Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 17, 2017

Trump and McConnell meet to end infighting, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pleads guilty to desertion, and more


Trump and McConnell meet in bid to end feuding

President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met in a private lunch at the White House on Monday in a bid to end months of feuding. In a show of unity afterwards, Trump said, "The relationship is good. We're fighting for the same thing." He cited tax cuts as a shared priority. McConnell, whom Trump has criticized over failed GOP efforts to replace ObamaCare, said he and Trump speak frequently and "have the same agenda." Still, they showed signs of disagreement. Trump said he was working on a major economic plan although he had not shown it to Senate GOP leaders, and he said he had the votes lined up to repeal and replace ObamaCare next year, even though Republicans in Congress have not reached agreement on their next steps after failing to pass a health-care reform bill.


Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pleads guilty to desertion

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty on Monday to desertion and endangering his comrades by walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and held captive for five years. He was released in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners who were being held at Guantanamo Bay. Former President Barack Obama approved the deal to bring Bergdahl home, saying the U.S. doesn't leave service members behind. President Trump has criticized the deal, calling Bergdahl a "dirty, rotten traitor." Bergdahl, 31, said he left his post hoping to tell other commanders about problems in his unit. Still, he said Monday, "I understand that leaving was against the law." He will be sentenced by a military judge later this month.


Trump urges bipartisan health-care deal

President Trump this week urged Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to push a short-term ObamaCare fix, although he insisted that the old health-care law is "dead." Alexander said Trump would accept a bill funding subsidies to insurance companies that lowered out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans, which Trump abruptly cut off last week, in exchange for greater flexibility for states. Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have been working on a bipartisan health-care plan for months, and could introduce it "within days." Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is expected to introduce a more conservative alternative with a better shot in the Republican-held House. Many Republicans support a temporary fix of some kind. "We absolutely have to think about that family around the kitchen table," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).


Florida governor declares state of emergency ahead of alt-right event

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Monday declared a state of emergency for Alachua County ahead of a Thursday appearance at the University of Florida by alt-right leader Richard Spencer. The declaration clears the way to put the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state Division of Emergency Management in charge of keeping order, with local police and other agencies under them during the event. Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell was the one who requested state assistance. "We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority," Scott said. A "no Nazi" group on Monday urged UF President Kent Fuchs to deny Spencer's group a forum on campus.


Iraq retakes Kurdish areas to quell separatists

Iraqi government troops on Monday seized the northern city of Kirkuk, surrounding oil fields, and other areas from Kurdish forces, almost without a fight. Kurds had controlled the vital oil-rich city for three years as they solidified their control of northern Iraq, where they hope to establish an independent state. The Iraqi government launched a military operation aiming to take back the city from separatists in a bid to thwart an independence movement fueled by a referendum held three weeks ago calling for independence. The U.S., which is allied both with the Kurds and the government in Baghdad, condemned the vote, saying it would raise tensions between ethnic groups jointly fighting the Islamic State.


Trump vows to 'look into' drug czar nominee after report

President Trump on Monday said he would look into a Washington Post/60 Minutes report that his drug czar nominee, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), helped pass a bill weakening federal authority to prevent companies from distributing opioids. Trump said he would "make a change" if he discovers anything that is "1 percent negative to doing what we want to do," suggesting he might withdraw the nomination. "We're going to be looking into Tom," Trump said. Democrats called for replacing Marino with a new nominee. Trump said he planned to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency next week.


McCain warns against rise of 'half-baked, spurious nationalism'

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday warned against the rise of "half-baked, spurious nationalism" and called for strong American leadership on the world stage. McCain said that abandoning "the ideals we have advanced around the globe" and shirking from "our duty to remain 'the last, best hope of Earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems" is "unpatriotic." McCain, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in July, made the remarks while being honored with the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. He did not mention President Trump by name, but his remarks were interpreted as a criticism of nationalist advisers on Trump's team.


Trump falsely claims Obama did not call families of fallen troops

President Trump falsely claimed Monday that former President Barack Obama and other predecessors did not call the families of fallen American troops. Trump, responding to a question about why he had not spoken about four Green Berets killed in Niger two weeks ago, said such calls were the "toughest calls" to make. "The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls," Trump said, adding, "I like to call when it's appropriate." Former Obama staff members rejected Trump's claim. "This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards," said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a former Obama deputy national security adviser. Trump later conceded that he did not know if Obama called Gold Star families.


Netflix stock gains as subscriber growth exceeds expectations

Netflix shares rose by 2 percent to touch a record in after-hours trading on Monday after the video-streaming company said it had added more subscribers than expected in the third quarter. Netflix added 850,000 subscribers, beating analysts' average estimates of 810,000. The growth was driven by the success of Netflix original shows such as the latest season of the popular Narcos. Netflix, which has seen its shares rise by 64 percent this year, also said it planned to spend $7 billion to $8 billion on original content in 2018 and focus on expanding internationally, as it comes close to saturating the U.S. market.


Investigative journalist killed in Malta

Investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who used the leaked Panama Papers to expose links between Malta and offshore tax havens, was killed in a car bombing in Malta on Monday. Her final post on her popular blog, published a half-hour before her death, accused her island's prime minister's staff of corruption. Caruana Galizia helped set off a political crisis with allegations that Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's wife benefited from payments from Azerbaijan's ruling family to a secret Panamanian shell company. Muscat acknowledged that Caruana Galizia was one of his "harshest critics," but her criticism did not diminish his condemnation of "this barbaric act that goes against civilization and all dignity." Opposition lawmaker Simon Busuttil said the attack meant Malta's "democracy is at stake."


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