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Daily Briefing

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

Harold Maass
Vice President Pence speaks about the Space Force
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

Pence explains Trump plan to create 'Space Force'

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday outlined the Trump administration's plan to create a "Space Force" as a sixth branch of the military as soon as 2020. It would be the first new branch of the military since the Air Force was created after World War II. President Trump in June ordered the Pentagon to establish the force to ensure U.S. dominance in space, calling it "so important" and explaining that it would take over space-related duties from the Air Force. Pence said the Space Force will help the U.S. "meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield" with dedicated space technology experts and defense systems. The White House reportedly wants to get the new department off the ground by 2020, but is expected to face opposition from Congress. [The Washington Post]

2.

Kobach recuses himself from Kansas vote count as his lead narrows

Kansas' too-close-to-call Republican primary for governor got even tighter on Thursday, with Secretary of State Kris Kobach's 191-vote lead over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer shrinking to 121 out of 311,000 ballots cast. The tally was adjusted as two counties reported that their counts differed from what Kobach's office put on its website. Colyer said some clerks had received incorrect information on what ballots to count, and he bitterly called on Kobach to recuse himself. Kobach said he would step aside from overseeing the count. Kobach, an immigration and voter I.D. hardliner who got a late endorsement from President Trump, told CNN his role in the process was largely symbolic, but that he would be "happy" to recuse himself if that's what his opponent wanted. [The Associated Press, Reuters]

3.

Judge threatens to hold Sessions in contempt

A federal judge on Thursday threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of court after the Justice Department tried to deport a mother and daughter in the middle of their appeal. "This is pretty outrageous," U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan said after learning of the removal. "That someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?" Sullivan halted the deportation and ordered the Justice Department to "turn the plane around." An administration official told CBS News that the woman and her daughter never got off the plane in El Salvador before it returned to Texas. The woman is a plaintiff in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed this week challenging Sessions' decision to refuse asylum based on claims by people seeking refuge from domestic and gang violence. [The Washington Post, CBS News]

4.

Manafort trial judge concedes mistake in criticism of Mueller prosecutors

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who has repeatedly berated prosecutors in Paul Manafort's trial, on Thursday backed down from one such incident after one of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's deputies filed a motion complaining that Ellis had unfairly scolded them, potentially giving the jury the false impression that prosecutors had acted improperly. "This prejudice should be cured," prosecutor Andrew Weissman wrote. Ellis had criticized prosecutors for letting a witness, IRS agent Michael Welsh, sit in the courtroom before testifying, although Mueller's team said Ellis had granted permission earlier for the witness to be there. Ellis said he was "probably wrong" and instructed the jury to disregard his remarks. [The Washington Post, Fox News]

5.

Army suspends discharges of immigrant recruits

The Army has halted discharges of immigrant recruits who enlisted with the understanding they would get a path to citizenship, The Associated Press reported Thursday, citing a memo. "Effective immediately, you will suspend processing of all involuntary separation actions," said the July 20 memo, signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marshall Williams. The disclosure came one month after the AP reported that dozens of men and women who enlisted under the special immigrant program were being discharged or facing canceled contracts. The Army also reversed the discharge of one reservist, Lucas Calixto of Brazil, after he sued. [The Associated Press]

6.

Arson charges filed against Holy Fire suspect in California

Southern California prosecutors on Thursday charged a suspect, 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark, with arson and other offenses for allegedly starting the Holy Fire, which has burned more than 10,000 acres in Orange and Riverside counties. The blaze has damaged or destroyed at least 14 structures and forced 20,000 people to evacuate. It was just 5 percent contained as of Thursday. Clark, who was arrested Tuesday, reportedly sent an email last week saying, "This place will burn." He faces several felony charges that could result in a maximum sentence of life in prison. His bail was set at $1 million. The Holy Fire is one of 18 wildfires raging in the state, including the Mendocino Complex fire, the largest in the state's history. That blaze has burned more than 300,000 acres in Northern California. [USA Today]

7.

Tennessee carries out first execution since 2009

Tennessee on Thursday carried out the execution of Billy Ray Irick for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl. It was the first time the state had carried out the death penalty since December 2009. The Supreme Court denied Irick's request for a stay hours before the execution. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a forceful dissent, saying that the state's drug protocol for lethal injection, which includes the controversial sedative midazolam, results in "torturous pain." Irick was convicted in 1986 for the rape and murder of a Knoxville girl he was babysitting, 7-year-old Paula Dyer. Asked if he had any last words before the lethal injection, Irick said: "I just want to say I'm really sorry and that, that's it." [CBS News]

8.

Melania Trump's parents sworn in as citizens

First lady Melania Trump's parents, both Slovenian immigrants, were sworn in as U.S. citizens in New York on Thursday. They had been in the country as legal permanent residents with green cards. They were eligible for residency and to apply for citizenship because their daughter, also an immigrant, had citizenship. Many immigrants get green cards and eventually citizenship through links to relatives who are citizens, but President Trump has vowed to roll back such family-based immigration, which he calls "chain migration." Trump's paternal grandfather and mother got into the U.S. the same way. They migrated from Germany and Scotland, respectively, to join siblings already in the U.S. [USA Today]

9.

Tesla shares drop, losing gains fueled by Musk tweet

Tesla shares dropped by 4.8 percent on Thursday, giving back the gains from a rally sparked two days earlier when CEO Elon Musk announced that he was considering taking the electric-car maker private. The stock fell to $352.45, far below the $420 mark at which Musk said shareholders would be bought out, as investors questioned whether Musk could pull it off. Musk sent the stock soaring 11 percent higher on Tuesday after claiming he had "funding secured" at a price that would value the company at $82 billion. Since then, he has not provided any evidence he had it lined up. People with knowledge of 15 financial institutions and technology firms said they knew of no financing lined up to execute Musk's proposal. Tesla's board is seeking more information on Musk's plan. [Bloomberg, Reuters]

10.

Chilean bishop's office raided in cover-up investigation

A Chilean prosecutor said Thursday that officials had raided the office of the bishop to the armed services as part of a broader investigation into possible cover-ups by Roman Catholic Church officials of sexual abuse claims against priests in Chile. Provincial prosecutor Emiliano Arias said the search of Santiago Silva's office was done under a court order with authorization by the defense minister and commander in chief of the armed forces. Silva also is president of the Chilean bishops' conference. Investigators, accompanied by military officials, seized documents linked to 20 years of sexual abuse complaints sent to Silva and his predecessor, former bishop Juan Barros. Seven other offices of high-ranking church figures also have been searched for evidence. [Reuters]