Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 21, 2018

Trump signs executive order ending migrant family separations, North Korea and China agree to strengthen cooperation, and more


Trump signs order ending migrant family separations

President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order ending his administration's policy of separating undocumented migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The reversal came after a public uproar that included condemnation by lawmakers from both parties as well as all four living former first ladies. Trump's revised "zero tolerance" immigration policy will keep families together but still detain them pending prosecution for illegal border crossings, although a 1997 court settlement limits how long children can be detained. "So we're going to have strong, very strong borders, but we're going to keep the families together," Trump said. "I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated." Trump's order did not address the plight of 2,300 children already separated from their parents.


North Korea and China agree to step up cooperation

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed ways to increase their "strategic and tactical" cooperation during Kim's third visit to China, which concluded Wednesday, North Korean state media reported Thursday. Kim also briefed the Chinese president on his summit with President Trump in Singapore last week. Some analysts said the warmth displayed by Kim and Xi amounted to a warning from Beijing that Trump will have to back off on his threat to hit China with more tariffs if he wants help pressuring North Korea to denuclearize. "China is sending a message to Trump ... You can't have both," former energy secretary and repeat U.S. envoy to Pyongyang Bill Richardson told CNN.


House Republicans split over rival GOP immigration bills

House Speaker Paul Ryan pushed toward expected Thursday votes on rival conservative and moderate GOP immigration bills on Wednesday. President Trump urged Republicans to pass one of the bills, saying he was "1,000 percent" behind them and would sign either one. Neither, however, appeared to have enough support to pass. Ryan said he hoped to codify into law Trump's executive action, signed Wednesday, keeping undocumented migrant parents and their children together in custody, instead of separating them as the administration had done since May. "We do not want children taken away from their parents," Ryan said. Some wavering House Republicans were summoned to the White House, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with others on Capitol Hill to muster support for passing one of the bills.


White House to propose merging Labor and Education departments

The White House is preparing a proposal to merge the Labor and Education departments, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing a person familiar with the plan. The announcement, planned for Thursday morning, is coming after a months-long review of Cabinet agencies as part of an effort to reduce the size of the federal government. Any such change would require the approval of Congress, which has been reluctant to get behind previous efforts to eliminate federal agencies. Combining the Labor and Education departments reflects the Trump administration's desire to shift higher-education programs toward more directly training and preparing students to join the workforce.


Senate rejects White House plan to cut spending

The Senate on Wednesday rejected a White House proposal to cut billions in federal spending after two Republicans joined Democrats in a 48-50 vote. The Trump administration wanted to rescind authorization for $15 billion in spending Congress had approved in a show of fiscal responsibility after conservatives objected to a $1.3 trillion spending bill in March. One of the Republicans, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), reportedly objected to about $16 million in cuts targeting Land and Water Conservation Fund projects under the U.S. Forest Service. He doesn't usually go against the GOP leadership. The other, moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), was concerned about cuts to the Children's Health Insurance Program.


Bloomberg pledges $80 million to help Democrats win back House

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday that he would spend $80 million in the November 2018 midterm elections, mostly to help Democrats retake the House. The business media tycoon has belonged to both parties, but is now a political independent. He has been an outspoken opponent of Republicans during the Trump presidency, and wants to help Democrats flip 23 House seats to regain the majority. He also said he would support gubernatorial candidates on both sides of the aisle. Republicans usually land stronger financial support in small races than Democrats, but Bloomberg could upset that dynamic, The New York Times reported, by funding ads in moderate suburban districts in an attempt to move them left.


Disney sweetens bid for 21st Century Fox

Disney on Wednesday raised its offer for 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets to $71.3 billion. Fox accepted the offer, putting pressure on Comcast to counter or lose the bidding war. Comcast's recent $65 billion cash-only bid had trounced a previous Disney offer of $52.4 billion in stock. Both companies want to beef up their content to contend with Netflix and other streaming-video rivals. If the Disney deal goes through, it will acquire the 21st Century Fox film and TV studio, Fox's American cable channels, and the U.K.-based Sky News. An unnamed "New Fox," focused on news and sports, would retain Fox News, Fox Sports, and Fox's TV stations. The deal requires Justice Department approval, but a judge's recent rejection of an antitrust challenge to the AT&T-Time Warner merger bodes well for Disney.


Vatican punishes Cardinal McCarrick over abuse allegation

The Vatican on Wednesday removed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, from public ministry after an investigation found a decades-old sexual abuse allegation to be credible. McCarrick, who once was a prominent voice for the church in the nation's capital, was accused of sexually abusing a teenager 47 years ago in New York. The 87-year-old cardinal said he was innocent but accepted the Vatican's decision. "While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence," his statement said, "I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people."


Trump says North Korea returned remains of 200 U.S. soldiers

President Trump said Wednesday that North Korea had returned the remains of 200 U.S. soldiers missing from the Korean War. "We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains sent back today, already 200 got sent back," Trump said in his latest campaign-style rally, held in Duluth, Minnesota. Military authorities did not immediately confirm the news, although U.S. officials said earlier in the week that they expected a "sizeable number" of remains to be returned within days. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed during his recent summit with Trump to return the remains of U.S. soldiers. About 7,700 U.S. personnel from the 1950-1953 Korean War remain unaccounted for.


Report: Michael Cohen resigns from RNC committee

President Trump's former lawyer and confidant Michael Cohen resigned as deputy chair of the Republican National Committee's Finance Committee, ABC News reported Wednesday, citing sources close to the RNC. Cohen reportedly said a federal investigation into his business dealings and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation made it "impossible" for him to focus on the RNC work. He also criticized the Trump administration's separation of more than 2,300 undocumented migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, his first public break with Trump. "As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart wrenching," Cohen wrote. "While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips."


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