Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 3, 2018

Trump lawyers argue the president cannot obstruct justice, China warns trade talks are futile if Trump imposes new tariffs, and more


Trump lawyers argue the president cannot obstruct justice

In a 20-page letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained by The New York Times and published Saturday, President Trump's lawyers argue the president cannot obstruct justice because he has constitutional authority over all federal investigations, including the Russia probe. Trump can "terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon," the lawyers claim, and any actions he takes cannot "constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself." Such a broad interpretation of executive power will likely be challenged in court. Trump complained of the letter's release on Twitter, suggesting Mueller is the person who leaked it.


China warns trade talks are futile if Trump imposes new tariffs

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visited Beijing for trade negotiations over the weekend, and those talks produced "positive and concrete" results, said a statement from the Chinese government in state-run media Sunday. However, if the Trump administration proceeds with its proposal to impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese tech products, the statement warned, "all the economic and trade benefits negotiated by both sides are not going to take effect." Further economic negotiations should be aimed toward mutual benefit and "not waging a trade war," the statement said.


Mattis warns China against 'intimidating neighbors'

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Saturday warned China against "intimidating neighbors" in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. "The U.S. will continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China, cooperating when possible and competing vigorously where we must," Mattis said at an annual security summit in Singapore. "Make no mistake: America is in the Indo-Pacific to stay." Later Saturday, President Trump offered an opaque comment on Twitter. "Very surprised that China would be doing this?" he wrote, linking to a New York Times report on Mattis' comments.


Trump decries 'Stupid Trade' in tweetstorm

President Trump posted a series of tweets slamming the United States' past trade policy and calling for a new era of protectionism on Saturday. "If we charge a country ZERO to sell their goods, and they charge us 25, 50 or even 100 percent to sell ours, it is UNFAIR and can no longer be tolerated," he said. "That is not Free or Fair Trade, it is Stupid Trade!" In subsequent posts on the subject, Trump complained of The Wall Street Journal's coverage of trade policy and said the U.S. must "get smart" and win a "Trade War."


Mattis forecasts 'bumpy road' for North Korea talks

"We can anticipate, at best, a bumpy road" to President Trump's June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday. While Trump is at present positive about the meeting, he could conceivably cancel it again. Mattis also sought to temper expectations for the summit's results, describing a slow and deliberate process of change. "We will continue to implement all U.N Security Council resolutions on North Korea," he said. "North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearization."


Trump to host Ramadan dinner

President Trump on Wednesday will host his administration's first iftar dinner, the evening meal marking the end of each day's fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all hosted iftar dinners, but Trump declined to do so in 2017. The decision was a further point of tension in his administration's relationship to the Muslim community. On the campaign trail, Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."


Duterte tells U.N. human rights expert to 'go to hell'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday slammed a United Nations human rights expert who issued a warning about his country's judicial integrity. "Tell him not to interfere with the affairs of my country. He can go to hell," Duterte said of Diego Garcia-Sayan, a U.N. special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. "He is not a special person, and I do not recognize his rapporteur title." Garcia-Sayan was critical of the ouster of the Philippines' chief justice, whom Duterte has publicly labeled his "enemy."


Gun control activists march across Brooklyn Bridge

Gun control activists organized a "Youth over Guns" march across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City on Saturday. Many in the crowd of hundreds of demonstrators wore orange, a color often used for safety gear, and carried signs with slogans like "Vote them out," "Slay the NRA," and "Arms are for hugging." Organizers included March for Our Lives, the activism group founded by students who survived the February mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Actresses Susan Sarandon and Julianne Moore turned out to support the protest.


Georgia cop fired after intentionally hitting suspect with his car

A police officer in Athens, Georgia, has been fired after he intentionally struck a fleeing suspect with his police car. "After reviewing the officers' body camera footage, and all the other facts and circumstances of this case, Chief Scott Freeman terminated the employment of Officer Taylor Saulters," said a statement from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department. Saulters chased a suspect wanted for a probation violation with his vehicle while another officer pursued him on foot. After the crash, Saulters threatened the suspect with a stun gun though the other officer had already restrained him, face down, on the ground.


Climbers suffer fatal fall in Yosemite

Two rock climbers suffered a fatal fall while climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park on Saturday. The climbers have been identified as Jason Wells, 46, of Colorado, and Tim Klien, 42, of California. Park rangers are investigating the fall; so far, its causes are unknown. El Capitan is a sheer granite formation popular with climbers. About 100 climbing accidents happen in Yosemite every year, and this incident brings the park's visitor death toll for 2018 to three.


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