10 things you need to know today: March 22, 2017
Democrats grill Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Trump warns Republicans to get behind ObamaCare replacement plan, and more
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch weathers grilling by Democrats
President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, sought to put himself above politics and assert his independence as he faced sharply partisan questioning as his confirmation hearing continued on Tuesday. Democrats grilled Gorsuch on everything from abortion rights to President Trump's travel ban. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Gorsuch whether a president's decisions on national security were reviewable by the courts, and Gorsuch replied, "Nobody is above the law in this country." Gorsuch also said that Trump had not asked him to say whether he would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision. "I would have walked out the door," Gorsuch said. "That's not what judges do." The hearing continues on Wednesday and Thursday.
Trump pressures Republicans to get behind ObamaCare replacement plan
President Trump on Tuesday warned Republicans to get behind the House GOP's proposal to replace ObamaCare or face defeat in next year's midterm elections. "I'm gonna come after you, but I know I won't have to, because I know you'll vote 'yes,'" Trump said, according to several meeting participants in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. "Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks." The GOP bill would reduce future federal financing for Medicaid and replace income-based premium subsidies with age-based tax credits. It would also repeal ObamaCare tax hikes. Some conservatives oppose the plan because they say it doesn't go far enough, leaving doubts about whether Republicans have the votes to pass the legislation. Democrats are fighting it because it is projected to leave millions more Americans without insurance.
Labor nominee Alexander Acosta heads into confirmation hearing
Labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta heads into his confirmation hearing on Wednesday with support from Big Labor, suggesting a relatively smooth path ahead. Acosta was President Trump's second choice for the job, stepping in after fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder dropped out. Acosta is likely to face tough questions over a plea deal he approved as U.S. attorney for a billionaire in a child sex case, but Republican senators said his three previous confirmations for federal positions suggest he won't face too much opposition. In prepared remarks, Acosta, who will be the first Hispanic member of Trump's Cabinet if confirmed, vowed to work with Congress to help Americans get the training they need to get good, safe jobs.
New details emerge on ex-Trump campaign chief's alleged Russia ties
A Ukrainian lawmaker on Tuesday released financial documents that he said showed that Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Trump, laundered $750,000 in payments from the party of Ukraine's pro-Russia former president, Viktor Yanukovych. The revelations came soon after FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that his agency was investigating allegations of Russian meddling in last year's election, and possible coordination between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign. The Associated Press reported early Wednesday that Manafort also secretly worked for a Russian billionaire close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, promoting Putin's interests and countering Kremlin opposition in former Soviet republics more than a decade ago.
North Korean missile test fails
A North Korean missile exploded just after launch on Wednesday, U.S. and South Korean military officials said. "It may have exploded right after it took off from a launch pad," a South Korean military official said. The failure came in the latest in a series of weapons tests by the isolated, unpredictable communist nation that have escalated tensions in the region. Just last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a trip that took him to Japan, South Korea, and China that the U.S. was ending its policy of strategic patience with North Korea, and that all options, including military action, were on the table.
Trump to attend May NATO summit
The White House announced Tuesday that President Trump will attend a summit with leaders of NATO nations on May 25 in Brussels. Trump has chafed NATO allies by calling for them to increase their defense spending, and by proposing an alliance with Russia to fight the Islamic State. "The president looks forward to meeting with his NATO counterparts to reaffirm our strong commitment to NATO, and to discuss issues critical to the alliance, especially allied responsibility-sharing and NATO's role in the fight against terrorism," the White House said in a statement. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visits Washington, D.C., on April 12.
Retailer files unfairness lawsuit against Ivanka Trump's brand
An upscale San Francisco clothing boutique, Modern Appealing Clothing, has lodged a class action suit against Ivanka Trump's brand, accusing it of leveraging her father's presidency to gain an unfair advantage over rivals. Modern Appealing Clothing filed the claim last week in California arguing that sales for Ivanka Trump's clothing and accessories brand "have surged since the election" by exploiting "the power and prestige of the White House for personal gain." The lawsuit comes as Ivanka Trump is seeking security clearance and getting an office in the West Wing, where she reportedly will offer President Trump "her candid advice." Ivanka Trump's company declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Judge sentences friend of Dylann Roof to 27 months
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Joseph C. Meek Jr., a friend of convicted murderer Dylann Roof, to 27 months in prison for misleading authorities who were investigating Roof's racist massacre at a black church. Meek, 22, pleaded guilty last April to misleading FBI agents in interviews shortly after the 2015 shooting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that left nine churchgoers dead. In a night of drinking and drug use a week before the attack, Roof had told Meek of his plan to kill black people at a church to start a race war. Meek did not report the threat, although he considered it serious enough that he hid Roof's handgun. A tearful Meek had asked for leniency and apologized to the victims' families, saying he was "really sorry a lot of innocent lives were taken."
Gong Show host Chuck Barris dies at 87
Game-show creator Chuck Barris died Tuesday at his home in Palisades, New York. He was 87. Barris cranked out a string of iconic shows starting in 1966 with The Dating Game, hosted by Jim Lange. In that show, young people questioned three members of the opposite sex who were hidden from view to determine who would be the best date. Barris followed that up with The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show, an unpredictable talent show that Barris hosted.
Disney sued over Oscar-winning animated film Zootopia
Production company Esplanade Productions on Tuesday filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Walt Disney Pictures over its Oscar-winning animated film Zootopia. The suit alleges screenwriter and producer Gary Goldman, who has worked on projects including Total Recall and Minority Report, has twice pitched a similar concept to Disney on behalf of Esplanade Productions, and that Disney used Goldman's ideas for Zootopia. Goldman said his vision was to "explore life in America through a civilized society of animals"; Disney's film "explores prejudice through a bunny's quest to become a respected police officer." Disney said Goldman's lawsuit is "riddled with patently false allegations" and vowed to "vigorously defend against it in court."