Daily Briefing

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

The Week Staff
Trump talks to the press


Trump hunts for new chief of staff

President Trump is looking for outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly's replacement, after his rumored first choice for the role bowed out of the running. Trump was reportedly so confident that Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, would be his next chief of staff that the White House had already drafted the announcement. But Ayers announced Sunday that he's leaving the White House at the end of the year, along with Kelly. Ayers, a 36-year-old father of young triplets, will reportedly head a pro-Trump super PAC from Georgia. Several names are being floated to replace Kelly, including White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Mulvaney and Mnuchin are said to be uninterested. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]


Prosecutors eye Trump's business as Democrats talk impeachment

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have shifted from investigating Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, to examining what other members of Trump's family business, the Trump Organization, may have known about the crimes Cohen says he committed on behalf of Trump in 2016, The New York Times reports. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told CNN on Sunday that if Trump was "at the center of a massive fraud," as prosecutors seem to allege, those crimes "would be impeachable offenses." Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) added on CBS's Face the Nation that "there's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time." [The New York Times, The Associated Press]


Top EU court rules that U.K. can cancel Brexit

Early Monday, the European Court of Justice ruled that Britain can unilaterally call off its exit from the European Union without input from the 27 other EU members, and without altering the terms of Britain's EU membership. On Tuesday, Britain's House of Commons was scheduled to vote on, and expected to reject, Prime Minister Theresa May's negotiated Brexit plan, which would have thrown Britain's exit from the EU into further uncharted waters. But May reportedly pulled the vote Monday morning. The deal under consideration was settled with EU leaders late last month. Revoking the Article 50 exit clause would have to "follow a democratic process," the court ruled, meaning that in Britain, Parliament would have to approve calling off Brexit. The upshot is that staying in the EU is now "a real, viable option," BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming noted, cautioning that "a lot would have to change in British politics" for Brexit to be actually called off. [Reuters, BBC News]


U.S., Russia, Saudis undermine U.N. climate report at Poland talks

The low-level U.S. delegation to global climate talks in Katowice, Poland, joined with Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait on Saturday night in an attempt to undermine a United Nations report warning of catastrophic consequences if the world fails to combat rising global temperatures, The Washington Post reported. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on climate change to coincide with a two-week U.N. conference to create rules for implementing the 2015 Paris climate accord. President Trump, who also downplayed similar dire warnings from a report issued last month by 13 U.S. federal agencies, started withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris accord in 2017, but the U.S. still has a seat at the table until it can formally withdraw in November 2020. [The Washington Post]


China summons U.S., Canadian ambassadors over Huawei executive arrest

China's Foreign Ministry has summoned the U.S. and Canadian ambassadors to China to protest the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies. Meng was taken into custody in Vancouver, Canada, on Dec. 1, at U.S. direction. She faces extradition to the United States, where she is accused of helping Huawei, a major electronics manufacturer, evade American sanctions on Iran. Beijing said the arrest "severely violated the Chinese citizen's legal and legitimate rights and interests," calling it "lawless, reasonless, and ruthless, and ... extremely vicious." [CBS News, Bloomberg]


Heavy snow cuts power, disrupts flights in Southeast

More than 12 inches of snow fell across America's Southeast Sunday, blanketing Virginia, North Carolina, and parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. The National Weather Service predicted snowfall could total 20 inches in some areas of the Appalachians by Monday before the snowstorm recedes. More than 20 million people remained under a winter weather alert, 200,000 people were without power, and more than 1,400 flights were canceled. One person was killed in the storm when a tree fell on their vehicle. On Sunday, North Carolina had more than 500 car wrecks in an 11-hour time span, CNN reported. [CNBC, CNN]


France's Macron to address nation in response to enduring 'yellow vest' protests

French President Emmanuel Macron will make his first public comments on a month of "yellow vest" protests in Paris and other cities in a nationally televised address Monday night. The protests started in opposition to a fuel tax Macron's government had scheduled, but they've since transformed into a movement mobilized against his economic policies, many viewed as tilted toward the wealthy. Macron's decision to scrap the fuel tax did not dampen a fourth weekend protest on Saturday, where about 1,000 of the 136,000 yellow vest protesters were arrested and 71 people injured in Paris. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Sunday that Macron "will know how to find the path to the hearts of the French," but there is no "magic wand" to resolve the growing list of yellow vest demands. [The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press]


Trump to meet with Democratic leaders to avert a Christmas government shutdown

Lawmakers are considering a wide range of legislation in the final days of the current Congress, but the only bills they need to pass are the seven remaining spending measures to keep the federal government running past a current deadline of Dec. 21. The most contentious of the remaining spending bills is for the Department of Homeland Security, with President Trump demanding $5 billion for his proposed border wall and Democrats saying no. Trump is set to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — likely the incoming House speaker — and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) this week to discuss the impasse. Democrats say that, based on Trump's past reneging on legislative deals, they have low expectations for the talks. [The New York Times, Politico]


Elon Musk slams SEC in 60 Minutes interview

In a 60 Minutes interview Sunday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in no uncertain terms that he has little love for the Securities and Exchange Commission. "I want to be clear. I do not respect the SEC," he said. The defiant statement came after a turbulent summer for Musk, who has been criticized for erratic behavior and was sued by the SEC after he impulsively tweeted about taking the electric-car company private but later reneging on that plan, possibly defrauding investors. "I'm just being me," Musk told CBS's Lesley Stahl. "I mean, I was certainly under insane stress and crazy, crazy hours. But the system would have failed if I was truly erratic." Musk said no one is screening his tweets. Musk also suggested Tesla might purchase some of the General Motors factories that are set to close next year. Tesla shares rose slightly in premarket trading to $359.30. [60 Minutes, MarketWatch]


Yearly domestic box office to soar past $11 billion sooner than ever before

The domestic box office could reach $11 billion by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, the quickest it has ever reached that amount. The $11 billion total will be reached long before the massively profitable Christmas season, and this year, Star Wars' absence from cinemas has left room for five major blockbusters: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mortal Engines, Aquaman, Bumblebee, and Mary Poppins Returns. The box office is currently on pace to finish the year somewhere around $11.7 billion or $11.8 billion, which would already be the best year ever, but Deadline writes that depending on how this upcoming holiday brawl shakes out, it's entirely possible 2018 could reach $12 billion for the first time in history. [Deadline]

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