Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 11, 2018

Trump slams critics in rambling campaign speech, Chinese parliament formally approves Xi's indefinite rule, and more


Trump slams critics in rambling campaign speech

President Trump stumped Saturday night for GOP congressional candidate Rick Saccone, who is running in a special election Tuesday. Trump praised Saccone as an "extraordinary person" who should "win easily," but most of the president's rambling campaign address focused on his own agenda and enemies. He spoke of his party's tax reform bill ("bigger than [Ronald] Reagan"), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) ("very low-IQ individual"), NBC's Chuck Todd ("sleeping son of a bitch"), and Oprah, whom he said he would "love to beat" in the 2020 election, though it would be "a painful experience for her." Trump praised Singapore for executing suspected drug dealers, and he performed an impression of himself as a boring president.


Chinese parliament formally approves Xi's indefinite rule

China's National People's Congress on Sunday formally approved a constitutional change that will permit President Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely. The proposal to remove presidential term limits was introduced two weeks ago, and it quickly became evident the amendment would pass. Only two of the 2,964 delegates voted no, and just three abstained. This change makes Xi China's most powerful leader since the death of Mao Zedong, but in comments to reporters after the vote, Shen Chunyao, chair of the parliament's Legislative Affairs Commission, rejected worries about autocracy. "I think that does not exist," Shen said.


DOJ proposes banning bump stocks

The Department of Justice on Saturday posted a notice of a regulatory proposal to ban bump stocks, the modification for semi-automatic weapons which permitted the Las Vegas attacker to shoot about 500 people in 10 minutes in October. The DOJ seeks to change the legal "definition of 'machinegun' in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act [to include] bump stock type devices," which would effect a ban. That change would also reverse an Obama-era determination of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that bump stocks do not fit the machine gun definition and thus cannot be prohibited without new legislation from Congress.


Trump expresses confidence in Pyongyang's restraint

"North Korea has not conducted a Missile Test since November 28, 2017 and has promised not to do so through our meetings," President Trump said on Twitter Saturday afternoon, referring to his plans to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for nuclear negotiations at an unspecified time in the near future. "I believe they will honor that commitment!" he added. Trump was similarly optimistic about Pyongyang when he spoke in Pennsylvania Saturday night, saying Kim has promised not to launch missiles before the negotiations, which will be "very special."


Putin posits 'Ukrainians, Tatars, or Jews' as true election meddlers

In a second segment of his interview with NBC's Megyn Kelly that aired Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested "Ukrainians, Tatars, or Jews, but with Russian citizenship" may be the real culprits who meddled in the 2016 U.S. election. "Maybe they are not even Russians," he said of the 13 Russian nationals indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his election interference probe. "Maybe they have dual citizenship or a green card; maybe the U.S. paid them for this," Putin added. "How can you know that? I do not know, either."


China warns trade war will be a 'disaster'

Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on Saturday warned of grave consequences to President Trump's proposed trade war. "There are no winners in a trade war, and it would bring disaster to our two countries as well as the rest of the world," he said while attending the annual parliamentary session in Beijing. "China does not wish to fight a trade war, nor will China initiate a trade war," Zhong continued, "but we can handle any challenge and will resolutely defend the interests of our country and our people." Japan and the European Union likewise urged "calm-headed behavior" on trade Saturday, asking Trump to back down.


Sessions calls court stays of Trump agenda 'unconstitutional'

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Saturday argued that court rulings which block President Trump's policy agenda violate the Constitution. "The increasing frequency of limitless injunctions is simply unsustainable, and the ever-more extreme nature of some of these injunctions is only making it more obvious just how unconstitutional they are," Sessions said in a speech at the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. "In truth, this is a question of raw power," he argued, "of who gets to decide the policy questions facing America: our elected representatives, our elected president, or unelected lifetime-appointed federal judges."


Former Trump aide says Mueller probe is 'warranted'

After a bizarre series of cable news appearances that had viewers and interviewers alike wondering whether he was intoxicated, former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg spent six hours testifying before a grand jury Friday at the behest of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This marks a reversal from his initial refusal to cooperate. Reflecting on the experience Saturday, Nunberg said he believes Mueller's Russia probe is not a "witch hunt," as President Trump has claimed. "It's warranted because there's a lot there and that's the sad truth," Nunberg said.


Bannon speaks to nationalists in France

Former White House strategist Stephen Bannon spoke to France's far-right National Front party Saturday in Lille, France. "Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor," he told party members. "You're part of a worldwide movement bigger than France." National Front is the party of Marine Le Pen, who lost last year's election to French President Emmanuel Macron. She was re-elected as party president at the meeting Bannon attended, while her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, was removed from his role as party president for life.


California standoff ends with one officer dead

One police officer was killed and another wounded in a standoff in Pomona, California, that began Friday night and continued for 15 hours into Saturday. The confrontation began when the suspect, identified as Isaias De Jesus Valencia, fled police by car and then by foot. He hid in an apartment and shot the two officers through a bedroom door. Valencia has been charged with murder and attempted murder. This incident is not related to the deadly standoff in Yountville, California, Friday evening.


Xi Jinping tells national security team to prepare for 'worst-case scenario'
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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