Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 23, 2017

Senate Republicans release their long-awaited health-care bill, Trump says he has no tapes of his talks with Comey, and more


Republicans unveil Senate bill to replace ObamaCare

Senate Republicans on Thursday released their long-awaited proposal to replace ObamaCare. The 142-page bill includes deep cuts to Medicaid and the elimination of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate to acquire health insurance. The Republicans' "Better Care Reconciliation Act" also calls for creating a new menu of tax credits to subsidize premiums, and gives states options to drop some of the benefits required under former President Barack Obama's signature health-care reform bill, such as maternity, emergency, and mental health care. The bill immediately appeared headed for trouble, however, as four Republican senators said they could not support the plan as written, enough potential defections from the GOP's 52-seat majority to sink the bill. Democrats and analysts said the bill sought to shift money from the poor to the rich. GOP leaders have vowed to hold a vote next week.


Trump says he made no tapes of conversations with Comey

President Trump said Thursday that he never recorded any of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired last month. After Comey said Trump had asked him to pledge his loyalty and urged him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's Russia ties, Trump posted a cryptic tweet saying that Comey should hope there were no tapes of their conversations. On Thursday, Trump tweeted that he had "no idea" whether anyone else recorded their talks, but that he "did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."


Health-bill protesters arrested outside McConnell's office

Disability rights activists staged a "die-in" protest in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office on Thursday after the release of the GOP's long-awaited plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Forty-three people were arrested, some of them carried out by Capitol Police because they were blocking a hallway. Some of the protesters chanted, "No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty!" The bill's release set off a sharp debate between liberals and conservatives. Former President Barack Obama, who signed the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, into law just over seven years ago, said via Facebook that the GOP plan was laced with "fundamental meanness," paying for tax breaks for the rich by cutting health care for everyone else. "Simply put, if there's a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family — this bill will do you harm," Obama wrote. Conservative health-policy wonk Avik Roy, however, said via Twitter that if the "Better Care" act passes "it'll be the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime."


Arab neighbors give Qatar list of demands

Qatar's neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, gave the Persian Gulf country a list of 13 demands it must meet before they will restore diplomatic relations. A key point is curbing diplomatic relations with Iran and severing all ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah. The list, relayed to Qatar by Kuwait, also calls for Qatar to shutter broadcaster Al Jazeera, which Saudi Arabia and the other countries claim supports the Muslim Brotherhood and incites unrest in the Middle East. The countries gave Qatar 10 days to comply and pay undisclosed compensation. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain broke with Qatar this month, accusing it of funding terrorism, a charge Qatar vehemently denies. Qatar's government did not immediately respond to the list, but in the past it has rejected some of the conditions, including closing Al Jazeera. It also has said it wouldn't negotiate until other Arab nations lift their blockade.


FBI charges ex-State Department official with selling secrets

The FBI arrested a former State Department security officer, Kevin Patrick Mallory, on espionage charges related to the alleged sale of classified documents to a person suspected of working for a Chinese intelligence agency. Mallory, 60, had a Top Secret security clearance when he worked for the government and private contractors from 1987 to 2012. Since then, he has worked as a consultant. He was stopped returning from Shanghai with $16,500 in cash in his carry-on bags. Investigators said he told his contact in a May message, "your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid." Charlie Sherrod, a friend and former financial adviser, said he found it "hard to believe" Mallory would sell government secrets because he seemed to be "a strong Christian family man."


Yellowstone grizzly bear removed from threatened species list

The Interior Department announced Thursday that the Yellowstone grizzly bear had recovered and would be removed from the threatened species list. The bear, which lives in and around Yellowstone National Park in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, has been protected under the Endangered Species Act for four decades, during which its population grew from 150 to around 700. "As a kid who grew up in Montana, I can tell you that this is a long time coming and very good news for many communities and advocates in the Yellowstone region," said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "This achievement stands as one of America's great conservation successes." Republicans praised the move, but conservationists said it was too early to remove the protections because the bear's recovery was not yet assured.


Supreme Court rules that immigrants can't be stripped of citizenship over minor lies

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the federal government can't strip an immigrant's citizenship for lying during the naturalization process unless the false statement "played some role in [the immigrant's] acquisition of citizenship." In a unanimous ruling, the justices said merely proving an incidental lie was insufficient grounds for taking such drastic action. "The government opens the door to a world of disquieting consequences," Justice Elena Kagan wrote, and gives prosecutors "nearly limitless leverage — and afford newly naturalized Americans precious little security." The case involved a Bosnian native, Divna Maslenjak, who was prosecuted and ultimately deported for lying on her application about her husband's military service. The policy on lying is longstanding — the woman was deported under the Obama administration — but the issue has taken on new importance due to President Trump's push to deport immigrants who have broken laws.


Storm weakens after Gulf Coast landfall

Former tropical storm Cindy weakened to a tropical depression Thursday after coming ashore in Louisiana near the Texas border. Despite the downgrade, the storm's heavy rains continued to pose a flood threat to an already wet Gulf Coast. Its top sustained winds dropped from 50 mph to 25 mph after it made landfall, but more than six million people remained under tornado watches as the storm continued to bring strong winds and heavy rains from East Texas to the Florida panhandle. Cindy disrupted shipping and oil and gas operations in the Gulf as it approached shore.


Appeals panel upholds ruling that Making a Murderer inmate's confession was coerced

A three-judge federal appeals panel ruled Thursday that the confession of Wisconsin inmate Brendan Dassey, the younger of two suspects featured in the Netflix series Making a Murderer, was coerced, and he should be released from prison. Dassey, now 27, was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for allegedly helping his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill photographer Teresa Halbach in the Avery family's salvage yard. A federal magistrate judge ruled in August that the confession was illegally obtained, but Dassey has remained in prison pending the appeal. Prosecutors can now accept the ruling, appeal to the Supreme Court, or re-try Dassey.


76ers take Markelle Fultz as top NBA draft pick

The Philadelphia 76ers selected University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz as the first overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. The Sixers traded with the Boston Celtics to get the top spot. Fultz was the eighth straight freshman to go first. "That was my goal," Fultz said. "In high school, I told my trainer ... I wanted to be the No. 1 player in the country and the No. 1 draft pick, so it was a goal I set out there, and that's what I was striving for." UCLA's Lonzo Ball was chosen second by the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Celtics, drafting third, picked Duke's Jayson Tatum. The draft took place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.


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