Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 15, 2017

Trump denounces white supremacists two days after Charlottesville rally, judge denies Charlottesville murder suspect bail, and more


Trump denounces white supremacists after outrage over his first response

President Trump on Monday denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis after facing criticism for failing to condemn them by name in his initial response to Saturday's violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump said racist hate groups are "repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans," and said those responsible for "this weekend's racist violence" would be held accountable for their crimes. "Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups," he said. On Saturday, Trump condemned "the egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides." Politicians from the left and the right, as well civil rights activists, called those comments woefully inadequate, and some said his latest remarks amounted to too little, too late.


Judge denies bail to suspect in Charlottesville killing

A Virginia judge denied bail on Monday to James Alex Fields Jr., the 20-year-old Ohio man accused of killing one woman, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 people by ramming his car into counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday. Fields, appearing via court video, was charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and hit and run. Fields' court-appointed lawyer, Charles Webster, had not yet been notified he would be representing him. Fields was one of hundreds of white nationalists who rallied to protest the removal of a Confederate general statue. Outside the court, a crowd chanted "Nazis go home" to white nationalists who showed up in support of Fields. Police records show Fields was once accused of beating and threatening his wheelchair-bound mother with a knife.


Merck, Intel, and Under Armour CEOs quit Trump's manufacturing council

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier resigned from President Trump's American Manufacturing Council on Monday, saying that Trump had not denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan forcefully enough after the deadly violence at a Saturday white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. After Trump on Saturday faulted "many sides" for the clash, Frazier, who is African-American, said America's leaders must honor the fundamental value that all people are created equal "by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy." Trump responded by mocking Frazier on Twitter, saying now "he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!" Later Trump denounced neo-Nazis and the KKK as criminals and thugs. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, and Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank also quit the council.


North Korean state media: Kim Jong Un is holding off on firing missiles at Guam

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un decided on Tuesday not to fire four missiles at Guam right away, North Korean state media reported. Kim said he'd likely change his mind if the "Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous, reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula." The news that North Korea was holding off on firing missiles into waters near the U.S. Pacific territory sent U.S. stock futures rising, after a weekend of easing tensions helped lift stocks broadly on Monday. "What the market really reacted negatively to on Thursday was Trump's somewhat incendiary comments about 'fire and fury,'" said Dave Lafferty, chief market strategist of Natixis Global Asset Management. "The administration sort of walked back Trump's comments over the weekend."


Denver jury sides with Taylor Swift in groping case

A Denver jury found Monday that former KYGO radio DJ David Mueller groped Taylor Swift before a concert of hers‌ in 2013, and awarded the singer a symbolic $1 in damages. On Friday, Judge William J. Martinez threw out Mueller's claim that Swift should be held personally responsible for the loss of his job after the incident. The jury also found that Swift's mother, Andrea Swift, and radio representative, Frank Bell, who called Mueller's boss after the concert, were not liable for Mueller's firing. Swift released a statement thanking the judge and jury, and her legal team "for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault, and especially anyone who offered their support throughout this four-year ordeal and two-year long trial process."


Analysts: North Korea apparently bought rocket technology from Ukrainian factory

An expert analysis published Monday concluded that North Korea managed to successfully test its first intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. by purchasing powerful rocket engines on the black market, probably from a Ukrainian factory. The factory under suspicion has historical ties to Russia's missile program. Analysts reached their conclusion by spotting similarities between new rocket motors being inspected by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and designs of the former Soviet Union's missile fleet. President Trump has called China the main source of economic and technical support to North Korea. He has not blamed Russia, although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently mentioned both China and Russia as Pyongyang's "principal economic enablers."


North Carolina protesters pull down Confederate statue

Protesters in North Carolina on Monday pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier erected in 1924 as demonstrations continued across the country against white nationalists. The protests began after deadly violence against counter-protesters during a rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, that was called to oppose the scrapping of another Confederate monument. Activists in Durham, North Carolina, used a rope to pull down the statue outside a courthouse, as dozens of people kicked the bronze statue and others cheered.


Texas A&M cancels white nationalist rally over safety concerns

Texas A&M University on Monday canceled a white nationalist rally scheduled for Sept. 11 on campus, citing safety concerns in the wake of the deadly violence at Saturday's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. "Texas A&M's support of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech cannot be questioned," the university said in a statement. "However, in this case circumstances and information relating to the event have changed and the risks of threat to life and safety compel us to cancel the event." "White Lives Matter" rally organizer Preston Wiginton told the Texas Tribune he signed up to hold a rally on campus in a "free speech area," and he hadn't been told it was off. "I guess my lawyers will now be suing the state of Texas," he said.


Mudslides kill at least 312 in Sierra Leone

Mudslides killed at least 312 people in Sierra Leone on Monday. The hardest-hit area was outside the coastal capital city of Freetown, where unusually heavy rains caused a hillside to collapse, burying dozens of houses. Rescuers are digging for survivors by hand, and the death toll is expected to rise. A Sierra Leonean disaster management official said "over 2,000 people are homeless" due to the worst mudslide, in the Regent area outside Freetown. Hundreds of people rushed to the devastated area to look for missing loved ones.


Oklahoma man charged in alleged bomb plot

Jerry Varnell, an Oklahoma man angry with the government, was arrested over the weekend for allegedly trying to blow up an Oklahoma City bank building with a van he believed was packed with explosives, prosecutors said Monday. Varnell, 23, told an FBI informant he wanted to use a device similar to the one Timothy McVeigh used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people. The BancFirst building he allegedly targeted is a few blocks from the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that McVeigh bombed. "I'm out for blood," he said, according to the criminal complaint. Varnell was arrested after an eight-month investigation. Federal prosecutors said the device in the van was inert, and the public was never at risk.


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