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10 things you need to know today: December 15, 2018

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Bonnie Kristian
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
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1.

Trump names budget director Mick Mulvaney as acting chief of staff

President Trump on Friday announced Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will step in as acting White House chief of staff. Mulvaney will replace current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who departs at the end of the year. "Mick has done an outstanding job while in the administration," Trump tweeted. "I look forward to working with him in this new capacity." Trump also praised Kelly as a "great patriot" who "served our country with distinction." Before joining the administration, Mulvaney was a vocal Trump critic. [The Week, Business Insider]

2.

Federal judge rules ObamaCare unconstitutional

A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday night that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, must be "invalidated in whole" because its individual mandate provision is unconstitutional. District Judge Reed O'Connor argued the mandate is "essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA," and that it cannot "be fairly read as an exercise of Congress's tax power," contrary a 2012 Supreme Court ruling upholding the ACA as a tax. President Trump celebrated the decision, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said ACA enrollment will continue as usual because the case will be litigated further. [Fox News, CNN]

3.

Education Department forgives $150 million in student debt

The Department of Education is forgiving about $150 million in student debt belonging to some 15,000 borrowers, around half of them former attendees of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges chain, which went bankrupt in 2015. The agency announced the loan cancellation Thursday in response to a federal court order and began notifying affected students by email Friday. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had sought to avoid implementing a set of Obama-era regulations which include an option of loan discharges for students whose schools have closed; a federal judge ruled against her plan. [Politico, The New York Times]

4.

Trump Organization reportedly profited from Trump's inaugural committee

President Trump's company was a vendor for the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2017, ProPublica reported Friday, and at least one committee organizer expressed concern about overcharging. The committee paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals, and event space at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., the report says, and Ivanka Trump was involved in working out the price. Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether the committee misspent any of its record $107 million haul or granted special favors to donors. Both actions could run afoul of federal law, as could the Trump Organization charging the committee too much. [The Wall Street Journal, ProPublica]

5.

Outgoing Wisconsin, Michigan governors approve lame-duck limits

Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) both signed legislation Friday limiting the power newly-elected Democrats will have when they take office. Walker approved a bill to limit the governor's oversight on previously approved laws, give the state legislature control over a state economic development agency, and reduce the amount of time for early voting. Snyder signed laws slowing the schedule for raising the state's minimum wage, exempting small businesses from mandatory sick leave provision, and lowering the number of annual sick days larger companies must provide. [The Associated Press, The Week]

6.

U.K. leaders warn of Brexit stall as EU rejects renegotiation

"Brexit is in danger of getting stuck — and that is something that should worry us all," U.K. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd warned Saturday. Her comments and similar remarks from other leaders come after Prime Minister Theresa May was unable to exact more concessions for the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union this week. "The Union stands by this agreement and intends to proceed with its ratification. It is not open for renegotiation," the EU said Thursday of the previously negotiated deal, which is not expected to pass the British parliament as-is. [Reuters, CNBC]

7.

'Yellow vest' protesters march again in Paris

Thousands of "yellow vest" protesters are expected in Paris Saturday for a fifth consecutive weekend of demonstrations. Additional smaller assemblies are anticipated around France, and some 69,000 police officers — 8,000 of them in Paris alone — have been deployed to respond. The demonstrators are protesting high taxes and cost of living in France, the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron, and more. They are now calling for a citizens' referendum. "We are protesting peacefully," said yellow vest representative Maxime Nicolle, "but, Mr. President, give us back our freedom and our sovereignty!" [The Associated Press, CNN]

8.

The Weekly Standard to shutter after 23 years

Conservative news magazine The Weekly Standard announced its closure Friday after 23 years of circulation. The outlet was reportedly searching for a new owner, but its publisher told staffers Friday it was no longer interested in seeking ways to revamp the company. The Weekly Standard was founded by Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes in 1995; it was seen as a pillar of neoconservative media and was often aligned with former President George W. Bush's administration. In recent years, the publication has consistently criticized President Trump, and editor-in-chief Stephen Hayes reportedly suggested this stance was linked to the magazine's failing fortunes. [CNN, The Week]

9.

Sandy Hook Elementary receives bomb threat on anniversary of shooting

Exactly six years after 28 people, mostly children, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, another threat to the school forced its evacuation. At around 9 a.m. Friday, police say the Newtown, Connecticut school received a bomb threat. Everyone inside evacuated. Police later said the threat was likely not credible, but school remained canceled for the rest of the day. A wave of hoax bomb threats were emailed to businesses, schools, and government buildings across the U.S. on Thursday, but police determined Sandy Hook's threat was likely not connected. [WCVB, The Week]

10.

Facebook bug gave apps improper access to 6.8 million users' photos

A bug may have given up to 1,500 third-party apps improper access to photos from up to 6.8 million users, Facebook announced Friday. Normally, apps would only be permitted to access photos users posted to their Facebook timelines, but the bug gave access to pictures that weren't posted publicly, including pictures shared on Facebook's Marketplace and pictures users uploaded but didn't end up posting. The apps had access to these photos for 12 days in September of 2018, Facebook reported. This issue would have only affected users who authorized the apps in question to access their photos. [Facebook, The Week]