10 things you need to know today: May 22, 2018
DOJ expands the inquiry into the FBI's tactics toward the Trump campaign, Pompeo threatens to "crush" Iran with sanctions, and more
DOJ expands inquiry of FBI informant after Trump meeting
The Justice Department on Monday broadened its internal investigation into the FBI's Russia probe after top FBI and DOJ officials met with President Trump. The president has said a recent report that an FBI informant talked to Trump advisers in 2016 suggests the Obama administration improperly spied on his campaign for partisan reasons. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein referred the matter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Horowitz will now be asked to look into "any irregularities" with "tactics concerning the Trump campaign." She also said the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will arrange a high-level meeting with congressional leaders "to review highly classified and other information they have requested."
Pompeo threatens to 'crush' Iran with new sanctions, military force
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said the U.S. would "crush" Iran with severe economic sanctions and military pressure if it doesn't end all nuclear enrichment, pull its forces out of Syria, and meet a list of other demands. "The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course," he said in a hardline speech. Pompeo also urged the Iranian people to reject the rule of the clerical government in Tehran. "What has the Iranian revolution given to the Iranian people?" he said. "The hard grip of repression is all that millions of Iranians have ever known." Iran promptly rejected Pompeo's ultimatum, calling it the kind of bullying that is alienating the Trump administration even from allies. "Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?" President Hassan Rouhani said.
Supreme Court rules employers can force arbitration
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of companies to make workers sign arbitration contracts preventing them from joining together in class-action lawsuits seeking better pay and work conditions. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the conservative 5-4 majority, said that it was "clear" that the contracts are valid under federal law encouraging arbitration over litigation. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reading her dissent from the bench in a sign of strong opposition, called the majority opinion "egregiously wrong," saying it would lead to "huge underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers," and force millions of workers into "arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts." She urged Congress to address the issue to protect workers.
Houston-area schools increase security after deadly shooting
Houston-area school districts said Monday that they were stepping up security in the wake of last week's shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left eight students and two teachers dead. Another 13 people were injured. Seven Houston-area schools reported gun threats on Monday. A student at League City Intermediate, less than 15 miles from Santa Fe High, was arrested for allegedly bringing a loaded gun to school. A student at an elementary school brought a plastic pellet-gun replica of a Beretta 9mm semi-automatic pistol. An eighth-grader at another school was charged with making a terroristic threat. A day earlier, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said on CBS' Face the Nation that protecting students required action, but too many leaders are "not doing anything other than offering prayers."
Syrian forces regain full control of Damascus
The Syrian military on Monday drove Islamic State fighters out of a stronghold in southern Damascus, giving the government full control of the capital city and its suburbs for the first time since civil war broke out in 2011. The victory came after a month of fighting that left the enclave in ruins. President Bashar al-Assad's forces will now focus on rebel territory in southern Syria. A monitoring group said that 1,600 people, including hundreds of ISIS militants, left southern Damascus on Saturday and Sunday, and went toward the eastern desert after reaching a deal with the Syrian government. The gains came as Iran, which has backed militias providing critical support for Assad's overstretched forces, faces mounting pressure from the Trump administration to get out of Syria.
Obamas finalize multi-year deal to produce Netflix content
Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have "entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series for Netflix," the streaming service announced Monday. The content will "potentially" include "scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features." The Hollywood Reporter notes that the move is "unprecedented in media" and that "no previous former president has ever made such a deal," with post-White House productions typically limited to autobiographies. In a statement, Obama said he and Michelle "hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world."
Gina Haspel sworn in as CIA director
Gina Haspel was sworn in as Central Intelligence Agency director on Monday after winning confirmation despite opposition over her involvement in harsh post-9/11 interrogation techniques critics call torture. Haspel has three decades of service in the spy agency, most of it undercover. She is the first woman to lead the CIA. President Trump praised Haspel, hours after accusing Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan of being a disgrace and leading a "political hit job" against him. "Our enemies will take note: Gina is tough, she is strong, and when it comes to defending America, Gina will never ever back down," Trump said. "The exceptional men and women of this agency deserve exceptional leadership, and in Gina Haspel that is exactly what you are getting."
Pence warns North Korea Trump won't be 'played'
Vice President Mike Pence warned in an interview with Fox News on Monday that President Trump would walk away from a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if necessary to avoid getting "played" through empty promises of denuclearization by Pyongyang. The comments came as President Trump prepared to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House on Tuesday to discuss Trump's planned June meeting with Kim in Singapore. Renewed tensions with North Korea in recent days have eroded optimism over a possibly historic deal to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons program. North Korea has moved from offering concessions to threatening to cancel the Trump meeting over joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises and harsh statements by Trump aides.
Consumer Reports says it can't recommend the Tesla Model 3
Consumer Reports said Monday that the Tesla Model 3 had failed to earn its recommendation. CR said the Model 3, the electric car maker's first mass market vehicle, had "flaws — big flaws" with its braking distance. In Consumer Reports' tests, the Model 3 stopped in 152 feet from a speed of 60 mph, which was "far worse than any contemporary car" the company has tested. Tesla said the Model 3, which is critical to the company's plans for profitability, brakes faster than Consumer Reports found. In internal tests, the Model 3's average braking distance was 133 feet. The reviewers also said they found the car's touch-screen control panel distracting, and that the Model 3 offered a "stiff ride, unsupportive rear seat, and excessive wind noise at highway speeds."
Australian archbishop convicted of concealing child sex abuse
An Australian archbishop, Philip Wilson, was found guilty Tuesday of concealing crimes of a pedophile priest in the 1970s, becoming the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of a coverup in the church's global child sex abuse scandal. Wilson, 67, had pleaded not guilty, but Magistrate Robert Stone said Wilson had concealed the abuse of two altar boys by priest James Fletcher by failing to report it to police. Fletcher was arrested in 2004 and convicted of sexually abusing another boy, and died in prison of a stroke in 2006. Wilson will be sentenced in June, and could face two years in prison.