10 things you need to know today: May 9, 2017
Sally Yates testifies she warned Michael Flynn was "compromised," South Koreans flock to polls in special presidential election, and more
Yates says she warned White House that Flynn was 'compromised'
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified on Capitol Hill on Monday that she warned President Trump's top lawyer that Russia could blackmail then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn because he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and Russia could prove it. Yates, who was fired weeks later for refusing to defend Trump's travel ban, said she gave the White House the warning that Flynn was "compromised" so "they could take action." Two former Obama administration officials said former President Barack Obama personally warned Trump not to hire Flynn, whom Obama had fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Trump responded with a tweet blaming the Obama administration for the Flynn mess, saying they gave the retired general "the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration — but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that."
South Koreans flock to polls to pick president in special election
South Koreans turned out in what could be record numbers to vote for a new president following a frenzied two-month campaign triggered by the ouster of former leader Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal. Exit polls indicated that liberal Moon Jae-in appeared headed to victory as expected after entering the vote with a 20-point lead in polls over two rivals, a centrist and a conservative, as conservatives struggled to regroup after Park's impeachment and arrest. The National Election Commission said turnout could reach more than 80 percent, the highest since 1997. Moon narrowly lost to Park in 2012. He has criticized the two former conservative governments for failing to get North Korea to curb its weapons programs, and clashed with his main rivals, conservative Hong Joon-pyo and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, over the country's acceptance of the U.S. THAAD antimissile system. The other candidates supported its deployment, while Moon called it "very regrettable," saying South Korea should learn to "say no to the Americans."
Trump advisers propose stepping up fight against Taliban
Top military and foreign policy advisers to President Trump have proposed sending more troops to Afghanistan and returning the U.S. to a war footing against the Taliban. The U.S. has 8,400 soldiers in the country to aid and train Afghan forces now, and Trump's advisers are suggesting boosting that by as many as 5,000 more troops to help break a stalemate and pressure the resurgent Islamist group into negotiating with the Afghan government. Trump has not yet approved the new strategy, which would let the Pentagon, not the White House, determine what U.S. troop strength should be in Afghanistan, and give military leaders greater flexibility in targeting the Taliban with airstrikes. Trump's decision is expected before a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.
Trump nominates 10 federal judges
President Trump on Monday nominated 10 federal judges at once, in an effort to begin filling the more than 120 openings on lower federal courts. Two of the appointees — Michigan Supreme Court justice Joan Larsen and Minnesota Supreme Court justice David Stras — had appeared on Trump's public list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees from his campaign. Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler said of the choices: "There are plenty of things about this president and this administration that are unconventional [but] thus far, the Trump administration's judicial nominees have been in line with what you would expect from a Republican president."
Divided appeals court hears arguments on Trump's revised travel ban
Federal appeals court judges on Monday grilled a Justice Department lawyer about President Trump's revised temporary travel ban on people from six mostly Islamic nations, questioning whether the policy's purpose was preventing terrorism or keeping out Muslims. The court in Richmond, Virginia, is dominated by Democratic appointees who expressed doubts about whether it was appropriate for Trump to propose a three-month halt to issuing visas to citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Three Republicans asked whether the courts should question the president's power to make policies to protect U.S. borders.
Police charge Arizona man over Phoenix serial shootings
Police have charged a 23-year-old Arizona man, Aaron Saucedo, in connection with a series of street shootings that terrorized the Phoenix area in 2016, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said Monday. Saucedo was arrested on April 19 for a 2015 killing, but was booked on two dozen more charges related to the serial shootings, which occurred from March to July 2016. Investigators now have linked 12 shootings to the string of attacks, with a death toll of nine. "We hope that our community will rest a little easier and that our officers will get a little more sleep (knowing) that our wheels of justice are finally in motion at work," Williams said.
Sinclair confirms deal to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion
Sinclair Broadcasting, already the largest U.S. owner of local television stations, confirmed Monday that it had agreed to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. Sinclair beat out other interested companies that included Nexstar and 21st Century Fox. With the addition of Tribune's 42 stations, Sinclair will have 173 stations and be able to reach more than 70 percent of American households, including those in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Tribune CEO Peter Kern said the deal was the start of a wave of consolidation that will "better allow local broadcasters to compete." Critics said the acquisition will give Sinclair too much power to advance a conservative agenda.
ISIS releases video showing beheading of Russian intelligence officer
The Islamic State released a video on Monday showing the beheading of a Russian intelligence officer who was captured in Syria and accused of spying on the Islamist extremist group. The video, released on media accounts associated with ISIS, showed the murder of Capt. Evgeny Petrenko, who allegedly infiltrated Islamist groups in Kazakhstan and Russia's North Caucasus region before going to Syria. In an apparently forced interview, Petrenko, a 36-year-old agent for the Russian Federal Security Service, said he was caught while trying to spy on the inner circle of a Georgian Chechen commander for ISIS in Syria, Omar al-Shishani, who has been called ISIS' "Minister of War" by the Pentagon. Shishani was reported to have been killed in 2016.
Senate confirms Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary
The Senate confirmed Heather Wilson, who represented New Mexico in Congress for a decade before becoming a defense industry consultant, as President Trump's secretary of the Air Force in a 76-22 vote on Monday. All of the "no" votes came from Democrats, several of whom questioned an arrangement with government labs that paid her $20,000 a month. Wilson, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and former Rhodes scholar, denied any impropriety, saying she had worked for the money and the inspector general found no reason to fault her. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Wilson, 56, a "proven leader." The former Air Force officer served on President George H.W. Bush's National Security Council staff during the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Facebook makes push against fake news ahead of U.K. elections
Facebook published ads in British newspapers on Monday offering advice on spotting fake news online. The move was part of a push to weed out misinformation on the social network ahead of general elections in the U.K. next month. Facebook has faced heated criticism over its role in spreading fake news during the U.S. presidential campaign last year. The company announced last week that it was hiring 3,000 more moderators, nearly doubling its staff devoted to ferreting out bogus posts.