10 things you need to know today: April 20, 2018
The Justice Department sends Comey's memos to Congress, North and South Korea set up their leaders' first hotline, and more
DOJ sends Comey memos to Congress
The Justice Department on Thursday sent Congress redacted, unclassified memos written last year by then-FBI Director James Comey describing conversations he had with President Trump. The memos, which Comey has said he wrote right after the meetings, indicate that Trump asked Comey to end an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The memos also suggest Trump was preoccupied with unproven allegations that he consorted with prostitutes during a 2013 Moscow trip. The documents were requested by the Republican chairmen of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight committees. The chairs released a joint statement saying the memos show Trump "wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated."
North, South Korea install unprecedented hotline connecting their leaders
North and South Korea set up and successfully tested the first telephone hotline between their leaders on Friday in preparation for a rare summit next week. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un plan to have their first telephone conversation over the hotline before they meet next Friday to discuss the diplomatic standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The summit will be just the third between the leaders of North and South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War. Kim also plans to meet with President Trump this summer. Moon said Pyongyang has dropped its call for U.S. troops to leave South Korea before it will discuss denuclearization.
DOJ watchdog refers findings on McCabe to prosecutor
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Thursday referred his findings on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., to determine whether to charge McCabe with a crime, people familiar with the matter said. The inspector general found that McCabe repeatedly misled investigators looking into a decision to break with FBI policy in 2016 and tell a journalist about an inquiry into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe denies he lied about his role in approving the disclosure to the reporter. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe last month, 26 hours before he could have retired with a full pension. Earlier, President Trump had bashed McCabe as part of what he said were partisan attacks against him by some officials within the FBI. McCabe has said his firing was politically motivated.
Díaz-Canel replaces Castro, vowing continuity in Cuba
Raúl Castro, 86, stepped down as Cuba's president on Thursday, and was replaced by 57-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel, the former first vice president selected by the newly seated National Assembly. The transfer of power marked a historic transition because Díaz-Canel will be the first leader not named Castro on the communist-run Caribbean island since the late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Raúl Castro will still be the country's ultimate authority as head of the Communist Party. He said he expected Díaz-Canel to replace him as party chief in 2021 and serve two five-year terms, signaling continuity rather than abrupt changes. "There's no space here for a transition that ignores or destroys the legacy of so many years of struggle," Díaz-Canel said.
Trump adds Giuliani and 2 other ex-prosecutors to his legal team
President Trump on Thursday brought former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and two other former federal prosecutors onto the legal team representing him in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates. Giuliani, a longtime Trump ally, was on the president's short list to be his first secretary of state. He is expected to take on a lead role in guiding Trump's response to Mueller's investigation. Giuliani said he was stepping up to "negotiate an end" to Mueller's inquiry. The news came at a tense time following last week's FBI raid of the home and office of Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Arizona teachers vote for walkout over education spending
Arizona teachers and other school employees voted overwhelmingly to stage an unprecedented statewide walkout next Thursday. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) criticized the decision, repeating his promise to raise salaries by 19 percent over three years. "If schools shut down, our kids are the ones who will lose out," he said in a statement. Teachers represented by the Arizona Education Association and the grassroots group Arizona Educators United initially supported Ducey's pay plan, but turned against it because the groups said it would come at the expense of other education spending. "It is now clear the existing proposal is not sustainable or comprehensive as a means of increasing educator pay and reinvesting in Arizona's classrooms and schools," Save Our Schools Arizona tweeted.
In a first, Duckworth brings newborn daughter onto Senate floor during vote
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) made history Thursday when she brought her newborn daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, to the Senate floor for a vote. Duckworth gave birth to the child, her second, on April 9, and on Wednesday the Senate voted unanimously to reverse an age-old rule and allow babies into the Senate chamber. The move allowed Duckworth to bring the baby to Capitol Hill on Thursday, where Duckworth cast a vote against the confirmation of Jim Bridenstine for NASA administrator. Leaving the chamber after her vote, Duckworth told reporters that it felt "amazing" to have her baby daughter with her on the floor. "It's about time," she said.
U.S. ships carrying sorghum to China turn around after tariff announcement
Several ships carrying sorghum from the U.S. to China turned around this week after Beijing imposed a 178.6 percent anti-dumping surcharge on imports of the grain from the U.S., Reuters reported late Thursday, citing trade sources and an analysis of export and shipping data. Twenty ships were carrying 1.2 million tons of the grain, valued at more than $216 million, and at least five of the vessels changed course within hours of China's announcement on Tuesday. Sorghum is used as an animal feed, and represents a small part of the billions of dollars in exports involved in a simmering trade dispute between the Trump administration and China.
Investigation into Prince's death ends with no charges
Minnesota's Carver County attorney, Mark Metz, announced Thursday that the two-year investigation into music legend Prince's death was concluding with no charges. Local, state, and federal investigators determined that Prince, who was addicted to opiates, died of an accidental fentanyl overdose. He took counterfeit Vicodin pills laced with fentanyl, but there was no evidence about how or where he got them. "Prince had no idea he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him," Metz said. Prince, 57, died after being found unresponsive in an elevator at his Chanhassen, Minnesota, home and recording studio, Paisley Park. Minnesota Dr. Michael T. Schulenberg agreed to pay a $30,000 fine for knowingly prescribing painkillers to Prince's bodyguard even though he knew the recording artist would be the one taking them.
Lance Armstrong to pay $5 million fraud settlement
Former cycling superstar Lance Armstrong agreed Thursday to pay $5 million to settle claims that he defrauded the federal government by using performance-enhancing drugs while being sponsored as a member of the United States Postal Service team, his lead lawyer said. Armstrong could have faced up to $100 million in penalties. The deal ended years of fighting over whether Armstrong's doping harmed the Postal Service. Armstrong vehemently denied using banned substances for years until 2013, when he admitted to doping during the period when he won a record seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005. He was sponsored by the Postal Service in six of those years. Armstrong's lawyers had argued the Postal Service reaped a public relations bonanza during his winning streak.