Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 16, 2018

Bonnie Kristian
Protesters march towards the Federal Building during a 'Save the Affordable Care Act' rally in Los Angeles, California on March 23, 2017.
Mark Ralston/Getty Images


Obama, legal experts forecast no change from 'unconstitutional' ObamaCare ruling

Friday night's federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, is unconstitutional because of its individual mandate provision will not affect health-care coverage in the short term and is unlikely to survive appeal, legal experts across the political spectrum argued Saturday. Crucially, the decision claims the individual mandate is "essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA," but 2017's GOP tax reform law nixed the mandate's penalty. Former President Barack Obama posted on social media Saturday to forecast a lengthy legal battle and encourage ACA users to maintain coverage in the meantime. [The Hill, The Week]


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to leave by year's end

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke "will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years," President Trump tweeted Saturday morning. "Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation." In a second post, Trump said he would announce Zinke's successor in the coming week but did not say whether Zinke resigned or was fired. Zinke's tenure at Interior has been marred by allegations of unethical conduct which have reportedly troubled Trump and prompted a Justice Department investigation. [The Hill, NBC News]


Family of migrant girl challenges official account of her death

The family of Jakelin Caal Maquin, the 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) custody this month, have challenged the agency's account of her death. "She had not suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border," said a statement from lawyers representing Jakelin's father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz. The statement also says CPB had her father sign a form about Jakelin's health in English, a language he does not speak, and noted that autopsy results determining a cause of death have yet to be released. [USA Today, The Associated Press]


Mulvaney's past criticism of Trump resurfaces

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's past criticisms of President Trump have received new attention over the weekend following Friday's news of Mulvaney's acceptance of his third role in the Trump administration. After the 2016 discovery of Trump's lewd Access Hollywood remarks, Mulvaney wrote on his congressional Facebook page that Trump is "not a very good person," and his words were "disgusting and indefensible." In an election debate around the same time, Mulvaney similarly said he was supporting Trump despite thinking "he's a terrible human being" because "the choice on the other side is just as bad." [Politico, NBC News]


U.N. climate negotiators back universal emissions limits

Negotiators representing nearly 200 nations on Saturday agreed to universal greenhouse gas emissions limits intended to mitigate global climate change. "It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical," said Polish economist Michal Kurtyka, who is leading the negotiations. "Through this package you have made a thousand little steps forward together," he told the assembled delegates. "You can feel proud." U.S. negotiators sought to label coal a possible source of clean energy but also pushed for transparency and rules which apply equally to all participant nations. [Reuters, The Associated Press]


Theresa May condemns talk of new Brexit referendum

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday pushed back on calls for a second referendum on Brexit, the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. May particularly condemned remarks from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said this week a new vote should be considered if "none of the other options work." May accused Blair of "seek[ing] to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum," arguing "Parliament has a democratic duty to deliver what the British people voted for." May's proposed Brexit deal with the EU has stalled, lacking support to pass a House of Commons vote. [BBC News, Bloomberg]


North Korea warns more sanctions would be America's 'greatest miscalculation'

The North Korean government on Sunday issued a typically dramatic statement condemning the United States' sanction regime and suggesting denuclearization plans are in jeopardy. Pyongyang accused the U.S. State Department of being "bent on bringing [North Korea]-U.S. relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire," warning that additional U.S. sanctions would be America's "greatest miscalculation" and would "block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever." This comes as Pyongyang observes the seventh anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong Il and the rise of Kim Jong Un. [NBC News, Reuters]


Sri Lankan prime minister resigns amid threat of government shutdown

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down Saturday after less than two months in office plagued by political turmoil and threat of government shutdown. Rajapaksa's legitimacy in his office was widely questioned, because he came to power after President Maithripala Sirisena called a snap election two years early. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled Sirisena's actions illegal on Thursday. Rajapaksa, who was already fired twice by the parliament but previously refused to resign, will likely be replaced by Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was prime minister before the elections were called. [BBC News, Reuters]


Egypt reveals 4,400-year-old tomb

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities on Saturday announced the discovery of an "exceptionally well-preserved" 4,400-year-old tomb belonging to a royal priest called Wahtye, who was responsible for the boat of King Nefer-Ir-Ka-Re. Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani described the discovery as "one of a kind in the last decades." The elaborate tomb was first found in November, but excavations proceeded slowly as its doors were sealed. The tomb contains five burial shafts yet to be explored, and the entire site has not been disturbed by grave robbers. [CNN, BBC News]


SNL's Trump learns the wrong lesson from his It's a Wonderful Life adventure

Saturday Night Live's President Trump (Alec Baldwin) was in a pensive mood when an angel named Clarence (Kenan Thompson) showed up, straight from helping George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, to help Trump see the world as it would have been had he never been president. It's pretty great — for everyone. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (Matt Damon) is a regular guy enjoying a beer; Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller), is not headed to prison; and Special Counsel Robert Mueller (Robert De Niro) is enjoying a pleasant old age with his grandchildren. [The Week, CNN]