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10 things you need to know today: June 5, 2018

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Harold Maass
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team on Monday accused Paul Manafort of witness tampering.
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1.

Mueller's team accuses Paul Manafort of witness tampering

Federal prosecutors on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team on Monday accused Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, of attempting to tamper with witnesses, and asked a judge to revoke his pre-trial release. Manafort has been accused of conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, and other charges. Court documents said Manafort tried to contact witnesses by phone between February and April while he was under house arrest. One told the FBI that Manafort was trying to conceal evidence and coach others on what to say about his lobbying practices. Two witnesses provided agents with texts Manafort allegedly sent them. A lawyer for Manafort did not immediately comment. [The New York Times]

2.

Supreme Court rules for baker who refused to make cake for gay couple

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected baker Jack Phillips' religious beliefs when it found he violated anti-discrimination laws. Kennedy wrote that the baker, as a business owner, "might have his right to the free exercise of religion limited by generally applicable laws," but "the delicate question of when the free exercise of his religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power" can only be addressed when there is no "religious hostility" from the state. Only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. [The Washington Post]

3.

Trump claims 'absolute right' to pardon himself

President Trump on Monday doubled down on statements made by his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who claimed over the weekend that the president could grant himself a pardon if necessary. "I have the absolute right to PARDON myself," wrote Trump on Twitter, "but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?" Trump cited "numerous legal scholars" to back his claim. He focused his criticism on the "never-ending witch hunt" led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In a separate tweet, Trump said Mueller's appointment was "totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!" He added that he still would "play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!" [Reuters, Donald J. Trump]

4.

Death toll rises to 69 in Guatemala volcano eruption

The death toll from the eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano rose to at least 69 on Monday, according to the Central American nation's National Institute of Forensic Sciences. Dozens more were injured, and more than 3,200 people were evacuated from surrounding communities. "It is too early to know the full extent of the damage," said Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who declared three national days of mourning. The latest eruption went on for 16 hours, blasting lava from the volcano's center and sending a deadly mix of lava rocks and ash racing down the sides of the volcano. [NPR]

5.

Former U.S. defense intelligence officer accused of spying for China

The Justice Department announced Monday that a former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency officer was arrested Saturday for allegedly attempting to spy on the United States for China. Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, speaks fluent Mandarin and Russian and had top secret clearance for several years, serving as a case officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2000 to 2006, while he was on active military duty; he later stayed in that line of work as a civilian employee and contractor, Reuters reports. He is accused of trying to gather and deliver national defense information to a foreign government and receiving "hundreds of thousands of dollars" while acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China. [Reuters]

6.

Arizona murder suspect dies as police close in

Arizona police said Monday that the suspect in the murders of a prominent forensic psychiatrist, a psychologist, and two paralegals at their offices fatally shot himself as Phoenix police officers were trying to contact him. A SWAT team went to the suspect's room at an Extended Stay America hotel. The officers did not fire, but when they entered the room using a robot they found the suspect dead, and alone. The first of the victims killed was Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist who had been involved in numerous high-profile cases, including the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation. He was shot outside his Phoenix office. The other victims were killed at offices in Scottsdale and a Phoenix suburb. [USA Today]

7.

Suicide bomber kills 14 near meeting where clerics issued anti-bombing decree

A suicide bomber attacked a meeting of top clerics in Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 14 people. Shortly before the bombing, the clerics had issued a fatwa or religious decree declaring that suicide bombings violated Islamic law, and calling for Taliban militants to agree to peace to end years of war and let foreign forces leave. The bomber, riding a motorcycle, detonated his device near the giant tent of the Loya Jirga, or council of elders, in a Kabul compound where the Afghan Ulema Council had just finished their meeting. About 2,000 council members had attended the meeting and were preparing to leave when the bomber struck. No group immediately claimed responsibility. [Reuters, USA Today]

8.

Starbucks chair Howard Schultz steps down, fueling 2020 speculation

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees on Monday that Howard Schultz would step down as executive chairman effective June 26. Schultz is considered the architect of the ubiquitous coffee chain as Americans know it today. He joined the company as director of operations and marketing in 1982, 11 years after it opened its first store in Seattle, and played a key role in transforming it into a global enterprise with more than 28,000 locations. Some speculated that Schultz, who supported former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, could launch a 2020 bid for the White House. "I'll be thinking about a range of options for myself, from philanthropy to public service," he said in the memo, "but I'm a long way from knowing what the future holds." [CNBC]

9.

Supreme Court vacates ruling that let undocumented teen get abortion

The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling that let an undocumented Central American immigrant teenager get an abortion. The court, with no recorded dissents, said the case was moot because the girl had already undergone the procedure. The decision wiped out the precedent set by a Washington, D.C., appeals court that ordered the Trump administration in October to let the teenager leave federal custody and get an abortion, which she did within 24 hours of the ruling. A related challenge to the Trump administration's policy against facilitating abortion access for pregnant teens in immigration custody is continuing. The judge in that case issued a nationwide order preventing the government from blocking abortion access; the administration is appealing. [The Wall Street Journal]

10.

Trump disinvites Philadelphia Eagles from White House Super Bowl ceremony

President Trump on Monday rescinded an invitation for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House because the team disagreed with his demand for all players to stand during the national anthem. Some NFL players have taken a knee in recent seasons to protest the mistreatment of black men by police. Under a new policy approved recently by NFL owners, teams will be fined if players who take the field don't stand during the national anthem. Trump said the Eagles, who defeated the New England Patriots in February's Super Bowl, wanted to send a small delegation, but he said no because fans planning to attend the event "deserve better." Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) called Trump's decision "a political stunt." [Reuters]