Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 7, 2018

Harold Maass
A fire fighter in California near the Mendocino fire
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Trump reimposes sanctions on Iran

President Trump signed an executive order Monday reimposing Iran sanctions to exert "maximum economic pressure" on Tehran three months after he pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump said in a statement that the 2015 agreement requiring Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions was a "horrible, one-sided deal." He urged other nations to take steps to show Iran it must "change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation." He threatened "severe consequences" for nations that don't reduce ties with Iran. European foreign ministers said they "deeply regret" Trump's move, vowing to try to salvage the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Trump's move "psychological warfare." [The Associated Press, BBC News]


Mendocino Complex fire becomes biggest in California history

The Mendocino Complex fire in Northern California continued growing on Monday to become the largest wildfire in the state's history. The massive blaze, made up of the Ranch and River fires, has scorched more than 283,000 acres, surpassing last year's 281,000-acre Thomas fire, which burned more than 1,000 structures and killed two people in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The Mendocino Complex fire was still just 30 percent contained. It has been growing by thousands of acres per day, even expanding at night, when most blazes calm down. "It is extremely fast, extremely aggressive, extremely dangerous," said Scott McLean, a deputy chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "Look how fast this Mendocino Complex went up in ranking. That doesn't happen. That just doesn't happen." [Los Angeles Times, NBC News]


Gates testifies that he and Manafort committed crimes

Star witness Rick Gates testified Monday in the bank and tax fraud trial of President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Gates was a top aide of Manafort's, who worked in the Trump campaign and transition, and did lobbying work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, making him a key witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. He also was indicted and pleaded guilty in February to hiding millions in lobbying income, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence. Gates admitted to embezzling from his former boss, something Manafort's lawyers have said during the trial. He also said he conspired with Manafort to falsify Manafort's tax returns, and that the two men knowingly failed to report foreign bank accounts and register Manafort as a foreign agent. Gates faces cross-examination on Tuesday. [Reuters, Politico]


GOP goes all out to save Ohio seat in special election

Voters in Ohio's 12th congressional district are electing a replacement for former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) on Tuesday in the last test of voter mood in a competitive special election ahead of the fall midterms. President Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016. Republicans have held the seat almost uninterrupted since 1920, but polls show an unexpectedly tight race between Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson, 56, and Democrat Danny O'Connor, 31. Republicans are pulling out all the stops to hold onto the seat. Trump held a rally for Balderson in Ohio on Saturday and tweeted his endorsement Sunday. Vice President Mike Pence has campaigned for him twice, and national Republicans have spent $3.5 million on TV ads attacking O'Connor and another half-million on get-out-the-vote efforts. [New York, The Washington Post]


Facebook joins tech companies banning Alex Jones and Infowars

Facebook on Monday became the latest major tech company to ban right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars show in what the businesses called a crackdown on hate speech. Over the past few days, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify also have removed material linked to Jones, following protests on social media. Facebook took down four pages belonging to Jones, including two involving Infowars. Facebook said it had suspended Jones' account for 30 days over violations of community standards against hate speech that "attacks or dehumanizes others." Jones responded via Twitter saying, "We've been banned completely on Facebook, Apple, & Spotify. What conservative news outlet will be next?" [The Associated Press]


Trump advisers urge him to stop tweeting about Trump Tower Russia meeting

President Trump's advisers are urging him to stop tweeting about the 2016 meeting between his campaign staff and several Russians, CNN reported Monday. Trump on Sunday tweeted that the infamous meeting at Trump Tower was "to get information on an opponent," meaning Hillary Clinton — breaking with previous claims that the meeting was to discuss policy. He additionally defended it as "totally legal and done all the time in politics." Trump said he was not concerned about possible legal peril for his son, Donald Trump Jr., who brokered the meeting. Advisers warned the president that his tweets draw additional attention to the issue, which has become central to questions about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. [CNN, Donald J. Trump]


Mothers of children found at New Mexico compound arrested

New Mexico authorities said Monday they had arrested three women believed to be the mothers of 11 emaciated children found hungry and living in filth in a rural compound in northern New Mexico near the Colorado border. A tip that people were starving on the property led to the discovery. Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the women faced charges of child abuse, as do two men arrested over the weekend. The children, aged 1 to 15, were removed from the compound near the small community of Amalia and turned over to child-welfare workers. Police are still are looking for AG Wahhaj, a boy reported missing by his mother in Clayton County, Georgia, after being taken away by his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, who was detained on a Georgia child abduction warrant. That search led authorities to the compound. [CBS News]


Trump endorses Kobach over GOP incumbent in Kansas governor primary

President Trump endorsed Kansas' controversial secretary of state, Kris Kobach, over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer in the state's Republican primary for governor on Monday, ignoring advice from party officials to stay out of the matter. Kobach, who advised Trump's presidential campaign on immigration and served as vice chairman of Trump's now-defunct voter fraud commission, is running head-to-head with Colyer in a crowded field. Trump tweeted that Kobach was "a fantastic guy," but polls show he's unpopular with the general electorate and could give Democrats an opening to take back the job in the conservative state. Polls show Kobach trailing potential Democratic nominee Laura Kelly by a point, while Colyer leads her by 10. [The New York Times, CNN]


Judge bars Trump administration from enforcing military transgender ban

A federal court on Monday became the second in the country to rule against President Trump's updated policy barring certain transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. Trump banned transgender service members last year, citing concern over medical costs and distractions. Facing a challenge, he tweaked the plan in March to focus the restrictions on transgender people affected by a condition called gender dysphoria. The administration asked U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington to lift her injunction against Trump's original ban, arguing that the new policy is not a total ban because it only bars people who need or have undergone gender transition. Kollar-Kotelly disagreed and said the new policy essentially amounts to a total ban because it requires people to serve "in their biological sex." [Reuters]


New York Gov. Cuomo urges other states to target NRA finances

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday urged governors in other states to follow his lead and hit the National Rifle Association with sanctions. The gun-rights group sued Cuomo, a Democrat, and his financial services superintendent in May, accusing them of targeting it in a "political vendetta." The NRA says it has suffered "tens of millions of dollars in damages" at the hands of New York, which has imposed fines against the NRA's Carry Guard insurance program, which covers legal costs in self-defense shootings. New York says the arrangement is unlawful. The NRA says New York has forced insurers and banks to end relationships "that were necessary to the survival of the NRA as a charitable organization." Cuomo replied: "If I could have put the NRA out of business, I would have done it 20 years ago." [Politico]