Daily briefing

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

Trump warns U.S. will "destroy" North Korea if threatened, Hurricane Maria hits St. Croix and Puerto Rico, and more


Trump warns U.S. will 'totally destroy' North Korea if threatened

President Trump, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" if the "rogue" nation forces the U.S. to defend itself. "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission," he said, using a nickname he has started using to refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un since the country's recent flurry of missile tests. North Korea's U.N. ambassador walked out before Trump's speech, which came after Pyongyang's sixth and most powerful nuclear test prompted the U.N. Security Council to unanimously approve its toughest economic sanctions yet against Kim's regime. Trump also ripped an international deal that exchanged curbs on Iran's nuclear program for the lifting of sanctions, calling the agreement an "embarrassment."


Hurricane Maria hits St. Croix and Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria slammed into St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands late Tuesday with top sustained winds of 175 miles per hour. By the time it barreled on to Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning, its top winds had weakened to 155 mph, but it was still the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in decades. "No generation has seen a hurricane like this since San Felipe II in 1928," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Tuesday. "This is an unprecedented atmospheric system." The storm first hit Dominica with 160-mph winds on Monday and left behind what the tiny eastern Caribbean island's prime minister described as "mind-boggling" damage.


Mexico earthquake kills more than 200

A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Tuesday, toppling dozens of buildings and killing more than 200 people, half of them in Mexico City. The quake sent thousands of people fleeing panicked into the streets. The disaster hit on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that left thousands dead, and less than two weeks after an 8.1-magnitude quake killed 90 people in southern Mexico. Morelos Gov. Graco Ramirez said via Twitter that at least 42 people had been killed in his state, south of Mexico City. Rescuers rushed to crumbled buildings, hoping to be able to free people trapped in the rubble.


Bipartisan group of governors opposes GOP health-care plan

The new, last-ditch push by Senate Republicans to replace ObamaCare hit an obstacle on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of 10 governors came out in opposition to it. GOP senators and the White House are rushing to muster the 50 votes they need to pass the bill, which would replace ObamaCare's insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion with block grants to states, before a measure preventing Democrats from blocking it with a filibuster expires at the end of the month. With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a firm no and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) considered likely to oppose it, too, the GOP, which has a 52-48 majority, can't afford to lose another vote.


Manafort demands investigation into wiretapping report

A spokesman for President Trump's onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Tuesday if federal investigators wiretapped Manafort under an inquiry into Russia's election meddling there should be an "immediate investigation" into the leak. "It is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged," Jason Maloni said in a statement. Manafort is requesting the Department of Justice "release any intercepts involving him and any non-Americans so interested parties can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ — there is nothing there." CNN reported Monday the wiretapping happened before Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to run the Russia investigation.


Trump administration to ease rules on overseas gun sales

The Trump administration is planning to change oversight procedures to make it easier for gun makers to sell ammunition and small arms — such as assault rifles and ammunition — overseas, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing senior U.S. officials. International non-military firearm sales currently are overseen by the State Department, which tightly restricts weapons deals due to security concerns. President Trump's aides are working on a plan to shift the responsibility to the Commerce Department, which is focused on facilitating trade and would therefore be expected to encourage increased sales. "There will be more leeway to do arms sales," one senior administration official said. "You could really turn the spigot on if you do it the right way."


Appeals court says Rolling Stone defamation suit can proceed

An appeals court ruled Tuesday that Rolling Stone magazine must face a defamation lawsuit over its debunked story about an unproven gang rape at the University of Virginia. The court ruled that two UVA fraternity members have plausibly claimed that the story about the gang rape of a freshman identified as "Jackie" in the article was "of and concerning" them. Rolling Stone — just put up for sale by founder Jann Wenner's publishing company — has faced several lawsuits over the article. One, filed by University of Virginia associated dean Nicole Eramo, was settled for $1.65 million.


3 Democratic lawmakers arrested at Trump Tower immigration rally

Three Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), and Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), were arrested in front of Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday as they participated in a protest calling for restoring protections against deportation for young immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children. The lawmakers joined advocacy groups urging President Trump to work with Congress to pass a law giving the so-called DREAMers a path to citizenship without requiring tightened border security measures. Gutierrez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, said the rally was meant to "make it clear" to Trump that immigration advocates will keep pushing to protect DREAMers for "as long as it takes."


Spain blocks Catalan from spending public money on independence vote

Spain's finance minister, Cristobal Montoro, signed an order Tuesday preventing the Catalan government from using public money to pay for a planned Oct. 1 independence referendum. The finance ministry says the push for independence for the region violates Spain's constitution. Montoro's move, which limits new credit and requires central government supervision on payments for non-essential services, came after Catalan officials failed to voluntarily embrace the controls. The finance ministry took over payments for education, health, and other basic services last week, so Madrid now has oversight over virtually all of the region's government spending.


Royals' Alex Gordon hits season's record 5,694th home run

The Kansas City Royals' Alex Gordon on Tuesday night hit the 5,694th home run of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, breaking a record for most long balls in a season. The previous record was set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era. Gordon's home run off Toronto reliever Ryan Tepera came with 12 days remaining in the season. It was just his eighth of the season. "A pretty cool thing to be a part of," he said. "I didn't hit many this year, but I guess I made one count."


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