President-elect Donald Trump brushed aside the White House’s retaliative measures against the Russian government for its alleged interference in the November presidential election on Thursday night, declaring it was time for the country to “move on to bigger and better things.” At the same time, he pledged to meet with U.S. intelligence officials to learn more about what appears to be the most significant foreign intervention in an American transfer of power since the country’s founding. “It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in his full statement. “Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.” His statement follows similar dismissive comments on Wednesday night at the president-elect’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. “I think we ought to get on with our lives,” he told reporters, adding that computers “have complicated life very greatly.” Trump’s sentiments run counter to many Republican members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Both congressional leaders expressed support for Obama’s sanctions on Russian leaders and organizations on Tuesday afternoon.
Today's News: Dec. 29, 2016
Russia declares a ceasefire in Syria, and more from the United States and around the world.
—Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Syrian government and rebels have announced a ceasefire.
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Trump on Russian Hacking Sanctions: 'Time to Move On'
Dylann Roof Will Get a Second Competency Hearing
A federal judge in South Carolina has ordered a second competency hearing for Dylann Roof, the man convicted earlier this month of killing nine black worshippers in a South Carolina church in 2015. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel ordered the evaluation to be completed this weekend so the court can hold a hearing January 2, one day before jurors will begin deliberations over whether Roof will spend the rest of his life in prison, or whether he should be executed. The motion, which was filed by Roof’s standby lawyers, asks for a psychological evaluation based on facts that have emerged since Roof’s November competency hearing in which he was found fit to be tried. The hearing will likely be closed to the public, as was Roof’s previous competency hearing. Last month a jury found Roof, who is a white supremacist, guilty of all 33 counts against him, including hate-crime offenses. On Wednesday, Roof had said he planned to make an opening statement to jurors during the penalty phase set to begin next Tuesday, but that he would offer no evidence or witnesses.
Obama Imposes Sanctions on Russia in Response to Hacking
President Obama announced the first public steps against Russia’s alleged hacking of the U.S. election, imposing sanctions on five individuals and four entities believed to have taken part in the cyber attacks. The individuals identified include Igor Orobov, the head of GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency, and three of his deputies: Vladimir Alexseyev, Sergey Gizunov, and Igor Kostyukov. The entities that have been sanctioned include the GRU, the FSB, which is Russia’s internal security service, and cybersecurity-related organizations. Additionally, 35 Russian intelligence operatives were expelled from the U.S., Obama announced. “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,” Obama said in a statement. “In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance.” He said officials from his administration will provide lawmakers in Congress with a report on “Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections.” It’s unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump, who has cast doubts on whether Russia interfered with the American election, will lift these and other sanctions in place against Russia when he takes office next month.
New York Police Department Will Allow Sikh Officers to Wear Turbans
The New York City Police Department will allow Sikh officers to grow short beards and wear turbans, making it one of the few police forces to allow such religious dress-code exemptions. Commissioner James O’Neill said the turban must be blue with a police shield affixed to the front, and that Sikh officers will be allowed to grow a beard up to one-half inch. Until now, Sikh officers could only wear a turban under their police hats, and beards were outlawed. The new rules are a nod to the growing Sikh community in New York City, and are intended to make the department more inclusive. There are only a few other forces that allow such exemptions, like Riverside, California, and Washington, D.C. The U.S. Army also allows members to wear facial hair and turbans, a right that was won in May.
Madrid Bans Half of All Cars From Its Streets in Bid to Reduce Air Pollution
Madrid will ban half of all private cars from the roads, an attempt to tackle the worsening air pollution in the Spanish capital of 3.2 million people. The city council announced the measure Thursday, one of four plans to help improve air quality. Cars with even-numbered license plates will be allowed to drive on even-numbered days, and those with odd-numbered plates to drive on odd-numbered days. It’s not permanent, and will take effect only when nitrogen-dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise to a set amount, and if the air is unlikely to clear because of weather. Exceptions to the ban include buses, taxis, hybrid cars, mopeds, and emergency vehicles. The efficacy of such measures is unclear: While there is some noticeable difference in air-pollution levels in cities where it has been attempted, people with more than one vehicle can circumvent the restrictions.
German Police Release Man Arrested in Connection With Berlin Attack
The 40-year-old Tunisian man said to be an accomplice to the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market was released Thursday, German authorities said. Frauke Köhler, a spokesman for Germany’s federal prosecutor, said the suspect was not a “possible contact person of Anis Amri,” the man who carried out the attack December 19 by driving a truck into the crowded market, killing 12 people and wounding 48 others. Amri was shot and killed in Milan last week, and authorities say they will continue their search for accomplices. German police previously detained and then released another suspect, citing lack of evidence.
Did the Philippines President Throw a Suspect From a Helicopter?
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said this week he once threw a suspect from a helicopter and won’t hesitate to do it again. “If you are corrupt, I will fetch you using a helicopter to Manila and I will throw you out,” he said Tuesday. “I have done this before, why would I not do it again?” But he appeared to backtrack Thursday, telling CNN: “We had no helicopter. We don't use that.” But in an interview with ABS-CBN, a news channel, he appeared more noncommittal, saying: “Helicopter to throw a person? And if that is true, I will not admit it.” Duterte has made several outlandish comments in the past about his role in extrajudicial killings, and has backtracked or played down those remarks almost as soon as he has made them. But human-rights groups have criticized his record as a longtime mayor of Davao, where Duterte aggressively cracked down on crime by employing, it is alleged, death squads that killed suspects with impunity. The president’s more recent remarks that he personally killed suspect resulted in the call by a UN envoy for an investigation into the claims.
Syrian Government and Rebels Have Reached a Truce, Putin Says
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday the Syrian government and rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad have reached a ceasefire to end the fighting in the more than five-year civil war. The agreement was reached, he said, after efforts by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, which will all act as guarantors of the truce. Russia and Iran back Assad while Turkey supports some rebel groups. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said seven rebel group that account for some 60,000 fighters will be part of the agreement. Turkish officials said groups the UN labels as terrorist organizations will not be party to the ceasefire. Previous Western- and Arab-mediated efforts at a ceasefire in Syria have failed, and it’s unclear whether this attempt will be successful. Putin acknowledged as much, calling it “fragile.” In recent months, Assad has recaptured most of Syria’s cities and, aided by Russia, Iran, and fighters from Hezbollah, has put the rebels on the defensive.