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10 things you need to know today: August 11, 2017

Trump escalates rhetoric against North Korea, Trump thanks Putin for cutting U.S. diplomatic staff, and more


Trump steps up his warnings to North Korea

President Trump escalated his rhetoric against North Korea on Thursday, saying his threat of "fire and fury" might not have been tough enough given Pyongyang's continued provocations. Trump warned North Korea that "things will happen to them like they never thought possible" if the isolated and combative communist-run nation attacks the U.S. or its allies. The remarks came after North Korea mocked Trump for his earlier threat, which came after North Korea conducted its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and U.S. intelligence analysts said the country had developed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile. North Korea also said it had prepared a plan to fire missiles into waters near Guam, a small U.S. territory in the Pacific.


Trump thanks Putin for cutting U.S. embassy staff

President Trump on Thursday expressed gratitude for Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to tell the U.S. to cut its embassy staff by hundreds of people in response to new sanctions passed overwhelmingly by Congress late last month. "I want to thank him, because we're trying to cut down on payroll," Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. "We'll save a lot of money." The U.S. diplomatic mission was instructed to cut 755 employees, nearly a 60 percent reduction from the current level. It was not immediately clear whether Trump was joking, but critics said Trump was wrong to suggest the cuts would not damage the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia. "This is insulting to US diplomats," Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) tweeted.


Trump continues criticism of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

President Trump criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a second day on Thursday, calling on him to resume work on replacing ObamaCare. "I just want him to get repeal and replace done. I've been hearing repeal and replace now for seven years," Trump told reporters during his working vacation at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. "Mitch, get to work and let's get it done." McConnell and other GOP senators have said after repeated failed attempts to pass a health-care law it was time to focus on other priorities. Asked whether McConnell should consider stepping down as Senate GOP leader, Trump said reporters should ask him that question if he fails to push through bills on health care, tax reform, and infrastructure improvements.


Louisiana governor declares state of emergency as more floods loom in New Orleans

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency in New Orleans on Thursday as some of the city's already waterlogged neighborhoods faced the risk of more rain that could bring more flooding. City workers rushed to fix a malfunctioning water-pumping system and improve drainage. Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged residents of threatened neighborhoods to move their vehicles to higher ground, and joined Edwards in calling for calm as many residents continued to express anger over last weekend's flooding. "Obviously this is a serious situation, but it's not something to be panicked about," Edwards said at a City Hall news conference. Public schools were ordered closed on Thursday and Friday.


Trump calls opioid crisis a national emergency

President Trump on Thursday declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, pledging more federal money and attention to the epidemic. "I'm saying officially right now it is an emergency. It's a national emergency," Trump said. "We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis." Last week, the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), issued a preliminary report describing deaths by overdose as a "September 11th every three weeks." The commission urged the president to declare a national emergency. Declaring an emergency would let Trump remove bureaucratic barriers to fighting the epidemic, but experts caution progress will be slow in fighting a drug epidemic that has been building for more than a decade.


Uber investor sues former CEO Travis Kalanick

Early Uber investor Benchmark filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the ride-hailing company's co-founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, of fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The board forced Kalanick to step down in June after a series of sexual harassment scandals sparked criticism of Uber's corporate culture. Benchmark, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm that holds an Uber board seat, accused Kalanick, who remains on the board, of trying to pull strings to get himself reinstated as CEO, and trying to remain influential by packing the board with allies in "fraudulently procured seats." Kalanick's spokesperson said the complaint was "completely without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations."


Poll: Majority in GOP would back Trump if he postponed 2020 election

A poll released Thursday found that a narrow majority of Republicans would support President Trump if he and congressional Republicans proposed postponing the 2020 election over concerns of voter fraud. Fifty-two percent said they would support such a move if Trump suggested it, and 56 percent would agree if both Trump and congressional Republicans backed the idea. Forty-seven percent said they believe Trump won the popular vote, even though Hillary Clinton won the official count by nearly 3 million votes. Seventy-three percent said voter fraud happens somewhat or very often. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud occurring in the 2016 election, although Trump has claimed without evidence that millions voted illegally for Clinton. Trump has established a commission to investigate the supposed fraud.


Google cancels mass meeting over harassment concerns

Google on Thursday canceled a company-wide meeting on the controversy over a memo criticizing company gender and diversity policies, saying it feared employees would be subject to harassment from far-right internet commenters. "Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be 'outed' publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to staffers. The meeting was scheduled after Google fired engineer James Damore for posting an internal memo arguing that the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry was because they were less genetically suited for software engineering jobs than men.


CNN ditches pro-Trump commentator for tweeting 'Sieg Heil!'

CNN severed ties with Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, who had frequently appeared as a commentator since last year's campaign, over a tweet in which he used the Nazi phrase "Sieg Heil" in response to Angelo Carusone, who heads the liberal activist organization Media Matters for America. Lord, a columnist at the conservative magazine The American Spectator, recently criticized Media Matters for its campaign to get Sean Hannity fired from Fox News, a "fascist game" aiming to deny Hannity's "free speech." CNN said Lord's tweet crossed a line. "Nazi salutes are indefensible," the network said in statement. "Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network." The split marked the latest in a series of CNN clashes with Trump and his supporters.


Taylor Swift testifies in groping case

Taylor Swift appeared in a Denver court Thursday to testify in her civil case against David Mueller, a former radio DJ who allegedly groped Swift during a 2013 meet-and-greet. Mueller sued the pop star in 2015, claiming her accusation was false and caused him to lose his job. Swift countersued. She told jurors Thursday that when she posed for a photo with Mueller and his girlfriend, Mueller "grabbed my ass underneath my skirt." She squarely rejected Mueller's claim that he may have inadvertently grazed her arm or torso as they posed. "He did not touch my rib, he did not touch my hand, he grabbed my bare ass," Swift said, describing the grope as "very long" and "intentional."


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