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10 things you need to know today: August 3, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

White House battle with media escalates

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta on Thursday confronted White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over her claim that President Trump is "rightfully frustrated" when he calls the press "the enemy of the people." Sanders refused to reject Trump's allegation, instead criticizing the press for lowering "the level of conversation in this country" and saying the media incited anger against Trump. Acosta pressed Sanders, but she said she and Trump had made their position clear. Acosta later walked out of the briefing over Sanders' comments. At a Pennsylvania rally Thursday night, Trump resumed his attacks on what he called "fake, fake, disgusting news." United Nations experts warned Trump's rhetoric could raise the risk of violence against journalists. [The Associated Press, BBC News]

2.

Senators propose action against ongoing Russia election meddling

A bipartisan group of senators proposed a bill Thursday seeking to impose tougher sanctions on Russia if it continues to interfere in U.S. elections. With the midterms approaching, the senators proposed creating new criminal penalties for anyone trying to breach election systems. They also want to impose sanctions on anyone involved in "illicit and corrupt activities" on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.), and Cory Gardner (Colo.), and Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.), Ben Cardin (Md.), and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.). President Trump has questioned whether Russia really tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, but Dan Coats, Trump's director of national intelligence, said in a briefing with other intelligence officials Thursday that Russia did meddle, and is continuing a "pervasive messaging campaign ... to try to weaken and divide the United States." [USA Today, Talking Points Memo]

3.

Manafort's former bookkeeper testifies against him

Paul Manafort's former bookkeeper testified Thursday that the former Trump campaign chairman's big-spending lifestyle began unraveling in 2015 when he ran out of cash and started trying to manipulate records to get loans. The testimony by the bookkeeper, Heather Washkuhn, undercut Manafort's argument that his business partner is responsible for any wrongdoing, because Washkuhn said Manafort approved "every penny." She said she knew nothing of the foreign accounts Manafort allegedly used to hide money from the IRS. Manafort is the first U.S. suspect to be put on trial under Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's 2016 election meddling, although Manafort is being prosecuted for alleged bank and tax crimes with no direct relation to Russia. [The Washington Post]

4.

Tennessee primaries set up unexpected governor's race, tight Senate battle

Republican primary voters in Tennessee on Thursday picked businessman and political neophyte Bill Lee as their gubernatorial candidate and Rep. Marsha Blackburn as their nominee to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Democrats selected former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean for governor and former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) for the Senate race. Bredesen was the last Democrat to win a statewide race, in 2006. Polls suggest the Bredesen-Blackburn race will be closely fought, giving Democrats a shot at picking up a seat in their effort to reclaim a Senate majority. In picking Lee, Republicans rejected three other competitive candidates, including Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, entrepreneur Randy Boyd, and Rep. Diane Black (R), who had Vice President Mike Pence's endorsement and effectively gave up her House seat to run for governor. [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]

5.

Report: Suspected Russian spy worked at U.S. embassy in Moscow

A Russian national suspected of being a spy for the Kremlin worked at the U.S. embassy in Moscow for more than 10 years, The Guardian reports. The woman was hired by the Secret Service. In 2016, two investigators from the Department of State's Regional Security Office performed a routine security check and determined she was having regular unauthorized meetings with members of FSB, the Russian security agency. The woman had access to the Secret Service's intranet and email systems, The Guardian reports, giving her access to schedules of current and former presidents, vice presidents, and their spouses, like Hillary Clinton. The Regional Security Office notified the Secret Service about the woman in January 2017, but no inquiry was launched. She reportedly was dismissed last summer after her security clearance was revoked. [The Guardian]

6.

Apple becomes first trillion-dollar U.S. company

Apple on Thursday became the first company in history to reach a market capitalization of $1 trillion. The iPhone maker reached the once-unthinkable milestone after climbing back over 21 years from being a near-bankrupt computer maker to the creator of groundbreaking and enormously popular consumer tech products, from the iMac to the iPod to the iPhone. Apple is now one of a tiny cluster of massive technology and internet companies, including Amazon, Facebook, and Google, that have led a nine-year bull market and put the broader economy on track for its fastest growth rate in a decade. Apple's stock price rose, giving it a new 13-figure valuation, after it reported the latest in a string of strong quarterly earnings, with its profit rising nearly a third to $11.5 billion. [The New York Times]

7.

Trump administration unveils emission standards rollback

The Trump administration on Thursday released its long-anticipated proposal to freeze antipollution and fuel-efficiency standards for cars, dialing back one of former President Barack Obama's major efforts to fight climate change. The plan would halt a 2012 rule requiring automakers to nearly double passenger-vehicle fuel economy to an average of 54 miles per gallon by 2025, and stop calling for manufacturers to produce more hybrids, electric vehicles, and other fuel-efficient vehicles. The Trump administration rules also would challenge the rights of California and other states to set their own, tougher emission standards. Nineteen states filed a lawsuit saying they would sue to fight the rollback. "For Trump to now destroy a law first enacted at the request of Ronald Reagan five decades ago is a betrayal and an assault on the health of Americans everywhere," California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said. [The New York Times]

8.

Mnangagwa declared winner of Zimbabwe's presidential election

Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday was declared the winner of Zimbabwe's first major election since the ouster of longtime strongman Robert Mugabe. The country's electoral commission said Mnangagwa had come out on top with 50.8 percent of the vote, emerging from a field of some two dozen presidential candidates and narrowly beating second-place finisher Nelson Chamisa, who got 44.3 percent. The news came after days of protests that left several people dead, as opposition groups alleged widespread election fraud. Mnangagwa's ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, also claimed a landslide win in parliament. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change's chairman, Morgan Komichi, said his party was rejecting the results and would challenge them "through the courts." [NPR, NBC News]

9.

Pope approves church policy change saying death penalty is always wrong

Pope Francis officially changed the Catholic Church's position on capital punishment, declaring the death penalty to be "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person." The church previously viewed capital punishment as acceptable for "certain crimes," saying that in such cases it was a "means of safeguarding the common good." The church updated the book of official church teachings, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to reflect the change, which Pope Francis approved. He has previously made public statements criticizing the death penalty and now vows to work for its abolition worldwide. [NPR]

10.

Trump administration says ACLU should find deported parents

The Trump administration believes the American Civil Liberties Union, not the government, should find undocumented immigrant parents who were deported before they could be united with children separated from them at the Mexican border, according to court documents filed Thursday. The administration reunited more than 1,400 children with their parents, out of a total of about 2,500, by a July 26 court-imposed deadline. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who set the deadline, gave the government more time to reunite families in complicated cases, including 431 in which the parents had been deported. Justice Department lawyers wrote Thursday that the government would provide identifying information, and the ACLU "should use their considerable resources" to contact those parents. The ACLU said the government should take "significant and prompt steps" to find the parents. [USA Today]