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

Harold Maass
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Trump administration officials deny writing op-ed

One after another, senior Trump administration officials publicly denied being the aide who wrote an anonymous op-ed describing a "resistance" movement inside the White House. Vice President Mike Pence denied writing the piece after being pegged as a prime suspect because the writer used the word "lodestar," which sleuths turned up in numerous Pence statements. A dozen Cabinet officials made similar denials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Several of the officials echoed President Trump by calling the author "gutless" and a "coward." An outside adviser said the White House had compiled a list of 12 suspects. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested Trump force top officials to take polygraph tests. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Democrats question Kavanaugh about leaked documents

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday for a third day of grilling, facing a new wave of scrutiny over documents Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said were confidential but Republicans said had been cleared for release. While many documents from Kavanaugh's time working for the Bush administration were not made public, The New York Times obtained a copy of a 2003 email that showed the nominee disputing whether Roe v. Wade is considered the "settled law of the land," suggesting the Supreme Court could overrule the decision that says access to abortion is a right. Kavanaugh said the email didn't reflect his personal views, but rather showed him asserting a fact that Supreme Court justices can overturn precedents. [The New York Times, CNN]


Twitter bans Alex Jones over 'abusive' post

Twitter announced Thursday that it had permanently banned conservative conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars site after he live-streamed himself verbally attacking a CNN reporter outside a congressional hearing where Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was testifying. The micro-blogging site said in a statement that Jones' conduct violated its rules against "abusive behavior." Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testified before Congress this week on their efforts to weed out offensive content and misinformation spread by foreign sources to try to influence the U.S. electorate. Twitter recently had suspended Jones for a week but resisted banning him outright as other social media companies had done. [The Washington Post]


Leading Brazilian presidential candidate stabbed at rally

A man stabbed the leading candidate in Brazil's presidential election, far-right lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro, at a campaign rally on Thursday. Bolsonaro became the frontrunner in the Oct. 7 first round after Brazil's electoral court last week barred the left's leading candidate, former president Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, from running due to corruption charges. Bolsonaro is a controversial figure who has angered many Brazilians with divisive comments but is revered by conservatives. He will spend at least a week in the hospital and take up to two months to recover, said Dr. Luiz Henrique Borsato. "His internal wounds were grave and put the patient's life at risk," Borsato said. [Reuters, The Washington Post]


Prosecutors charge North Korean with cyberattack

Federal prosecutors said Thursday they had charged a computer programmer working for the North Korean government, Park Jin Hyok, with cyberattacks that infected computers in 150 countries with the WannaCry ransomware virus. The hacking targeted Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 and spread from there. Park, who is believed to be in North Korea, also was charged with conspiring to launch attacks that resulted in the theft of $81 million from a Bangladesh bank, according to the charges, which were unsealed in a Los Angeles court after a years-long investigation. The FBI had long suspected North Korea was behind the hacking. "The criminal conduct outlined in this case is intolerable," said Tracy Wilkison, the first assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. [The Associated Press]


New York, New Jersey launch investigations of sex abuse by clergy

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has subpoenaed every Catholic diocese in the state in a new investigation into the Roman Catholic Church's handling of clergy sex abuse allegations, The Associated Press reported Thursday. New Jersey also launched an inquiry, bringing to six the number of states to open investigations since a Pennsylvania grand jury report three weeks ago detailed child sex abuse allegations against 300 predatory priests over seven decades. Church leaders in New York confirmed receipt of the subpoenas and vowed to cooperate. New York and New Jersey also announced hotlines for abuse victims. Underwood, a Democrat, said the Pennsylvania grand jury report "shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups." [The Associated Press]


Giuliani: Trump won't answer Mueller's obstruction questions

President Trump won't answer questions about whether he tried to block the investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion by his campaign associates, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told The Associated Press on Thursday. "That's a no-go. That is not going to happen," Giuliani said. "There will be no questions at all on obstruction." The statement marked the most blunt rejection yet regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller's requests for an interview with Trump. In a letter last week, Mueller's team offered to accept written responses from Trump. Giuliani suggested written questions about Russia's actions might be acceptable, but that investigators would have to justify any follow-up questions. "Show us why you didn't get there the first time," Giuliani said. "We aren't going to let them spring it on us." [The Associated Press]


Trump administration pushes to detain undocumented immigrant families longer

The Trump administration said Thursday it would try to remove a legal hurdle to keeping undocumented immigrant children in detention longer than currently allowed. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement that her department was proposing federal regulations to nullify the Flores Settlement Agreement, a court case limiting how long undocumented immigrant children can be held. Nielsen said the settlement was a "pull factor" encouraging illegal immigration, so making a change to keep children in custody as long as their cases are under review would discourage undocumented immigrants from crossing the border. The move followed the administration's attempt this summer to separate families trying to cross the Mexican border under a "zero tolerance" immigration policy. Immigration advocates said the changes would hurt children. [CNN]


Serena Williams to face Naomi Osaka in U.S. Open final

Serena Williams beat No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-3, 6-0 to advance to Saturday's U.S. Open final against Japan's Naomi Osaka, who defeated American Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4 in the other semifinal. It is Osaka's first final at Flushing Meadows, and Williams' ninth. Williams is seeking her 24th major singles title to tie Margaret Court for the most in tennis history. She missed last year's Open for the birth of her daughter, and then battled complications related to blood clots. "A year ago, I was fighting for, literally, my life at the hospital after I had the baby," Williams said. "So every day I step out on this court, I am so grateful that I have an opportunity to play this sport." [The Associated Press, Sporting News]


Burt Reynolds dies at 82

Actor Burt Reynolds, best known for films such as Deliverance, The Longest Yard, and Smokey and the Bandit, died Thursday in Jupiter, Florida. He was 82. Reynolds, with rugged good looks and wry, self-deprecating humor, was one of the nation's biggest box office draws in the 1970s. He won an Oscar nomination for one of his best-known later roles, as an ambitious and paternalistic porn director in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights. After marrying TV actress Loni Anderson, Reynolds produced and starred in the sitcom Evening Shade, which CBS aired from 1990-94. He won an Emmy as best actor in a comedy series for that role. He was recently cast in the Quentin Tarantino movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood about the Manson family murders, due for release next year. [Variety, The New York Times]