News Wrap: Electoral College confirms election of Donald Trump

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Protestors gather outside the chamber as Pennsylvania electors gather to cast their votes for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2VPWQ

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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: Here in the United States, the Electoral College confirmed that Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race. He was on track for 304 electoral votes, losing two defectors in Texas. Hillary Clinton lost four electors in Washington State. Otherwise, it went mostly as expected, despite a day of demonstrations.

John Yang reports.

JOHN YANG: Election Day, part two. In some states, protesters urged Electoral College voters to dump President-elect Trump. In Pennsylvania:

ELSA LANKFORD, Anti-Trump Demonstrator: I’m here today because I feel like it’s the last chance we have to really save this country. I mean, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. I’m hoping we can make some kind of difference in the Electoral College.

JOHN YANG: The outcome didn’t change, but controversy still swirls around evidence of Russian cyber-attacks aimed at influencing the election.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): There’s no doubt they were interfering and no doubt that it was cyber-attacks. The question now is, how much and what damage and what should the United States of America do?

JOHN YANG: Senator John McCain and fellow Republican Lindsey Graham have now joined with Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed to call for a special Senate committee to try to find the answers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says existing panels should handle the investigation.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta suggested Trump aides may have colluded with Moscow.

JOHN PODESTA, Former Clinton Campaign Chairman: What did Trump, Inc., know and when did they know it? Were they in touch with the Russians? I think those are still open questions.

JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump’s incoming chief of staff said the president-elect isn’t convinced Russia was behind the hacking.

REINCE PRIEBUS, Incoming White House Chief Of Staff: I think he would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would get together, put out a report, show the American people that they’re actually on the same page, as opposed to third parties through The Washington Post.

JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump is spending the Christmas holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the Trump transition team announced that he’s naming businessman and veteran Vincent Viola as secretary of the army.

State legislators in North Carolina appear ready to repeal a law that curbs protections for transgender people. The Democratic governor-elect, Roy Cooper, announced it today. Republicans who supported the law said that they’re now open to repeal in a special session on Wednesday. The law has cost the state major sports events, concerts and corporate expansions.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, was convicted today of financial negligence. A special French court found that she should have blocked a huge arbitration award to a business tycoon in 2008. Lagarde was French finance minister at the time. Despite the guilty verdict, the court opted against any punishment. That left Lagarde’s lawyers questioning the point of the proceedings.

CHRISTOPHER BAKER, Attorney for Christine Lagarde: The result of this last five years is nothing, which leaves us in kind of a complicated or strange, again, situation. We have an unusual court, with an unusual hearing, with no accusation and no sentence. So, where are we exactly?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Late today, the IMF’s executive board decided to retain Lagarde as the managing director of the organization.

In South Korea, the extortion trial of Choi Soon-sil opened today. She’s the longtime confidante of the now-impeached President Park Geun-hye. Choi appeared in court in Seoul wearing white prison clothes. She denied using her ties with Park to make big companies give millions to foundations she controlled. Park has received extensive immunity from prosecution. She, too, denies wrongdoing.

Cities in the north of China were engulfed in a choking haze of air today, and the government issued a red alert for a third straight day. Hundreds of factories and schools were closed and restrictions on driving were in place. Many in Beijing wore face masks to try to keep the smog out of their lungs.

LIU XUEYING, Beijing Resident (through translator): I think it’s very inconvenient for going out. I really don’t like putting on the face mask. I can’t go to the supermarket or take my child to play outside. We spent the last two days at home over this weekend.

JUDY WOODRUFF: China’s severe air pollution is blamed on its heavy reliance on coal and carbon emissions from older cars.

Back in this country, the U.S. Interior Department set final rules to limit damage from coal mining. They’d protect some 6,000 miles of streams by barring mining within 100 feet of the water. Industry officials, though, warn that the regulations will kill jobs, and the incoming Republican Congress could well vote to block them.

The city of New Orleans today announced settlements in fatal shootings by police after Hurricane Katrina. Two people were shot dead on the Danziger Bridge, and a third at a strip mall. The settlements in those killings, and one before the hurricane, total more than $13 million.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, New Orleans: The city is here today to try to the extent that is humanly possible to bring closure to this dark, dark, dark time and to pledge that it shall never happen again, because, as I have said, change is going to come.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The settlements are with 17 plaintiffs who sued over the killings. In addition, 20 current or former New Orleans police officers were charged in federal civil rights investigations after Katrina. A number of them were convicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

President Obama today pardoned 79 people convicted of crimes and shortened the sentences for 153 others. It’s the most in a single day by any president. Mr. Obama has focused mainly on drug offenders. The White House says he has now pardoned or commuted the sentences for more than 1,300 people, more than any of his predecessors.

Wall Street managed modest gains today. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 39 points to close at 19883. The Nasdaq rose 20, and the S&P 500 added four.

And Zsa Zsa Gabor died Sunday in Los Angeles, after years of ill health. The Hungarian-born actress was known for her glamorous image and multiple marriages, including to hotel mogul Conrad Hilton in the 1940s.

And she made divorce an art form, once quipping: “I am a marvelous Housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor was 99 years old.

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