Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 20, 2017

Sen. John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer, Trump calls Sessions' recusal in Russia inquiry "very unfair," and more


McCain diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with brain cancer. Doctors discovered the aggressive cancer, known as a glioblastoma, after McCain, 80, had a blood clot removed from behind his left eye last week. "Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot," the statement said. Doctors said the "tissue of concern" was removed. McCain is recovering "amazingly well" at home as he and his family consider further treatment options, including chemotherapy and radiation. Dr. Eugene S. Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, said glioblastoma is the "most malignant of brain tumors," with recurrences common and median survival rates around 16 months.


Trump: Sessions' recusal on Russia 'unfair' to president

President Trump told The New York Times on Wednesday that he would not have nominated Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from running the investigation into Russia's election meddling. "Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else," Trump said. Trump said Sessions' decision to remove himself from any role in the investigation, now in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was "very unfair to the president." Trump also warned Mueller against straying too far from focusing on Russia by looking at his family's finances, suggesting he might order the Justice Department to fire Mueller at some point.


CBO: 32 million would lose insurance under repeal-and-delay bill

Thirty-two million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 if Congress repeals ObamaCare without immediately replacing it, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported Wednesday. The CBO said 17 million Americans would lose coverage in 2018, and premiums on individual plans would rise by 25 percent. President Trump, who suggested a day earlier he would be fine with letting ObamaCare collapse on its own, met Wednesday with 49 Republican senators and told them to skip their August recess and find a compromise on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, although moderate opposition to cutting Medicaid and conservative opposition to keeping any key ObamaCare elements threaten to kill any revised bill.


Trump reportedly ending covert CIA effort to arm moderate Syrian rebels

President Trump is ending a covert CIA program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's government, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The effort was key to former President Barack Obama's Syria policy, and Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, has long sought to get the U.S. to scrap it. Trump clashed with Russia after the U.S. accused Syria of using chemical weapons and launched a retaliatory strike against a Syrian air base. Officials said that phasing out the secret program is a reflection of Trump's desire to find ways to collaborate with Russia in Syria.


EU warns Poland it could lose voting rights over judicial reforms

The European Union on Wednesday warned Poland's right-wing government that it was "getting very close" to losing voting rights at EU summits if it doesn't back away from reforms seen as threatening judicial independence. The Polish government has faced protests at home since launching an overhaul of the justice system last week. Frans Timmermans, the European Commission's first vice-president, said that if the laws are adopted "justice will fall under political control." He said that would justify invoking Article 7 of the EU's treaties, allowing the trading bloc to suspend a member state as punishment for failing to honor its legal obligations.


Supreme Court upholds grandparent exemption to Trump travel ban

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling exempting grandparents and other close relatives of people in the U.S. from President Trump's temporary travel ban affecting people from six majority-Muslim nations. The order leaves in place the action of a U.S. District Court judge in Hawaii, Derrick Watson, broadening the definition of close family members exempted from the ban. The justices, however, blocked another part of Watson's ruling that would have helped more refugees to enter the country despite Trump's temporary freeze of the U.S. refugee program.


DNA test confirms teen missing since 1976 as John Wayne Gacy victim

Authorities announced Wednesday that they had identified a St. Paul, Minnesota, teen, James "Jimmie" Haakenson, who went missing in 1976, as a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Investigators matched Haakenson to DNA samples from human remains found in Gacy's home after he was caught in 1978. Gacy tortured and murdered 33 men and boys, impersonating a police officer or offering construction work to lure them to his home. In an era before DNA testing, seven of the bodies found in Gacy's home remained unidentified for decades. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart reopened the investigation in 2011 and asked for DNA related to missing young men. Haakenson's nephew found Dart's website in March and got an uncle and an aunt to provide DNA for testing.


Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner to testify before Senate committees

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday that Donald Trump Jr. and President Trump's one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, are scheduled to testify before the committee next Wednesday during a public hearing. Both men, as well as Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, attended a meeting in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked attorney who offered to provide harmful information on Hillary Clinton. A lawyer for Kushner confirmed to NBC News his client will speak with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in a closed session on Monday.


155 health-bill protesters arrested in Capitol

Capitol Police on Wednesday arrested 155 protesters staging sit-ins outside Senate offices and shouting opposition to Republican efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Protests have been ongoing on Capitol Hill since Republicans launched their effort to pass health proposals that the Congressional Budget Office predicted would cost millions of Americans their health coverage over a decade. Wednesday was a busy day for the demonstrators, with as many as 300 people trying to spread the protest to the offices of all 52 Republican senators.


Trump voter-fraud commission holds first meeting

President Trump's voter-fraud commission held its first meeting on Wednesday, with Trump saying he was told of voting irregularities "in some cases having to do with large numbers of people in some states." Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the commission's vice-chair and de facto leader, was asked in an MSNBC interview whether he believed Trump's baseless claim that the reason he lost the 2016 popular vote was that millions of illegal voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton. Kobach replied: "We will probably never know." Kobach's remark ignited fresh criticism against the commission, which Democrats and voting-rights activists say is a sham aiming to justify tougher voting restrictions that favor the GOP.


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The Indian flag.
Arun A.K.

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