Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 27, 2017

At least 2 dead as catastrophic Harvey flooding continues, Trump reportedly asked Sessions to quash Arpaio case, and more


At least 2 dead as catastrophic Harvey flooding continues

Hurricane Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, but slower winds have not meant safety for drenched and battered eastern Texas. Harvey is moving inland in the Houston area, bringing with it torrential rains and catastrophic flooding. At least two people, a woman and child caught inside a submerged vehicle, have died in connection to the storm, and a report from Houston of a body sighted in a flash flood suggested a third fatality. "This is a life-threatening situation," said Michael Palmer, the Weather Channel's lead meteorologist, predicting this will "be one of the worst floods in U.S. history." Rain is expected to continue through Thursday.


Trump reportedly asked Sessions to quash Arpaio case

President Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to drop the charges of criminal contempt of court against Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona sheriff, before his case could reach a verdict, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported independently Saturday, citing unnamed White House sources. Sessions and Donald F. McGahn, the White House counsel, both advised Trump his request could not be granted. Instead, Trump pardoned Arpaio Friday, after his conviction but before his sentencing. Known for his hard-line immigration policy and mistreatment of prisoners, Arpaio was a staunch Trump campaign ally whose ties to the president date to the "birther" movement questioning former President Obama's legitimacy in office.


Arpaio pardon met with bipartisan critique

President Trump came under broad criticism Saturday for his decision to pardon former sheriff Joe Arpaio, catching flak from Republicans in both houses of Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement saying he "does not agree with this decision," noting that law enforcement has "a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the pardon "undermines [Trump's] claim for the respect of rule of law." Likewise, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the pardon "makes mockery of rule of law," while Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) argued it violates Trump's oath of office.


500,000 march in Barcelona to defy terror

An estimated 500,000 people turned out in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday to demonstrate against the recent spate of terrorist attacks in and near the city that left 16 people dead. Marchers chanted "I'm not afraid!" and carried signs with slogans like, "The best answer: peace" and "No to Islamophobia." "We have to know how to speak to each other and understand others," said a demonstrator, Juan Ripoll. "Everyone has to learn how to be more human." Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and King Felipe VI joined the demonstration, a first for the monarch.


Merkel defends refugee policy despite political consequences

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview published Sunday she does not regret her decision to welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany in the past two years despite its negative consequences for her own political fortunes. "I'd make all the important decisions of 2015 the same way again," Merkel said. "It was an extraordinary situation, and I made my decision based on what I thought was right from a political and humanitarian standpoint." Merkel is expected to win a fourth term in September, though her party may lose parliamentary seats to the far-right Alternative for Germany party.


San Francisco protesters demonstrate against canceled rally

A pro-Trump "Freedom Rally" planned in San Francisco by a right-wing group called Patriot Prayer was scheduled for Saturday but canceled after city officials expressed concerns about violence breaking out because of the group's alleged (but vehemently denied) ties to white nationalists like those who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. The cancellation did not stop the assembly of several hundred counter-protesters, who turned out to demonstrate at a press conference held by Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson, where they got into "minor scuffles" with police.


Gorka to return to Breitbart

Ousted deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka plans to return to Breitbart News, he said in a radio interview Saturday. An ally of fired chief strategist Stephen Bannon in the White House's "economic nationalist" wing, Gorka will be reunited with Bannon at the controversial outlet. "I will be working with you, with Steve, with the Breitbart crew," Gorka told Breitbart editor Matthew Boyle in a conversation on SiriusXM radio, though he also said he is in "negotiations" with "lots of different people" about his next career steps.


Iraqi forces reportedly reclaim most of Tal Afar from ISIS

Iraqi troops have retaken most of Tal Afar from Islamic State militants, the Iraqi Joint Military Command said Saturday, and victory in the strategically valuable city is close. ISIS retains about 10 percent of the city center and 40 percent of the broader "operational area." This progress comes after just eight days of fighting in the region, reported Iraqi Joint Military Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool. Tens of thousands of civilians remain in the city, which was captured by ISIS in 2014.


Mayweather bests McGregor in 10 rounds

Undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather, 40, beat mixed martial artist Conor McGregor, 29, in a much-anticipated fight in Las Vegas Saturday night, giving Mayweather a remarkable 50-match win streak. While McGregor was dominant in the early rounds, Mayweather's superior experience and stamina won in the end. "He's a lot better than I thought he was," Mayweather said of McGregor after the match. "He used different angles. He was a tough competitor ... Conor McGregor, you are a hell of a champion."


Game of Thrones to air penultimate finale

HBO's Game of Thrones will air its penultimate finale Sunday evening, closing out a short seventh season and setting the stage for the six-episode Season 8, which begins filming in October. The Season 7 finale, "The Dragon and the Wolf," will clock in at 80 minutes and is titled in reference to the sigils of the houses of Targaryen and Stark, indicating important strategic and perhaps relational developments for Daenerys and Jon Snow. Season 8 does not yet have a premiere date; fans may have to wait until 2019 to see the juggernaut series conclude.


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