10 things you need to know today: April 6, 2017
Stephen Bannon booted from National Security Council, Trump says chemical attack changed his views on Syria, and more
Trump removes Bannon from National Security Council
President Trump removed his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, from the National Security Council on Wednesday. The change came as part of a major reshuffling that returned top military and intelligence officials to key roles they had lost when Trump put the controversial Bannon, a former head of the conservative Breitbart news site with no national security experience, onto the team that shapes the nation's national security policy. The restructuring reportedly was led by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, the Army three-star general who assumed the post after Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was ousted in February for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russia's ambassador before Trump's inauguration.
Trump says chemical attack changed his views on Syria
President Trump said Wednesday that this week's deadly chemical weapon attack in Syria changed his views on President Bashar al-Assad and his protracted war against rebel groups. The Trump administration said many times recently that it would not press for Assad's removal from power, but Trump said the killing of "innocent children, innocent babies, little babies" in the apparent nerve gas attack in Idlib had changed his attitude toward Assad. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley also slammed Russia, saying during an emergency meeting with the United Nations Security Council that Russia, Syria's most powerful patron, shares the blame. "Russia cannot escape responsibility for this," Haley said. "In fact, if Russia had been fulfilling its responsibility, there would not even be any chemical weapons left for the Syrian regime to use."
Senate heads into historic clash over Gorsuch nomination
The Senate headed into a showdown over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Thursday. Democrats are vowing to use a filibuster to block a key vote on ending debate, and Republicans say they will use the so-called nuclear option of changing Senate rules to scrap the filibuster so they can call a vote to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority of 51 senators, rather than the 60 it takes to beat a filibuster. "Democrats would filibuster Ruth Bader Ginsburg if President Donald Trump nominated her," said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "There is simply no principled reason to oppose this exceptional, exceptional Supreme Court nominee." Democrats said it was Republicans who abandoned principles by refusing to even consider then-President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, last year. "For the first time in history, we are considering a nominee for a stolen Supreme Court seat," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Republican health-care push hits snags ahead of break
House Republican leaders on Wednesday dampened expectations that Republicans would hammer out a new compromise health-care bill before adjourning for a two-week recess. GOP lawmakers and the White House this week said they were making progress toward new legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare, after their first attempt ended in failure nearly two weeks ago, but a late-night meeting led by Vice President Mike Pence broke up with no deal, with some saying the talks between the administration and the conservative Freedom Caucus were unraveling. The news came a day after a poll showed support for ObamaCare surging. A majority of Americans now support former President Barack Obama's signature health-care reform law, making it more popular than ever.
Trump heads into first summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping
President Trump holds his first summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday and Friday at Trump's private club, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida. The meeting is taking place at a time of heightening tensions over North Korea, an ally of China. Trump has warned Beijing that the U.S. will take action alone to rein in North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs if China does not increase pressure on Pyongyang to curb its efforts to develop more sophisticated weapons. U.S.-China trade relations also will be at the top of the agenda, and Trump is expected to repeat tough statements about the U.S. trade deficit with China.
China warns India over Dalai Lama visit to Indian border region
The Dalai Lama consecrated a Buddhist monastery in India's disputed northeast border region on Thursday, triggering an angry reaction from China. Nearly 10,000 people turned out to greet the Dalai Lama for the ceremony at the Thubchok Gatsel Ling Monastery in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its territory. China's Foreign Ministry said the visit by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, "severely harms China's interests and the China-India relationship." A day earlier, the Dalai Lama said his people were not demanding independence from China, just "meaningful autonomy" for their region.
Alabama panel finds probable cause governor broke laws
The Alabama Ethics Commission on Wednesday found probable cause that Gov. Robert Bentley (R) violated state ethics and campaign finance laws. The commission determined that Bentley used public resources for his personal interests, used money from his campaign to pay the legal fees of his former political adviser, Rebekah Mason, and improperly received a campaign contribution and made a loan to his campaign account outside of the window allowed by law. In March 2016, state auditor Jim Zeigler filed a complaint, claiming that Bentley and Mason were having an affair and that the governor was fraudulently using state resources to carry it out. Bentley, who is also under investigation by the Alabama state attorney general's office, has denied any wrongdoing. The ethics commission's decision now sends the investigation to the Montgomery County district attorney.
Trump says Susan Rice may have broken law, but he cites no evidence
President Trump said Wednesday in an interview with The New York Times that Susan Rice, then-President Barack Obama's national security adviser, may have committed a crime when she asked for the identities of Trump associates caught in normal surveillance of foreign officials by U.S. spy agencies, although he offered no evidence. The claim was the latest example of Trump repeating allegations made in conservative media but disputed by experts. Current and former intelligence officials, from Republican and Democratic administrations alike, have said Rice did not appear to have done anything wrong, or even unusual. Rice, through a representative, said, "I'm not going to dignify the president's ludicrous charge with a comment."
Pilot safely ejects before fighter jet crashes in Maryland
A fighter pilot ejected safely before his jet crashed into a wooded Washington, D.C., suburb during a training mission Wednesday. The District of Columbia Air National Guard F-16C slammed into the ground about 200 yards behind a subdivision of two-story brick houses, about three miles from Joint Base Andrews. The aircraft was carrying live ammunition. Tony Hollingsworth, who lives nearby, said the "house shook" and the ammunition "sounded like a shootout" as it popped for around 15 minutes. About 20 houses were evacuated as a precaution, but nobody on the ground was injured. The pilot was taken to a hospital in a military helicopter, and treated for minor injuries.
Amazon wins $50 million deal to livestream NFL games
Amazon has struck a $50 million deal with the NFL to livestream games this fall. Amazon Prime subscribers will be able to livestream 10 Thursday Night Football games. The NFL made a similar deal with Twitter last year, but Twitter paid just $10 million. Twitter had expressed interest in carrying the games again next season, as had Facebook and YouTube, but Amazon won out. "For us, this is about starting to bring live sports to our Prime members all around the world," said Amazon's head of business development and entertainment, Jeff Blackburn. CBS and NBC will each broadcast five of the games, and Amazon will stream their coverage, ads and all. Amazon will get to sell some ad slots, too.