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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 17, 2018

Harold Maass
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

Retired admiral, 12 former intelligence chiefs defend Brennan, rebuke Trump

A day after President Trump revoked former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance, 12 former top intelligence officials criticized the move in a forcefully worded letter, and defended Brennan as an "honorable" public servant. Separately, the commander of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, retired Adm. William McRaven, said in a Washington Post op-ed that Brennan was "a man of unparalleled integrity." Trump on Wednesday accused Brennan of making "unfounded and outrageous allegations" against his administration. McRaven echoed bipartisan criticism, warning Trump his "McCarthy-era tactics" would not suppress critics. McRaven said he "would consider it an honor" if Trump would yank his clearance next so he could "add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency." [Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post]

2.

Manafort jurors ask judge to define 'reasonable doubt'

The jury in Paul Manafort's federal tax evasion, bank fraud, and money laundering trial start their second day of deliberations on Friday morning. Just before 5 p.m. on Thursday, the jury sent a note to Judge T.S. Ellis with four questions. They asked him to "redefine" the term "reasonable doubt," the legal threshold for acquittal. Ellis said prosecutors had to prove guilt beyond "doubt based on reason," not "beyond possible doubt." On Friday, the jurors will get their first look at photographs of Manafort's extravagant purchases, including a $15,000 ostrich jacket and an $18,000 python jacket. They also will get extensive records of Manafort's communications and personal finances. If convicted, Manafort could be sent to prison for life. [CNN]

3.

Pentagon delays Trump's military parade as price tag rises to $92 million

The Pentagon said Thursday that it was delaying President Trump's military parade. The plan was to hold the controversial event Nov. 10, but the Pentagon said in a statement that it would now "explore opportunities" in 2019. The cost estimate for the parade recently ballooned, going from an original $12 million to $92 million, with $50 million coming from the Pentagon and $42 million from partners such as the Department of Homeland Security. The plans, which could still change, include about eight tanks, as well as other armored vehicles. Security, transportation of the equipment to be displayed, and temporary duty for some troops inflated the bill. Trump began calling for the parade after attending a similar ceremony in France, saying, "We're going to have to try to top it." [CNBC]

4.

Vatican expresses 'shame and sorrow' over reported sexual abuse

The Vatican on Thursday responded to a Pennsylvania grand jury report describing credible allegations of decades of sexual abuses by priests and cover-ups by bishops, calling the crimes described in the report "morally reprehensible." The Vatican statement came after liberal and conservative Catholics alike pressed Pope Francis to address the report. "There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow," said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican's Press Office. "The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors." The report said internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania revealed credible allegations that more than 300 "predator priests" had sexually abused more than 1,000 child victims. [CNN]

5.

Trump doubles down on 'fake news' charge as news outlets denounce attacks

President Trump tweeted Thursday that the "FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY" after more than 350 news outlets published editorials denouncing his description of the media as the "enemy of the people." The coordinated effort, in which publications both large and small decried attacks on the free press, was arranged by The Boston Globe. Many outlets specifically rebuked the president, composing editorials as open letters to him, while others stood up for the value of local press in small communities. "We are not the enemy," wrote the Longview News Journal. "We, like you, are the American people." [The Boston Globe, Longview News Journal]

6.

New Mexico authorities say remains at compound are missing boy's

New Mexico investigators announced Thursday that they had identified a highly decomposed body found at a New Mexico compound as that of a missing Georgia boy whose father was one of five adults arrested after police searched the property. Authorities found 11 emaciated children at the northern New Mexico compound, and accused the adults of child abuse. Prosecutors say the dead child's father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, kidnapped and performed purification rituals on the disabled boy, Abdul-ghani. Prosecutors also said he was training some of the children on the property to carry out anti-government attacks, possibly against schools. [The Associated Press]

7.

Mnuchin warns of more sanctions unless Turkey releases U.S. pastor

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the U.S. is prepared to impose more sanctions on Turkey if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refuses to release an American pastor held on suspicion of supporting a failed coup attempt. "We put sanctions on several of the Cabinet members," Mnuchin said Thursday during a Cabinet meeting at the White House. "We have more that we're planning to do if they don't release him quickly." The comments escalated a diplomatic battle that has contributed to the plummeting value of Turkey's currency, the lira. The lira gave back some earlier gains following Mnuchin's remarks, and slid by another 7 percent early Friday. Earlier Thursday President Trump said Turkey had "not proven to be a good friend" to the U.S. [Bloomberg, Reuters]

8.

NYU announces free tuition for all of its medical students

New York University said Thursday that it would give free tuition to all of its medical students. Surveys have shown that many medical school graduates choose the most lucrative specialties in part to help them pay off huge student loan debts, and the school is hoping to encourage more graduates to go into fields offering lower pay. "This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed, as institutions place an increasing debt burden on young people who aspire to become physicians," Dr. Robert Grossman, dean of NYU's school of medicine, said in a statement. The scholarship, which starts in the new school year, is worth $55,000 a year. Studies show the average medical student leaves school owing more than $100,000. [NBC News]

9.

Drug-overdose deaths rise to record 72,000

Drug overdoses killed about 72,000 Americans last year, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing new preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control. The death toll represents a 10 percent increase, and exceeds the peak yearly death totals from HIV, car crashes, or gun deaths. Analysts said the rise was driven by the growing number of Americans using opioids, and the increasing deadliness of drugs. In parts of New England, where the more dangerous drugs arrived earlier, the death rate has begun to fall, but the trend has worsened. In 2017, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, giving states access to grants to fight the problem. [The New York Times]

10.

Aretha Franklin dies at 76

"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin died Thursday while in hospice care at home in Detroit, her publicist confirmed. She was 76. The legendary soul and pop singer was reportedly "ill for a long time" with pancreatic cancer, and her friends and family had been warned that "death is imminent" just days ago. While receiving palliative care, Franklin was surrounded by family who said she was "alert, laughing, teasing." Franklin's singing career goes back to 1960, when she began recording hits like "Respect" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Her last performance was at a benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in November 2017. [Rolling Stone, The Associated Press]