Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 27, 2018

Harold Maass
Trump in Iraq
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

1.

Trump makes surprise visit to U.S. forces in Iraq

President Trump made a surprise visit to American military forces in Iraq on Wednesday. Trump defended his recent decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, telling service members at Al Asad Air Base, "We're no longer the suckers, folks." That move, at the same time as Trump's call for reducing the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, came against military leaders' advice, and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis. Trump, who has made withdrawing from foreign wars a priority, made his first visit as commander-in-chief to a combat zone where he wants to maintain a presence. Trump said that the U.S. would keep using Iraq as a launching point for military action, including striking the Islamic State in Syria. [The New York Times]

2.

Dow rebounds from Christmas Eve rout with biggest point-gain ever

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up by 1,086 points — or nearly 5 percent — on Wednesday, its best day since 2009 and its biggest point gain ever. The S&P 500 also rose by nearly 5 percent and the Nasdaq Composite gained 5.6 percent. The massive gains came as retail stocks jumped on news of strong holiday sales, marking a sharp rebound after the biggest Christmas Eve trading slump in history, which continued the stock market's worst December since the Great Depression. President Trump on Tuesday said the market plunge represented a "tremendous opportunity to buy." Markets also seemed placated after White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's job is "100 percent safe" despite Trump's anger over Fed interest-rate hikes. Stock futures fell sharply early Thursday, pointing to continuing volatility. [The Washington Post, CNBC]

3.

Government shutdown enters sixth day

The partial government shutdown continued into its sixth day Thursday. With negotiations stalled, Republicans and Democrats reportedly fear it could continue until mid-January. As more than 400,000 federal employees returned to work without pay, and 380,000 remained furloughed, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Wednesday that President Trump still remains "firm" in his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding. When asked Wednesday how long the shutdown will last, Trump said, "Whatever it takes. We're going to have a wall. We're going to have safety." The Senate will be in session Thursday, but no votes are scheduled that would re-open the government; the House will not meet Thursday. [Politico, ABC News]

4.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg released from hospital

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been discharged from Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital in New York following surgery to remove cancerous growths from her left lung. Ginsburg is continuing her recovery at home after her release on Tuesday. The cancer was discovered when Ginsburg, 85, was being treated in November after she fractured three ribs in a fall. After her surgery, Ginsburg resumed work from the hospital, casting a decisive vote in a 5-4 decision blocking the Trump administration from barring people who cross the border illegally from seeking asylum. Ginsburg, the most senior liberal justice on the court, has now been treated for cancer three times. [NPR]

5.

Homeland Security secretary dispatches Coast Guard medics to border

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has ordered members of the U.S. Coast Guard's medical corps to the U.S.-Mexico border to examine detained immigrants following the deaths of two Guatemalan children in federal custody. Nielsen also plans to visit some U.S. Customs and Border Protection holding facilities this week, senior administration officials said Wednesday. Nielsen has called for the Centers for Disease Control to investigate a surge of "dozens" of sick migrants taken into custody with flu-like symptoms in recent days, some possibly coming from migrant shelters in Mexico. Until this month, no child had died in border custody in more than a decade, a senior U.S. official said. [The Washington Post]

6.

Whitaker wrongly claimed to be Academic All-American athlete

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker incorrectly claimed on his resume that he was honored as an Academic All-American as a University of Iowa football player in the early 1990s, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing documents and the organization that awards that honor. Whitaker made the claim in his biography on the website of his former law firm, and on a later resume included in documents that the Federal Trade Commission released in November. Whitaker repeated the claim when he applied to be an Iowa judge in 2010. A spokeswoman for the College Sports Information Directors of America said the organization had no record Whitaker was an Academic All-American, but that he appeared to have received a lower All-District honor. [The Wall Street Journal, The Hill]

7.

Broward sheriff changes active-shooter policies after Parkland

The Broward County Sheriff's Office has changed its policy on responding to shootings following the killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last February. In a letter to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, chair of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that the previous policy said officers "may" intervene to stop an attacker, but the new language says officers "shall" intervene. Ryan Petty, a commissioner on the safety panel whose daughter was killed in the shooting, said the language change amounted to an admission of Israel's failure to protect students by instructing deputies to do anything necessary to stop an active shooter. [NBC News]

8.

Times: Podiatrist diagnosed Trump with bone spurs as favor to father

President Trump's medical exemption from military service during the Vietnam War came under renewed scrutiny on Wednesday when The New York Times reported that the daughters of a New York City foot doctor said their father was the one who diagnosed Trump with bone spurs. They said their father, the late Dr. Larry Braunstein, did it as a favor to Trump's father, who was his landlord. "I know it was a favor," said one daughter, Dr. Elysa Braunstein, 56. "But did he examine him? I don't know." The women said that in exchange their father got access to Trump's father, developer Fred Trump. "If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately," Elysa Braunstein said. "That was the small favor that he got." [The New York Times]

9.

Russia claims successful final test of new hypersonic missile

Russia conducted a final test on a hypersonic nuclear-capable missile that can fly at 20 times the speed of sound, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday. Putin described the test, in which a missile was fired at a target more than 3,500 miles away on the Kamchatka Peninsula, as an "absolute success." He said the missile would be ready for use next year and would make current missile protection systems obsolete. Putin said the intercontinental "Avangard" system was a "wonderful, perfect New Year's gift for the country." The U.S. also is developing hypersonic missiles, but its efforts are not as far along. The Pentagon has been concerned about an arms race among the U.S., Russia, and China to produce the missiles, which combine speed with precision. [The Washington Post]

10.

American becomes 1st person to cross Antarctica solo and unassisted

After 53 grueling days trekking through Antarctica, American adventurer Colin O'Brady on Wednesday became the first person to cross the continent solo and unassisted. O'Brady, 33, embarked on the journey on Nov. 3, and traveled 932 miles. While vacationing in Thailand 10 years ago, O'Brady sustained burns on 25 percent of his body, and after recovering, began racing in triathlons. He has since climbed the highest peaks on every continent and in every U.S. state. O'Brady was racing against Louis Rudd, a 49-year-old father of three and a captain in the British Army. Rudd is about 70 miles away from the finish line at the Ross Ice Shelf, and is expected to make it there on Saturday. [BBC News]