Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 12, 2017

Trump criticizes intelligence agencies over a salacious report, the Senate moves toward ObamaCare repeal, and more


Trump slams intelligence agencies, press over salacious report

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday refuted an uncorroborated report that Russia had obtained salacious incriminating information about him. Speaking at his first news conference since July, Trump criticized intelligence agencies, saying they might have been the ones who leaked the information. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper later said he did not believe U.S. intelligence agents had anything to do with the leak, noting that the document containing the claims was put together by an independent source. Trump also slammed news outlets for reporting the details, refusing to call on a CNN correspondent and calling the cable network "fake news" for reporting on the salacious claims. Trump did, however, drop his rejection of intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia had hacked his election opponents, saying, "As far as hacking, I think it was Russia."


Senate takes first step toward repealing ObamaCare

The Republican-led Senate took a first step toward repealing ObamaCare early Thursday, voting 51-48 to approve a budget resolution Republicans plan to use to start work on dismantling major portions of President Obama's health care reform law. House leaders plan to take it up Friday. Democrats forced a series of symbolic votes on amendments over nearly seven hours in a bid to hold Republicans responsible for repealing ObamaCare too quickly, urging them to go slower. "Work with us Democrats on a way to improve health care in America, not put chaos in place of affordable care," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. President-elect Donald Trump said at his Wednesday news conference that Republicans had a plan ready to put in place immediately after ObamaCare's repeal.


Trump to hand businesses over to sons, ethics chief not impressed

President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he would not divest from his business empire after he is sworn in, but would turn over management to his adult sons. "They're not going to discuss it with me," Trump said at a long-awaited news conference. He also said his company would not strike any new deals abroad while he's in office. The head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, criticized Trump's precedent-breaking plan to continue profiting from his business while president as "wholly inadequate," saying that it is "meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective" to stop running the business without selling and putting assets in a blind trust. "We can't risk the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for professional profit," he said.


Tillerson diverges from Trump in confirmation hearing

President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, broke with Trump on several key issues during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing. Tillerson said he did not oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement Trump has condemned, although Tillerson said he questioned "whether the agreement that was negotiated serves all of America's interests the best." Tillerson also called Russia's Ukraine invasion "illegal," which Trump has not done. Democrats criticized Tillerson for ExxonMobil's Russia ties, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) criticized him for not condemning Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines for their human rights records.


BBC correspondent says multiple sources report Russia has dirt on Trump

BBC correspondent Paul Wood said Wednesday that multiple sources — not just one report by a former British intelligence officer — support the conclusion that Russia has potentially compromising material regarding President-elect Donald Trump. Wood said someone involved in U.S. intelligence told him that at least one Eastern European intelligence agency also knew that Russia had incriminating material on Trump. "I got a message back that there was allegedly more than one tape, not just video, but audio as well, on more than one date, in more than one place, in both Moscow and St. Petersburg," Wood said, but "nobody should believe something just because an intelligence agent says it." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday called the reports "an absolute fiction," and Trump dismissed them as "nonsense" during a news conference.


Booker breaks precedent to testify against fellow senator's confirmation

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Wednesday testified against Sen. Jeff Sessions' nomination to be attorney general, becoming the first sitting senator to speak out as a witness against a colleague at a confirmation hearing for a Cabinet post. Booker said that Sessions, an Alabama Republican, has an extensive record that indicates he is not fit for the job. "If confirmed, Sen. Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women, but his record indicates that he won't," Booker said. "He will be expected to defend the equal rights of gay and lesbian and transgender Americans, but his record indicates that he won't. He will be expected to defend voting rights, but his record indicates that he won't." African-American friends and former colleagues defended Sessions against charges of racial insensitivity on Tuesday, and said they believed he would defend laws whether he had voted for or against them.


Taliban releases video showing two Western captives

The Taliban on Wednesday released a video showing two American University of Afghanistan professors who were abducted at gunpoint in August. The video marked the first public confirmation that the Islamist extremist group was holding the professors, Australian Timothy Weeks and American Kevin King. "We ask you to put pressure on the American government and the university to talk more to the Taliban to arrange an exchange," King, 60, said in the 13-minute clip. The video's release came months after Navy SEALs tried to rescue the men in a raid in eastern Afghanistan.


Germany says influx of asylum seekers slowed dramatically last year

Germany said Wednesday that 280,000 asylum seekers arrived in the country last year, a decline of more than 600,000 compared to 2015. Germany's interior minister attributed the fall to the closure in the Balkan route that many migrants used on the final leg of their journeys from the Middle East and northern Africa to the heart of Europe. Germany took in the largest number of migrants after Chancellor Angela Merkel adopted a temporary open-door asylum policy in an attempt to accommodate a growing number of Syrians fleeing their war-torn country.


Prosecutors charge 6 VW executives over emissions scandal

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced criminal charges against six Volkswagen executives over the German automaker's diesel emissions cheating scandal. The defendants include a former head of development for the VW brand and a former head of engine development. One of the executives, Oliver Schmidt, was arrested in Florida last week. The others are believed to be in Germany. The news came as the company struck a plea deal to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties, bringing the total cost of settlements with car owners and the government to $20 billion.


Chargers owner reportedly moving team to L.A.

San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos reportedly told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and some other team owners on Wednesday that he plans to move the franchise from its home of 56 years to Los Angeles, where it would share a futuristic new stadium with the Los Angeles Rams. A person with knowledge of the situation told USA Today that Spanos had not yet told the team's staff about his decision, although a meeting was scheduled for early Thursday. The mayor of Inglewood, James Butts, said he had not "received 100-percent word they will be moving," but that he expected to be told in a Thursday meeting. Butts has until Jan. 17 to formally announce his intentions. After that the Oakland Raiders will get the option to share the Inglewood stadium.


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