WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, still stewing from the release last week of a scathing book about his first year in office, renewed his call to alter libel laws on Wednesday, saying his administration would take a “a very, very strong look” at them.

The trouble for Trump: It is not law but a landmark Supreme Court ruling that set a high constitutional bar for public figures to claim libel.

“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness,” he told reporters during a lengthy introduction to a Cabinet meeting.

“You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” Trump said.

The book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” has drawn huge sales and publicity, despite concerns over many of its details, in part driven by Trump’s unsuccessful effort to block its publication. It depicts Trump as incompetent, incurious and unstable and asserts that his staff has little confidence in his ability to govern.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Scalise ‘resting comfortably’ and in fair condition after surgery

WASHINGTON — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was “resting comfortably” and in fair condition on Wednesday after a planned surgery in Washington, D.C., hospital officials reported.

The Louisiana Republican will likely remain in the hospital for several days before continuing his recovery at home, according to a press release from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where doctors performed the operation.

The timetable for Scalise’s return to the Capitol is unclear, though he indicated on Tuesday before the surgery that he would at least be working from bed soon after the operation.

“I will remain fully engaged in my work as I heal from this procedure,” Scalise said in a statement. “I look forward to returning to the Capitol as soon as I can within the coming weeks.”

Scalise missed more than three months last year after a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers in Alexandria, Va., on the eve of the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

Scalise suffered severe internal organ damage when a bullet tore through his hip as he fled to right field.

He returned to Congress in a wheelchair in September but had been seen walking around the Capitol on crutches in the weeks leading up to his surgery Wednesday.

—CQ Roll Call


Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin opt to settle divorce out of court to spare young son embarrassment

Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner agreed Wednesday to finalize their divorce out of court, seeking to protect their 6-year-old son from an embarrassing public separation.

The agreement between the top aide to Hillary Clinton and the convicted ex-congressman came the same day their case was scheduled to be heard by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Katz.

“In order to ensure the proceedings have a minimal impact on their child, the parties have decided to finalize their divorce swiftly and privately,” Abedin attorney Charles Miller said in a statement.

The judge confirmed from the bench that the case had been discontinued.

Abedin filed for divorce in May and listed the case as “contested,” indicating there was a dispute between her and her husband.

Matrimonial cases are sealed. The couple could re-file their divorce as “uncontested,” meaning they would not have to appear in court.

A call to Weiner’s attorney was not immediately returned. He is currently serving a 21-month sentence for sexting a teenage girl.

—New York Daily News


Lawmakers look into SpaceX launch that ended with lost satellite

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers said they will receive classified briefings on a secret U.S. government satellite that apparently crashed into the sea after it was launched by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

“The first statement by SpaceX was that the failure to achieve orbit was not theirs,” so there’s no reason so far to question the company’s planned participation in NASA space projects, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, a former astronaut and the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transport Committee, said Wednesday before being briefed.

SpaceX and Boeing Co. are partners in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which aims to revive human spaceflights from Nelson’s state.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket seemed to lift off successfully from the pad at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday carrying a classified payload in a mission code-named Zuma, but the satellite has gone missing. The Defense Department and the Air Force have repeatedly referred questions to SpaceX.

“After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly,” SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement Tuesday. If that’s confirmed by Defense Department investigators, it leaves open possibilities such as a failure in the coupling that was supposed to release the satellite from the rocket.

Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp., which manufactured the satellite and chose SpaceX for the mission, declined to comment on the coupling, saying “we cannot comment on classified missions.”

—Bloomberg News


Iran suspends death penalty for some drug crimes, potentially sparing thousands on death row

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has lifted the death penalty for certain nonviolent drug offenses, relaxing some of the world’s harshest laws on drug crimes and potentially sparing the lives of thousands of death row inmates.

An amended narcotics law directs judges to suspend executions for 5,000 people convicted of drug-related offenses and review their cases, Mizan news agency, the mouthpiece of Iran’s judiciary, reported Wednesday.

Most of the 5,000 convicts would have their punishments “converted to life sentences,” Mohammad Ali Esfanani, assistant judge of the Iranian Supreme Court, told state media.

A spokesman for the judiciary committee of Iran’s Parliament, Hasan Nourouzi, told the Jam-e-Jam daily newspaper that violent drug offenders — including those who had committed murder in the course of drug crimes — would still be subject to the death penalty if convicted.

But the moratorium on executions for those found guilty of nonviolent crimes — such as drug smuggling — is a victory for reformists and human rights advocates who fought for years to change Iran’s draconian drug laws. Proponents of the changes say that 90 percent of those imprisoned on drug convictions are first-time offenders younger than 30 years old.

—Los Angeles Times


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