U.S. intelligence chiefs last week presented President-elect Donald Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had compromising information about him, officials with knowledge of the briefing said Tuesday. The summary, delivered as an appendix to a joint intelligence report on Russian hacking during the election season, was based on memos by political operatives who were trying to derail Trump's campaign. The information came from a former British intelligence operative considered credible by U.S. intelligence officials, although it has not been verified. Trump, who is expected to face questions on Russian hacking and his business ties in a Wednesday news conference, tweeted that the report was "a total political witch hunt." The Kremlin said it had no compromising dossier on Trump.
Report claims Russia may have 'compromising' information on Trump
Obama thanks Americans, expresses optimism and concerns in farewell speech
President Obama delivered an emotional farewell address to the nation from his adopted hometown of Chicago on Tuesday night, thanking Americans for keeping him honest, and making him a "better president" and a "better man." Obama expressed optimism for the nation despite deep political divisions in the wake of a divisive election. He vowed to continue his civic activism after leaving office in just over a week, but warned economic inequality, racism, and hardline anti-immigrant sentiment threatened to weaken U.S. democracy. "We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others," he said, "when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them."
Sessions counters over his civil rights record in confirmation hearing
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general, said in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that Democrats' criticism of his civil rights record was a "false caricature." Sessions acknowledged "the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters," and he vowed that the Justice Department under his direction would "never falter in its obligation to protect the rights of every American." Civil rights advocates called for delaying Sessions' confirmation, repeating longstanding concerns over his record on race issues. At least five protesters were dragged out of the hearing room, some shouting, "No Trump, no KKK, no racist U.S.A." Under pressure, Republicans delayed hearings on four other Trump nominees to allow ethics officials to thoroughly vet them.
Trump calls on Congress to quickly repeal, then replace ObamaCare
President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Congress to swiftly repeal President Obama's signature health care reform law, then replace it. "We have to get to business," Trump said. "ObamaCare has been a catastrophic event." Trump said Congress should vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act "probably some time next week," and that "the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter." The Senate plans a Thursday vote on a budget resolution to begin paving the way for a repeal bill, but Republicans are far from agreeing on the form of a system to replace ObamaCare.
Bombs kill dozens in Afghanistan
Two bombs blew up near heavily guarded sites in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, on Tuesday, killing more than 30 people near the parliament building and security agencies. The first bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber, and the second was planted in a car, exploding after security forces arrived in response to the first blast. Dozens of people were wounded in the attacks in what became the bloodiest day of Taliban attacks Kabul had seen in months, undermining government claims that U.S.-aided forces were gaining momentum in their fight to control the Taliban. In southern Afghanistan, a blast at a guesthouse belonging to the provincial governor killed another five people in Kandahar.
Jury sentences Dylann Roof to death for Charleston church massacre
A jury on Tuesday convicted Dylann Roof to death for hate crimes in the murder of nine black worshippers at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof, a 22-year-old self-proclaimed white supremacist, did not cross-examine prosecution witnesses, or call witnesses of his own during the penalty phase of the trial, and said in his closing remarks, "I still feel like I had to do it." He has said he wanted the killings to start a race war. The sentence won't be formal until a Wednesday hearing, but U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel is bound by law to follow the jury's decision.
Supreme Court temporarily blocks order to redraw N.C. districts
The Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked a lower-court ruling ordering North Carolina legislators to redraw state legislative districts, to give the justices time to consider whether to hear the appeal. Under the ruling, North Carolina had until March 15 to redraw the districts, and it was to hold special elections in the new districts this fall. State Republican legislative leaders and other officials had requested the delay. The lower court ordered the changes after a summer decision to throw out 28 state House and Senate districts, calling them illegal racial gerrymanders.
Taiwan scrambles jets as Chinese aircraft carrier passes
Taiwan scrambled military jets on Wednesday as China's only aircraft carrier entered the Taiwan Strait after months of mounting tensions in the region. China's Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier is returning from exercises in the South China Sea. Beijing said it was perfectly normal for it to pass through international waters on the way home. Taiwan said it had dispatched jets and navy ships to "surveil and control" the Chinese ships as they passed. Chang Hsiao-yueh, minister for Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said Taiwan's government "has sufficient capability to protect our national security," but there was no reason to "overly panic" over the incident.
Trump asks vaccine skeptic RFK Jr. to investigate vaccine safety
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a noted vaccine skeptic, said Tuesday that he had accepted an offer from President-elect Donald Trump to head a commission to investigate "vaccine safety and scientific integrity." "President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it," said Kennedy, son of the late attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of late President John F. Kennedy. "His opinion doesn't matter, but the science does matter." In 2015, Kennedy said drug companies can "put anything they want" into vaccines with no accountability, and suggested a connection between vaccines and autism.
Fox News paid to prevent sexual harassment suit against Bill O'Reilly
21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, paid long-time on-air personality Juliet Huddy a sum in the high six figures in exchange for an agreement not to sue over her allegation that the network's top host, Bill O'Reilly, made unwanted sexual advances in 2011 and derailed her career when she rebuffed them, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The company and O'Reilly's lawyer said Huddy's claims were false. Huddy's lawyers said in a draft of a letter to Fox News that was obtained by The New York Times that longtime Fox executive Jack Abernethy also had retaliated against Huddy after she indicated she did not want a personal relationship. The letter was sent weeks after former Fox News chief Roger Ailes was ousted over another sexual harassment scandal.