News Wrap: Kansas incumbent loses House GOP primary; Obama pardons 214

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UNITED STATES - MARCH 3: Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., speaks with reporters as he leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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GWEN IFILL:  The presidential campaign was dominated today by reports that Donald Trump is taking on water, and may need a rescue.  Trump brushed aside all talk of internal division, and of growing defections.  We will have a full report right after the news summary.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  In the day’s other news:  President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 214 federal inmates, almost all of them nonviolent drug offenders.  The White House said it’s the largest number of commutations in a single day since at least 1900.  It is also part of president’s effort to address sentencing rules that he considers overly harsh.

GWEN IFILL:  Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp, a Tea Party favorite, has lost his Republican primary battle.  During his three terms in office, he had feuded repeatedly with GOP leaders, and it cost him his seat on the House Agriculture Committee.  That boosted challenger Roger Marshall, who won 57 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  There is reporting today that the U.S. organized an airlift of $400 million in cash to Iran last January.  It came just as Tehran released several jailed Americans, and as the nuclear agreement was being implemented.  The Wall Street Journal reports the money was part of settling a disputed 1970s arms deal.  Republicans called it ransom, but the White House rejected that.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  This all came to a head at the same time because we were addressing and resolving longstanding concerns with Iranian behavior.  The United States, under President Obama, has not paid a ransom to secure the release of Americans unjustly detained in Iran.  And we’re not going to pay a ransom.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Officials say the payment had to be made in cash because international sanctions on Iran barred any other transfer method.

GWEN IFILL:  A U.N. commission reports Islamic State fighters in Syria are still holding thousands of minority Yazidis as sex slaves or fighters.  They were captured two years ago at Sinjar in Iraq.  Thousands more fled the city, but the militants killed 5,000 Yazidi men.  That, in part, prompted U.S. airstrikes against ISIS.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  For the first time, a U.S. law enforcement officer is facing federal terrorism charges for allegedly trying to aid ISIS.  A transit policeman in Washington, Nicholas Young, was charged today.  The FBI says he wanted to help the group buy mobile messaging apps.

GWEN IFILL:  North Korea drew new condemnation today for firing a ballistic missile that landed in Japanese waters.  The missile flew more than 600 miles, and part of it splashed down within 200 miles of Japan’s coastline.  That prompted the U.N. Security Council to meet in emergency session this afternoon in New York.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  In Eastern Ukraine, new signs of escalating combat between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian government troops.  U.N. human rights officials say the casualties in June were the highest in nearly a year.  That is despite peace accords that called for withdrawing heavy weapons.

GWEN IFILL:  Three hundred people escaped with their lives today in a spectacular plane crash in Dubai.  They were on an Emirates flight from India that slammed down on the runway as it tried to land.  The passengers got out just before the plane burst into flames.

SHADI KOCHUKTTY, Passenger:  While landing, I think the engine or something burned, so the smoke was coming inside.  So, immediately, they asked us to evacuate.  So, we have escaped from the emergency exit, so we were jumping down.

GWEN IFILL:  One firefighter died battling the blaze, and traffic was stopped for several hours, but later returned to normal.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Back in this country, the state of Alabama refused parole for Thomas Blanton Jr. in the murder of four young black girls half a century ago.  They died when Ku Klux Klansman bombed their Birmingham church in 1963.  Blanton was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison, after the FBI reopened the case.

GWEN IFILL:  The Obama administration warned Congress today that it will run out of money to fight the Zika virus by month’s end.  The warning came as government researchers said they have begun their first clinical trial of a vaccine.  So far, Congress has deadlocked on the president’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency spending.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And Wall Street managed to break a losing streak today.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained 41 points to close at 18355.  The Nasdaq rose 22 points, and the S&P 500 added six.

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