News Wrap: Putin travels to Syria to meet with Assad, military officials


In the day’s other news: Russia’s President
Vladimir Putin traveled to Syria, as the U.S. confrontation with Iran roiled the Middle
East. Syrian state media released images of Putin meeting with President Bashar al-Assad
in Damascus. The men also met with military commanders. Russia intervened in the Syrian
war in 2015. In the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell announced that Republicans have agreed on rules for President Trump’s impeachment
trial. He said he has the votes to delay a decision on calling witnesses until after
opening statements. That same process was used in President Clinton’s
impeachment trial. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): What was good
enough for President Clinton in an impeachment trial should’ve been good enough for President
Trump. And all we’re doing here is saying, we’re going to get started in exactly the
same way that 100 senators agreed to 20 years ago. JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats say the situation
is different now because the Trump White House blocked key officials from testifying to House
investigators. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says
he is not giving up. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I am not only hopeful,
but I think there’s a pretty decent chance that we’re going to get enough Republicans
to vote for witnesses and documents during this trial. If there’s no witnesses and documents, we
will have the ability at the beginning of the trial and as we go through it to get votes,
and we’re going to get them. JUDY WOODRUFF: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
has refused to send articles of impeachment to the Senate, in a bid to press for witness
testimony. We will dig into this more later in the program. The U.S. Justice Department called today for
Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, to serve up to six months
in prison. In a court filing, federal prosecutors said that Flynn stopped cooperating in the
Russia investigation and has attacked them instead. He faces sentencing in three weeks
for lying to the FBI. Puerto Rico is under a state of emergency
after an early-morning earthquake. The tremor shook the U.S. territory and its three million
people, with substantial damage along the southern coast. John Yang has our report. JOHN YANG: Cars crushed under collapsed garages,
churches reduced to rubble, scenes of devastation after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake jolted Puerto
Ricans before dawn today. SILVESTRE HORTA, Puerto Rico (through translator):
I was sleeping when the house began falling down, bit by bit. I grabbed my bag I had prepared
and ran outside and jumped off the balcony. Man, it was terrible. I don’t wish that on
anyone. JOHN YANG: A series of quakes along three
fault lines has shaken Puerto Rico since Christmas. This morning’s was centered just off the southern
coast near Ponce, and did its heaviest damage in that region. One man in Ponce died when
a wall caved in on his house. Large swathes of the island were left without
power, and some 300,000 customers lost water service. The iconic beachside Punta Ventana
rock formation collapsed into the sea. Governor Wanda Vazquez declared an emergency
and said the earthquake damage is the worst since 1918. GOV. WANDA VAZQUEZ, Puerto Rico (through translator):
We are talking about a situation that Puerto Rico has never been exposed to during the
last 102 years. So, we are talking about something for which we could not prepare. We are talking
about a situation that happens without notice. JOHN YANG: And with aftershocks rippling across
the island throughout the day, many Puerto Ricans are unnerved. IRIS TIRADO, Puerto Rico (through translator):
What I want to do now is leave. I want to leave, and not stay there anymore, because
I no longer live in peace. If I want to go in a room, I have to think about it twice.
If I go to the kitchen, I am concerned. I don’t want to go in there. JOHN YANG: Officials are warning of more tremors
to come on an island still recovering from the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang. JUDY WOODRUFF: In Australia, firefighters
tried to take advantage of cooler, rainy conditions today, before temperatures heat up again.
Scores of fires have killed 25 people and destroyed 2,000 homes in recent weeks. In New South Wales, some 130 fires are still
burning, and 50 of those are out of control. Crews say there’s only so much they can do. BRENDAN O’CONNOR, Balmoral Volunteer Fire
Chief: Either when the good lord opens up the heavens and gives us weeks of rain, or
it burns to the coastline. It’s really the only options. It is too large to put out. Anything that we’re doing just isn’t working,
and that’s with all the aircraft as well. We can slow it down, but, yes, very hard to
stop. JUDY WOODRUFF: The latest estimates put damage
from the fires near $500 million. Back in this country, Facebook has announced
a ban on sophisticated doctored videos known as deepfakes. They use artificial intelligence
and other tools to generate false, but realistic video clips. The company says it is part of
an effort to fight online disinformation. The Trump administration today proposed rescinding
a rule against racial segregation in housing. The Obama era standard mandates local plans
to address the problem. The Department of Housing and Urban Development said today that
the rule is overly burdensome. And on Wall Street, worries about Iran welled
up again today and pushed stocks down. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 119 points
to close at 28583. The Nasdaq fell about three points, and the S&P 500 slipped nine. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: we speak
with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders just weeks before the Iowa caucuses;
the standoff between Senator McConnell and Speaker Pelosi over Trump’s impeachment trial;
and much more.