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News Wrap: Zelenskiy denies Trump tried to blackmail him

In our news wrap Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy denied President Trump sought to blackmail him over military aid to Ukraine. Zelenskiy also vowed that his country would investigate whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, Apple has removed an app that helped Hong Kong protesters track police movements amid a backlash from Chinese state media.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: Ukraine's president denied that President Trump sought to blackmail him by withholding military aid unless Kiev investigated the president's Democratic rival Joe Biden.

    Volodymyr Zelensky also vowed for the first time that his country would investigate whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election. He said they'd also look into the Ukrainian gas company Burisma that is linked to Biden's son.

  • Volodymyr Zelensky (through translator):

    Indeed, we are ready to investigate the Burisma case and interference from the Ukrainian side into U.S. elections in 2016, if it happened. We are ready — and I have talked about this before — if it will be a joint investigative team of U.S. and Ukrainian general prosecutors.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump has claimed that Ukraine involvement in a democratic plot to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. But there has been no evidence to support this.

    Turkey's ground and air assault against Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria raged for a second day, as tens of thousands of civilians near the border attempted to flee. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters suspended their operations against the Islamic State to focus instead on battling Turkish troops.

    We will get an inside look at the conflict later in the program.

    Back in this country, more than 1.5 million people in Northern and Central California were in the dark today, after the state's largest utility shut off their electricity. Beginning yesterday, Pacific Gas and Electric deliberately cut off the power to avoid sparking wildfires, as strong winds moved through the drier-than-usual region.

    We will explore the impact of this unprecedented move right after the news summary.

    A powerful snowstorm is roaring through the Great Plains and the Central Rockies today, threatening to dump up to two feet of snow in some parts of the country. It was a slick morning commute for drivers in cities like Billings, Montana, and Rapid City, South Dakota, which saw eight inches of snow. And, in Denver, Colorado, temperatures plummeted nearly 64 degrees since yesterday.

    Apple has removed a digital app that helped Hong Kong protesters track police movements, amid a backlash from Chinese state media. Apple said the demonstrators had used the real-time mapping app, HKmap.live, to ambush law enforcement.

    In Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denounced any type of support for the ongoing protests.

  • Geng Shuang (through translator):

    I need to repeat again that the recent extreme and violent criminal acts happening in Hong Kong have challenged Hong Kong's rule of law and its social order.

    When it comes to these kinds of extreme and violent criminal acts, it is reasonable to oppose and resist, rather than support and connive.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The app appeared to be still working for users in Hong Kong who downloaded it before it was removed from Apple's app store.

    The Environmental Protection Agency in this country is proposing an overhaul to how communities test their water for lead contamination. It's the first time the rule has been revamped in three decades, and includes stricter testing requirements at schools and day care centers, among other things.

    That comes after tainted water crises in Flint, Michigan, Newark, New Jersey, and other areas exposed tens of thousands of residents to the toxic metal.

    The number of deaths linked to vaping has climbed to 26, up from just 18 — or rather, 18, just last week. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today almost 1,300 confirmed and probable cases of lung conditions tied to vaping. Every state but Alaska has now reported vaping-related illnesses.

    The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded today to Austrian author Peter Handke and Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk. Two recipients were announced this year, since no one won in 2018 following a sexual misconduct scandal involving the Swedish academy that bestows the honor.

    Tokarczuk hailed the academy today for recognizing literature from Central Europe.

  • Olga Tokarczuk:

    For me, as a Polish, it shows that, despite all those problems with democracy in my country, we still have something to say to the world, and we have very strong literature, very strong culture. And I am part of this big, big power.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Her fellow recipient, Peter Handke, has long faced criticism for defending the Serbs during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s.

    Today, the nonprofit organization PEN America issued a rare statement opposing his Nobel win. It cited that Handke has — quote — "persistently called into question thoroughly documented war crimes."

    The Federal Reserve today voted to loosen restrictions imposed on banks following the 2008 financial crisis. The move was a follow-up to legislation Congress passed last year to roll back parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank act. The changes would relax capital requirements and rules on so called living wills that big banks must develop if they fail.

    And stocks rallied today, as a new round of high-level trade talks between the U.S. and China got under way in Washington. President Trump said the negotiations were going — quote — "really, really well," but he provided no specifics.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 150 points to close at 26496. The Nasdaq rose 47, and the S&P 500 added more than 18.

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