Daily briefing

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

Trump announces he will meet Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June, Trump urges Republicans to mobilize for midterms, and more


Trump announces he will meet Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month

President Trump announced Thursday that his "highly anticipated" meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place on June 12 in Singapore. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" Trump tweeted. The summit will mark the first time that a sitting U.S. president has met with a leader of the isolated communist nation. It comes following months of rising tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in a meeting on the border of the two nations that they would work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Singapore, a small island nation of 5.6 million, has one of the most advanced economies in the region, and maintains diplomatic relations with North Korea.


Trump urges Republicans to mobilize against Democratic takeover in midterms

President Trump took the stage in Elkhart, Indiana, to urge Republicans to mobilize for the fall midterm elections, saying that Democrats will "destroy your jobs" and "knock the hell out of your border" if they retake control of Congress. Trump sought to rally support for former state lawmaker Mike Braun, who this week won the Republican nomination to challenge vulnerable Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly. Vice President Mike Pence, a former Indiana governor, joined Trump in an event aimed at promoting party unity following bruising primaries in which several GOP congressmen lost high-profile races. Trump won 10 states where Democratic senators are up for re-election this year, and he is expected to campaign extensively ahead of this fall's midterms.


U.N. leader calls for end to 'hostile acts' in Middle East

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday called for all nations to end "hostile acts" in the Middle East to avoid "a new conflagration" following an exchange of strikes between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria. Early Thursday, Israel launched strikes with missiles and fighter jets against "dozens" of Iranian military targets in Syria in retaliation for an Iranian rocket attack on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Israel's strikes left 23 dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The violence marked the most serious escalation in long-simmering tensions between Iran and Israel since Syria's civil war started in 2011.


Democrats release thousands of Russian Facebook ads

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released 3,500 ads Facebook says the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency placed on the social network to influence public sentiment ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The ads were placed by Russians posing as Americans. Some favored President Trump, others his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. They targeted users in key states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia, spreading inflammatory messages on immigration, race, and other sensitive topics in an apparent effort to deepen divisions in the electorate. The Justice Department in February charged 13 Russians and three companies with an effort to meddle in the 2016 election and support Trump. Facebook is tightening ad restrictions to prevent interference in this fall's midterms.


Giuliani resigns from private law firm

President Trump's new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, resigned from his law firm on Thursday. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and prosecutor, had originally taken a leave of absence to represent Trump, but he and the firm, Greenberg Traurig, issued a joint statement saying he no longer worked there. Partners in the firm reportedly were upset at Giuliani's recent comments about Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's claim that without Trump's knowledge he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence on her allegation that she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago. Giuliani suggested that such arrangements were common at his law firm. Greenberg Traurig said it "would not condone payments" like that.


Reports: DHS secretary nearly quits after Trump scolding over immigration

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen reportedly told confidants that she had drafted a resignation letter after President Trump berated her during a Wednesday Cabinet meeting for what he considers weak border enforcement. Nielsen, a protégé of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, issued a statement late Thursday suggesting she was staying, saying that "the president is rightly frustrated" by ongoing illegal immigration and "I share his frustration." Politico reported that Vice President Mike Pence heard that Nielsen, who was just confirmed five months ago, was considering leaving, and he summoned her to the White House to encourage her to stay.


U.S. imposes sanctions against Iranian currency exchange

The U.S. imposed new sanctions Thursday on an Iranian currency exchange Washington accuses of funneling money to the blacklisted elite Quds Force military unit. Acting jointly with the United Arab Emirates, the Treasury Department targeted several Iranian firms and individuals it said were involved in the financing operation. The sanctions marked the first concrete step against Tehran since President Trump announced this week that the U.S. would withdraw from the 2015 deal with world powers calling for Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the suspension of punishing sanctions. The Trump administration is using new sanctions as leverage to pressure Iran and other nations to produce a new deal that restricts Iran's missile program and its support for militants across the region in addition to its nuclear program.


Pentagon report details failures blamed for deadly Niger ambush

The Pentagon said Thursday that a months-long investigation identified several failures that led to the deaths of four U.S. service members in Niger last October. Among the contributing problems were insufficient training and preparation, and a decision by the team to go after a high-level Islamic State-linked target without proper approval. The soldiers who were killed — Army Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright — were among 46 U.S. and Nigerien forces ambushed by more than 100 enemy fighters on what was supposed to be a routine mission. Defense Secretary James Mattis directed Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, to take steps to fix the problems and devise a plan for further changes.


Report: AT&T paid Cohen $600,000 for help on Time Warner merger

Three days after President Trump's inauguration, AT&T reached a deal to pay Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, $600,000 for advice on its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner and other matters before the federal government, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing documents it obtained that describe the arrangement. Trump had expressed opposition to the merger, and the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block the merger in November. Cohen's deals with AT&T and other companies with crucial matters before the federal government were revealed this week by porn star Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, although he said Tuesday that AT&T had only paid Cohen's company, Essential Consultants, $200,000 last year.


104-year-old Australian scientist dies in assisted suicide

A 104-year-old Australian biologist, David Goodall, died by assisted suicide in Switzerland on Thursday, after fighting for months in a right-to-die case that attracted global attention. On the eve of his death, Goodall said he had not had a moment of hesitation. "No, none whatever," he said. "I no longer want to continue life, and I'm happy to have a chance tomorrow to end it." Goodall resolved to end his life in the last year as his quality of life deteriorated due to lack of mobility, doctor's restrictions, and other issues. He was not considered ill, and Australian law prevented him from getting help killing himself there, so he traveled to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, with the help of the right-to-die organization Exit International.


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