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10 things you need to know today: July 24, 2018

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Harold Maass
Wildfires burn near Athens as locals watch from a distance
ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

Trump threatens to pull critics' security clearances

President Trump on Monday threatened to revoke the security clearances of former high-ranking government officials who have criticized him by saying he failed to adequately confront Russia over its election meddling. "The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. She identified former CIA Director John Brennan, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as people who could lose clearance. Critics said the threat amounted to an abuse of power. "It is intended to punish and intimidate his critics and is shameful," said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA. [The New York Times]

2.

Dozens killed in wildfires in Greece

Two wildfires swept through resort areas near Greece's capital, Athens, leaving dozens dead, with at least 49 deaths reported by early Tuesday. Dozens of others were injured and in serious condition. The blazes were fueled by winds that reached 50 miles per hour. Authorities deployed Greece's entire fleet of water-dropping planes and helicopters, hoping to keep the flames at bay long enough for vacationers to escape. In some areas, it wasn't enough. "We were unlucky. The wind changed and it came at us with such force that it razed the coastal area in minutes," said Evangelos Bournous, mayor of the mainland port town of Rafina, which serves islands popular with travelers. This fire season has been the deadliest to hit Greece in more than a decade. [The Associated Press]

3.

Iran dismisses Trump threat as 'passive' response to Rouhani remarks

Iranian state media on Monday dismissed President Trump's all-caps tweet against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a "passive reaction" to Rouhani's declaration that "peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars." Rouhani told a local newspaper that Trump had better not "play with the lion's tail," but political analysts said the war of words doesn't signal a real desire to escalate conflict. Trump, writing that Iran would suffer untold consequences if it continued to threaten the U.S., said "WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!" [Talking Points Memo, Twitter]

4.

Prosecutors have 12 audio recordings seized from Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

Federal prosecutors have 12 audio recordings seized from the home, office, and hotel room of President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen, according to new court filings made public on Monday. Special Master Barbara Jones, the judge reviewing the seized materials to determine what is protected by attorney-client privilege, wrote in the filing that Cohen and Trump, or the Trump organization, had withdrawn privilege claims regarding 12 "audio items." In one of them, described in news reports last week, Trump and Cohen discuss paying the parent company of the National Enquirer for the rights to the story of former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago. The discussion took place two months before the 2016 election, although the payment wasn't made. [Reuters, ABC News]

5.

Senate confirms Robert Wilkie as VA secretary

The Senate on Monday confirmed Robert Wilkie, previously an undersecretary at the Pentagon, as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was confirmed with an 86-9 vote, and has been the acting secretary since President Trump's last nominee, Adm. Ronny Jackson, withdrew from consideration. The VA is the second largest federal agency, behind the Department of Defense, and has a staffing shortage, with the VA inspector general announcing in June the agency has more than 2,300 vacancies. Last month, USA Today and The Boston Globe revealed secret internal VA ratings showing that care at the agency's 133 nursing homes fell below private sector nursing homes on most quality indicators, including residents' deterioration. [USA Today]

6.

463 migrant parents may have been deported without their kids

The Trump administration said in a court filing Monday that 463 parents of migrant children are no longer in the U.S., even though their children are. The cases suggest that more undocumented migrant parents might have been deported without their children than the government previously acknowledged. The figure was included in a progress report submitted to U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who gave the Trump administration a deadline that expires Thursday for reuniting more than 2,500 children with their parents after they were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Trump's "zero tolerance" crackdown on illegal immigration. As of Monday, 879 parents had been reunited with their children, the filing said. [The Washington Post, Reuters]

7.

Dam collapses in Laos, leaving hundreds missing

A billion-dollar hydropower dam that was under construction collapsed in Laos on Monday, leaving several people confirmed dead and hundreds more missing. The failure of the 410-megawatt Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam displaced more than 6,600 others, the state KPL news agency said. Rushing water swept away entire homes in the southern province of Attapeu, which sits along the Vietnam and Cambodia borders. Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith suspended a planned government meeting and led Cabinet members in the monitoring of rescue efforts, the state news agency said. [The New York Times]

8.

Manafort trial delayed

A federal judge granted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort a delay to the start of his trial, which was planned to begin on Wednesday. The Virginia trial will instead begin July 31, after Manafort's attorney argued that his team needed more time to review recently-uncovered documents. Manafort's trial is the first in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference, and will be closely watched as President Trump faces ongoing scrutiny of his cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money laundering, tax fraud, conspiracy against the U.S., failure to register as a foreign agent, and lying to the FBI. Trump on Monday called for an end to Mueller's probe, calling it "discredited" due to campaign surveillance by the FBI. [Bloomberg, Talking Points Memo]

9.

Tronc cuts more than half of Daily News newsroom staff

Tronc announced Monday that it had laid off half the newsroom staff of the New York Daily News, and said it was cutting staff at some of its other newspapers "today and tomorrow." CEO Justin Dearborn said fewer reporters and editors would lose their jobs at the newspaper publisher's other papers. "The Daily News is unique in that local leadership determined a complete redesign of its structure was needed post-acquisition," he wrote in a Monday memo. "We do not expect reductions of this scale in any of our other newsrooms." Despite the assurances, the news provoked uncertainty at other Tronc papers, such as The Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune. [CNN]

10.

Swimmer Ryan Lochte suspended by anti-doping agency

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Monday suspended swimmer Ryan Lochte for 14 months after he revealed on social media that he had received an intravenous infusion, a violation of the agency's rules. Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, posted a photo of himself getting an IV on May 24. Anti-doping rules prohibit athletes from getting IVs except as part of hospital treatment unless they get a Therapeutic Use Exemption, which Lochte did not. The suspension came days before Lochte was to swim in the national championships. Lochte, who also served a suspension over a false claim that he and three teammates were robbed during the Rio Olympics, called the sanction "hard" but said "a rule is a rule." The anti-doping agency said he had "fully cooperated" with the investigation. [The Washington Post]