10 things you need to know today: December 22, 2016

North Carolina lawmakers reject repeal of controversial bathroom bill, Kellyanne Conway named counselor to the president, and more

Kellyanne Conway speaks at Trump Tower
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

1. North Carolina senators reject repeal of bathroom bill

North Carolina lawmakers rejected a deal to repeal the state's controversial bathroom law on Wednesday, with the state Senate voting it down and the state House adjourning without a vote. The law, which requires transgender people to use public restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates, has prompted statewide boycotts by entertainers and sports organizations. The repeal's failure came even though the city of Charlotte upheld its part of the bargain by repealing a local anti-discrimination ordinance that the state law was intended to block. The Senate's Republican leader, Phil Berger, accused Governor-elect Roy Cooper of sabotaging the proposal. Cooper and other Democrats said Republicans sank the deal by tacking on a six-month moratorium against new local anti-discrimination ordinances.

The Charlotte Observer

2. Kellyanne Conway named counselor to the president

President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday named his former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, to serve as counselor to the president. The position, which hasn't been occupied under President Barack Obama since early 2015, was first created by Richard Nixon and was formerly considered to be cabinet level. "In her position, Conway will continue her role as a close advisor to the president and will work with senior leadership to effectively message and execute the Administration's legislative priorities and actions," the Trump transition team wrote in a statement.

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The New York Times Politico

3. Syrian army formally retakes Aleppo

The Syrian army has claimed control of the city of Aleppo, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday. The announcement comes after the final round of evacuations of rebels and civilians from Aleppo began Thursday. Syrian state TV reported the last bus of evacuees had cleared the city on Thursday afternoon, effectively ceding control of the city to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. More than 4,000 fighters were evacuated overnight from their former stronghold in eastern Aleppo to opposition-controlled areas outside the city, bringing the total number of people evacuated over the past week to nearly 34,000. The deal struck last week between government and opposition forces to let fighters and civilians leave the war-ravaged city has been repeatedly interrupted by clashes between rebels and pro-government forces.

Reuters The Associated Press

4. Germany hunts for Tunisian truck-attack suspect

Authorities in Germany and across Europe on Wednesday hunted for the suspect in this week's truck-attack on a Berlin Christmas market that left 12 people dead. German officials identified the suspect as Anis Amri after investigators discovered a wallet with his identity documents in the truck used to mow down shoppers. Amri, 24, was the subject of a terrorism investigation and surveillance earlier this year. He had been deemed a "potential risk" and ordered deported. German authorities circulated his photo and offered a $105,000 reward for information leading to his capture, warning that he "could be violent and armed."

The Washington Post CNBC

5. ObamaCare enrollment hits record level despite repeal push

ObamaCare health insurance enrollment rose to a record level this year, even as President-elect Donald Trump enters office with a Republican congressional majority aiming to replace President Obama's signature health reform law. Nearly 6.4 million Americans have signed up through the federal exchange for 2017 health insurance policies coverage, an increase of 400,000 over a year ago. ObamaCare has faced criticism over rising premiums, with the average benchmark silver plan rising by 22 percent in 2017 even as some major insurers pull out of state exchanges. Still, administration officials say the enrollment figures show the marketplace is going strong.


6. Former Trump aide Lewandowski launching political consulting firm

Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager to President-elect Donald Trump, announced Wednesday that he plans to launch a political consulting firm. Lewandowski will be partnering with Barry Bennett, former campaign manager for Ben Carson, who ran against Trump in the Republican primaries and has since been nominated by Trump as Housing and Urban Development secretary. The firm will be called Avenue Strategies, and has found office space "just a block from the White House," according to a Wednesday news release. Lewandowski has feuded with Trump's current team but says he still has direct access to the president-elect and remains his "biggest supporter."

The Washington Post

7. U.N. human rights chief says Philippines president should be investigated for murder

The United Nations' high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said Wednesday that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte should be investigated for murder after boasting that he once "personally" killed three drug suspects. Since becoming president in July, Duterte has presided over an anti-drug crackdown in which an estimated 6,000 people have been killed, but he said recently he carried out such killings himself while serving as mayor of Davao City to set an example for police. Hussein said it was "unthinkable" not to investigate "when someone has openly admitted being a killer."

NBC News

8. Gingrich says Trump easing off 'drain the swamp' rhetoric

Newt Gingrich, a strong supporter of President-elect Donald Trump and a former House speaker, said Wednesday that Trump is abandoning the phrase "drain the swamp" — a central promise in his anti-establishment, anti-Washington campaign message. "I'm told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore," Gingrich told NPR. Gingrich said Trump had "written what I thought was a very cute tweet about 'the alligators are complaining.'" Critics have ridiculed Trump for appointing Wall Street and Washington veterans to top posts in his administration, including former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general.


9. Boeing CEO vows to cut Air Force One costs

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg left a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday promising that his company would build the new Air Force One for less than $4 billion following criticism from Trump over the cost. "We're going to get it done for less than that, and we're committed to working together to make sure that happens,” Muilenburg said as he left Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump said he was "looking to cut a tremendous amount of money off the price" of the presidential jet as well as Lockheed Martin's new F-35 fighter jet. Lockheed's Marillyn Hewson left a meeting with Trump without commenting, and Trump did not say whether he had won any concessions from her.


10. Erdogan ties assassin to plotters in Turkey's failed coup

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that he believed the man who assassinated Russia's ambassador to Turkey belonged to the outlawed Feto organization of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Erdogan rival accused of orchestrating a failed July coup attempt. The gunman, off-duty policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas, was shown in a video shooting the ambassador, Andrei Karlov, several times and shouting, "Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria!" He was later shot dead by other police officers. "There is no reason to hide that he's a member of the Feto network," Erdogan said, according to Turkish news media. "All his connections... point to Feto."

The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.