Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 24, 2017

Report details Obama's inaction on Russia hacking, 5 Republican senators oppose GOP health-care bill, and more


Report details Obama's inaction on Russia hacking

The Washington Post on Friday published a comprehensive report of the Obama administration's inaction in the face of mounting evidence that Russia severely affected the U.S. presidential election last year. "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend," one senior Obama administration official confessed. "I feel like we sort of choked." The administration's response is depicted as frustratingly hesitant, even as the severity of Russia's actions became impossible to ignore, and "the assumption that [Hillary] Clinton would win contributed to the lack of urgency."


5 Republican senators oppose GOP health-care bill

The tally of Republicans opposing the Senate's version of the GOP health-care bill reached five on Friday as Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he would "not support" the Senate plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare "in this form." Four other Republicans — Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Ron Johnson (Wis.) — already announced their opposition to the bill, which proposes Medicaid cuts, eliminates ObamaCare's individual mandate, and allows states to waive some previously required benefits. The GOP can't pass the bill with more than two Senate defections.


Trump blasts Mueller, claims consistency in new interview

Fox & Friends on Friday aired the first televised, in-person interview President Trump has given in six weeks. The president boasted of progress on health care and blamed the Obama administration's "unmasking and surveillance" for his Twitter threat to former FBI Director James Comey about releasing tapes of their private conversations. "My story didn't change," said Trump, who confessed Thursday he had no tapes. Trump also blasted Special Counsel Robert Mueller, head of the investigation into possible Trump team collusion in Russia's election meddling, for being "very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome."


Trump, Democrats criticize Obama Russia response

President Trump and congressional Democrats alike leveled criticism at former President Obama following The Washington Post's Friday report detailing his response to Russian election interference in 2016. "Just out," Trump tweeted Friday night. "The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?" Obama's response "was inadequate," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). "I think [the administration] could have done a better job informing the American people of the extent of the attack." Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said the penalties Obama imposed on Russia were "barely a slap on the wrist."


White House moves toward limited, off-camera press briefings

White House press briefings are increasingly few and far between, and those which do happen often take place off-camera. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer banned cameras again at Friday's daily briefing, a move to which CNN responded by sending a courtroom sketch artist to provide a visual of the scene. "We believe strongly that Americans should be able to watch and listen to senior government officials face questions from an independent news media," said the White House Correspondents' Association president, Reuters' Jeff Mason, in a Friday statement promising negotiations to change the situation.


Report describes U.S. involvement in extreme torture in Yemen

Senior U.S. defense officials admitted American troops have been involved in the interrogation of suspected al Qaeda militants in more than a dozen secret prisons in Yemen where horrific, extreme torture reportedly takes place, The Associated Press reported Friday. No one interviewed by AP said Americans were directly involved, but they interrogated detainees subject to tortures like "the 'grill,' in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire." Defense officials "denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses," but several senators have demanded a full review of the allegations.


More than 140 likely buried in Chinese landslide

A devastating landslide is believed to have buried more than 140 people in southwest China on Saturday, local officials reported. The landslide occurred in a mountainous region of Sichuan province, with tons of rocks pouring down on top of 46 homes in Xinmo village around 6 a.m. local time. "Initial accounts from villagers nearby said ... there was no sign of an impending landslide," NPR reported. A team of 500 rescue workers is scouring the area with sniffer dogs to locate bodies and possible survivors.


Saudi police foil would-be Mecca bomber

Police in Saudi Arabia on Saturday foiled an attack by a would-be suicide bomber on Mecca's Grand Mosque, a major pilgrimage destination in the Islamic holy city. The bomber was trapped in an apartment, where he blew himself up after a standoff with security forces. The blast killed the bomber, collapsed the building, and injured several other people. The Saudi interior ministry said the terrorist group responsible "obeyed their evil and corrupt self-serving schemes managed from abroad whose aim is to destabilize the security and stability of this blessed country," but did not name the group.


London fire aggravated by misused, combustible cladding

Builders misused a combustible cladding to cover the sides of London's Grenfell Tower, the apartment building where 79 people were killed in a massive fire last week, Reuters reported Saturday. The material was intended for buildings a maximum of 10 meters tall, about the height of firefighters' ladders; Grenfell was more than six times that height. Email correspondence reveals the cladding manufacturer sold the siding knowing it would be used inappropriately. British authorities are now reviewing other high-rises for combustible cladding, and at least four buildings have been evacuated.


SpaceX plans rocket launch 'doubleheader' over the weekend

Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launched a refurbished Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Kennedy Space Center's launch pad Friday afternoon, marking its first of two planned rocket launches over just three days. On Sunday, SpaceX plans to launch a new Falcon 9 rocket, this one from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket launched Friday delivered a communications satellite into orbit for Bulgarian TV service provider Bulsatcom; the rocket Sunday will carry 10 satellites for the American company Iridium Communications Inc. If successful, this would be the company's first "weekend doubleheader."


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British lawmakers gather to mourn slain MP David Amess
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