10 things you need to know today: August 24, 2017
Trump prepares to launch ban on transgender soldiers, Trump calls for unity one day after his fiery Phoenix speech, and more
Memo to spell out Trump's plan for military transgender ban
The White House is preparing to send the Pentagon a memo with instructions on implementing President Trump's plan to ban transgender people from the military, a person familiar with the memo confirmed Wednesday. The policy will let Defense Secretary James Mattis consider a service member's ability to deploy when deciding whether to remove them from the military, The Wall Street Journal reports, and gives him six months to re-establish the ban on transgender soldiers that former President Barack Obama dropped a year ago. The memo also directs the Pentagon to cut off payments for gender reassignment surgery and other treatments for transgender military members already serving. Trump announced on Twitter last month he would reinstate the ban.
Trump pivots, calling for unity after fiery Phoenix speech
President Trump delivered a subdued, on-script speech on Wednesday at the American Legion's national convention in Reno, Nevada, in what one commentator called a "whiplash" inducing pivot from his fiery, freewheeling rally on Tuesday night in Phoenix, Arizona. On Tuesday, Trump had forcefully defended his condemnations of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, while viciously attacking the media and questioning journalists' patriotism. In Reno, Trump applauded "incredible progress" on VA reform and called for a "new unity," telling Americans that "we are one people with one home and one great flag."
Charlottesville workers cover Confederate statues with black shrouds
City crews draped two Confederate statues in Charlottesville with giant black shrouds as an expression of mourning for Heather Heyer, the woman killed protesting a white nationalist rally. Many onlookers approved. "They do have to go, but it is a start," said one man. The City Council voted Tuesday to cover the statues, one of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and the other of general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, at the end of a heated meeting where angry city residents harshly criticized members of the council for the city's response to the "Unite the Right" rally, which has been called the largest public gathering of white nationalists in a decade.
Hillary Clinton says her 'skin crawled' when Trump loomed behind her at debate
Hillary Clinton says in her new book, What Happened, that her "skin crawled" when Donald Trump loomed close behind her on stage during the St. Louis presidential debate. She said her choice was to stay calm and carry on, or "say loudly and clearly: 'Back up you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can't intimidate me, so back up.'" The book is due to be released Sept. 12, but MSNBC's Morning Joe played audio excerpts read by Clinton. She said she wasn't trying to give a definitive account of the 2016 presidential race, just tell her side of the story. She expressed regret for letting down her supporters. "I couldn't get the job done," she said, "and I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life."
Trump science envoy quits, citing Charlottesville response
President Trump's science envoy, Daniel Kammen, resigned Wednesday, saying he could not continue to serve after President Trump's response to the deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Kammen, a renewable energy expert appointed by former President Barack Obama, wrote in his resignation letter that Trump's remarks, blaming "both sides" for the violence, amounted to an attack on "core values of the United States." He said he stood by other public officials, including both Democrats and Republicans, who have made "unequivocal" statements condemning white supremacists and criticizing Trump for pointing fingers at both neo-Nazis and anti-fascist counter-protesters. In a pointed parting shot, Kammen spelled out "IMPEACH" with the first letter of each paragraph.
White nationalist Christopher Cantwell turns himself in
White nationalist Christopher Cantwell, whose actions at the violent Charlottesville rally were featured in a viral Vice documentary, has turned himself in to Virginia authorities. He faces two felony charges of illegal use of tear gas, and one count of malicious bodily injury with a caustic substance. Police said the warrants were related to the torch-lit march the night before the infamous rally, where a 32-year-old counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed when a man plowed into a crowd with a car. The suspect allegedly has white nationalist ties.
Judge rejects revised Texas voter ID law
A federal judge on Wednesday blocked a weakened version of Texas' voter ID law, saying it still discriminated against black and Latino voters. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who has compared the state's voter ID requirements to a "poll tax" on minorities, rejected changes passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) this summer. The judge said the weakened law, backed by the Trump administration, failed to correct problems in the original version and added criminal penalties that could have a chilling effect. Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the ruling "outrageous" and vowed to appeal, saying the Justice Department "is satisfied that the amended voter ID law has no discriminatory purpose or effect."
U.N. committee denounces Trump response to white nationalist violence
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Wednesday denounced "the failure at the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject and condemn" racist violence at the Charlottesville white nationalist rally. The committee, pointedly criticizing President Trump without mentioning him by name, said it was "deeply concerned by the example this failure could set for the rest of the world." Trump has blamed both sides for the deadly violence, although he also has singled out neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. He has faced bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill for splitting blame, which many said would embolden white nationalists.
Harvey strengthens into tropical storm as it approaches Texas
Tropical Depression Harvey in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico strengthened into a tropical storm on Wednesday, with top sustained winds of 40 miles per hour. Now-Tropical Storm Harvey is expected to continue growing more powerful as it heads toward Texas, and it could hit land as a Category 1 hurricane, with top sustained winds of at least 74 mph. Storm surges and heavy rains are expected along the Texas coast. Louisiana also will get heavy rains. New Orleans expects five to 10 inches by Tuesday, and authorities are bracing for possible flooding. Some parts of New Orleans were inundated in recent rains, and crews are rushing to repair downed pumps and install backup generators at pumping stations that are part of the low-lying city's weakened drainage system.
Powerball prize biggest ever for a single winner
A single ticket sold at a Massachusetts convenience store won the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot on Wednesday. It is the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history, and the biggest grand prize with a single winner. The record jackpot of $1.6 billion was shared by three people in January 2016. The winning numbers for this jackpot were 6, 7, 16, 23, and 26, with a Powerball of 4 and a Power Play of 4. Six other tickets won $2 million each, 34 are good for $1 million.