Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 13, 2017

Democrat Doug Jones upsets Roy Moore in Alabama's Senate election, Trump spars with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and more

1

Democrat Doug Jones wins Alabama special Senate election

Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore in Tuesday's contentious Senate election in Alabama, a deeply red state that had not elected a Democratic senator since 1992. Jones' victory narrows the GOP's Senate majority to 51-49. Moore, a controversial former state Supreme Court chief justice, slipped in polls last month after several women accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, which he denied. Jones said the race was "about dignity and respect." Moore refused to concede. He lost by 21,000 votes, about 1.5 percent, and said absentee and military ballots could narrow the margin to 0.5 percent, triggering a recount. "When the vote is this close," he said, "it's not over."

2

Trump clashes with Sen. Gillibrand after she calls on him to resign

President Trump lashed out at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) via Twitter on Tuesday after she called for him to resign over sexual misconduct allegations. Trump called Gillibrand a "lightweight" and a "total flunky for Chuck Schumer" who used to beg him for campaign contributions "and would do anything for them." Gillibrand said the suggestive remark amounted to a "sexist smear" against her, and other Democrats said Trump's tweet only underscored the need to investigate the allegations against Trump at a time when powerful men from Washington to Hollywood are being held accountable for sexual misconduct. Several women who have accused Trump of harassment and groping called for a congressional investigation. Trump has denied all of the accusations, calling them "fake news."

3

Investigators: Subway bomb suspect posted messages taunting Trump

Accused New York City subway bomber Akayed Ullah posted a Facebook message hours before the attack taunting President Trump, telling him "you failed to protect your nation," according to documents filed by the federal government, which is charging Ullah with terrorism. Prosecutors said Ullah, an immigrant from Bangladesh and former livery cab driver, wanted to detonate the pipe bomb in the busy Port Authority tunnel to kill as many people as he could. Authorities said they found a handwritten note at Ullah's Brooklyn home that said, "O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE." Investigators also found metal pipes, Christmas light fragments, and screws matching shrapnel in the crude homemade bomb found at the scene of the explosion.

4

Tillerson offers North Korea talks without preconditions

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that he was ready to start talking directly with North Korea, with no preconditions. "Let's just meet," he said in front of the Atlantic Council. "We can talk about the weather if you want ... Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work toward." Previously, the U.S. said it would only start discussions with Pyongyang if they talked about North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons. Tillerson did say that North Korea, which two weeks ago tested a missile that could reach anywhere in the U.S. with a nuclear warhead, would need to respect a "period of quiet" with no missile or nuclear tests.

5

GOP negotiators near agreement on final tax bill

Republican House and Senate negotiators have tentatively agreed to raise the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 21 percent in their joint bill, GOP sources said Tuesday. A key element in both the House and Senate versions was reducing the corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, but negotiators looked at nudging up the rate to help pay for changes benefiting middle-class families and small businesses, and lowering the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans. To pass the bill in the Senate under budget rules keeping Democrats from blocking the legislation with a filibuster, the legislation can't add more than $1.5 billion in deficit spending over 10 years. Republican leaders hope to iron out the deal in time for final votes next week.

6

Texts fuel GOP allegations of FBI anti-Trump bias

The Justice Department late Tuesday released texts between two senior FBI officials who helped investigate President Trump's campaign in which they said last year that it was "terrifying" to contemplate a Trump victory. One said Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic rival, "just has to win," as both expressed fear that Trump would politicize the FBI. Special Counsel Robert Mueller removed one of the officials, counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, from the investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates after the texts surfaced. Republicans plan to cite the texts between Strzok and senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page as evidence that Mueller's investigation is biased when Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

7

Investigators: One California wildfire started with illegal cooking fire

The Skirball wildfire that destroyed six homes and damaged a dozen more in the Bel-Air area in western Los Angeles last week was started by an illegal cooking fire at a homeless encampment, Los Angeles fire officials said Tuesday. The city has been struggling with a sharp rise in its homeless population for years, and homeless encampments have spread. Investigators say the fire started at a camp along Sepulveda Boulevard where it passes under the 405 Freeway. The massive Thomas Fire, which has burned more than 234,000 acres, continued to spread on Tuesday as gusting winds pushed it down mountain slopes toward the wealthy coastal enclave of Montecito in Santa Barbara County.

8

Kremlin says it views Trump tweets as official policy statements

The Kremlin said Tuesday that it has started interpreting President Trump's tweets as official statements, and preparing briefings on them for Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Moscow considers all statements made on his official Twitter account to be official, so reports are presented to President Putin about them, as well as about official statements that politicians make in other countries," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, as quoted by the state-owned Tass news agency. Trump's tweets differ sharply with those of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who was the first U.S. president with such a social media presence. Obama used Twitter sparingly and signed his posts to emphasize that he had written them. Trump's tweets have frequently contradicted statements by members of his Cabinet.

9

Facebook hits back at former executive who said it hurts society

Facebook on Tuesday pushed back against investor and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya for recently saying that the social network contributes to "dopamine-driven feedback loops" that are "ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth." Facebook's response came in the form of a statement noting that Palihapitiya, who was vice president for user growth, had not worked at Facebook for six years. "Facebook was a very different company back then and as we have grown we have realized how our responsibilities have grown too," the statement said. "We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve," including investing in research into Facebook's impact on users' well-being.

10

Merriam-Webster picks 'feminism' as word of the year

Merriam-Webster on Tuesday revealed its word of the year for 2017: Feminism. From the Women's March on Washington in January to the ongoing "Me Too" movement calling out powerful men for sexual harassment and assault, women's rights have been a focus in U.S. politics this year. Searches for "feminism" on Merriam-Webster.com increased by 70 percent over the year, with notable spikes after key events, lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, the company's editor at large, said. "What does it mean to be a feminist in 2017?" Sokolowski said. "Those kinds of questions are the kinds of things, I think, that send people to the dictionary."

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