10 things you need to know today: August 20, 2018

Brennan considers taking Trump to court over security clearance, the Times stands by McGahn story Trump called "fake," and more

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifying on Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Image)

1. Brennan considers legal action over security clearance revocation

Former CIA Director John Brennan said Sunday he might take legal action to challenge President Trump's decision to revoke his security clearance. "If my clearances and my reputation as I'm being pulled through the mud now, if that's the price we're going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it's a small price to pay," Brennan said on NBC's Meet the Press. Trump last week yanked Brennan's security clearance, saying it was due to Brennan's role in the "rigged" Russia investigation. Trump reportedly is preparing to revoke the clearances of other top security officials from the Obama administration, stoking bipartisan criticism that he is putting critics on an "enemies list."

The Associated Press

2. Times stands behind McGahn story Trump called 'fake'

Responding to a Twitter tirade by President Trump, The New York Times on Sunday said it stood behind a story saying White House Counsel Don McGahn was cooperating "extensively" with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Trump tweeted: "The Failing New York Times wrote a story that made it seem like the White House Councel [sic] had TURNED on the President, when in fact it is just the opposite - & the two Fake reporters knew this. This is why the Fake News Media has become the Enemy of the People. So bad for America!" The Times noted that the two reporters who wrote the story, Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, were Pulitzer Prize winners. Both have been attacked numerous times by Trump over thoroughly-sourced White House reporting Trump has called unreasonably critical.

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CNN The New York Times

3. Dozens of families separated by Korean War reunite briefly

About 180 families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War will be briefly reunited starting Monday in the North's tourist resort on Mount Kumgang in the first such exchange in three years. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to the meetings during their first summit in April after a standoff over Pyongyang's missile and nuclear weapon programs. More than 57,000 South Koreans have registered for a chance to participate in the 11-hour reunions. One of those selected this time, 91-year-old Moon Hyun-sook, told Reuters on Sunday that she was elated to be able to see her younger sisters. "I'm over 90 so I don't know when I am going to die," she said. "I am very glad that I have been selected this time, I'm walking on air now."


4. Giuliani tells NBC 'truth isn't truth'

President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said on Sunday that Trump has to be careful not to walk into a perjury trap in an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. Those who say Trump should simply submit to an interview "because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry, well, that's so silly, because it's somebody's version of the truth — not the truth [itself]," Giuliani, told NBC News. "Truth is truth," Meet the Press host Chuck Todd responded. "No," Giuliani said, "it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth." Todd laughed, saying Giuliani's phrase "is going to become a bad meme." Trump has at times expressed eagerness to testify, but his legal team has demanded to set limits to any questioning.

NBC News The Hill

5. Michael Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud exceeding $20 million

Federal investigators are looking into whether Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, committed bank and tax fraud when securing more than $20 million in loans and if he violated campaign finance laws when arranging financial deals with women who said they had affairs with Trump, several people familiar with the matter told The New York Times. Two people said the probe is in its end stages, and prosecutors are mulling filing charges by the end of August. Investigators are trying to figure out if Cohen misrepresented the value of his assets in order to obtain loans from two banks for his taxi business, and if he failed to report income from that same business to the IRS, the Times reports.

The New York Times

6. Afghan president announces Muslim Eid holiday truce

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that the government would observe a ceasefire with Taliban insurgents from Monday to mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. Taliban sources said their leaders provisionally approved a four-day truce during the annual Islamic feast of sacrifice, although the Islamist extremist group's supreme leader, Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada, had not yet signed off. The news came days after fighting in the central city of Ghazni and a northern province left hundreds dead, including at least 150 soldiers and 95 civilians.


7. Greece exits bailout but faces lingering problems

Greece on Monday officially emerges from its $360 billion in bailout loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund. The conclusion of Greece's third bailout in eight years ends a debt crisis that included intense negotiations, austerity programs, and suspense over whether Greece would exit the euro zone. Greece's economy is slowly returning to growth after one of Europe's most brutal financial crises, and European leaders say the debt crisis that nearly broke up the euro is over. Greece still has a long way to go, however. The crisis has left a third of Greece's population of 10 million near poverty, and reduced household incomes by 30 percent, leaving more than a fifth of people unable to pay rent or other basic expenses.

The Wall Street Journal The New York Times

8. 6.9-magnitude earthquake cuts power on already-damaged Indonesian island

A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Lombok on Sunday night, destroying buildings and cutting power across the popular tourist destination. The island was still struggling to recover from another quake that killed hundreds of people earlier this month. A reporter and an emergency official said the latest temblor sparked widespread panic. "Some people are hysterical because they feel earthquake aftershocks that are harder than before," said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. There was no immediate information about casualties, but the danger of injury and death reportedly was reduced because many people were staying in tents rather than buildings due to the previous earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks.

The Associated Press

9. U.S. rejects Turkey offer to release pastor in exchange for bank relief

The Trump administration has rejected Turkey's proposed terms for releasing American pastor Andrew Brunson, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday night, citing a senior White House official. Brunson has been jailed since 2016 on charges that he supported a failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, allegations the U.S. calls bogus. Turkey offered to release Brunson in exchange for forgiveness of billions of dollars in U.S. fines against a Turkish bank. The U.S. refused, saying it would only discuss other matters such as the bank fines after Brunson is released. The case has hurt relations between the two NATO allies, resulting in harsh rhetoric and retaliatory tariffs. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that the U.S. would impose more sanctions on Turkey if it doesn't set Brunson free.

The Wall Street Journal CNN

10. Weinstein accuser Asia Argento settled her own sexual assault allegation

In November 2017, a lawyer for actor and musician Jimmy Bennett contacted Italian actress and director Asia Argento, asking for $3.5 million in damages related to a traumatizing sexual encounter in 2013, The New York Times reports, citing documents related to legal a settlement. Argento agreed to pay Bennett $380,000 over two years. Bennett was 17 and Argento was 37 when they had sex in her hotel room in California, the documents say. The age of consent in California is 18. Argento is one of the women who say Harvey Weinstein raped her, and she is a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement. The two actors met when Bennet, then 7, was cast as Argento's son in a 2004 movie. The agreement did not include a nondisclosure clause.

The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.