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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 24, 2018

Harold Maass
ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

North Korea calls Pence 'ignorant,' threatens to scrap summit

Choe Son Hui, a North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs, called Vice President Mike Pence "ignorant" and "stupid" for comparing North Korea to Libya, and said the June summit in Singapore between Kim Jong Un and President Trump could be canceled if the U.S. doesn't change its tune. Libya gave up its nuclear program at an earlier stage than North Korea's, and years later its leader was overthrown and killed. "Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States," Choe said. Despite the fiery rhetoric, North Korea said Thursday that it had followed through on a pledge to close its nuclear test site ahead of the meeting. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

2.

Federal judge rules Trump can't legally block Twitter users

Federal district court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald on Wednesday ruled that President Trump can't block people from his Twitter feed, because it amounts to viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment. The ruling marked a victory for the Knight Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven people blocked from Trump's account after they expressed opinions contrary to the president's in replies to Trump's posts. Trump has made his @RealDonaldTrump account on Twitter a key platform for promoting his agenda, announcing policies, and attacking critics. Buchwald said the Twitter accounts of Trump and other government officials are public forums, so it is unconstitutional for Trump and other government officials to prevent people from replying to their tweets. [The Hill, Reuters]

3.

NFL owners approve fines for teams whose players kneel during anthem

NFL team owners on Wednesday unanimously adopted new rules, including fines, for teams whose players do not "show respect for the flag and the anthem," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. Some players in recent seasons have chosen to kneel during the national anthem in silent protest of mistreatment of African-Americans by some police. The new rules allow players to stay in the locker room during the anthem, but require those on the sidelines to stand. Several players criticized the new rules as a violation of their right to free speech, saying protesting injustice is patriotic. "Everyone loses when voices get stifled," Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins said. [ESPN, The New York Times]

4.

Kushner finally gets permanent security clearance

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, on Wednesday received his long-delayed permanent security clearance, restoring his full access to sensitive material. He also recently submitted to up to seven hours of questioning by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team on matters related to Russian election meddling, including Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey, according to a person briefed on the matter. Kushner's security clearance level was downgraded in February as the FBI's background check into his financial history and foreign contacts dragged on, taking more than a year. "Having completed all of these processes," Kushner's personal attorney, Abbe Lowell, said, "he's looking forward to continuing to do the work the president has asked him to do." [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

5.

White House to show Democrats FBI informant material

Only two members of Congress, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), will be at a noon Justice Department briefing on Thursday about an FBI informant who contacted members of President Trump's campaign in 2016. But after protests from Democrats and some Republicans, there will be a second briefing at 2 p.m. with the Gang of Eight — the top Senate and House leaders and intelligence committee members from both parties — plus Gowdy. Despite a previous assurance that none of Trump's aides would attend, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will be at both briefings. [Politico, The Associated Press]

6.

Pompeo supports finding that Russia tried to help Trump's campaign

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he backs the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election to help President Trump and hurt his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Pompeo, who formerly served as CIA director under Trump, said the finding was "the least confirmed" conclusion in the report issued by the CIA. Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she was unaware of the report. In 2017, the CIA and the FBI said they have "high confidence" that "Putin and the Russian government aspired to help ... Trump's election chances." [Bloomberg]

7.

Trump backs 25 percent tariff on auto imports

At President Trump's request, the Commerce Department on Wednesday started an investigation into whether imported automobiles and vehicle parts represent a threat to national security. Trump wants to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported vehicles. "There is evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from abroad have eroded our domestic auto industry," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. Trump is threatening the levies as negotiators press Canada and Mexico to accept new auto rules in the North American Free Trade Agreement. "Core industries such as automobiles and automotive parts are critical to our strength as a nation," Trump said. [Politico]

8.

U.S. cuts China out of huge international naval drill

The U.S. has uninvited China from a multi-nation naval drill this year over Beijing's militarization of islands in the disputed South China Sea, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. The Pentagon said this "initial response" followed "strong evidence" that China had deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems, and electronic jammers in the Spratly Islands. The U.S.-hosted Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC, is held in the summer every two years, and China has participated before. The drills are considered the world's largest international maritime exercise. Pentagon officials say China has been too secretive as it builds up its military capabilities in the disputed part of the South China Sea. Beijing accuses the U.S. of viewing it with "Cold War" suspicions. [Reuters]

9.

Pompeo says China 'sonic attack' similar to events in Cuba

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that an apparent "sonic attack" against a U.S. government employee in Guangzhou, China, was "entirely consistent" with the ones that injured numerous Americans in Cuba last year. "The medical indications are very similar," Pompeo said in testimony to Congress. Twenty-one diplomats in Cuba suffered headaches, nausea, hearing and vision problems, and showed signs of mild traumatic brain injury. The State Department said the employee in China experienced "vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure." Pompeo said the U.S. had sent medical teams to investigate. "We are working to figure out what took place both in Havana, and now in China, as well," he said. [Reuters, NPR]

10.

Washington Capitals advance to face Vegas in Stanley Cup finals

The Washington Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday, and will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the finals starting Monday in Las Vegas. The Capitals haven't played in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1998, when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings, and this is only their second shot at the cup in the team's 44-year history. "I'm happy for the fans because they've been through some tough times with us and teams of the past," Washington winger T.J. Oshie said. Meanwhile, the Vegas Golden Knights reached the finals in their first season as a team. [USA Today]