Following is a summary of current US domestic news briefs.
Pentagon gets request to build roughly 270 miles of Trump border wall
The Pentagon has received a request from within the Trump administration to build roughly 270 miles (435 km) of wall on the border with Mexico and is evaluating its cost and viability, a senior Defense Department official said on Thursday. The disclosure of the request by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sets up another showdown with Democrats in Congress, who oppose President Donald Trump's past diversion of billions of dollars in military spending to bolster security on the border.
U.S. weighs sending Brazilian migrants to Mexico amid spike in arrests
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has considered sending Brazilian migrants crossing the border from Mexico back there to await their U.S. court hearings, according to a U.S. official and a Mexican official familiar with the discussions. The deliberations came in response to an increase in Brazilians arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum in the United States, the officials said. The administration of President Donald Trump has also explored the possibility of sending Brazilian asylum seekers to other nations, according to the U.S. official.
Trump wants to end requiring U.S. religious welfare groups to tell clients of options
Religious social service providers receiving funds from the U.S. government would no longer have to tell their clients about other, possibly secular organizations that offer similar help under changes the Trump administration proposed on Thursday. Conservative Christians, a key bloc in President Donald Trump's Republican Party, have pushed to lift the requirement that religiously affiliated service groups must tell clients about alternative providers if they receive federal money. They also must post information on referrals and track the referrals they make.
FBI arrests three suspected neo-Nazis ahead of Virginia gun rally - New York Times
The FBI arrested on Thursday three men suspected of being members of a neo-Nazi hate group who had weapons and discussed attending a gun rally in Virginia next week in hopes of helping to start a race war, the New York Times reported. The men were arrested in Maryland and were expected to make an appearance in federal court later Thursday, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed law enforcement sources. Gun rights supporters are planning a large rally in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday in response to the newly Democratic-controlled state legislature's push to stiffen gun laws.
U.S. farmers increased support for Trump ahead of 'Phase 1' signing - Reuters/Ipsos poll
U.S. President Donald Trump gained support among American farm families at the end of last year, Reuters/Ipsos poll data showed, as Trump touted a Phase 1 trade deal with key agricultural buyer China. The results show American farmers increasingly backed the Republican president as he sought to pause a drawn out trade war with Beijing that cut deeply into U.S. agricultural sales. The trade deal, announced Dec. 13 and signed on Wednesday, paves the way for increased farm exports to China, though critics have said it failed to address structural economic differences.
Judge in Weinstein rape trial says case is not a 'referendum' on #MeToo movement
Four men and three women were chosen on Thursday as jurors in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein, as the judge cautioned against using the case to make a broader statement about the #MeToo movement. Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges in New York of assaulting two women, and faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.
Georgia's parole board grants clemency to death row inmate hours before scheduled execution
The Georgia parole board granted clemency to a death row inmate on Thursday, hours before he was to be executed for the murder of a convenience store clerk three decades ago. The state's Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted the death sentence of Jimmy Fletcher Meders, 58, to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the board said in a statement. He had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. EST (0000 GMT).
Trump ups Puerto Rico quake aid after attaching strings to relief
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a major disaster in quake-hit Puerto Rico, a day after his administration placed tougher restrictions on the island for billions of dollars in delayed hurricane aid. Puerto Rico's governor, Wanda Vazquez, in a tweet thanked Trump for the disaster declaration, which she requested after a Jan. 7 earthquake and aftershocks collapsed or damaged hundreds of homes on the island and sent nearly 8,000 residents fleeing to shelters.
With rivals stuck in impeachment trial, Biden and Buttigieg to barnstorm Iowa
Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg will blitz Iowa before the state kicks off the party's nominating contest on Feb. 3, while their key rivals will be largely unable to campaign because they must sit as Senate jurors in Republican President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Aides to Biden and Buttigieg, locked in a tight four-way battle with U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, would not comment on the unprecedented advantage next week’s Senate trial presents them.
As Warren-Sanders spat intensifies, liberal grassroots groups seek to calm tensions
Liberal grassroots groups on Thursday launched a bid to calm tensions between supporters of the two progressive standard-bearers in the Democratic presidential race, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have engaged in a days-long feud after months of non-aggression. Led by the political action committee Democracy for America, the 18 groups announced the "Progressives Unite 2020" campaign, which includes a promise to "focus our fight for the nomination against candidates supported by the corporate wing, instead of fighting each other."