Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 29, 2018

Trump ousts Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, North and South Korea set a date for talks, and more

1

Trump fires Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin as shakeup continues

President Trump announced in a tweet Wednesday that he was ousting Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and nominating his White House doctor, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, to replace him. "I appreciate the work of Dr. David Shulkin and the many great things we did together at Veterans Affairs, including the VA Accountability Act that he was helpful in getting passed," the president added in a statement. "He has been a great supporter of veterans across the country and I am grateful for his service." Shulkin had been rumored to be the next top Trump administration official to go after Trump last week pushed out National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Shulkin had faced criticism over blunders that included internal insurgencies and improper travel expenses.

2

Date set for meeting between leaders of North and South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for the first time on April 27, South Korea announced Thursday. The summit will help pave the way for a historic meeting between Kim and President Trump. The meeting will take place in the border village of Panmunjom at Peace House, a South Korean building in the so-called peace village, making Kim the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War. Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, met with his South Korean counterparts in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007. South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon didn't provide a clear answer on whether Pyongyang's nuclear program will be among the items Kim and Moon discuss.

3

Supreme Court hears arguments in another gerrymandering case

The Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments Wednesday in one of several gerrymandering cases working their way through the courts. This case involves a Democratic-drawn congressional district in Maryland that Republicans say rigged elections in favor of Democrats. In other states, Democrats have made similar arguments attacking GOP-drawn congressional maps. The justices in October heard arguments regarding a Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin that gave Republicans two-thirds of the state Legislature seats with less than half of the statewide vote. "It seems like a pretty clear violation of the Constitution in some form to have deliberate, extreme gerrymandering," Justice Stephen Breyer said. "But is there a practical remedy that won't get judges involved in dozens and dozens and dozens of very important political decisions?"

4

Judge allows suit accusing Trump of violating Constitution's emoluments clause

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Washington, D.C., and Maryland could proceed with a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution's ban on accepting "emoluments" from foreign governments. In the unprecedented case, the District and Maryland say Trump's hotel in downtown Washington has taken away business from rivals because foreign governments will stay in his hotel in an attempt to please the president. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte ruled that the attorneys general of the District and Maryland had standing to sue, and had shown that the Trump International Hotel "has had and almost certainly will continue to have an unlawful effect on competition." If the ruling is allowed to stand, the plaintiffs could seek Trump Organization documents to see how much foreign governments have spent at the hotel.

5

Trump lawyer reportedly contemplated pardoning Flynn, Manafort

President Trump's lawyer reportedly raised the possibility of a presidential pardon for former advisers Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, out of concern for what they might say if they cut a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The New York Times reported that attorney John Dowd hoped that offering pardons would keep Flynn, the former national security adviser, and Manafort, the former campaign chairman, from cooperating with Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates. Dowd denies the conversations occurred. Flynn agreed in late November to cooperate with Mueller's team and he pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI. Dowd reportedly discussed leniency with Flynn's lawyer last summer, and with Manafort's attorney before Manafort was indicted in October; it is unclear whether Dowd discussed the idea with Trump.

6

Ecuador cuts off Julian Assange's internet access

Ecuador's government announced Wednesday that it cut off the internet access of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the South American nation's London embassy since 2012. The move followed a bitter exchange between Assange and a British minister, Alan Duncan, over the British government's response to a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in southern England. Duncan said Assange was a "miserable little worm" who should turn himself over to British authorities for fleeing while free on bail. Assange said he would rather be a worm "that invigorates the soil, than a snake." Ecuador said Assange had violated his obligation to avoid disrupting its diplomatic relations with other countries.

7

All 22 female senators demand overhaul of system for sexual harassment complaints

All 22 women senators on Wednesday called on leaders to allow votes on overhauling systems for handling sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill. "Survivors who have bravely come forward to share their stories have brought to light just how widespread harassment and discrimination continue to be throughout Capitol Hill," the 17 Democratic and five Republican women in the Senate wrote. "No longer can we allow the perpetrators of these crimes to hide behind a 23-year-old law." The senators expressed "deep disappointment" in the chamber's failure to approve changes to the Congressional Accountability Act that would update how complaints are handled to make the process "more equitable."

8

Fire kills 68 people in Venezuelan prison

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab said late Wednesday that 68 people were killed in a fire that swept through the holding cells of the state police headquarters in Valencia, Carabobo state, on Wednesday. Most of those killed were prisoners, but two women who were staying overnight at the station also died, he said, without providing more information. Police fired tear gas to disperse relatives of the inmates gathered outside the police station demanding news of their family members. It is unclear what caused the fire, but Venezuelan prisons are notoriously overcrowded, and inmates are often held in holding cells long past the legal limit of 48 hours. This is one of the deadliest prison disasters in Venezuelan history.

9

Russian official says Moscow will 'respond symmetrically' to diplomat expulsions

Russia "will respond symmetrically" to the mass expulsion of its diplomats by the West over the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in southern England, Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house of parliament, told RIA news agency on Wednesday. On the same day, Slovakia, Malta, and Luxembourg recalled their ambassadors from Moscow for consultations, and Montenegro said it would expel a Russian diplomat. The U.S. led the international effort to show solidarity with the U.K. by announcing Monday that it was kicking out 60 Russian diplomatic employees over the case. Russia denies involvement in the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

10

Stormy Daniels' attorney requests depositions from Trump, Cohen

Adult film star Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, asked in a court filing on Wednesday for the opportunity to take depositions from President Trump and his private attorney, Michael Cohen, in the lawsuit regarding Daniels' alleged affair with Trump more than a decade ago. Cohen says he paid Daniels $130,000 of his own money to keep silent. She received the money 12 days before the 2016 presidential election, but is suing to be released from the nondisclosure agreement, arguing it is invalid because Trump never signed it. Trump denies he had an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Avenatti said he aims to prove that the White House and Cohen have told Americans "a bucket of lies."

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