Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 15, 2017

House majority whip critically injured in shooting, special counsel turns attention to Trump, and more


House majority whip critically injured in attack on GOP baseball team

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) remained in critical condition overnight after he and four others were wounded by a gunman who opened fire on lawmakers and staffers practicing in Alexandria, Virginia, for a charity baseball game on Wednesday. Police identified the attacker as James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old unemployed home inspector from southern Illinois who was angry about the election of President Trump. Hodgkinson was killed in a shootout with members of a Capitol Police detail assigned to protect Scalise because of his leadership position. Two members of Scalise's security detail, agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner, were injured, as were congressional aide Zachary Barth and lobbyist Matt Mika. Hodgkinson had made anti-Trump posts to his Facebook page and accused Republicans of supporting policies that favored the wealthy over the poor. He had been living in his van near Washington, D.C., for several months.


Report: Trump under investigation for possible obstruction of justice

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia's alleged meddling in last year's election, is interviewing top intelligence officials in a widening inquiry that will look at whether President Trump tried to obstruct justice, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing several people with knowledge of the situation. Mueller reportedly wants to interview Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers' former deputy Richard Ledgett, who have been identified in news reports as officials whose help Trump may have sought to get former FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's Russia ties. Coats and Rogers declined to answer questions on the matter in a congressional hearing last week, but have agreed to be interviewed by Mueller as early as this week.


Fed hikes interest rates in sign of confidence in economy

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark short-term interest rate for the third straight quarter in a sign of confidence in the economy. At the end of a two-day meeting, Fed policy makers lifted the interest rate by a quarter percentage point to a range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent, and said they were sticking to their forecast of one more interest rate increase this year. They also announced a plan to reduce the $4.5 trillion portfolio in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities the central bank accumulated as part of its effort to stimulate the economy after the 2008 financial crisis. Fed leaders said that with inflation nearing their 2 percent target and the employment market improving, they believe the economy can continue gaining strength on its own. "We continue to feel the economy is doing well," Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said.


Death toll rises to at least 17 in London inferno

The death toll from a massive fire in a London apartment building rose to 17 early Thursday, and British firefighting authorities said the number could rise. Entire families remained missing a day after the blaze engulfed every floor of the 24-story building, and 74 people were injured, 18 of them critically. "Tragically now we are not expecting to find anyone else alive," Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told Sky News. "The severity and the heat of the fire will mean that it will be an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive." The more than 200 firefighters who responded to the fire finished extinguishing the last flames early Thursday, but parts of the building in west London's North Kensington district remained unsafe.


UPS driver kills 3 co-workers in San Francisco

A United Parcel Service driver opened fire on a meeting of his co-workers and killed three other drivers at a UPS facility in San Francisco on Wednesday. Witnesses said the alleged attacker, identified as Jimmy Lam, walked up and shot one driver, Benson Louie, then shot another colleague, Wayne Chan, as he and other employees tried to flee. The third victim, Mike Lefiti, was shot in the street. Two other workers were wounded. Lam, 38, reportedly then fatally shot himself in front of police. Lam had filed a complaint in March that the package delivery company was assigning him excessive overtime and requesting that he be relieved of extra hours in the future, according to Joseph Cilia, an official with a Teamsters Union that represents UPS workers in San Francisco.


Trump changes travel ban to keep it from expiring during court fight

President Trump made new revisions to his travel ban, which has been frozen by courts, to keep it from expiring Wednesday as the Supreme Court considers whether to revive the policy. Trump, arguing his administration needed time to tighten vetting to keep out terrorists, had proposed banning travel from six mostly Muslim nations "for 90 days from the effective date of this order." Groups led by the International Refugee Assistance Project challenged the ban, telling the Supreme Court this week that it would expire June 14 as written. The change starts the 90-day ban when court orders blocking the order are lifted. Two federal trial judges have blocked the ban, saying it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims, but neither ruling addressed the matter of when Trump's order would expire. The administration turned to the Supreme Court after two appeals courts upheld the core of both rulings.


Michigan health chief charged with involuntary manslaughter over Flint water crisis

The head of Michigan's health department, Nick Lyon, and four other officials were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter in relation to the ongoing Flint water crisis. Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that experts have linked to tainted water in the Flint area. Twelve people died in the outbreak. Lyon is the highest-ranking official to be charged in the state attorney general's investigation into the water crisis, which dates back to April 2014, when the city began using water from the Flint River while it updated its piping system. Flint officials failed to treat the water with an anti-corrosive agent, and lead from the city's old plumbing leaked into the untreated water, which was used by Flint residents.


Political leaders call for unity as House work resumes after shooting

Normal activities are scheduled to resume on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a day after a man with a rifle opened fire on Republican lawmakers and staffers practicing in Virginia for a charity baseball game. The attack left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) critically wounded, and also injured four others, including two Capitol Police agents in Scalise's security detail. The man identified as the attacker had expressed anger toward President Trump and Republicans. The House canceled its proceedings for the day after the shooting, and lawmakers called for dialogue to lower partisan hostility. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for unity, as did Trump. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," Ryan said.


U.N. says civilian deaths rising from anti-ISIS airstrikes

A top United Nations human rights official said Wednesday that airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq had resulted in a "staggering loss of civilian life." "We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced," said Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N.'s Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian war. Pinheiro said in Geneva that the world has a duty to fight terrorism, but not "at the expense of civilians who unwillingly find themselves living in areas where ISIL (ISIS) is present." The U.S. military declined to comment on allegations that it was endangering civilians by using highly combustible white phosphorous for smokescreens in Raqqa, saying it only used the substance in accordance with the rules of war.


Judge orders new environmental review of Dakota Access Pipeline

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the government to conduct a new environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, saying the original review was inadequate. The ruling marked a limited victory for tribal opponents of the 1,170-mile pipeline project, although U.S. District Judge James Boasberg did not order the pipeline's operators to stop pumping oil through the now-completed pipeline. Boasberg wrote that the Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the project, "did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline's effects are likely to be highly controversial." Boasberg said opponents' request to halt the flow of oil was a "separate question" he will consider later.


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