Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 27, 2017

Mexican president cancels meeting with Trump, White House strategist Steve Bannon tells the media to "keep its mouth shut," and more


Mexico's president cancels meeting with Trump over border wall

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said Thursday that he was canceling his scheduled meeting with President Trump in Washington next week. He was under intense pressure to snub Trump for signing an executive order to start building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Peña Nieto also rejected Trump's call for Mexico to foot the bill for the wall, which is estimated to cost around $14 billion, give or take a few billion. Trump said the decision to cancel the meeting was mutual, and that a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports was one possible way to deliver on his pledge to make Mexico pay for the wall.


Trump aide Steve Bannon says media should 'keep its mouth shut'

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon escalated the Trump administration's attacks on journalists in an interview published in The New York Times on Thursday, saying the media is "the opposition party." Days after President Trump said he was in a "running war" with the media, Bannon said reporters "should be embarrassed and humiliated" for getting the election outcome "100 percent dead wrong," and failing to understand Trump's supporters. He said the media now should "keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." CNN's Jake Tapper responded to Bannon's suggestion that the media should be quiet with one word: "No."


Pence to headline Friday's March for Life

Vice President Mike Pence will join Friday's March for Life in Washington, D.C., marking the first time a president or vice president has ever spoken at the annual march in person. The rally has been held every year since 1974, marking the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights. President Ronald Reagan made a video for the event in 1988 and President George W. Bush called in to the march in 2008, but organizers called the participation of Pence, a self-proclaimed "evangelical Catholic" and longtime hero of anti-abortion activists, a historic development. Organizers expect tens of thousands of people to turn out.


Several top State Department managers leave

Four top managers resigned from the State Department on Thursday. The career foreign service officials were required to leave their appointed leadership positions, but could have stayed to take on other assignments. CNN reported that the Trump administration told them to go. One of the departing officials was Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management and faced scrutiny over his request that the FBI declassify one of the emails sent over Hillary Clinton's private server. There is often turnover when administrations change, but the loss of such a core team of career foreign service officers, combined with other recent departures, added up to a huge loss of institutional memory. None of the officials overtly tied the departures to President Trump, but several diplomats said some of the officials had privately expressed concerns about some of Trump's unorthodox foreign policy positions.


Theresa May urges caution on Trump's rapprochement with Russia

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday told Republicans in Philadelphia that the U.S. under President Trump must "stand together" with the U.K., keeping themselves and their allies safe but ending interventions aiming to "to remake the world in our own image." May cautiously endorsed Trump's call for improving relations with Russia, urging him to "engage, but beware." She said the U.S. should protect Russia's neighbors, and continue supporting international institutions such as NATO. May will meet with Trump on Friday. Trump is due to talk by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.


Trump told National Park chief to find bigger inaugural crowd photos

In a phone call on his first full day in office, President Trump personally ordered acting National Park Services director Michael T. Reynolds to find additional photos showing that the crowd at his inauguration was larger than news outlets reported, according to The Washington Post. Three people with knowledge of the conversation said Trump believed photos from different angles would confirm his claim that the crowd was far larger than reported. Trump also reportedly expressed anger at the agency for retweeting photos comparing his audience to the crowd at former President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. Reynolds declined to comment. Reynolds did send the White House some aerial shots, but they did not support Trump's case.


Arkansas governor signs ban on common second-trimester abortion procedure

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) on Thursday signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, banning dilation and evacuation, the most common second-trimester abortion procedure. The bill faced little opposition as conservative Republicans control both houses of the state legislature. Supporters of the anti-abortion legislation call the procedure "barbaric," while abortion rights advocates say it is the safest way to end a pregnancy. Opponents of the law said courts would block it because it places an "undue burden" on women's right to abortion. Hutchinson said the Supreme Court could uphold it due to evolving standards of fetal viability.


Trump favors rule change to prevent Supreme Court nominee filibuster

President Trump said in an interview aired Thursday that he would support a rule change by Senate Republicans to let a simple majority approve his Supreme Court nominee if Democrats try to block the confirmation of his pick with a filibuster. "I would," he told Fox News. "We have obstructionists." The current rules require 60 votes to get past a procedural hurdle to confirm Supreme Court nominees, but Republicans hold 52 seats in the 100-seat Senate. Trump has said he plans to announce his nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia next week.


Scientists create human-pig hybrid in controversial organ transplant breakthrough

An international team of scientists announced in the journal Cell published Thursday that it had created the first successful human-animal hybrid embryo, a mix known as a chimera. The scientists introduced human cells into a pig embryo early in its development. The embryo survived for weeks before they were removed and studied, proving that human cells can be grown inside a non-human host animal, a biomedical advance toward growing human donor organs for people on the national waiting list for organ transplants. Twenty-two people on the list die every day waiting for transplants. Still, the study revived ethical concerns about the possible creation of intelligent hybrids, or the accidental release of bizarre hybrids into the wild.


Rogue federal workers launch unofficial Twitter feeds to sidestep gag order

Federal employees from more than a dozen agencies have launched Twitter feeds to defy President Trump's communications blackout. The rogue workers include scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and other agencies. The tweets protest the censorship, and the administration's attempts to downplay climate change research and other scientific findings. "Can't wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS," an anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the new Twitter account @AltNatParkService. "You can take our official twitter, but you'll never take our free time!"


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