Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 13, 2017

The DOJ investigates FBI handling of the Clinton email case, Obama ends special treatment for Cuban migrants, and more


DOJ investigates FBI treatment of Clinton email case before election

The Justice Department inspector general's office said Thursday that it was opening an investigation into FBI director James Comey's decision to inform Congress in a letter that the agency was looking at newly found emails related to Hillary Clinton's private server. The emails quickly proved irrelevant, but Clinton has said the move, which renewed scrutiny of her email practices days before the election, was a key factor in her narrow loss to President-elect Donald Trump. The inspector general's office said it was launching the inquiry in response to complaints from the public and lawmakers that the FBI and the Justice Department made politically motivated decisions about the Clinton email investigation during the campaign.


Obama ends 'wet foot, dry foot' policy toward Cuban migrants

President Obama is ending the 20-year-old "wet foot, dry foot" immigration policy that has let Cuban migrants who reach U.S. shores stay and become legal residents, even though they arrive undocumented, a senior administration official said Thursday. The change would mean that Cuban migrants no longer receive special treatment, meaning if they arrive without visas they will have to return home or stay illegally in fear of deportation. The move comes just over two years after President Obama began a rapprochement with the communist-run Caribbean island nation.


EPA accuses Fiat Chrysler of diesel emission test cheating

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler of installing software on some of its diesel trucks to cheat on emissions tests. The software allegedly reduced emissions of nitrogen oxide during tests, hiding actual pollution levels exceeding amounts allowed under the Clean Air Act. The allegations involve some 2014 to 2016 Dodge Ram 1500 pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees. Fiat Chrysler officials denied the allegations. The company's stock plummeted by as much as 18 percent Thursday morning. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne called the accusations "unadulterated hogwash."


Mattis, Pompeo talk tough on Russia in confirmation hearings

Two of President-elect Donald Trump's top security team nominees, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), took strong stances against Russia during their confirmation hearings on Thursday. Mattis, Trump's pick for secretary of defense, expressed concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to "break" NATO, and said the U.S. should maintain the "strongest possible relationship" with the treaty organization. Pompeo, nominated as head of the CIA, appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee and agreed with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that Putin has done "a really good job of creating chaos, division, instability in the American political process." Both expressed confidence in the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia was behind the hacking of Democrats ahead of last year's election, a notion Trump hesitated to embrace.


Obama creates three civil rights national monuments

President Obama designated three civil rights sites as national monuments on Thursday. One covers several square blocks in Birmingham, Alabama, that include the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls were killed in a 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing. Another includes an Anniston, Alabama, Greyhound bus station where Freedom Riders were attacked in 1961, and the third commemorates a community built in Beaufort County, South Carolina, by freed slaves after the Civil War. Obama also expanded the California Coastal National Monument, and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon. He has now used his executive authority more than any other president to protect historic, cultural, and ecological sites.


Baltimore commits to police reforms in agreement with DOJ

Baltimore and the Justice Department signed a consent decree committing the city to police reforms intended to restore trust in local police. The agreement mandates more community oversight, new recruitment policies, more training on stops and searchers, and training on deescalating potentially volatile incidents. The city also has to put cameras in police vans. The consent decree came as a result of a Justice Department review following the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal injury in a police van, that found a pattern of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, and the use of unnecessary force against African-Americans.


House oversight chair scolds federal ethics chief who criticized Trump

House Republicans late Thursday summoned Walter Shaub Jr., director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, to answer questions about his public criticism of President-elect Donald Trump's plan to distance himself from his business empire while in office. Trump said he would step aside and have his adult sons run the Trump Organization. Shaub said that was "wholly inadequate," and that Trump would have to sell his stake and put his assets in a blind trust to avoid the appearance that he could profit from presidential decisions. In a letter, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the GOP-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that Shaub had "raised a bunch of eyebrows" by taking "a very aggressive stance on issues he's never looked at." Ethics experts took that as a veiled threat warning Shaub to back down.


Winter storms help end drought in northern California

Recent winter storms that dumped 20 inches of rain and snow have officially ended a brutal five-year drought in northern California, federal officials said Thursday. "Bye bye drought ... Don't let the door hit you on the way out," the National Weather Service's office in Reno, Nev., tweeted. A year ago, 97 percent of the state remained in drought conditions. Now, for the first time since early 2013, less than 60 percent of the state remains in drought.


Trump makes a pitch for L.L.Bean as thanks for co-owner's support

President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday thanked Linda Bean, co-owner of outdoor retailer L.L.Bean, for her support with a tweet that concluded, "Buy L.L.Bean." The unprecedented presidential endorsement came in the face of a backlash after a report that Bean, an L.L.Bean board member, had given $30,000 to the pro-Trump Making Maine Great Again PAC, exceeding limits on individual contributions in a single year. Liberal critics called for a boycott of L.L.Bean under the hashtag #Grabyourwallet. Linda Bean accused her critics of "bullying," and the company said her views did not reflect those of other Bean family members or the company.


Obama surprises Biden with Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Obama surprised Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday by awarding him the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction. Obama called Biden "the best vice president America has ever had." The added honor of presenting the award "with distinction" is rare. It has only been given to three others over the last three presidencies: Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and former secretary of state Colin Powell. Biden was just the third vice president to ever receive the medal. "It is, as Joe once said, a big ... deal," a straight-faced Obama joked, referring to Biden's expletive-laden assessment of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Biden, wiping away tears said he "had no inkling" the award was coming.


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