In our news wrap Thursday, the White House dismissed a federal watchdog agency’s call to fire Kellyanne Conway. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said Conway violated the Hatch Act by using her official capacity to disparage Democratic presidential candidates. Also, President Trump announced that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would be leaving the White House at the end of the month.
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We have two top stories tonight.
First, new eruptions at the White House.
President Trump is suggesting it is OK if other countries give him information to undermine his opponents. Top Democrats say he is inviting attempts to influence U.S. elections.
And new explosions in troubled waters. Attacks near the Persian Gulf have damaged a pair of oil tankers. The United States is blaming Iran.
We will return to both stories right after the news summary.
The White House today dismissed a call to fire presidential aide Kellyanne Conway. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller's office, said that Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act, a law that limits political activity by government employees.
The independent agency cited Conway's criticism of Democratic presidential candidates. It also quoted her as saying,"If you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work." The White House condemned the finding as deeply flawed.
Separately, President Trump announced that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving at the end of the month. At a White House event, he called her a warrior. Sanders said she is going home to Arkansas to spend more time with her family.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
This has been the honor of a lifetime, the opportunity of a lifetime. I couldn't be prouder to have had the opportunity to serve my country, and particularly to work for this president.
In the meantime, I'm going to continue to be one of the most outspoken and loyal supporters of the president and his agenda.
Sanders worked on the Trump campaign, joined the White House staff and took over as press secretary in mid-2017. Her tenure was marked by the end of regular media briefings and questions about her credibility.
In Hong Kong, there were smaller-scale protests today against extraditing criminal suspects to mainland China. Demonstrators sang protests against police use of tear gas and rubber bullets. The police, in turn, cleared barricades left by protesters after yesterday's violent clashes.
Turkey today denied reports of a cease-fire in Northwestern Syria. Instead, the Turks charged that Syrian forces deliberately attacked a Turkish outpost in Idlib province. Idlib is the last rebel-held province in Syria, but the Assad regime is pressing an offensive there, over Turkey's objections.
Mevlut Cavusoglu (through translator):
If the Syrian regime continues its attacks, we will do whatever is necessary. Nobody should doubt that. Russia and Iran, as guarantor countries, have to heap necessary pressure on Syrian government to stop these attacks. As guarantor countries, they need to fulfill their responsibilities.
More than three million Syrians have fled to Turkey during the Syrian civil war, and the Turks fear that fighting in Idlib will drive even more across the border.
Conservative Party lawmakers in Britain began voting today for a new prime minister, and Boris Johnson emerged as the Tories ' favorite. The former foreign secretary easily led the 10-candidate field after the first elimination round. Theresa May resigned as prime minister last week, after failing to secure a deal for leaving the European Union.
Back in this country, officials in Memphis, Tennessee, appealed for calm after U.S. Marshals shot and killed a black man last night. They said he was wanted on multiple felony warrants, and that they opened fire when he rammed his vehicle into theirs and pulled a gun. The killing triggered angry clashes with police that injured 25 officers and prompted a warning to the public.
We should all wait and make sure that we know exactly what happened before we spread misinformation or we jump to conclusions. But, you know, the Memphis Police Department, we have been very supportive of protests, but we will not allow any acts of violence.
The suspect's father said that his son was shot as many as 20 times. Officials said that they could not confirm that number.
The wife of California Congressman Duncan Hunter pled guilty today to spending $250,000 in campaign funds on a lavish lifestyle. Margaret Hunter entered the plea to a single corruption count in federal court in San Diego. It could set the stage for her to testify against her husband. The Republican congressman has blamed his wife for mishandling the funds.
Michigan prosecutors have dropped all criminal charges against eight people in the scandal over lead-tainted water in the city of Flint. The state's solicitor general announced plans today to restart the investigation. She said a previous prosecutor failed to pursue all the evidence. The initial probe began in 2016, and, so far, no one has served any jail time.
The field is now set for the first Democratic presidential debates, which are held later this month in Miami. The Democratic National Committee says that 20 of the 24 candidates made the cut, based on fund-raising and polling. Those left out are Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, Wayne Messam, who is the mayor of Miramar, Florida, and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel.
On Wall Street, jitters over the attacks near the Persian Gulf pushed up oil prices and stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 102 points to close at 26106. The Nasdaq rose 44 points, and the S&P 500 added 11.
And pro hockey's Saint Louis Blues celebrated their first Stanley Cup today. The Blues beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 in game seven of the finals last night. The victory came just five months after they were in last place. It also gave their fans something to cheer, after 52 years of waiting.