10 things you need to know today: December 11, 2016
Trump reportedly will tap ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, GOP wins Louisiana Senate race for 52-seat majority, and more
Trump reportedly will tap ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state
President-elect Donald Trump is expected to tap ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, with whom Trump met twice this week, for secretary of state. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a hardline neoconservative, will be deputy secretary of state, a source told NBC News. Tillerson has been president of ExxonMobil for 12 years after spending his entire career at the company, during which time he developed what The Wall Street Journal calls "close ties" with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson has a reputation as a strong supporter of free trade — "Energy made in America is not as important as energy simply made wherever it is most economic," he said in 2007 — a potential source of conflict with Trump. Less is known of his foreign policy perspective beyond his critique of sanctions. The pick has not been confirmed by the Trump camp.
GOP wins Louisiana Senate race for 52-seat majority
Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy won his state's runoff Senate election Saturday, cementing the Republican Party's 52-seat Senate majority. Democrats hoped challenger Foster Campbell would pull off an upset victory, with many donating to his campaign as one last potential bright spot after a disappointing election season that saw widespread GOP gains at the state and federal level. As of 9:30 p.m. local time, Kennedy held a strong lead of nearly two-thirds of the vote; President-elect Donald Trump — who traveled to Louisiana to campaign for Kennedy this week — also won the state, taking nearly a 20-point margin over Hillary Clinton.
Trump transitions into a tense relationship with intelligence agencies
President-elect Donald Trump's rejection of the CIA's conclusion that Russia attempted to manipulate U.S. elections on his behalf has led to an unusually rocky relationship between the incoming administration and the intelligence establishment, which Trump's team has dismissed as "the same people that said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." "Given [Trump's] proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious thin skin," said Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, "this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill will between the president and the intelligence community." Trump has also reportedly taken fewer national security briefings than is typical for this point in the transition.
U.S. to send 200 more troops to Syria
The United States will send an additional 200 troops to Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Saturday while speaking in Manama, Bahrain, bringing the total known number of American soldiers in the war-torn country to 500. The new forces will head to Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital city, where they will bring "the full weight of U.S. forces around the theater of operations, like the funnel of a giant tornado," Carter said. "By combining our capabilities with those of our local partners, we've been squeezing [ISIS] by applying simultaneous pressure from all sides and across domains, through a series of deliberate actions to continue to build momentum," he added. Congress has yet to pass an authorization for use of military force in Syria.
Bomb at Egypt's main Coptic cathedral kills 25 during Mass
About 25 people were killed and at least 40 more wounded by a bomb set off in Cairo's St. Peter's Church, a chapel next to St. Mark's Cathedral, the main house of worship for Egypt's Coptic Christians and the seat of the Coptic Church's pope. The attack, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility, happened during Sunday Mass. "There were children," said one eyewitness of the victims. "What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes." Egypt's president declared three days of national mourning.
ISIS struggles to retake Palmyra, Syria, in the face of Russian airstrikes
An Islamic State army of about 4,000 is attempting to recapture the historic Syrian city of Palmyra, which it controlled from May of 2015 to March of this year. After Syrian forces retook the city from ISIS this spring, the terrorist organization regrouped and briefly regained much of the city last night. But the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that a heavy onslaught of Russian airstrikes supporting advancing Syrian government troops on the ground forced ISIS militants to withdraw to neighboring towns Sunday morning. The Russian Defense Ministry said about 300 ISIS fighters were killed in the bombardment and much of their equipment destroyed.
Turkey in mourning after soccer stadium attack kills 38
Dual attacks on Saturday evening — one a car bomb and one a suicide bomb — near an Istanbul soccer stadium killed 38 people and injured 155 more. Most victims were police officers on hand to deal with crowds following a soccer game. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a national day of mourning and promised a full investigation. Though no group has taken responsibility for bombings, 13 people have been arrested in connection with the incident and Turkish officials believe the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has made other attacks in Turkey this year, is to blame.
160 dead in Nigerian church collapse
A church building in Uyo, Nigeria, collapsed onto worshippers Saturday, killing at least 160 people. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue efforts continue Sunday morning. The Reigners Bible Church International was still under construction, but a crowd had gathered for a special ordination ceremony when metal girders and a corrugated iron roof suddenly fell on the people below. Local government officials said they will investigate whether the structure was intentionally compromised or if the construction company did shoddy work.
Bob Dylan accepts Nobel literature prize with mail-in speech
Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan accepted his unexpected Nobel prize for literature Saturday with a written speech he sent to be delivered by United States Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji. "I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize," Dylan said. "If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon," he added, marveling that his name should be added to a list hosting literary giants like "Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway."
Army beats Navy after 14-game losing streak
The Army's Black Knights beat the Navy's Midshipmen in a 21-17 game Saturday after a 14 straight losses to the Navy team over the last 15 years. After the game, which was attended by President-elect Donald Trump, the Army team rushed the field to celebrate their first football victory over Navy since 2001. "Surreal," said Army wide receiver Edgar Poe. "It still doesn't even feel like it's real." As for Trump, he expressed enthusiasm more for the event than the quality of the game. "I just love the armed forces, love the folks. The spirit is so incredible," he said. "I mean, I don't know if it's necessarily the best football, but it's very good."