Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 9, 2017

Comey confirms Trump pressed him to drop Flynn-Russia inquiry, Britain's ruling Conservatives lose their majority, and more


Comey confirms Trump pressed him to end Flynn inquiry

Former FBI Director James Comey told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday that he believed that President Trump fired him last month to hamper the agency's investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian officials. Comey also said that White House claims that his firing was justified because he had lost the support of his agents and that the FBI was in chaos were "lies, plain and simple." Comey said he kept a written record of his conversations with Trump, including one in which Trump asked him to drop the Flynn inquiry, because he was "honestly worried he might lie" about them, and got a friend to leak them hoping to get the administration to appoint a special prosecutor. Some of the panel's Republicans defended Trump, saying that he had merely made a suggestion, but critics said Comey's testimony raised questions of obstruction of justice. Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said Trump had never pressured Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and noted that Comey "finally confirmed publicly" that Trump had not been under investigation. Trump tweeted Friday that Comey's testimony amounted to "total and complete vindication."


British Prime Minister Theresa May resists call to resign after stunning loss

Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority Thursday in snap elections, leaving no party with a clear claim to power and sparking opposition calls for May to resign. May had called the vote hoping to strengthen her grip on power going into looming negotiations with the European Union on Britain's exit from the trading bloc. "The prime minister called the election because she wanted a mandate," Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Friday. "Well, the mandate she's got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support, and lost confidence." The stunning outcome left the Conservatives with enough seats to remain the largest party. May said that meant her party should be allowed to govern, and she said she would seek permission from Queen Elizabeth II to form a minority government.


House votes to roll back Dodd-Frank banking regulations

The House voted Thursday to gut the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which imposed tough restrictions on banks after the 2008 financial crisis. The bill, if it becomes law, would let big financial institutions, including investment and consumer banks and other financial institutions, such as insurance giants, avoid some of the banking reform law's toughest regulations. Republicans, who control the House, pushed through the bill in a party line vote, marking the first part of what is expected to be a long fight over deregulation of the banking industry.


U.S. warplane shoots down Iranian-made drone in Syria

U.S. military aircraft shot down an Iranian-made, Predator-sized drone that fired on coalition forces in southern Syria, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said Thursday. The incident marked the first time that forces supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have fired on the coalition. A U.S. official said the F-15 jet shot down the drone after the remotely controlled aircraft dropped munitions near an area where coalition personnel are training and advising ground forces involved in the fight against the Islamic State. The drone's bomb was a "dud," U.S. officials said, and no coalition personnel were hurt.


Scottish Episcopal Church votes to allow same-sex weddings

The Scottish Episcopal Church voted Thursday to let priests conduct same-sex weddings, marking the first time an Anglican branch has moved to allow gay weddings in church. The measure, removing a doctrinal clause declaring marriage to be a "union of one man and one woman," required a two-thirds overall majority, and it passed with 80 percent backing from bishops and laity, and 67 percent from the clergy. The church's presiding bishop, the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, said that "our church now affirms that a same-sex couple are not just married, but are married in the sight of God," calling the change "a momentous step." The move puts the Scottish church at odds with Anglican leaders, who last year sanctioned the U.S. Episcopal Church for making the same change.


Republicans pick Rep. Trey Gowdy as next oversight committee chair

The House Republican Steering Committee voted Thursday to make Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) the next chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Gowdy, who was a state and federal prosecutor before he was elected to his first term in Congress in 2010, will succeed Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who is resigning from Congress at the end of June to work in the private sector. Gowdy led the controversial two-year Benghazi investigation, and will take over the committee as it investigates Russia's alleged attempts to interfere in last year's presidential election.


Judge denies ex-NSA contractor bail on leak charge

A federal judge denied bail to former National Security Agency contractor Reality Leigh Winner on charges that she leaked classified information, saying the 25-year-old Georgia woman remained a flight risk and could leak more documents if she gets out of jail. Winner entered a not-guilty plea to charges of gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information, a felony offense under the Espionage and Censorship Act. She is suspected of printing out an NSA report on a Russian cyberattack on a voting software company last year, then sending it to an online news outlet, The Intercept. She is the first person accused of leaking classified information since President Trump took office. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.


Japanese lawmakers pass law letting Emperor Akihito abdicate

Japan's Parliament passed a law on Friday to let 82-year-old Emperor Akihito become the country's first monarch in 200 years to abdicate. In August, Akihito said that he wanted to step down due to declining health and old age. The government backs male-only succession, which would make Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, next in line. In post-World War II Japan, the emperor cannot get involved in politics or have any governmental powers, but serves as "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." Under the new law, Akihito has three years to abdicate.


Yahoo shareholders' approval clears way for sale to Verizon

Yahoo shareholders on Thursday gave final approval to the $4.48 billion sale of the company's main web properties to Verizon Communications. The decision cleared the final obstacle to the nearly year-old deal, and Yahoo said it planned to hand over the web properties to Verizon on Tuesday. The price was originally supposed to be $4.8 billion, but Verizon insisted on a discount, arguing that massive privacy breaches reduced the value of the Yahoo assets. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer tried for four years to turn around the company after relentless declines in advertising revenue, but agreed to sell the internet pioneer's core websites last year after her efforts fell short. Verizon's first move after taking over is expected to be cutting 15 percent of the 14,000 jobs, or about 2,100 positions, at Yahoo and AOL as it combines their operations.


Penguins pull within one game of winning second straight Stanley Cup

The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Nashville Predators 6-0 on Thursday, putting them one game away from winning a second straight Stanley Cup championship. Six Penguin players — Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel, and Ron Hainsey — scored in the rout, which was tied for the seventh most lopsided game in the history of the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins won the first two games in the series, but the Predators evened it out at 2-2 by winning two straight on their home ice. After the Penguins' win at home on Thursday, the series returns to Nashville for Game 6 on Sunday.


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