Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 26, 2017

Gianforte wins Montana House seat despite assault charge, Trump scolds NATO allies about defense spending, and more

1

Gianforte wins special election for Montana's House seat

Republican technology entrepreneur Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist, a musician and poet, in Montana's special election on Thursday, holding onto the state's empty House seat for the GOP even though Gianforte was charged with assaulting a reporter the day before the vote. Gianforte's campaign had denied the assault against a reporter who asked him about the House GOP health bill, but in his victory speech Gianforte apologized for it, saying, "When you make a mistake you have to own up to it. That's the Montana way." The seat was left open when Ryan Zinke became President Trump's secretary of the interior. The vote was closer than Republicans had expected at first, however, with Quist, a political novice, losing by just seven percentage points in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points.

2

Trump tells NATO allies to pay more for defense

President Trump scolded fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday for "not paying what they should be paying" for their common defense. Speaking at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's headquarters, Trump said that 23 of the 28 member nations are paying less than they have committed to pay, and many owe "massive amounts" from past years. Critics noted that Trump's characterization was wrong, because members don't pay into NATO, but follow guidelines on their own defense spending. Many of the other leaders exchanged sour glances and whispered to each other as Trump told them they were taking advantage of U.S. taxpayers. Trump also disappointed NATO allies by declining to clearly commit to Article 5 of NATO's charter, which stipulates that all members must come to the aid of any member that is attacked. On Friday, Trump continues his marathon of meetings with world leaders at the Group of 7 summit in Italy, where the Paris climate accord is expected to be a focus.

3

Court upholds block on Trump's revised travel ban

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, upheld a decision blocking President Trump's revised travel ban on Thursday, setting up a likely final showdown before the Supreme Court. The appeals court's chief judge said the order's thrust "drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination" by singling out Muslims in violation of "one of our most cherished founding principles." Trump's original order, issued on Jan. 27, limited travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, but it was blocked by the courts. The revised order narrowed the targeted nations by one, omitting Iraq but calling for a 90-day suspension of entry for people from the remaining six original nations, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The revised order also provided for exceptions in individual cases. Both versions of the order suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days.

4

Trump calls for inquiry into leaks on Manchester bombing

President Trump on Thursday called for the Justice Department to launch an investigation into leaks about the U.K. investigation into the deadly Manchester bombing, calling the leaks "deeply troubling" and saying they "pose a grave threat to our national security." British Prime Minister Theresa May sharply criticized the U.S. over the funneling of photographs of bomb fragments and other evidence and information to U.S. journalists. May told Trump in a meeting that it is "hugely important" that intelligence British authorities share with the U.S. remains secure, her spokesman said. British police resumed information sharing with the U.S. on Thursday after briefly halting it over the leaks.

5

Kushner becomes a focus of FBI Russia investigation

President Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner is becoming a focus of the FBI's Russia investigation, several U.S. officials told NBC News and other media outlets. Investigators are most interested in meetings Kushner held in December with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and a Moscow banker. FBI sources have not said that Kushner is the main target of the inquiry. Agents are continuing to look into contacts with Russian officials by former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and one-time Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort. Kushner is the only current White House official who is known to be under scrutiny in the investigation, which the Justice Department put into the hands of a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, last week.

6

GM shares fall as lawsuit alleges cheating on diesel emissions tests

General Motors stock dipped late Thursday after a lawsuit was filed in Detroit accusing the automaker of rigging hundreds of thousands of diesel Silverado and Sierra HD vehicles to pass emissions tests. The case, which is seeking class-action status, claims that GM used devices similar to those used by Volkswagen to help 705,000 Sierra HD and Silverado models of heavy-duty trucks with Duramax diesel engines cheat on emissions tests. The trucks allegedly emit two to five times the legal pollution levels in normal driving. The company said it would vigorously fight the lawsuit. "These claims are baseless," GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

7

Pentagon confirms more than 100 civilians killed in Mosul airstrike

The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that a U.S. airstrike in Mosul, Iraq, in March killed more than 100 civilians, but investigators concluded that the deaths were caused by the detonation of a cache of Islamic State explosives in the targeted building. The civilian toll appeared to be the largest since the U.S. started its air campaign against ISIS in 2014. "Our condolences go out to all those that were affected," said Maj. Gen. Joe Martin, commander of ground forces for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. "The coalition takes every feasible measure to protect civilians from harm. The best way to protect civilians is to defeat ISIS."

8

Alabama executes 'Houdini' of death row for 1982 murder

Alabama authorities early Friday executed longtime convicted murderer Tommy Arthur, who some had referred to as the "Houdini" of the state's death row because he had received a series of reprieves. On his eighth execution date, the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay minutes before Arthur was to receive a lethal injection, then ruled that the execution could proceed. Arthur, 75, was put to death for the 1982 murder-for-hire of his girlfriend's husband, Troy Wicker. Three juries have found Arthur guilty of shooting Wicker as he slept. Arthur has always maintained his innocence, but after his third conviction he requested the death penalty to give him more time and opportunities to appeal. "Until I take my last breath, I'll have hope," Arthur told NBC News last week.

9

NOAA predicts 'above normal' hurricane season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that it was predicting "above normal" storm activity in the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Acting NOAA Administrator Ben Friedman said the agency was predicting 11 to 17 tropical storms with average winds of 39 miles per hour. Five to nine of the storms are expected to reach hurricane strength with sustained winds of 74 mph, with two to four strengthening into major hurricanes with wind speeds of 111 mph or higher. "As a reminder, our season outlook predicts a range of storm activity," Friedman said. "It does not predict when, where and how these storms will hit and if they will make landfall."

10

Cavaliers advance to third straight NBA Finals against Warriors

The Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to the NBA Finals on Thursday by beating the Boston Celtics, 135-102. The win set up an unprecedented third straight Finals between the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. Cavaliers star LeBron James scored 35 points in the win over the Celtics, passing former Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan to become the all-time leading scorer in playoff games. "Anytime I'm linked to any of the greats, even the greatest in Mike, it's just an honor," James said. This year's Finals, which will kick off on June 1, will be James' seventh straight, a mark matched only by Bill Russell's Celtics teams of the 1950s and '60s.

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