Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 27, 2017

Kushner reportedly tried to arrange Kremlin backchannel, Senate Intel Committee requests all Russia-related Trump campaign docs, and more

1

Kushner reportedly tried to arrange Kremlin backchannel

President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner reportedly held discussions with Russia's ambassador about setting up a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin shortly after the election, intelligence officials confirmed to The Washington Post Friday. Kushner apparently suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for backchannel talks, alarming Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as that would pose a security risk for Russia, too. Kushner's legal team said he has "no recollection" of the alleged conversation with Kislyak, and he is happy to speak with federal investigators about his role in the Trump campaign.

2

Senate Intel Committee requests all Russia-related Trump campaign docs

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked President Trump's campaign to hand over all documents, including phone records and emails, with any reference to Russia dating from June of 2015 onward. The request, which The Washington Post reported Friday evening citing two unnamed sources, is part of the committee's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The committee's letter arrived last week, and campaign staffers are reportedly in the process of cooperating, though they have been instructed not to comment publicly. This is the first time the committee's investigation has involved the official campaign organization.

3

Trump delays G7 climate accord decision

President Trump emerged from Friday's G7 summit in Sicily with "evolving" views on climate change, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn reported. "He feels much more knowledgeable on the topic today," Cohn said, noting Trump "came here to get smarter." Trump attended the meeting alongside the leaders of Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and Canada, all of whom are pushing him not to exit the 2015 Paris climate accord. Trump tweeted Saturday morning, "I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!"

4

Trump touts success at close of first tour abroad as president

President Trump will return to Washington on Saturday after the second day of the G7 summit in Italy, completing his nine-day tour through Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe. Saturday morning, Trump claimed on Twitter that "Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should," as a result of his speech in Brussels Thursday. "Money is beginning to pour in," he added. Trump's description of "payments" into a fund is misleading; NATO countries actually pledged in 2014 to hit a 2 percent of GDP target for their own defense spending. Only five allies have met that goal.

5

Comey reportedly closed Clinton case over Russian intel he knew was false

When former FBI Director James Comey abruptly closed the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server last summer, it was in response to a piece of Russian intelligence purporting that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch assured the Clinton campaign the investigation would not be vigorously pursued. Comey reportedly knew the Russian intelligence was false, officials with knowledge of the situation told The Washington Post, but felt he had "little choice" but to close the probe "because he feared that if ... the secret document leaked, the legitimacy of the entire case would be questioned."

6

Democrats, Republicans try to spin Gianforte's Montana win to their advantage

Democrats and Republicans alike are claiming optimism after GOP candidate Greg Gianforte won the Montana House seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Democrats are hopeful Gianforte's narrower-than-expected victory in a red state could bode well for 2018. Princeton electoral statistician Sam Wang told Axios "even a 5-point underperformance in November 2018 would be enough to put House control within reach for Democrats." Republicans, meanwhile, are comforted that their candidate was victorious, despite being charged with assaulting a reporter the night before the election. President Trump deemed it a "great win in Montana."

7

Carter adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski dies at 89

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, died Friday in Virginia. He was 89. The son of a Polish diplomat, Brzezinski advised Carter throughout his presidency, guiding the White House during the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis as well as the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Though a hard-line Cold War hawk, Brzezinski opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. His death was announced by his daughter, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, who remembered him as "the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have."

8

Ranting man fatally stabs 2 in Portland

Two people were killed and a third injured on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, by a man witnesses said was "yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs." Unverified reports suggest the suspect may have been targeting two Muslim girls riding the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab. The victims were attempting to protect other passengers when they were stabbed. The suspect has been detained by police, who have deemed his rant to be hate speech. Neither the attacker nor the victims have been publicly identified.

9

Tillerson declines to host Ramadan celebration at State

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to host a celebration of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at the State Department, Reuters reported Friday, breaking with about two decades of tradition. The State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs recommended in April that Tillerson host a reception to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the month, a suggestion he did not accept. The department is instead "exploring" other celebration options, and Tillerson in a statement called Ramadan "a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection." For Muslims in the United States, Ramadan began Friday evening.

10

Ariana Grande to return to Manchester for benefit concert

Singer Ariana Grande said Friday she will return to Manchester for a benefit concert to help the victims of the Monday attack at her show that left 22 dead and dozens injured. "Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder, and to live more kindly and generously than we did before," she said in a statement. "I'll be returning to the incredibly brave city of Manchester to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honor of and to raise money for the victims and their families."

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