Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 21, 2017

Saudi arms deal is largest in U.S. history, Trump to speak on Islam to Muslim leaders, and more


Saudi arms deal is largest in U.S. history

The United States and Saudi Arabia have sealed an arms deal worth $350 billion over the next decade, the White House said Saturday, on the occasion of President Trump's first visit to Riyadh since taking office. The immediate sale is worth $110 billion and, once complete, "will be the largest single arms deal in American history," said Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, chief of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Saudi Arabia also announced business deals totaling $55 billion with U.S. companies in the energy and chemical sectors Saturday, presenting the deals to Trump shortly after he arrived.


Trump to speak on Islam to Muslim leaders

President Trump will address leaders of 50 majority-Muslim nations Sunday in an "uplifting" but "blunt" speech on Islam and the war on terror. The talk is the keynote event of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, the first stop of his inaugural international tour as president. A leaked draft of the speech did not contain the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism," which Trump during his campaign insisted must be explicitly named. In an interview to air Sunday, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said "the president will call it whatever he wants to call it."


Rouhani pledges to open Iran

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday in Riyadh shared the agenda he wants Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to pursue following his re-election win Friday. Tillerson said he hopes Rouhani will use his new term "to begin a process of dismantling Iran's network of terrorism," put "an end to their ballistic missile testing," and restore "the rights of Iranians." In his televised victory speech, Rouhani pledged to reform and open Iran to international engagement. The election's message, he said, was Iran's choice of "the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism."


North Korea tests medium-range missile

One week after its most recent ballistic missile test, North Korea tested what is believed to be a medium-range ballistic missile Sunday. The rocket traveled about 310 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan, a shorter flight than the last test. "We are working with our Interagency partners on a more detailed assessment. We continue to monitor North Korea's actions closely," said a statement from U.S. Pacific Command. New South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened a National Security Council meeting after the test but did not comment publicly.


China reportedly killed and imprisoned CIA sources

The Chinese government killed or imprisoned 18 to 20 informants working with the CIA between 2010 and 2012, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing two former senior U.S. officials who remained unnamed. Five years later, it is still not certain how the sources were identified, only that their grim fates significantly crippled American intelligence efforts in China. Some in the intelligence community suspect a mole, the Times reported, while others believe Chinese hackers could have breached CIA systems. The CIA declined to comment for the Times story.


Trump, West Wing staff lawyer up for Russia probe

White House staff are seeking legal counsel in anticipation of working with federal investigators probing alleged ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. For many, this could be a major financial strain, as conflict-of-interest rules limit their options for free or discounted legal services. "Obviously for the people who have a lot of money and assets, some of these higher ups, it's not a problem," said Stanley Brand, who was George Stephanopoulos' attorney when he was Bill Clinton's press secretary. "It's a problem for the lower downs who don't." Trump met with his own pricey legal team Thursday.


Pence commencement speeches spark protest

Vice President Mike Pence will deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on Sunday in his home state of Indiana. His appearance will be met with a walk-out protest planned by some Notre Dame students who argue his "policies target the most vulnerable groups in our society." Pence also spoke at the graduation ceremony of Grove City College on Saturday, where he described President Trump as an "example of leadership" while extolling the importance of good character in leaders. His speech was met with protest at the Pennsylvania campus, too.


Plane-truck collision at LAX injures 8

Eight people were injured when a plane collided with a truck on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Saturday. The passenger jet was taxiing to its gate when it hit a utility truck and flipped it over. None of the injuries were life-threatening, officials said, but two of the people in the truck were seriously hurt. The plane's passengers and crew were all safe. "Someone made a grave mistake, we need to determine who it was," said airport Officer Rob Pedregon.


Cloud Computing wins the Preakness, ending Triple Crown hopes

Cloud Computing won the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, ending hopes that Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming could take the 2017 Triple Crown. "Some of the reason that we won today was because we were patient and didn't throw an inexperienced horse against a 20-horse field in the Derby on a very difficult track,'' said Cloud Computing's co-owner Seth Klarman. Always Dreaming led for part of the race but ultimately finished in 8th place. The most recent Triple Crown winner was American Pharoah in 2015, triumphing after a 37-year drought.


SNL bids farewell to Bayer, Moynihan, possibly Baldwin and Trump

Saturday Night Live opened its 42nd season finale, hosted by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, with a reprise of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," the song the show used to mourn Hillary Clinton's election loss. This time around, Alec Baldwin's President Trump was the one at the piano, wearing a Russian flag pin to reference the scandals many believe will end his presidency well before 2020. The farewell for the real Trump may be preemptive, but Baldwin is expected to step down from his role as SNL's president. This episode also marked the last appearance of longtime cast members Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer.


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