Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 11, 2018

Harold Maass
Storefronts in tatters after Hurricane Michael
Joe Raedle/Getty Images


Hurricane Michael hammers Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as a dangerous Category 4 storm with top sustained winds of 155 miles per hour. It was the strongest storm to hit the continental U.S. in nearly five decades, and the strongest ever recorded in the Florida Panhandle. The storm made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida. At least one death was reported, a man who was killed when a tree fell on his house. Michael strengthened rapidly before it hit, boosted by unseasonably warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico. It caused extensive damage in Mexico Beach and Panama City, destroying homes, uprooting trees, and downing power lines. Michael, now downgraded to a tropical storm, is projected to drench the Southeast en route to the Atlantic. [The Associated Press, National Hurricane Center]


Dow drops by more than 800 points

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by 832 points, or 3.2 percent, on Wednesday, its worst drop since February and its third worst point drop ever. The S&P 500 dropped by 3.1 percent, its fifth straight daily loss and its biggest since February. The Nasdaq Composite did even worse, falling by 4.1 percent as technology stocks led the declines. Stocks have been struggling as Treasury bond yields rise, scaring investors with the prospect of higher borrowing costs. "When rates spike like they have, some reaction is unavoidable," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network. President Trump blamed the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates too fast, saying it had "gone crazy." U.S. stock futures fell further early Thursday as global stocks dropped. [MarketWatch, The Washington Post]


Trump slams Democrats in op-ed critics call misleading

In a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday, President Trump slams Democrats as "radical socialists" who would bring about a "radical shift in American culture and life" if they win control of Congress. Trump specifically criticizes Medicare-for-all, claiming that this proposal would "inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care" and would mean seniors would lose access to the doctors they want. Some Democrats propose Medicare-for-all as a way to actually improve benefits for seniors. The op-ed is reportedly part of a new effort to characterize Democrats as extremists heading into the November midterms. The Washington Post's fact checker criticized the op-ed, saying, "Almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood." [USA Today, The Washington Post]


Report: Saudi crown prince ordered operation to lure missing journalist

U.S. intelligence intercepted Saudi Arabian officials discussing a plan ordered by the crown prince to lure journalist Jamal Khashoggi from the United States back to Saudi Arabia, where he would be detained, U.S. officials told The Washington Post on Wednesday. Khashoggi went missing last week after he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up a document he needed to get married. Turkish officials say that Khashoggi, a columnist for the Post, was killed inside the consulate by a Saudi hit squad. Saudi Arabia has denied any wrongdoing and says Khashoggi left the consulate on his own. [The Washington Post]


Bloomberg switches back to Democratic Party

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday that he had changed his registration from independent to Democrat. Bloomberg noted that he was a Democrat for most of his life, before switching to the Republican Party when he was elected mayor of New York City in 2001. He then became an independent in 2007. Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of the global media company that bears his name, has donated to Democrats and criticized GOP positions on many issues, such as guns and abortion. He said he was changing his registration because "we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs," arguing that the Democratic Party is a "bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution." Some political analysts have suggested Bloomberg could launch a 2020 presidential bid, but he did not say anything about plans to run for office. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]


Officials tell senators China is trying to influence U.S. elections

U.S. security officials told senators on Wednesday that China is waging an unprecedented campaign to influence American public opinion ahead of the November midterm elections. "China in many ways represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counterintelligence threat we face," FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. "Russia is in many ways fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union. They're fighting today's fight. China is fighting tomorrow's fight." Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, also testified. Nielsen said there is no evidence yet of "any Chinese attempts to compromise election infrastructure." [Reuters]


Roberts refers misconduct complaints against Kavanaugh to appeals court

Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday referred more than a dozen recently filed judicial misconduct complaints against Justice Brett Kavanaugh to a federal appeals court in Colorado. The complaints reportedly concern allegations that Kavanaugh made dishonest statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee and demonstrated a lack of judicial temperament during his testimony on allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. The 15 complaints were filed with the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., where Kavanaugh served before his confirmation to the high court. The court in Colorado could investigate, but it also could dismiss the complaints as moot because the judiciary's rules on misconduct do not apply to Supreme Court justices. [The Washington Post]


Limo company operator arrested after deadly crash

New York State Police on Wednesday arrested the operator of Prestige Limousine Chauffeur Service, the company whose limousine crashed last weekend, killing 20 people. Nauman Hussain was charged with criminally negligent homicide for his role in the tragedy. The modified stretch limousine that ran a stop sign and crashed into a store parking lot was cited for code violations on Sept. 4, including a problem with the antilock brakes' malfunction indicator system. "The sole responsibility for that motor vehicle being on the road on Saturday rests with Nauman Hussain," New York Police Superintendent George Beach said. Hussain's father, who owns the company, is in his native Pakistan. [The Associated Press]


Wray confirms White House limited scope of Kavanaugh investigation

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate on Wednesday that the White House placed limits on the supplemental background investigation into Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh before his confirmation. Wray said the investigation, ordered to examine allegations of sexual misconduct dating back decades, was "very specific in scope — limited in scope." "I've spoken with our background investigation specialists and they have assured me this was handled in a way consistent with their experience and the standard process," Wray said under questioning before the Senate Homeland Security Committee by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who also serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democratic senators have complained that the FBI failed to interview relevant witnesses, and should have talked to Kavanaugh and his primary accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. [Politico]


Alleged Chinese spy charged with stealing U.S. trade secrets

A Chinese intelligence officer lured to Belgium by federal agents has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from a U.S. aerospace company, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. Investigators say the man, Yanjun Xu, was arrested April 1 in Belgium, and was extradited to the U.S. on Tuesday. Court documents say he is an official with China's Ministry of State Security, who targeted an aviation firm. The case "is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense," said John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's national security division. China said the charges were "made out of thin air." U.S. officials said it is the first time an alleged Chinese spy has been brought to the U.S. for prosecution. [NBC News, The Associated Press]