Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 27, 2018

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in meet for a historic summit, jurors find Bill Cosby guilty of sexual assault, and more

1

Kim Jong Un, Moon Jae-in meet for historic summit

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Friday in a historic summit, agreeing to work toward a "common goal" of denuclearization. The two leaders also are paving the way for a meeting between Kim and President Trump. Kim became the first North Korean leader since the 1950-53 Korean War to step into South Korea as he and Moon shook hands, smiling, in the so-called peace village of Panmunjom on the border. "We are at a starting line today, where a new history of peace, prosperity, and inter-Korean relations is being written," Kim said. In the U.S., the parents of Otto Warmbier filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing North Korea of torturing their son, leading to his death last year.

2

Jury finds Bill Cosby guilty of sexual assault

A jury on Thursday found comedian and iconic TV dad Bill Cosby guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and molesting a former friend, Andrea Constand, at his Philadelphia-area home in January 2004. The verdict came on the second day of deliberations by jurors in Cosby's sexual assault retrial. His first trial ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked. Cosby, 80, has maintained his innocence. Judge Steven O'Neill said the actor could remain free on his $1 million bail pending his sentencing, which typically would occur 60 to 90 days after the conviction. Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison for each of the three counts. His lawyers indicated they plan to appeal.

3

Jackson withdraws VA secretary nomination

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, withdrew as President Trump's nominee to run the Veterans Affairs Department after lawmakers released information on allegations of misconduct against him. "Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing — how we give the best care to our nation's heroes," Jackson said in a statement. Trump said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) would "have a big price to pay" for exposing what Trump called "completely false and fabricated" allegations that Jackson improperly dispensed prescription drugs and was intoxicated on the job. Trump said he had a new nominee in mind to replace former VA secretary David Shulkin, an Obama-era holdover.

4

Judge appoints 'special master' to review material seized in Michael Cohen raid

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood on Thursday appointed a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, as a "special master" tasked with reviewing documents seized in a raid of the office and home of Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal attorney. Jones will be responsible for deciding what materials are protected by attorney-client privilege, and what federal prosecutors can look at as they investigate possible charges against Cohen for bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Prosecutors withdrew their objection to Cohen's request for a special master partly because Trump said in a rambling Fox & Friends interview on Thursday that Cohen performs "a tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work, suggesting "the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents."

5

Merkel to repeat Macron's call to preserve Iran deal in White House meeting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives Friday for a brief meeting with President Trump, a low-profile follow-up to the pomp and circumstance of French President Emmanuel Macron's three-day state visit this week. Despite the contrast, Merkel is expected to repeat themes Macron pressed, including the call to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and to avoid triggering a global trade war. Merkel was considered Europe's leader when she had her first tense meeting with Trump last year. She suggested around that time that she would pick up the global leadership Trump was rejecting, saying, "We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands." Her influence has since waned after she faced a difficult election last year.

6

Senate Ethics Committee admonishes Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez

The Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday unanimously rebuked Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) for accepting expensive gifts, travel, and political donations from his friend and political ally Dr. Salomon Melgen. In its first public release since 2012, the panel said Menendez's actions discredited the Senate. The committee ordered him to repay the improper gifts and refile his financial disclosure reports accordingly. Menendez faced federal bribery and corruption charges over the relationship, but the trial ended in a mistrial in November after jurors failed to reach a verdict. The committee said the lack of a conviction did not mean Menendez's conduct was permissible for a senator.

7

Ryan forces out House chaplain

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) faced questions from both Republicans and Democrats on Thursday after news circulated that he had forced the House chaplain, Father Patrick Conroy, to resign. Ryan's April 16 announcement made it sound like Conroy had simply resigned, but lawmakers demanded an explanation after talking to the Jesuit priest and learning Ryan had requested that he go. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said he didn't understand why Conroy was asked to leave. Democrats suggested Ryan might have been irked by a Nov. 6 prayer in which Conroy urged lawmakers preparing to vote on tax reform to "be mindful" of economic disparities and not pick "winners and losers under new tax laws." House GOP leaders said "there was not a specific prayer" behind Ryan's request for Conroy's resignation.

8

EPA chief Scott Pruitt defends leadership to lawmakers

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt defended his leadership in two congressional hearings on Thursday, while accepting blame for widely criticized spending decisions. Pruitt, who is facing 10 ongoing federal ethics investigations, also conceded that he had known in advance of an aide's controversial pay raise, after saying earlier this month he hadn't approved pay bumps. He also said he had not known that his request for a secure phone line would result in the construction of a soundproof phone booth costing $43,000, blaming EPA lawyers for that expense. Several EPA staffers say they have faced retaliation for opposing spending taxpayer money on first-class travel and other disputed expenses.

9

Senate confirms Mike Pompeo as secretary of state

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Mike Pompeo as secretary of state on Thursday in a 57-42 vote. Seven members of the Senate Democratic caucus joined all Republicans in supporting Pompeo. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was absent. Shortly after the vote, Pompeo walked across the street to the Supreme Court, where he was sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito. The smooth end to his confirmation battle came after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) dropped his opposition under pressure from the White House, sparing Pompeo an embarrassing negative recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Gina Haspel, President Trump's nominee to replace Pompeo as CIA director, faces an uphill confirmation fight as Democrats demand details on her involvement with enhanced interrogation techniques after 9/11.

10

Two former NBC News employees accuse Tom Brokaw of inappropriate behavior

Former NBC News correspondent Linda Vester told Variety and The Washington Post that former anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted sexual advances toward her in the 1990s, when she was in her 20s. Vester said Brokaw once forcibly trying to kiss her after inviting himself into her hotel room. Linda Vester, now 52, said she did not file a complaint because she feared retribution. Another woman, a former production assistant who asked to remain anonymous, told the Post Brokaw also acted inappropriately with her in the 1990s, grabbing her hands and putting them against his chest. Brokaw denied both allegations. He said he "made no romantic overtures" toward Vester, and that the incident described by the other woman never happened.

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