Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 7, 2017

Trump accuses the media of ignoring terror attacks, the DOJ urges judges to reinstate travel ban, and more


Trump accuses media of ignoring terrorist attacks

President Trump on Monday accused the media of choosing not to report on terrorist attacks. "It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported," Trump told senior commanders at the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, in Florida. "And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it." Trump, in his first speech to military service members, mentioned a series of attacks by "radical Islamic terrorists." The White House released a list of 78 terror attacks around the world, although it included numerous attacks that received extensive media coverage, such as the Orlando, San Bernardino, and Paris attacks. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer later walked back Trump's remarks, saying that Trump meant the attacks were "under-reported," not that they had not been covered at all.


Trump administration urges judges to reinstate travel ban

The Justice Department on Monday evening urged an appeals court to reinstate President Trump's executive order temporarily banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations to help prevent terrorists from sneaking into the country. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals plans to hear a challenge to the travel ban on Tuesday. A federal judge temporarily suspended the ban last week. The attorneys general in Washington and Minnesota have both challenged Trump's executive order, and say if the temporary suspension is lifted, "chaos" will ensue at airports across the United States.


British House of Commons speaker opposes Trump address to Parliament

The speaker of Britain's House of Commons said he was "strongly opposed" to letting President Trump address Parliament during a state visit planned for later this year. The speaker, John Bercow, said being invited to address both houses of Parliament was an "earned honor," not "an automatic right." Lawmakers burst into applause at the remark. Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to the U.K. during her recent visit to the U.S. Nearly two million people have signed a petition calling for the visit to be canceled or downgraded so that Queen Elizabeth II will not have to meet with Trump.


Kremlin demands apology after Bill O'Reilly calls Putin 'a killer'

The Kremlin on Monday demanded an apology from Fox News after one of its stars, Bill O'Reilly, called Russian President Vladimir Putin "a killer" during an interview with President Trump that aired on Sunday. "We consider such words by the Fox News company correspondent to be unacceptable and insulting," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "And honestly, we would prefer to receive an apology addressed to the Russian president from such a respected television station." Trump's response during the interview also drew fire, but from Republicans. Trump said the U.S. was not "innocent" either, prompting some members of his own party to say it was wrong to equate Putin's actions with those of American leaders.


Vice President Mike Pence breaks Senate deadlock to confirm Betsy DeVos

The Senate voted 51-50 to confirm President Donald Trump's education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, on Tuesday. Vice President Mike Pence stepped in to break a 50-50 deadlock that occurred after the upper chamber's 48 Democrats voted along party lines and were joined by Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Pence's vote marked the first time in U.S. history a vice president has ever been called on to tip a Cabinet confirmation vote. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called DeVos the "least qualified nominee in a historically unqualified Cabinet." Republicans have called the billionaire school-voucher proponent the kind of reformer the education system needs.


Israeli lawmakers approve controversial settlement law

The Israeli Parliament on Monday passed a law retroactively approving Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. The Palestinian land owners would be compensated, or receive alternative land. Israel's attorney general said the controversial law was unconstitutional, and vowed not to defend it when it inevitably goes to Israel's high court, which is expected to nullify it. The passage of the law, however, marked the latest in a series of provocative steps by conservative hardliners, reportedly encouraged by the Trump administration's softening of the U.S. position on settlements, which the Obama administration opposed. Palestinians say the new law is an obstacle to a peace deal that would establish a Palestinian state.


Yemen raid reportedly targeted but missed top al Qaeda leader

The recent deadly Yemen raid by Navy SEALs targeted the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Qassim al-Rimi, NBC News reported on Monday, citing military and intelligence officials. Al-Rimi is considered a master recruiter for the terrorism network, and the third most dangerous terrorist in the world. The raid left one SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, dead. Fourteen al Qaeda fighters and an unconfirmed number of civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, also were killed, but al-Rimi was not. On Sunday, he released an audio message taunting President Trump, saying, "The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands." U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the region, disputed reports that al-Rimi was the target, saying the raid was an intelligence-gathering operation, not a "high-value target mission."


Controversial former State Department official meeting with Trump about a job

Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative former diplomat, is scheduled to meet with President Trump at the White House on Tuesday to discuss a possible high-level State Department appointment. Trump reportedly is considering naming Abrams the State Department's No. 2 official, even though he advised Republicans last spring to "keep your distance" from Trump. Even more problematic is Abrams' history in the State Department. He was convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair, although he was pardoned by former President George H.W. Bush. Still, his familiarity with the State Department could ease concerns over Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's lack of government experience.


Amnesty International: Syrian authorities killed thousands in mass hangings

The Syrian government has secretly executed as many as 13,000 people in mass hangings at a prison since the beginning of an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Amnesty International reported Tuesday. Up to 50 people were killed every week at Saydnaya Prison north of Damascus in what the report called a "calculated campaign of extrajudicial execution." United Nations investigators determined a year ago that the Assad government had been "exterminating" thousands of civilian detainees in the country's civil war, and in August, Amnesty International said at least 17,732 detainees at government facilities had died after being tortured. The Syrian government rarely comments on torture allegations but has denied reports of massacres in the past.


Lawsuit says false story on Melania Trump cost her business opportunities

A lawyer for first lady Melania Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday accusing the company that publishes the Daily Mail of damaging her chance to capitalize on her time as first lady by publishing a later-retracted article falsely suggesting she once worked for an escort service. The suit against Mail Media said the article cost her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish potential "multimillion dollar business relationships" and "launch a broad-based commercial brand" during her time as first lady. The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $150 million. Richard Painter, a White House ethics counsel under President George W. Bush, said the lawsuit was troubling because it marked the first time a first lady had "insinuated that she intended to make a lot of money because of the 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity of being first lady."


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