Reuters US Domestic News Summary

Following is a summary of current US domestic news briefs.

U.S. federal death penalty protocol faces fresh legal scrutiny

Plans by President Donald Trump's administration to resume executions of inmates sentenced to death for federal crimes is set to face a stiff court challenge, but a judge's decision on the legality of its new protocol for lethal injections may come too late for five men scheduled to die starting in December. Attorney General William Barr's July 25 announcement of a single-drug protocol for executing federal prisoners jump-started a long-running civil lawsuit challenging the Justice Department's capital punishment procedures as a violation of the U.S. Constitution and a federal law governing how regulations are enacted.

Trump slams prosecutors in court-martial of Navy SEAL

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he has directed top U.S. Navy officials to rescind a military award he says was given to Navy prosecutors who tried a Navy SEAL platoon leader acquitted of murder and attempted murder charges. The series of tweets from Trump marked at least the third time the president has publicly commented directly on the case brought against Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who was accused of committing various war crimes while deployed in Iraq in 2017.

R. Kelly lawyer calls alleged victims 'disgruntled groupies': court filing

A lawyer for singer R. Kelly, who is accused of running a years-long scheme sexually preying on women and girls, said on Wednesday that the charges against the R&B artist stemmed from disgruntled groupies. Lawyer Douglas Anton made the claim in a filing in Brooklyn federal court, ahead of Kelly's scheduled Friday court appearance. Kelly has pleaded not guilty.

Biden and Harris to square off in Round two of Democratic presidential debate

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden and rival Kamala Harris will stage a rematch of last month's explosive debate confrontation during Round 2 on Wednesday, with a re-energized Biden promising a more aggressive approach. On the second of back-to-back nights of Democratic debates, Biden will be flanked at center stage by Harris and Cory Booker, U.S. senators who are the most prominent black contenders in a Democratic nominating contest in which race has played a prominent role.

Fire under control at Exxon petrochemical plant; some workers suffer minor burns

Exxon Mobil Corp brought under control a fire that erupted on Wednesday at its Baytown, Texas, refining and chemical plant complex, injuring 37 workers, though none seriously, and sending nearby residents indoors. The injured workers were treated for minor burns, none requiring hospitalization, plant manager Jason Duncan told a news briefing. The company worked to shut down the olefins unit that processes propane and propylene - a plastics building block - and to isolate the fuel that fed the fire, he said.

U.S. Navy fighter jet crashes in California's desert near base

A U.S. military fighter jet crashed on Wednesday in the California desert near a Navy air station, military officials said, leaving the fate of the pilot unknown. The F/A-18E Super Hornet went down at about 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT), Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock, public affairs officer for thhe Joint Strike Fighter Wing, said in a written statement.

Oklahoma makes final bid to hold J&J responsible for opioid epidemic

Oklahoma's attorney general on Wednesday made his final bid to force Johnson & Johnson to pay $17 billion for its part in fueling the opioid epidemic, saying the drugmaker's "egregious" marketing caused an oversupply of addictive drugs and overdose deaths. Attorney General Mike Hunter in a brief filed in a state court in Norman, Oklahoma, argued that evidence presented during the first trial nationally in litigation over the epidemic showed J&J was "at the root of this crisis."

Jeffrey Epstein could face sex trafficking trial next June

Financier Jeffrey Epstein could go to trial on charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as early as next June, though his lawyers told a court on Wednesday they may need more time. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors sought a June 2020 trial date, while a lawyer for Epstein asked that it wait another three months.

Trump firms up plan to import medicines; pharma companies resist

The Trump administration took a step Wednesday toward allowing importation of medicines from Canada, an action the president has advocated as a way to bring cheaper prescription drugs to Americans, but the pharmaceutical industry was quick to resist the move. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it and the Food and Drug Administration will propose a rule that will allow it to authorize states and other groups to pursue pilot projects related to importing drugs from Canada.

Opposition in legislature, streets to Puerto Rico governor's pick for successor

The lawyer tapped to succeed Puerto Rico's outgoing governor faced opposition on Wednesday largely over conflict of interest concerns, two days before the bankrupt U.S. territory's top executive plans to bow to the demands of protesters and resign. Governor Ricardo Rosselló formally nominated the island's former nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress, Pedro Pierluisi, as secretary of state, which would position Pierluisi to take over the government if he is confirmed by lawmakers.