Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 13, 2017

Trump threatens Comey with 'tapes' of their conversations, NSA-linked cyberattack strikes 99 countries, and more


Trump threatens Comey with 'tapes' of their conversations

President Trump issued a public threat to his ousted FBI director Friday morning on Twitter: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" A source "familiar with the matter" told CNN Comey is "not worried about any tapes," but the implication that Trump recorded a private conversation had reporters balking. When pressed by Reuters' Jeff Mason on the issue, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday declined to deny Trump is recording Oval Office talks. In a Fox News interview clip released Friday, Trump said he "can't talk about" his tapes remark. "I won't talk about that," he added. "All I want is for Comey to be honest and I hope he will be, and I'm sure he will be, I hope."


NSA-linked cyberattack strikes 99 countries

A ransomware cyberattack using tools developed by the NSA has infected more than 75,000 computers in 99 countries, digital security firm Avast said Friday. The attack takes over a computer system and requires the owner to pay a ransom to regain control. Most of the attack targets are located in Russia, Ukraine, and Taiwan, but large systems have been taken down in Europe, too, including FedEx, Germany's national railways, and the United Kingdom's National Health Service. Europol, the European Union's police agency, is responding.


Potential Comey replacements to interview Saturday

President Trump is looking at "nearly a dozen" candidates to take over for fired FBI Director James Comey, The Associated Press reported Friday, citing two White House officials. Trump's list boasts attorneys, lawmakers, and law enforcement officials, and a source told Politico Friday evening four candidates will interview for the role Saturday: acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), former Justice Department Criminal Division Chief Alice Fisher, and Michael Garcia, a New York state judge. McCabe on Thursday called the FBI's investigation of Trump's potential ties to Russia, which began under Comey, "highly significant."


North Korean official pitches talks 'if conditions are set'

Choi Son Hui, North Korea's foreign ministry director-general for North America, said in Beijing Saturday Pyongyang would be open to direct talks with the United States "if conditions are set" which satisfy the Kim Jong Un regime. The high-ranking official did not specify what those conditions might be. President Trump has similarly suggested conditioned talks as a way to potentially move past stalemate. "If it would be appropriate for me to meet with [Kim Jong Un], I would absolutely," Trump said, "under the right circumstances."


Trump lawyers say tax returns show minimal income from Russian sources

President Trump's lawyers have released a letter apparently confirming that the last 10 years of Trump's tax returns show virtually no "income of any type from Russian sources." Noted exceptions are the 2013 Miss Universe pageant and a property Trump sold to a billionaire in 2008 for $95 million, The Associated Press reports, noting the "lawyers did not release copies of Trump's tax returns so The Associated Press cannot independently verify their conclusions." Trump reportedly asked for the letter after a request from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is leading a congressional investigation into alleged Russian election meddling.


Trump floats axing press briefings

President Trump on Friday threatened to end White House press briefings because, he tweeted, "it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!" Trump's tweets came after outcry surrounding the White House's portrayal of the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. A Wednesday account from Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was directly contradicted by Trump Thursday. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Friday Trump is simply "a little dismayed" by the press briefings. Trump proposed distributing "written responses" instead, suggesting he host biweekly briefings in lieu of Spicer's daily briefing.


Sessions' sentencing guidelines face bipartisan critique

Former Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday tore into Attorney General Jeff Sessions' new policy directing federal prosecutors to pursue the harshest possible sentence for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses, calling the plan a "dumb on crime" approach that turns "back the clock to a discredited, emotionally motivated, ideological policy." Sessions also came under fire from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.). Mandatory minimum sentencing "unfairly and disproportionately" targets minorities, Paul said, and Sessions' "policy will accentuate that injustice."


Historically black university cancels Sen. John Cornyn's commencement address

Texas Southern University, a historically black institution, on Friday rescinded its commencement speech invitation to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). The decision comes just days after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was booed while giving a commencement address at another historically black school. It also follows a petition to cancel the Cornyn speech that was signed by 800 members of the Texas Southern community. A statement from Cornyn's office says he "respects the administration's decision and looks forward to continuing to engage with the university in the future."


Michelle Obama slams Trump school lunch policy

Michelle Obama on Friday indirectly criticized the Trump administration's decision to roll back some of the nutritional requirements for public school lunches she implemented as first lady. "You have to stop and think, 'Why don't you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you, and why is that a partisan issue?'" Obama said while speaking at a nonprofit event addressing childhood obesity. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue says the changes were made because children simply throw away unpalatable Obama-style meals. "Meals can't be nutritious if they're ... put in the trash," Purdue argued.


Pope Francis canonizes 2 Fatima children

Pope Francis on Saturday canonized two siblings from Fatima, Portugal, who reported seeing visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917. Francisco and Jacinta Marto were shepherd children aged 9 and 7 who said Mary repeatedly appeared and prophesied to them while they were grazing their sheep. Both died two years later in the Spanish flu epidemic. The children are now the youngest saints in the Catholic canon who were not martyred. Their shrine in Portugal draws more than 5 million visitors annually, and their ceremony Saturday was expected to attract a million worshippers.


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