Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 31, 2017

Massive explosion kills at least 80 people in Kabul, White House communications director resigns, and more


Massive bombing kills at least 80 in Kabul

A suicide truck bombing killed at least 80 people Wednesday in a highly secure area in the center of the Afghan capital, Kabul, near the presidential palace and foreign embassies. At least 350 people were wounded. The bomber detonated a huge cache of explosives in a water tank, causing a massive explosion that shattered windows up to a mile away. The explosion occurred on a crowded street during rush hour, near the German embassy, which reportedly was damaged. No group immediately claimed responsibility. The attack occurred as the government is struggling to counter a spring offensive by Taliban rebels and the Islamic State.


White House communications director resigns

White House communications director Michael Dubke announced Tuesday that he was resigning. Dubke, a veteran Republican strategist, is the first person to leave in what is expected to be a series of staff changes as President Trump and his White House push back against a backlash over a report that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, tried to open a secret communications channel between Trump and Russia in December. Dubke reportedly offered his resignation on May 18 but said he would stay through Trump's foreign trip, which ended last weekend. White House officials said there would be more staff changes at the end of the week.


Pentagon successfully tests missile defense system as North Korea threat looms

The U.S. successfully tested a missile defense system on Tuesday, shooting down a mock intercontinental ballistic missile with a long-range interceptor missile over the Pacific Ocean. The Missile Defense Agency launched the ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to test the U.S. military's ability to block a North Korean missile launch. The test marked a "critical milestone" for the U.S. missile defense program, said Vice Adm. James D. Syring, the director of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency. It "demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat," he said.


Trump attorney agrees to testify if subpoenaed by Congress

Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney and a person of interest in the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, told NBC News Tuesday he will testify if issued a subpoena. Cohen had earlier denied requests by the House and Senate intelligence committees to turn over information. Speaking to NBC News, Cohen said a letter was sent to him asking for a list of his contacts in Russia and emails and other communications, but no subpoena. "I have nothing to hide," he said. "I will make myself available and I am more than happy and willing to testify, but they have to be specific."


Cleveland fires officer who shot Tamir Rice

Cleveland city officials announced Tuesday that they had fired Timothy Loehmann, the police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice as he played with an airsoft gun outside a recreation center in 2014. The official reason for Loehmann's dismissal was that he had provided misinformation on his employment application. The other officer involved in the case, Frank Garmback, was suspended for 10 days, starting Wednesday. Garmback, who drove the patrol car when the officers responded to a report that someone was waving a gun outside the recreation center, will have to attend additional tactical training.


Flynn lawyers tell Senate committee they will provide documents

Lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reportedly told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a letter on Tuesday that Flynn would hand over documents and records related to the committee's investigation into his contact with Russian officials. The committee had issued subpoenas to Flynn giving him until Tuesday to provide business and personal documents that could be pertinent in its investigation into Russia's alleged attempt to interfere in last year's presidential election. Flynn's lawyers rejected the committee's first subpoena, which requested only his personal records, invoking Flynn's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, so the committee demanded his business records. "A business does not have the right to take the Fifth," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat.


Trump calls trade deficit with Germany 'very bad' for U.S.

President Trump reiterated his criticism of Germany on Tuesday, two days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said following Trump's talks with European leaders that the region could no longer "completely depend" on the U.S. "We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military," Trump tweeted. "Very bad for U.S. This will change." Despite claims by some analysts that Trump's clashes with his NATO and Group of Seven counterparts over defense spending, climate policy, and other matters had upended 50 years of close U.S.-Europe relations, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump's recent nine-day overseas trip had benefited the U.S. and the world by ending an era of failed U.S. leadership. "I think the relationship that the president has had with Merkel, he would describe as fairly unbelievable," Spicer said. "They get along very well."


Portland train stabbing defendant says 'free speech or die'

Jeremy Joseph Christian, who is accused of fatally stabbing two men who defended a young Muslim woman and her friend on a Portland train, ranted about free speech and freedom in a brief court appearance on Tuesday. "Free speech or die, Portland. You got no safe place," said Christian, 35. "This is America. Get out if you don't like free speech. You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism. You hear me? Die." Christian was charged with two counts of murder, attempted murder, second-degree intimidation, and possession of a restricted weapon by a felon. Federal authorities are still weighing whether to charge him with a hate crime.


Amazon shares hit $1,000 for first time

Amazon's stock price hit $1,000 for the first time on Tuesday, before inching back below the milestone. Google parent Alphabet was right behind Amazon, with its shares reaching $995. Amazon stock has split three times since its 1997 IPO, issuing a 2-for-1 split in 1998, another one in early 1999, and a 3-for-1 split later the same year, meaning the $1,000 current share price amounts to $12,000 per original share. Amazon, Google, and fellow tech giants Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have surged this year, collectively accounting for about a third of the S&P 500's gains. "The good news is the market is at an all-time high. The bad news is it happened on the back of a few tech stocks," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.


Pelley out at CBS Evening News

Scott Pelley is out as anchor of CBS Evening News, people with knowledge of the situation told Page Six and CNNMoney on Tuesday night. A formal announcement is expected Wednesday. Pelley has been in the anchor chair since 2011, but will be moved permanently to 60 Minutes, the sources said. One person from CBS News told Page Six that Pelley and CBS News President David Rhodes "don't get on," and another said "there's always been friction" between the two. CNNMoney says the move was also motivated by ratings. No replacement has been selected yet.


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