Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 31, 2018

Trump calls for bipartisanship in his first SOTU address, stocks struggle to stabilize after the Dow's two-day plunge, and more


Trump calls for seeking 'common ground' in first State of the Union address

President Trump struck a conciliatory tone in his first State of the Union address Tuesday, following up a combative year by challenging Democrats to join him in a bipartisan effort to pass immigration reform and rebuild crumbling infrastructure. "I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people," Trump said. He asked Congress to approve $1.5 trillion for new infrastructure investment, and detailed his "four pillars" of immigration reform, including a border wall and a path to citizenship for undocumented young people. Democratic lawmakers gave Trump a chilly reception, hissing when he mentioned restricting the number of family members immigrants can bring to the U.S.


Dow plunges for second day but stock futures stabilize

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by as much as 400 points on Tuesday, closing down 362 points, or 1.4 percent. The plunged capped a two-day, 540-point Dow selloff ahead of President Trump's Tuesday night State of the Union address touting economic and market gains as signs of the success of Trump's tax and regulation cuts, and other policies. Health-care stocks led the declines, with UnitedHealth plunging by 3.4 percent after Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway announced a partnership to form a health-care company to give employees access to better, cheaper coverage. "I think people are looking for an excuse to sell," SlateStone Wealth's chief investment strategist, Robert Pavlik, told CNBC. Global stocks were mixed Wednesday, and U.S. stock futures stabilized, edging higher.


Kennedy calls Trump record 'rebuke' of American ideals in SOTU response

In the Democratic response to President Trump's first State of the Union address, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) called Trump's first-year record "a rebuke to our highest American ideal, the belief that we are all worthy, that we are all equal, that we all count in the eyes of our law, our leaders, our God, and our government." The government is struggling to stay open, Russia is "knee-deep in our democracy," and the Justice Department rolls back "civil rights by the day," he said, but the Democrats are choosing "a better deal for all who call this country home," including a living wage and merciful health care. The "country will be judged by the promises we keep," Kennedy said.


Trump heard telling GOP lawmaker he'll '100 percent' release controversial memo

President Trump told a GOP lawmaker after his State of the Union speech that he would "100 percent" approve releasing a controversial secret memo in which Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee accuse the FBI and Justice Department of improper surveillance in the Russia investigation. The White House said hours earlier it was reviewing the legal and security implications. Trump now has to decide whether to block the release of the memo, approved by the committee's Republicans on Monday over the objections of Democrats and the Justice Department. Democrats say the memo is a misleading rehashing of GOP talking points meant to distract from the committee's own investigation into Russian election meddling.


Ambassador candidate dropped by Trump over differences on Korea policy

President Trump is no longer expected to nominate Victor Cha, an academic who served in George W. Bush's administration, to be ambassador to South Korea, after he privately disagreed with the Trump administration's North Korea policy, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. Cha in December expressed his concerns to National Security officials about considering a "bloody nose" strategy toward North Korea — a limited strike intended to send a message without triggering a war. In a new Washington Post op-ed, he warns a preventive strike against the North "could start a nuclear war." Cha also has opposed scrapping a trade deal with South Korea. The White House spent months vetting Cha, and had notified Seoul that Trump would nominate him.


Hawaii employee behind false alert really thought missile was coming

The Hawaii employee who sent out a Jan. 13 false alarm of an incoming ballistic missile actually thought the state was under attack, according to a report by federal investigators released Tuesday. The employee said he had misheard a message during a drill. The conclusion contradicted state officials' original explanation. After the cellphone alert was sent to people across Hawaii, triggering a statewide panic, Hawaiian officials said the employee had chosen the wrong button in a drop-down menu during a shift change. The employee was fired last week. He had previously confused drills and real events. The leader of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency also resigned on Tuesday.


Justice Department investigating McCabe's role in Clinton investigation

The Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is investigating the role of Andrew McCabe, the outgoing No. 2 official at the FBI, in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. A primary concern is the apparent failure to act for about three weeks on a request to review Clinton-related emails found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, weeks before the November 2016 presidential election. At issue is how McCabe handled the emails and whether he or anyone else at the FBI intentionally tried to avoid examining the emails until after the election contest between Clinton and Donald Trump.


VW suspends chief lobbyist after reports of diesel tests on monkeys, humans

Volkswagen on Tuesday suspended its chief lobbyist, Thomas Steg, as the company faces a backlash over revelations about tests conducted for VW and other German automakers on the effects of diesel fumes on monkeys and humans. The New York Times first reported on the tests on Jan. 25. In a test in Albuquerque, the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, which was launched by VW, BMW, and Daimler, put monkeys in airtight containers and made them breathe exhaust from a VW Beetle. German media outlets also reported that the research group tested diesel exhaust's effect on 25 people at a German university. Volkswagen CEO Matthias Muller said the company was investigating the tests, which he called "unethical and repulsive."


Glee star Mark Salling dies weeks before child porn sentencing

Former Glee star Mark Salling died of an apparent suicide on Tuesday, several weeks before he was to be sentenced for possession of child pornography. He was 35. Salling's attorney, Michael Proctor, confirmed the actor's death but declined to comment on reports that Salling had killed himself in Los Angeles. Salling was arrested in 2015 after a girlfriend told police he had shown her child pornography on his computer. He pleaded guilty to a federal child pornography charge, confessing to downloading 25,000 sexual images of children. "Mark was a gentle and loving person, a person of great creativity, who was doing his best to atone for some serious mistakes and errors of judgment," Proctor said.


Pope Francis sends sex crimes specialist to Chile

Pope Francis is sending the Vatican's leading sex crimes expert to Chile to investigate a bishop whom victims have accused of covering up a pedophile priest, Vatican officials said Tuesday. Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna will go to the South American nation "to listen" to people who have said Bishop Juan Barros knew about or even witnessed abuse by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who was sanctioned in 2011 for sexually abusing minors. Pope Francis faced criticism after saying at the close of his recent visit to Chile that those making accusations against Barros should provide evidence, because otherwise their claims are pure "calumny."


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