Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 6, 2019

Bonnie Kristian
Democratic congressional leaders peak to the media outside the White House after meeting with President Trump to discuss the partial government shutdown, January 4, 2019.
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Shutdown talks to continue as Trump stays focused on the wall

Negotiations to end the partial government shutdown reached no conclusion Saturday and will resume Sunday. President Trump's demand of about $5 billion in funding for border wall construction remains crucial to the stall, as congressional Democrats have labeled the request "untenable." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said her coalition will pass bills to fund individual federal departments, while Trump is reportedly more seriously considering his idea to use military funding for the wall by declaring a national emergency. On Twitter Sunday morning, he claimed the "only reason [Democrats] do not want to build a Wall is that Walls Work!" [The Associated Press, CNN]


U.S. withdrawal from Syria dependent on pledge from Turkey, Bolton says

President Trump's planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria will not happen until Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledges not to continue to attack Kurdish Syrian fighters, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday. "There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal," Bolton said. "The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement." On Friday, an unnamed senior administration official told NBC News the withdrawal will not include all U.S. forces in Syria, and that some of those withdrawn will be redeployed to Iraq, not sent home as Trump has suggested. [NBC News, The Associated Press]


Pay raises frozen for Pence, agency heads

Scheduled pay raises for top federal officials including Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Cabinet have been put on hold for the duration of the partial government shutdown. The Office of Personnel Management directed federal agencies to freeze the raises in a memo Friday night, arguing "it would be prudent for agencies to continue to pay these senior political officials at the frozen rate until appropriations legislation is enacted that would clarify the status of the freeze." At the end of December, President Trump issued an executive order canceling a 2.1 percent pay raise for federal civilian workers. [CNN, CBS News]


Pentagon chief of staff resigns

Defense Department Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeney resigned Saturday evening. "After two years in the Pentagon, I've decided the time is right to return to the private sector," he said in a brief statement. "It has been an honor to serve again alongside the men and women of the Department of Defense." This is the third major departure from the Pentagon in recent weeks, following the exits of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the United States' special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State, over President Trump's announcement of intent to withdraw from Syria. [BBC News, CNN]


Hillary Clinton meets with 2020 Democratic hopefuls

Hillary Clinton has been meeting with likely candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Axios and CNN report, citing sources close to Clinton. Among those she has met with so far are Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D). This "has been going on for months and will continue," Axios says, "since Clinton will talk to any Democrat who wants to talk." Contenders are seeking her endorsement, advice, and access to her extensive fundraising network. [Axios, CNN]


Trump touts former New York Times editor's book to bash paper

President Trump on Twitter Saturday cited comments from a new book by Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times, to claim the newspaper has an "'unmistakably anti-Trump' bias." "Ms. Abramson is 100% correct," Trump wrote. "Horrible and totally dishonest reporting on almost everything they write. Hence the term Fake News, Enemy of the People, and Opposition Party!" Abramson rejected Trump's characterization, tweeting back that she "revere[s]" the Times "and praise[s] its tough coverage of" Trump in her book. [The Hill, Politico]


U.S. sends troops to Congo amid election controversy

Results from the Democratic Republic of Congo's recent presidential election will not be released by their Sunday deadline, the country's election commission announced Saturday. The delay is expected to spark protests which could turn bloody, and no new date for the election results' release has been announced. The White House sent a letter to Congress Friday saying it would send 80 U.S. troops "to be in position to support the security of United States citizens, personnel, and diplomatic facilities" in Congo's capital city of Kinshasa in case of "violent demonstrations." [Al Jazeera, The Hill]


Man charged with murder of Jazmine Barnes

A man named Eric Black Jr. has been arrested and charged with capital murder for the death of Jazmine Barnes, the 7-year-old Houston girl killed last month while riding in a car with her family. A second suspect, one Larry Woodruffe, has also been arrested and is reportedly thought to be the shooter. The local sheriff's office is still investigating the motive behind the shooting and has said it may be "a result of mistaken identity." Barnes' mother, who was in the car when the attack occurred, has suggested a possible racial motive. [ABC 13 Eyewitness News, The New York Times]


Police investigate after woman in vegetative state gives birth

Police in Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday opened an investigation into the circumstances under which a woman who has been in a vegetative state for a decade recently gave birth. The woman, who is a patient at a care facility called Hacienda Healthcare, went into labor Dec. 29 and delivered a baby boy. Her caretakers said they did not know she was pregnant until labor began. Hacienda is cooperating with investigators and has reportedly changed its policies to keep male staff from spending time alone with female patients. [Reuters, AZ Family]


Former Defense Secretary Harold Brown dies

Former Defense Secretary Harold Brown died Friday at his home in California, his family and the RAND Corporation, a think tank where he was a trustee, reported Saturday. He was 91. Brown served as secretary of defense for former President Jimmy Carter, where he expanded the Pentagon budget and promoted development of new weapons technology. He would later describe the Carter administration's failed 1980 effort to rescue hostages from Iran as his "greatest regret and most painful lesson learned." A nuclear physicist by training, Brown taught and consulted on matters of national defense after leaving the White House. [CNN, The Associated Press]