Daily briefing

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

House Republicans approve their tax plan, lawmakers call for investigating Franken sexual harassment allegation, and more


House approves its tax-cut bill

The House approved its version of the GOP tax overhaul on Thursday in a 227-205 vote, with 13 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposing it. The Senate Finance Committee late Thursday advanced the Senate version and sent it to the full Senate. At least two key GOP senators have expressed objections, leaving supporters with no votes to spare if they hope to approve it with their party's 52-48 majority. President Trump and Republican lawmakers are vowing to pass the overhaul, with $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, by the end of the year, saying it will boost economic growth, but opponents complain that 80 percent of the breaks go to big corporations and the super rich at the expense of smaller businesses and families with lower incomes.


Lawmakers call for ethics investigation of Franken sexual harassment allegation

Leaders from both parties called for an ethics investigation of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) after a model and sportscaster, Leeann Tweeden, accused him of groping and kissing her without her consent during a USO tour in 2006. Franken apologized, and promised to cooperate with an investigation. Tweeden, now a radio anchor at KABC in Los Angeles, said she accepted his apology but that he should have made it sooner. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called for an investigation, and numerous Democrats agreed. "These types of actions are simply unacceptable," Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said. "Women across America should be able to feel safe in their workplace, and they deserve our support when coming forward with allegations of misconduct."


Senate panel: Kushner withheld WikiLeaks, Russia emails

President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received and forwarded emails about WikiLeaks and an invitation for "Russian backdoor" communications that he failed to disclose to Senate Judiciary Committee investigators, the panel's leaders said in a letter they sent Thursday to Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell. In the letter, committee chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democratic member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tell Kushner's lawyers to hand over documents investigators know exist, including September 2016 emails to Kushner from WikiLeaks that other witnesses have told investigators about. Days earlier, Donald Trump Jr. revealed that he had communicated with WikiLeaks directly during the campaign using Twitter direct messages.


Judge declares mistrial after jury deadlocks in Menendez corruption trial

A federal judge in New Jersey declared a mistrial Thursday in Sen. Robert Menendez's (D-N.J.) corruption trial. The jury had told him for a second time that it was deadlocked on the bribery, conspiracy, and other charges against Menendez and his co-defendant, donor, and friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. "Further deliberations would be futile," Judge William Walls said. During an 11-week trial that was the first prosecution of a sitting senator in decades, prosecutors said that Menendez took luxury gifts, trips, and campaign donations from Melgen in exchange for government favors. Menendez's lawyer said the men are simply good friends.


White House: Trump won't call for Roy Moore to step aside

The White House on Thursday said that President Trump finds the sexual misconduct and child molestation allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore "extremely troubling," but that he won't call for Moore to drop out of the race. Trump believes that "the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Trump, who was caught on an old Access Hollywood tape bragging about sexually grabbing women, swiftly condemned Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) after an allegation that he forcefully kissed and groped a fellow performer on a USO tour in 2006. "And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women," Trump tweeted.


Walmart shares soar as its online sales rise

Walmart on Thursday reported a 50 percent increase in U.S. online sales in the third quarter, sending its stock price jumping by 9 percent. "It won't become Amazon, but it doesn't have to," Clement Thibault, an analyst with Investing.com, wrote in a note on Thursday after Walmart's announcement. "It has to make sure it remains a viable alternative to Amazon. The pie is big enough to sustain multiple players." Walmart also saw spending on revamping stores and improving customer service pay off in the form of a 2.7 percent increase in sales at existing stores. "We have momentum, and it's encouraging to see customers responding to our store and e-commerce initiatives," said Doug McMillon, Walmart's president and CEO.


Afghan police lieutenant called hero for grabbing suicide bomber

An Afghan police lieutenant, Sayed Basam Pacha, was hailed as a hero on Thursday for grabbing a suicide bomber in a bear hug before he detonated his explosive vest. Lieutenant Pacha, seven other police officers, and six civilians were killed, but authorities said far more would have died if Pacha hadn't sacrificed himself to keep the bomber from reaching dignitaries and others leaving a hall he was guarding. "He's a hero, he saved many lives," said Basir Mujahed, a police spokesman. "All seven of those policemen are heroes but especially him. Just think if that suicide attacker got past the gate, what would have happened — you cannot even imagine."


210,000 gallons of oil spill from Keystone pipeline

About 5,000 barrels of oil, or 210,000 gallons, spilled from the original Keystone pipeline in South Dakota on Thursday. The accident came days before a Monday decision by the Public Service Commission in Nebraska on whether to grant a permit for a long-delayed sister pipeline, known as Keystone XL. Both pipelines are owned by Calgary-based TransCanada, which said the leak was "completely isolated" within minutes, and that it had the landowner's permission to assess the spill and prepare the cleanup. Critics said the incident proved that TransCanada can't be trusted to protect the environment. Jane Kleeb, a Keystone XL opponent and head of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said she was confident the Public Service Commission would "side with Nebraskans, not a foreign oil company."


Fox News poll shows Democrat Doug Jones leading Republican Roy Moore

A Fox News poll released Thursday shows Democrat Doug Jones leading Republican Roy Moore by eight points in the Alabama Senate race. Fifty percent of likely voters surveyed and 49 percent of registered voters in the deeply conservative state said they would vote for Jones, while 42 percent of likely voters surveyed and 40 percent of registered voters said they support Moore. The poll was conducted Nov. 13 through 15, after several women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore, saying when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s, he made sexual advances or pursued relationships with them. A Fox News poll conducted in mid-October had the candidates tied.


Mugabe makes first public appearance since arrest

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe made his first public appearance since the military detained him this week, attending a Friday graduation ceremony. The military said it was making "significant progress" in its effort to arrest "criminals" close to Mugabe, who has ruled for 37 years and is the world's oldest head of state at 93. The military said it was weeding out people linked to Mugabe and his wife for "committing crimes that were causing social and economic suffering in Zimbabwe." The military has shown Mugabe respect, continuing to refer to him as the African nation's commander-in-chief, while saying it was in talks with him "on the way forward," which is expected to include his resignation and preventing his wife, Grace, from succeeding him.


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