Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 31, 2018

Ex-FBI official reportedly wrote secret memo on Comey firing, Trump signs bill giving terminally ill access to experimental treatments, and more


Report: Top FBI official gave Mueller secret memo on Comey firing

Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe wrote a confidential memo last spring describing a conversation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the firing of McCabe's former boss James Comey, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the discussion. McCabe said Rosenstein told him President Trump originally asked him to reference Russia in a memo used to justify firing Comey. Rosenstein mentioned Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation instead. McCabe, who has given his memo to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, reportedly took Rosenstein's comment as possible evidence that Comey's firing really was over the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Trump's lawyers point to Rosenstein's involvement as proof Trump wasn't trying to obstruct justice.


Trump widely expected to hit EU with steel, aluminum tariffs by Friday

Barring an unlikely last-minute deal, President Trump will follow through with his threat to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union by Friday. The 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and a 10 percent levy on aluminum will likely be met by swift retaliatory EU tariffs on motorcycles, bourbon, peanut butter, orange juice, and other exports from America, as well as further damage already raw U.S.-European relations. In late April, Trump delayed the tariffs on the EU, Canada, and Mexico until June 1 to allow space for trade negotiations, but his envoys are frustrated that the EU isn't offering concessions. Trump is not expected to slap the tariffs on Canada and Mexico this week.


Grand jury indicts Harvey Weinstein on rape charges

Disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein was indicted Wednesday by a New York grand jury on charges of rape and a criminal sexual act. "This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said. Weinstein was arrested Friday in connection with allegations by two of the roughly 70 women who have accused him of misconduct from sexual harassment to rape. Weinstein has denied the allegations. Ben Brafman, the head of Weinstein's legal team, said Weinstein intended to plead not guilty and "vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies."


Fed unveils plan to ease rule against risky bank trading

Federal bank regulators on Wednesday released a plan to ease the Volcker Rule, which bars banks from making risky trades for their own profit with customers' money. The Federal Reserve and other regulators said the rule, part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, would remain in place in spirit, but that the government would simplify regulations to make it easier for banks to comply and for the government to enforce it. The proposed changes would impose the toughest restrictions on 18 banks that do the most trading, while applying less stringent requirements on other institutions. "Our goal is to replace overly complex and inefficient requirements with a more streamlined set of requirements," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a Fed governors' meeting.


Top North Korean official meets with Pompeo

Former North Korean military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, one of leader Kim Jong Un's closest aides, arrived in New York on Wednesday and joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for what Pompeo described as a "good working dinner" ahead of their scheduled Thursday meeting. Kim Yong Chol is the highest ranking North Korean official to visit the U.S. in 18 years. His talks with Pompeo are part of a push by both countries to salvage plans for a June summit in Singapore between President Trump and Kim Jong Un aimed at eventually getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. Pompeo has traveled to North Korea twice to pave the way for the meeting, which Trump canceled last week before both sides expressed renewed commitments to make it happen.


Russian journalist turns up alive after faking death to foil murder plot

Russian dissident journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was reported murdered in Kiev on Tuesday, turned up alive in a news conference on Wednesday. The Ukrainian Security Service explained to a stunned room that Babchenko, who has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin policy in Syria and Ukraine, had faked his death to help capture assassins who really were trying to kill him and 29 other people. Babchenko, fighting tears, apologized for putting his wife and other supporters through the ordeal. "I'm sorry but there was no other way of doing it," said Babchenko, 41. The security service said it had detained a Ukrainian man recruited by Russia to hire an assassin to carry out the killings.


Trump signs bill giving terminally ill access to experimental treatments

President Trump on Wednesday signed the Right to Try Act, a Republican priority that lets terminally ill patients use experimental medical treatments not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. "Thousands of terminally ill Americans will finally have hope, and the fighting chance," Trump said. Supporters, including some Democrats, said the new law would give the dying options for alternative care previously denied to them. Critics said the law could give patients "false hope," partly because drugmakers don't have to provide unapproved drugs at patients' request. "FDA oversight of access to experimental treatments exists for a reason — it protects patients from potential snake oil salesmen or from experimental treatments that might do more harm than good," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).


Texas governor releases school safety plan in wake of deadly shooting

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday unveiled a plan for making schools safer following the May 18 shooting that left eight students and two substitute teachers dead at Santa Fe High School near Houston. His 43-page report calls for increasing law enforcement presence at schools, providing more mental health screening for students, arming some teachers, and passing a law allowing for the removal of students who threaten teachers or classmates. "We all share a common bond: And that is we want action to prevent another shooting like what happened at Santa Fe High School," Abbott, a staunch gun-rights advocate currently campaigning for re-election, said during a news conference at Dallas school district headquarters.


Lava from Hawaii volcano cuts off highway, forcing more evacuations

Fast-moving lava flows from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano blocked a major evacuation route, sparking fresh mandatory evacuations for people in nearby neighborhoods on Wednesday. The lava crossed Highway 132 on Tuesday and was approaching the Four Corners intersection where it meets Highway 137. Both highways are critical routes for residents trying to get out of the area, and authorities are worried they might have to use bulldozers to cut a new emergency route through a jungle, or use military helicopters to get people out.


Kim Kardashian West talks prison reform with Trump

Reality star Kim Kardashian West went to the White House on Wednesday to discuss prison reform with President Trump. The socialite had already been in contact with Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, to advocate for the pardon and release of 62-year-old Alice Marie Johnson, who is more than two decades into a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. West thanked Trump in a tweet after the meeting, saying she hoped he would grant clemency to Johnson, and that she and others like her would get a "second chance at life." Trump tweeted that he and West had a "great meeting" and "talked about prison reform and sentencing."


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