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10 things you need to know today: June 16, 2017

Scalise still critical but improving after surgery, special counsel reportedly investigating Kushner business dealings, and more


Scalise still critical but improving after surgery

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has undergone several operations and remains in critical condition nearly two days after he was shot in the hip by a gunman who opened fire on Republican lawmakers and staffers practicing for a charity baseball game. MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Scalise was improving but needed more surgery "related to his internal injuries and a broken bone in his leg" and will stay in the hospital for "some time." His recovery will be "much more difficult" than initially thought, President Trump said Thursday as the House resumed business in a somber state after the attack, which left Scalise, two Capitol Police officers, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist injured. The alleged gunman, a vocal Trump critic named James Hodgkinson, was killed in a shootout with the officers, who were on Scalise's security detail. The FBI is investigating Hodgkinson's political activities and social media posts in an attempt to determine his motives and how he planned the attack.


Special counsel reportedly investigating Kushner business dealings

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the business dealings of President Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner as part of the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing officials familiar with the investigation. The Post reported earlier that investigators are looking into meetings Kushner had in December with the Russian ambassador to the United States and the head of state-owned Russian bank Vnesheconombank; the White House said Kushner's meeting with Sergey Gorkov was strictly a diplomatic encounter where business wasn't discussed, while the bank said they did talk business due to Kushner's role as head of his family's real estate company. On Wednesday, the Post reported the special counsel's probe has been expanded to include possible obstruction of justice by Trump.


Russia claims it killed ISIS leader al-Baghdadi near Raqqa

Russia's military said Friday that it believes it killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an airstrike outside of Raqqa, Syria, the Islamist extremist organization's de facto capital. Russia launched the May 28 airstrike after it received intelligence about a planned meeting of ISIS leaders involving about 30 ISIS commanders, and up to 300 fighters. Russia's Defense Ministry said it was checking information "through various channels" to confirm reports that al-Baghdadi was at the meeting and died ‌in the strikes. The ISIS leader is believed to have been hiding in the desert outside of Mosul, Iraq, until escaping after U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured most of that city. This isn't the first report of al-Baghdadi's death.


Pence hires outside counsel to handle Russia inquiries

Vice President Mike Pence has hired an outside lawyer to assist him during congressional hearings and the special counsel investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion between Moscow and President Trump's campaign. Pence's decision to line up outside counsel — Richmond-based lawyer Richard Cullen — came less than a month after Trump's hiring of his private attorney, Marc Kasowitz, to represent him in matters related to the Russia inquiries. The Washington Post reported this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has been broadened to examine whether Trump tried to obstruct justice, and whether any Trump associates received money from Russian officials, and hid it.


Otto Warmbier suffered brain injury in North Korea

Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was medically evacuated from North Korea after being jailed for 17 months, has suffered extensive loss of brain tissue and is in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness," doctors said Thursday. Daniel Kanter, medical director of the neuroscience intensive care unit at University of Cincinnati Medical Center, said the 22-year-old's brain injury appeared consistent with the damage caused by lack of blood flow during cardiopulmonary arrest. Warmbier's father, Fred Warmbier, said the North Korean government had "brutalized and terrorized" his son, and he praised President Trump for bringing his son home. North Korea says Otto Warmbier contracted botulism after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor last March for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster.


Trump expected to roll back Obama's Cuba detente

President Trump is expected Friday to roll back some of the policies former President Barack Obama put in place under an effort to restore ties with Cuba. Trump will tighten rules that had made it easier for Americans to travel to the communist-run Caribbean island, according U.S. officials who have seen a draft of Trump's plans. Trump also reportedly will tighten restrictions against U.S. companies doing business with a conglomerate controlled by Cuba's military that has hotels and other businesses. Despite those steps, Trump is not expected to sever diplomatic ties Obama restored with the former Cold War foe. Trump will spell out his Cuba policies in a speech in Miami.


Pentagon sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has decided to send nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to help the country's army break an impasse in the war against a resurgent Taliban, a Trump administration official said Thursday. The move could be announced as early as next week. President Trump has given authority on setting troop levels to Mattis, who has warned that the U.S. is short-handed in Afghanistan as it tries to train and advise Afghan forces. Increasing attacks by the Islamic State in Afghanistan have added to the sense of urgency. Obama authorized a surge of 30,000 soldiers in Afghanistan in 2009, bringing the total to 100,000, before drawing down the forces for the rest of his presidency until slowing the pace of the withdrawal and setting a cap of 8,400 troops last year, with about 2,000 more on temporary duty.


Fugitive polygamist sect leader captured after a year on the run

Lyle Jeffs, a fugitive leader of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sect, has been captured, authorities said Thursday. Jeffs, 57, had been on the run for nearly a year after slipping out of an ankle monitor and fleeing house arrest in Utah, where he was awaiting trial along with other sect leaders on charges of misusing money from a federal food assistance program. He was arrested in Yankton, South Dakota, where he reportedly had been living out of a Ford pickup truck for two or more weeks. "When you flee a federal indictment, the long arm of the law will eventually catch up to you and bring you back to justice," Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber said at the press conference.


Cosby jury to resume deliberations Friday after reporting deadlock

Jurors in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial said Thursday that they were deadlocked, but the judge in the case told them to continue deliberating. "If you are still deadlocked, you should report that to me. If you've reached a unanimous decision on some of the charges, please report that back to me," Judge Steven O'Neill said. Prosecutors say Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, a former employee of Temple University's women's basketball team, at his Pennsylvania home in 2014. Lawyers for Cosby, 79, say the encounter was consensual.


Democrats and Republicans unite for charity baseball game after shooting

Democrats and Republicans got together for the yearly Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington on Thursday night, the day after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and four others were injured in a shooting targeting the Republican team during practice. The event, which was first held in 1909, raised about $500,000 for charity last year, and this year a record 24,959 tickets were sold. The Democrats won the game, 11-2, and gave the trophy to Scalise. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a joint interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that everyone was on "Team Scalise." President Trump addressed both sides in a video message, saying, "By playing tonight, you are showing the world that we will not be intimidated by threats, acts of violence, or assaults on our democracy. The game will go on."


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