10 things you need to know today: July 20, 2018

Trump invites Putin to the U.S., the White House and Senate reject Putin's proposal to question U.S. diplomats, and more

Putin and Trump pose in Helsinki
(Image credit: Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Trump invites Putin to U.S. this fall

President Trump has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, D.C., this fall, and planning is already underway, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday. The announcement came as the Trump administration tried for a third day to quell criticism of Trump's vacillating statements on Russian meddling in U.S. elections, and his apparent coziness with Putin at their summit in Helsinki. The news appeared to take Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats by surprise when he learned of it while NBC News' Andrea Mitchell was interviewing him. "Say that again. Did I hear you?" he asked. Then, after she repeated the news, he said, "That's going to be special." White House advisers expressed frustration with Coats' comments. "Coats has gone rogue," one said.

The Washington Post

2. White House, Senate reject Putin proposal to question U.S. diplomats

The White House said Thursday that President Trump opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to let Russia interview U.S. diplomats in exchange for letting U.S. investigators question 12 Russian authorities indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. Trump faced harsh criticism after the White House said he was considering Putin's request, rather than dismissing it out of hand. The White House announcement that Trump was against the idea, after all, came moments before the Senate voted 98 to 0 to pass a resolution telling Trump not to go along with Putin's request, which would have subjected former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul and other diplomats to questioning by Russian authorities.

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The Associated Press The Washington Post

3. Interior Department proposes loosening protections for endangered species

The Interior Department on Thursday proposed sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act that could make it easier for roads, pipelines, and other construction projects to get approved in environmentally sensitive areas. Republicans have argued that the law in question, which helped bring such animals as the bald eagle and the Yellowstone grizzly bear back from near extinction, holds back economic development. The proposals, which would mark the biggest changes to the protections in decades, also would make it harder to move species up from "threatened" status to "endangered," a more serious designation. David Bernhardt, the deputy secretary of the Interior Department, said the proposals would merely streamline the 1973 law and the regulatory process without eroding protections. Environmental activists said the changes would put some species at greater risk of extinction.

The New York Times

4. Trump criticizes Fed rate hikes

President Trump on Thursday said he was "not thrilled" with the Federal Reserve's decision to raise interest rates twice so far this year. The Fed, led by Trump appointee Chairman Jerome Powell, also plans to hike rates further as employment and inflation data improve. "I am not happy about it," Trump told CNBC's Joe Kernen in an interview. Trump said the hikes put the U.S. at a disadvantage, because other central banks weren't raising rates. Critics said the rare presidential weigh-in violated the tradition of Fed independence. News of Trump's comments was followed by declines for U.S. stocks, the dollar, and federal bond yields. The White House said Trump was not trying to interfere in Fed decisions.

CNBC

5. DOJ to alert public about foreign election meddling

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said on Thursday that as soon as the Department of Justice learns that an American company, private organization, or person has been hacked or otherwise covertly attacked by a foreign entity trying to influence an election, the public will be notified. "Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them," Rosenstein said at the Aspen Security Forum. "The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda." This new policy comes in the wake of the disinformation campaign waged by Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Microsoft executive Tom Burt said his team has already determined that the Russian military agency GRU has targeted at least three candidates running for office in the November midterm elections.

The Washington Post

6. Trump calls Biden his 'dream' 2020 opponent

President Trump says former Vice President Joe Biden would be his "dream" Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential election. "I dream about Biden. That's a dream," Trump told CBS News' Jeff Glor in an interview that aired Thursday. "Look, Joe Biden ran three times. He never got more than 1 percent and President Obama took him out of the garbage heap, and everybody was shocked that he did. I'd love to have it be Biden." Trump and Biden have clashed openly in recent years, most notably when the former vice president said earlier this year that he would have "beat the hell out of" Trump in high school over his degrading remarks about women. Biden this week criticized Trump for his performance in his Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Hill

7. Missouri tourist boat sinks in storm, killing at least 11

At least 11 people were killed when a duck boat carrying tourists capsized and sank during a thunderstorm with high winds on a lake in the Missouri Ozarks. Some of the dead were children, said Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader. Five people remained missing overnight. At least seven survivors were taken to hospitals, three of them under age 18. Video shot from a larger vessel that was nearby showed two of the amphibious duck boats being tossed as waves on Table Rock Lake grew. The other one made it to shore safely. Several other strong storms spawned a flurry of tornadoes in central Iowa, flattening buildings in several cities and leaving 17 people injured.

The Kansas City Star CBS News

8. Comcast drops bid for 21st Century Fox, clearing way for Disney

Comcast has dropped its bid to buy 21st Century Fox, leaving Disney likely to acquire the company. A Disney-Comcast bidding war launched in December, when Disney offered $52.4 billion for Fox. Comcast countered with $65 billion in June, and Disney offered $71.3 billion a few days later. The U.S. Justice Department approved a Disney-Fox merger, provided Fox's sports networks aren't included because Disney already owns ESPN. Fox's shareholders will vote to accept Disney's bid on July 27th. Its film and TV studios, as well as its cable channels, will go to Disney, while Fox News, Fox Sports, and local TV channels will be spun off into a new company.

The Associated Press CNN

9. Trump judicial nominee withdrawn over racially charged writings

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday pulled from the Senate floor President Trump's nomination of Ryan Bounds to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, after at least two Republicans objected, enough to sink Bounds' confirmation. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the Senate's only black Republican, first raised concerns over racially charged remarks that Bounds, now 45, wrote while an undergraduate student at Stanford. In one, he called for discontinuing campus organizations that "divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns." Scott and later Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) met with Bounds seeking clarification, but were not satisfied with his response. The nomination's sinking marked a rare setback in the rush by Trump and Senate Republicans to install conservative judges in federal courts.

Politico

10. Trump administration reunites 364 migrant children with parents as deadline nears

The Trump administration said Thursday that it had reunited 364 of more than 2,500 migrant children ages 5 and older with their families, after the families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. A judge gave the federal government until July 26 to reunite all of the children with their parents. In a court filing, the Trump administration said of the 1,607 parents eligible for reunification, 719 have final orders of deportation. "That's a pretty horrifying statistic," Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center, told NBC News. "We have had such limited communication with parents it was difficult to know where they were in their case."

NBC News

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