Reuters US Domestic News Summary

Following is a summary of current US domestic news briefs.

William Ruckelshaus, who resigned in Watergate's 'Saturday Night Massacre,' dies at 87: U.S. media

William Ruckelshaus, picked by Richard Nixon as the first head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as deputy attorney general before being fired for defying the president in the Watergate scandal, died on Wednesday at the age of 87, U.S. media reported. Ruckelshaus, a moderate Republican highly regarded for his integrity and seen as a white knight by the environmental community, died at his home in Seattle, according to the New York Times, citing his daughter Mary Ruckelshaus.

Residents flee fourth major Texas petrochemical fire this year

Three workers were injured and residents of four towns were told to evacuate after explosions on Wednesday at a Texas petrochemical plant, the latest in a series of chemical plant accidents in the region. An early morning blast at a TPC Group complex in Port Neches, Texas, was followed by a series of secondary explosions that shattered windows and blew locked doors off their hinges.

Massachusetts adopts tough ban on flavored vaping, tobacco products

Massachusetts on Wednesday adopted the country's toughest ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products, including menthol cigarettes, in response to a rise in youth vaping and an outbreak of vaping-related serious lung injuries. Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed into law legislation passed by the state's Democrat-controlled legislature earlier this month that also places a 75% excise tax on e-cigarettes.

U.S. judge delays sentencing of former Trump adviser Flynn

A U.S. judge on Wednesday delayed the planned Dec. 18 sentencing hearing of President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, but did not set a new date. Judge Emmett Sullivan had been expected to put off sentencing after both Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents, and the United States filed a joint motion to request the delay, citing the expected December release of the Justice Department inspector general's report on the origins of investigations into alleged Russian election interference. The inspector general said last week he expects to release the report on Dec. 9.

Giuliani calls Trump to tell him he was joking about having an 'insurance policy'

President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called the president this week to reassure him that he had been joking when he told media outlets he had "insurance" if Trump turned on him in the Ukraine scandal, Giuliani's lawyer said on Wednesday. The attorney, Robert Costello, said Giuliani "at my insistence" had called Trump "within the last day" to emphasize that he had not been serious when he said he had an "insurance policy, if thrown under the bus."

U.S. economy growing modestly, labor market still tight: Fed report

The U.S. economy expanded modestly from October to mid-November and the outlook for growth was generally positive while labor markets remained tight across the country, the Federal Reserve said in a report on Wednesday. The latest temperature check of the economy, gathered from the central bank's discussions with business contacts around the country, also said prices had increased at a modest pace.

Three more Navy SEALs spared review after Trump's intervention

The U.S. Navy announced on Wednesday it would scrap plans to carry out reviews of three Navy SEALs that could have led to their ouster from the elite force, after President Donald Trump's extraordinary intervention in a related case. "I have determined that any failures in conduct, performance, judgment, or professionalism exhibited by these officers be addressed through other administrative measures as appropriate," acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said in a statement.

Former U.S. President Carter home for the holidays after surgery

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was discharged from a hospital in Georgia on Wednesday after a successful surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, heading home one day before the Thanksgiving holiday. Carter, 95, had been hospitalized at Emory University in Atlanta in the latest episode in a string of recent health scares for the nation's oldest living former president.

U.S. Justice Department closes antitrust probe over wireless carrier-switching technology

The Justice Department has closed an antitrust investigation into a trade group that includes Verizon and AT&T among its members and which had been criticized for making it harder for consumers to switch carriers. In a letter to the GSM Association, which sets standards on eSIM mobile technology and includes the four major U.S. carriers, the Justice Department said it was pleased that the group "is ready to use its standard-setting process to create a more consumer-friendly eSIM standard."

Judge places temporary hold on ex-White House lawyer ruling

A U.S. judge on Wednesday agreed to impose a temporary delay on her ruling requiring former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify to lawmakers as part of the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Washington-based U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said in an order that the week-long delay would give her time to rule on whether to put the case on hold longer term so that the Justice Department can appeal.