Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 17, 2016

Obama addresses Russian hacking, Syria, Trump in final 2016 presser, North Carolina GOP governor signs law stripping incoming Democrat of powers, and more


Obama addresses Russian hacking, Syria, Trump in final 2016 presser

In his final press conference of the year, President Obama on Friday insisted his administration handled Russia's hack of the Democratic National Committee "the way it should have been handled." Obama revealed that when he met one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the summer, he told Putin to "cut it out" with regard to the cyberattacks. After that interaction, Obama said, he "did not see further tampering of the election process," but by then "everybody had the information" thanks to the press and WikiLeaks. Obama also addressed the crisis in Aleppo, Syria, calling it "one of the hardest issues that I faced as president." He described recent conversations with President-elect Donald Trump as "cordial" and focused on "maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, cohesion of the office."


North Carolina GOP governor signs law stripping incoming Democrat of powers

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Friday signed a law to strip Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, a Democrat, of some of his gubernatorial powers in what The Associated Press deemed an "extraordinary move" preceded by days of protests. Cooper had threatened to sue if the Republicans took such measures, calling the power play "unconstitutional." Republican lawmakers introduced the bills in a surprise special session Wednesday, hoping to strip the new governor of control over local election boards and the right to appoint University of North Carolina trustees. The GOP legislators also sought to remove from gubernatorial authority some 300 out of 1,500 state employees who serve at the governor's pleasure in an effort to protect hundreds of McCrory appointees.


New Aleppo evacuation deal reached

Syrian rebel leaders and government representatives reached a new arrangement for evacuating the decimated city of Aleppo after a temporary impasse on Friday. The deal provides for additional evacuations in four smaller towns nearby, two each besieged by government and rebel troops respectively. So far an estimated 8,000 people, including nearly 3,000 fighters and more than 2,700 children, have been evacuated under the terms of the cease-fire negotiated earlier this week, though thousands remain trapped in the city. If the cease-fire holds, it would be the first time since 2012 that the Bashar al-Assad regime controlled Aleppo.


Trump picks Rep. Mick Mulvaney for budget director

President-elect Donald Trump said Friday evening at a victory tour rally in Florida that Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) is his pick for budget director. Trump's choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget was first reported Friday afternoon and will be formally announced Monday. Mulvaney is a fiscal conservative and member of the House Freedom Caucus who initially endorsed Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for president. At the same Florida event, Trump recounted Election Day, mocking members of the media who were "like sweating and crying and throwing up all over the place" as it became clear he would win. He also promised America's foreign policy will no longer move "from one reckless intervention to another."


Clinton directly blames FBI, Russia for election loss in donor speech

While speaking to a group of campaign donors in Manhattan on Thursday night, Hillary Clinton blamed her election loss squarely on FBI Director James Comey's letter to Congress about the ongoing investigation into her email use, as well as the Russian hacking allegedly sanctioned by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Comey's letter swayed voters in swing states to "make their decisions in the final days" against her, Clinton said, while Putin's "personal beef" with her produced online security breaches that constituted an "attack against our country" by targeting the "integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation."


FBI reportedly backs CIA claim that Russia tried to swing election for Trump

FBI Director James Comey and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Friday reportedly backed the CIA's claims that Russia tried to swing the U.S. election in favor of President-elect Donald Trump. "Earlier this week, I met separately with FBI [Director] James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election," CIA Director John O. Brennan said in a message to the agency's staff, officials told The Washington Post. The CIA and the FBI declined to comment.


U.S., Chinese militaries are 'appropriately handling' drone seizure

After an American underwater drone was captured by a Chinese warship in international waters in the South China Sea on Thursday, the two countries' militaries are working together to peacefully address the seizure. "It is understood that China and the United States are using military channels to appropriately handle this issue," said a statement from China's Foreign Ministry, and Chinese state media have announced a "smooth resolution" is expected, Reuters reports. The Pentagon noted Friday that the craft, used to gather oceanographic information, contains only commercially available technology. Still, said a Pentagon representative, "it is clearly marked as ours and we would like it back."


Tsunami warning issued in Papua New Guinea after 7.9 magnitude earthquake

A 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck in the ocean off the coast of the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea Saturday evening in local time. Residents fled to higher ground as a tsunami warning was issued for coastal areas as well as other inhabited islands nearby, including New Zealand. Several hours later, the warning was relaxed, though officials still urged caution. Papua New Guinea sits on the Pacific's "Ring of Fire" and experiences frequent seismic activity.


Minnesota football players boycott all football activities over suspension dispute

The University of Minnesota Gophers have announced a boycott of all football activities until 10 players suspended over allegations of sexual assault are reinstated. The players were suspended by the school's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action after an investigation into a female student's claim that a sexual encounter she had with several players was not consensual. The accused Gophers say she did give consent, and local law enforcement concluded there was "insufficient admissible evidence" for prosecution, noting that in videos of the encounter she did not appear to object to her circumstances. The team organized a walkout to protest "that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard in violation of their constitutional rights."


Severe cold front batters Midwest, Northeast U.S.

The winter storm that hit Oregon earlier this week is making its way east across the U.S. this weekend, bringing cold and snow to the Midwest and the Northeast. Winter storm Decima wreaked havoc on the Pacific Northwest, halting holiday travel and causing several avalanches. CNN reports that nearly 99 million people are under a Winter Weather Advisory as a result of the storm, and the wind chill factor could make temperatures fall as far as 35 degrees below zero in parts of the Northeast this weekend. The cold weather will likely stick around past the weekend, with an estimated 80 percent of the country expected to experience below-freezing temperatures next week.


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