Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 14 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions clashes with senators over Russia, Trump says the House health bill is "mean," and more


Sessions refuses to say whether he and Trump discussed Comey and Russia

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that it was "an appalling and detestable lie" to suggest that he could have colluded with Russians in their alleged attempts to interfere with last year's presidential election. Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation after revelations that he had failed to disclose during his confirmation hearing that he had spoken with Russia's ambassador while still serving as a senator, repeatedly refused to provide details on whether he had any undisclosed meetings with the ambassador, and whether he discussed former FBI Director James Comey's handling of the Russia inquiry with President Trump before Trump fired Comey. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) called for Sessions to justify his refusal given that the White House had not asserted executive privilege. Sessions replied: "I am protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses."


Trump reportedly tells GOP senators House health bill too 'mean'

President Trump reportedly told 15 Republican senators at a White House lunch on Tuesday that the GOP health-care bill that passed the House last month was "mean," The Associated Press reported Tuesday. Trump said he was pleased that senators were coming up with a different solution to repealing and replacing ObamaCare, and he urged the senators to make their version of the American Health Care Act "more generous," two GOP congressional sources who were knowledgeable about the lunch told AP. When the bill passed the House, Trump called it "great" and "incredibly well crafted." The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the House's version would result in an additional 23 million people being uninsured by 2026. A group of Senate Republicans have been working on their draft in private, without releasing details to the public or other senators.


At least 6 die in massive London apartment building fire

A massive fire engulfed a 24-story apartment building in West London early Wednesday, killing at least six people. More than 50 others were taken to five hospitals. Witnesses said they heard residents scream for help, and saw some jump from windows. "It was like a horror movie, smoke was coming from everywhere," said a building resident who escaped down nine flights of stairs on crutches with his wife and three children. Fire officials said the fire affected every floor of the 120-unit Grenfell Tower from the second floor up. Forty fire engines and 200 firefighters were dispatched to fight the blaze. The building is about a mile away from Kensington Palace. A website run by the "Grenfell Action Group" said residents had expressed concerns about safety in the tower, including fire risks.


Comey friend gives leaked details on Trump talks to FBI

Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman, a friend of former FBI Director James Comey, said in a message to ABC News on Tuesday that he has given the FBI "relevant materials" related to details he leaked on Comey's notes about conversations with President Trump. Richman did not respond to ABC's request for specifics on what he turned over. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been trying to get a look at Comey's notes as part of its investigation into Russia's alleged attempts to influence last year's presidential election, and any possible collusion by Trump's campaign or other associates. Comey said in one conversation Trump urged him to drop the FBI's investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian officials.


North Korea releases U.S. student in coma

North Korea released University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, who was serving a 15-year sentence in the isolated communist nation for "hostile acts against the state," to be medically evacuated to the U.S., Warmbier's parents told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Warmbier, 22, fell ill with botulism after his March 2016 trial. He had been detained for 17 months after allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster. "Our son is coming home," Fred Warmbier said after his son was evacuated. "At the moment, we're just treating this like he's been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight."


Uber CEO Travis Kalanick takes leave of absence

Embattled Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said Tuesday that he would take a leave of absence in the latest fallout from an investigation that concluded that the ride-hailing company needs to reform its corporate culture. Kalanick's move was part of a list of actions Uber announced Tuesday and adopted by Uber's board on Sunday on the recommendation of the law firm of former Attorney General Eric Holder after a months-long investigation sparked by a sexual harassment complaint. Kalanick said he would use his leave of absence to work on his own performance and actions, and to figure out how to build a "world class leadership team" for Uber. On the same day, David Bonderman of the private equity firm TPG resigned from Uber's board after making a sexist remark. Fellow board member Arianna Huffington said that once there is one woman on a board, more women tend to join, and Bonderman responded by saying that including women on boards results in "more talking."


Senate Republicans drop plan to restrict media

Senate Republicans reversed a bid to restrict media access in the Capitol after an intense backlash from journalists. Earlier in the day, Senate Sergeant at Arms staff had told representatives of Capitol Hill reporters that they would no longer be able to film interviews with senators in the Capitol or Senate office buildings without special permission. After emergency meetings involving Senate leaders and media representatives, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) issued a statement saying there would be no changes to the rules. "Everything you did before, you can still do," a Senate official told reporters.


Democrats expected to file lawsuit over Trump foreign income

Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress are expected to file a federal lawsuit against President Trump on Wednesday, accusing him of violating the Constitution's anti-corruption emoluments clause against accepting payments from foreign governments without congressional approval. The lawsuit is the third filed against Trump over foreign payments since he took office, and is believed to involve the most members of Congress ever to sue a president. The new lawsuit is expected to accuse Trump of profiting in numerous ways, including when foreign diplomats stay in his company's hotels and when his businesses get trademark approvals from foreign governments. The Justice Department says the emoluments clause is not meant to prevent a president's private companies from conducting normal business, and Trump supporters say he has done more than is legally required to separate himself from his companies, now run by his adult sons.


Trump ally narrowly loses Virginia gubernatorial primary

Former Republican National Committee head Ed Gillespie narrowly defeated Corey Stewart, who served as President Trump's state campaign chairman, in Virginia's gubernatorial primary on Tuesday. Stewart, an outspoken Trump supporter, had made preserving the state's Confederate history a priority during his campaign. Gillespie had been expected to win easily, and Stewart's strong showing was widely interpreted as a sign of Trump's enduring appeal in the state. Gillespie will face Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who beat former Rep. Tom Perriello in the Democratic primary, in a general election expected to be a preview to the 2018 midterm elections.


Trump aides doused consideration of firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller

President Trump was enraged by the Justice Department's appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russia's election meddling and wanted Mueller fired, but he received pushback from several White House staffers, several people with knowledge of the discussions told The New York Times. Mueller is heading the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and Trump advisers — led by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Counsel Don McGahn — said that firing Mueller would make a bad situation worse. Trump reportedly believes Mueller isn't impartial because he is friends with fired FBI Director James Comey, and is part of a "witch hunt" led by people who want him out of office. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has the power to fire Mueller, has said he won't dismiss him without "good cause."


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