10 things you need to know today: July 17, 2018

Trump backs Putin's denial of Russia's election meddling, prosecutors charge a Russian woman with conspiracy against America, and more

President Trump and Vladimir Putin at a press conference
(Image credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Trump sides with Putin in denial of Russian election meddling

President Trump stood next to Vladimir Putin on Monday and questioned U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election, saying the Russian president "was extremely strong and powerful in his denial" at their Helsinki summit. "I don't see any reason why Russia would interfere," Trump said. He also called Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference a "disaster," and repeated his assertion that there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Moscow. Putin said the U.S. and Russia could jointly investigate a dozen Russian intelligence officials recently indicted for hacking Democrats during the campaign, and Trump called it an "incredible offer." Putin told Fox News it was "ridiculous" to think Russia could influence a U.S. election.

The Associated Press

2. NRA-linked Russian agent charged with conspiracy against America

U.S. prosecutors on Monday unsealed criminal charges against a Russian woman, Mariia Butina, who tried to broker secret meetings between President Trump — then still just the GOP nominee — and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Butina, a gun rights activist, was accused of conspiracy against America. She allegedly acted as an unregistered Russian agent, building close ties with the GOP through the NRA to advance Russia's interests in American politics. She allegedly was directed by a high-level Russian official, the Department of Justice said. The charges were not levied by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but are instead connected to a separate Russian intelligence operation. Butina's lawyer has denied the charges.

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NPR The New York Times

3. Republicans slam Trump's performance in Putin summit

Lawmakers from both parties on Monday criticized President Trump for failing to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for Moscow's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said it was a "tragic mistake" for Trump to question U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia tried to influence the U.S. vote. McCain, a frequent Trump critic, called Trump's performance at a press conference with Putin after their summit "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory," saying Trump "failed to defend" the American people. Other Republicans called Trump "weak" and "cowardly." Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a Republican and a Trump appointee, reaffirmed intelligence agencies' confidence in their assessments of Russia's "ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."

Reuters The Washington Post

4. Obama receives warm welcome in trip to Kenya

Former President Barack Obama was met by adoring crowds on Monday in Kenya during a trip to attend the launch of a vocational center to be operated by his half-sister Auma Obama's nonprofit group. Before heading to the event, Obama met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who have made peace after their disputed election sparked violence earlier this year. "It's a joy to be here with family," Obama told the crowd at the vocational center's inauguration. Obama was not born in Kenya, but it's his late father's home country. "He is our son," said Gilbert Ogutu, an elder in the Luo ethnic group to which Obama's father belonged. Obama's next stop is South Africa, where he will give a speech marking the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's birth.

The Washington Post

5. Judge orders U.S. to halt deportations of reunited immigrant families

Federal Judge Dana Sabraw in California on Monday temporarily halted the deportation of immigrant families the Trump administration has reunited after separating them at the Mexican border. Sabraw recently ordered the government to reunite the families. The Trump administration says it has reunited all eligible families of children under age 5. It is racing to reunite roughly 2,550 older undocumented immigrant children with their parents by Sabraw's July 26 deadline. "The judge once again made clear that the government unconstitutionally took these children away and now must do everything in its power to reunite them safely and by the deadline," said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the Immigrants' Rights Project of the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit.


6. Activists raise money to bring 'Baby Trump' blimp to U.S.

A GoFundMe page raised more than $10,000 in three days, doubling its goal, in an effort to bring a giant "Baby Trump" blimp flown in recent U.K. protests to the U.S. "This effort is our commitment to opposing Donald Trump in any way we possibly can," activist Jim Girvan, the co-creator of the fundraising page, told NBC News. "This is an opportunity to get even a little bit closer and even more annoying to the president." Girvan and another activist, Didier Jiménez-Castro, started the page after seeing the impact and publicity the 20-foot-tall blimp generated during Trump's weekend visit to the U.K. London's Mayor Sadiq Khan approved the use of the blimp in London, citing the right to free expression.

NBC News

7. Amazon's Prime Day marred by glitches but Bezos' wealth soars

Amazon suffered computer glitches on Monday at the start of its Prime Day summer sale, its biggest promotional event of the year. The shopping holiday kicked off at 3 p.m. Eastern, and lasts for 36 hours. Shoppers reported problems on desktop PCs and the online retail giant's mobile app. Amazon acknowledged on Twitter that some customers were reporting problems, and said it was working to fix them. Still, the company tweeted, "Many are shopping successfully — in the first hour of Prime Day in the U.S., customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year." Amazon's stock hit a record during the session — lifting founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' net worth to a record $150 billion — but fell slightly after the glitches were reported.


8. 'Lava bomb' hits Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

At least 23 people were injured on Monday when a "lava bomb" from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano sent molten rock crashing through the roof of a tour boat. A woman in her 20s suffered a broken thigh bone and was in serious condition. Three others were hospitalized in stable condition. The rest of the injured passengers suffered superficial injuries such as burns and scrapes. The boat was taking visitors to watch lava from the volcano flowing off of Hawaii's Big Island into the ocean. Shane Turpin, the owner and captain of the boat, said he never saw the explosion. "All of a sudden everything around us exploded," he said. "It was everywhere."

USA Today

9. Musk feud with rescue diver drags down Tesla stock

Tesla shares fell by 3.5 percent on Monday after the electric car maker's founder and CEO, Elon Musk, posted a derogatory remark on Twitter about one of the British cave divers involved in the rescue of 12 Thai children from a flooded cave last week. After rescuers rejected Musk's offer of a mini-submarine, the diver, Vernon Unsworth, reportedly said Musk could "stick his submarine where it hurts" because it had "absolutely no chance of working." Musk replied via Twitter on Sunday that the sub could do the job, referring to Unsworth as a "pedo," although he offered no evidence that Unsworth was a pedophile. Unsworth said he was considering legal action. Analysts said the spat added to concerns that Musk's public statements are a distraction from his businesses.


10. Protests continue in Chicago neighborhood after police shooting

Tensions escalated on Monday in the Chicago neighborhood where police fatally shot an African-American man, Harith Augustus, on Saturday. About 200 people attended a rally late Monday at the spot where police officers shot Augustus, a barber, after approaching him because he appeared to be armed. Police body-cam video showed that Augustus tried to run and reached for his waistband before he was shot. He had a gun but did not fire it. One of the protesters screamed at police officers, saying, "Human beings don't behave like that!" An elderly woman yelled, "You're hurting people!" A bystander said the anger in the neighborhood has been building since Saturday.

The Washington Post

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