums.
The U.S. Olympic Committee announced a shakeup today, amid the scandal over sexual abuse of young gymnasts. CEO Scott Blackmun said that he’s resigning after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. The USOC is investigating how Blackmun and others handled the abuse issue.
On Wall Street, worries about higher interest rates triggered another sell-off. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 380 points to close at 25,029. The Nasdaq fell 57, and the S&P 500 dropped 30. Both the Dow and the S&P had their worst months in two years.
And President Trump and Congress paid tribute to Billy Graham today, as his casket arrived at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The late evangelist is just the fourth private citizen to lie in honor there. The president, lawmakers, and hundreds of others turned out.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell eulogized the man who came to be known as America’s pastor.
Sen. Mitch McConnell:
The man we recognize today shared the Gospel with more people face-to-face than anyone else in history. His clear voice thundered through packed tents, stadiums, auditoriums, parks and plazas the world over. His warmth and graciousness lit up living rooms and touched hundreds of millions of hearts.
Billy Graham died last week at the age of 99. He will lie in honor through tomorrow. His funeral will be Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina.