Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 18, 2017

White House claims 'clear distinction' between Trump and Franken, Congress breaks for Thanksgiving recess as Senate tax battle looms, and more

1

White House claims 'clear distinction' between Trump and Franken

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made a "very clear distinction" Friday between Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who was accused of kissing and groping a woman in 2006, and President Trump, who was accused of misconduct by more than a dozen women during his campaign. "I think specifically in one case, Sen. Al Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't," Sanders said. Trump was famously caught on tape making vulgar comments about women and bragging about groping and kissing them without consent while speaking with Access Hollywood's Billy Bush in 2005. The president's critique of Franken has come under widespread accusation of hypocrisy.

2

Congress breaks for Thanksgiving recess as Senate tax battle looms

Congress broke for Thanksgiving recess Thursday with the GOP's tax legislation teed up in the Senate for when lawmakers return on Nov. 27. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), under scrutiny from Republican leadership due to his uncertain vote, signaled a positive stance on the bill Friday: "I am hopeful that when we return from the Thanksgiving recess ... we will see this process continue," he said, "with both sides of the aisle having sufficient opportunity to debate the merits of tax reform and offer amendments." The Senate has significantly less room for party defections than the House, which passed its version of the bill Thursday.

3

Clintons embroiled in sexual misconduct controversy

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday drew a contrast between Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who is "accepting responsibility, apologizing" for sexual misconduct allegations made against him, and President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, "who have done neither." Her remarks came a day after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Gillibrand is historically a Clinton ally, and her comments are the latest development in the Democratic Party's renewed debate and division over sexual harassment and assault accusations against Bill Clinton.

4

Trump delays decision on elephant trophies

President Trump announced Friday he has delayed his decision on whether to maintain or eliminate an Obama-era prohibition on the import of trophies, like the tusks or skull, from elephants hunted for sport in Zimbabwe and Zambia. "Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts," he tweeted Friday evening, following up Saturday morning with a retweet of television personality Piers Morgan praising the delay. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had indicated Thursday the ban would be lifted, a change the agency said could increase the number of elephants by encouraging big game population management. Critics believe it would put elephants at greater risk of extinction.

5

Report: Kushner denied Wikileaks emails in testimony to Congress

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner did not give congressional investigators access to campaign-era email communications he is known to have had with Wikileaks about a "Russian backdoor overture," Senate Judiciary Committee leaders said in a letter Thursday. On Friday, citing an unnamed source familiar with congressional probes into Russian meddling with the 2016 election, CNN reported Kushner also denied any memory of those emails when testifying before Congress in July. Kushner's attorney dismissed the story in a statement Friday night, maintaining Kushner was correct to say he did not have "contacts with Wikileaks, Guccifer, or DC Leaks."

6

Thousands march against Mugabe in Zimbabwe

Thousands of Zimbabweans marched in the streets in cities around their country on Saturday, demanding an end to the rule of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 and is widely considered a dictator. The demonstrations come several days after the Zimbabwean military, backed by the ruling Zanu-PF party, put Mugabe and his wife, Grace, under house arrest. The couple are "ready to die for what is correct" and will not step down, Mugabe's nephew said Saturday as the army, which supports the protests, prevented demonstrators from marching into the Mugabes' official residence.

7

China reaffirms 'friendly relations' with North Korea

Beijing said in state media reports Saturday "the traditional friendly relations between China and North Korea was founded and cultivated by both countries former old leaders, and is valuable wealth for the two peoples." The comments come after meetings in Pyongyang between representatives of both governments Friday. The timing of the talks so soon after President Trump's conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping has led to speculation that Beijing may have conveyed a message from Washington, but Pyongyang said Friday nuclear diplomacy will not proceed unless the U.S. and South Korea stop conducting joint military exercises.

8

White House releases list of SCOTUS nominee options

The White House on Friday released an updated list of 25 potential Supreme Court nominees, five of them new additions to the roster. There is no current SCOTUS vacancy, though three sitting justices are 79 or older. The announcement came on the same day as the national convention of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization whose members have comprised a significant portion of President Trump's judicial picks. "They all have paper trails. They all are sitting judges," White House Counsel Don McGahn said of the new nominee options at the convention. "There is nothing unknown about them. What you see is what you get."

9

Tesla unveils electric semi truck

Tesla's Elon Musk announced the Tesla Semi on Thursday night at his SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The fully electric truck has the capability to haul 80,000 pounds and travel 500 miles on a single charge, and can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just five seconds with an empty trailer. On 100-mile routes, Musk said, the Semi will cost truckers $1.26 a mile, compared to $1.51 for today's diesel trucks, though deisel vehicles can travel longer distances and refuel more quickly. Walmart is excited about the promise of electric trucks and preordered 15, which are expected to go into production in 2019.

10

Navy confirms obscene sky drawing in Washington State

The Navy on Friday confirmed responsibility for an obscene sky drawing made by a practicing aircrew over the town of Okanogan, Washington, northeast of Seattle. The crew of an EA-18G Growler attack jet flew the plane in a pattern that "left a condensed air trail resembling an obscene image to observers on the ground," a Navy representative said. "The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value," officials added, "and we are holding the crew accountable" for the phallic drawing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it will not be involved unless there was a safety violation.

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