Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 12, 2019

Harold Maass
Beto O'Rourke in El Paso
Christ Chavez/Getty Images
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Negotiators reach 'agreement in principle' on government shutdown

Republican and Democratic congressional negotiators late Monday agreed in principle to a border security deal that could avoid another partial government shutdown. With a Friday deadline looming, key House and Senate members settled on $1.375 billion for 55 miles of new bollard fencing, made with spaced steel posts, at the Mexican border, 10 miles less than Democrats agreed to before regaining control of the House, and a fraction of the $5.7 billion, 200-mile wall President Trump demanded through the recent government shutdown. The deal still must quickly pass the House and the Senate, and get Trump's signature, to keep all government agencies open. Negotiators also agreed to reduce the number of migrants who can be held in detention, although Democrats backed away from sharper limits that threatened to derail the talks. [The New York Times, USA Today]


Trump, O'Rourke hold dueling border rallies in El Paso

President Trump delivered a speech in the Texas border city of El Paso to rally support for building a wall on the Mexican border. Within earshot of Trump's event, former Texas Senate candidate and potential 2020 Democratic contender Beto O'Rourke held a rival rally, where he told supporters, "We are not safe because of walls but in spite of walls." Trump told his allies that his administration had already started building a "big, beautiful wall right on the Rio Grande," although the Los Angeles Times noted there did not appear to be evidence to support his claim. His supporters chanted "Build the wall!" as they have at previous Trump rallies, but Trump interjected, saying, "You mean finish the wall." [Los Angeles Times, The New York Times]


Rep. Ilhan Omar apologizes for Israel remark after criticism

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leading Democrats rebuked Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), one of the first Muslim members of Congress, and called on her to apologize for a tweet widely criticized as "anti-Semitic." Omar recently tweeted that GOP leaders' support for Israel is "all about the Benjamins," suggesting money was influencing Republican views on the Israeli government. She elaborated by tweeting "AIPAC," referring to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group. Pelosi said in a statement that "Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted, and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception." Omar promptly apologized "unequivocally" via Twitter, saying her "intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole."

Editor's note: This item initially mischaracterized the operations of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. It has since been corrected. We regret the error. [ABC News]


Virginia delegate eases push for Fairfax impeachment proceedings

A Virginia state lawmaker, Delegate Patrick Hope, on Monday backed away from his plan to file a resolution to start impeachment proceedings against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) over two women's sexual assault allegations against him. Hope, who is white, had circulated the proposed legislation a day earlier. It would have told a House committee to determine whether the allegations "constitute conduct sufficient to provide grounds for impeachment." Hope backed down after members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, calling for an investigation before any impeachment talk, expressed anger about the speed of the actions against Fairfax, who is black, while no action is pending against Gov. Ralph Northam (D) or state Attorney General Mark Herring (D) over their acknowledgement that they had dressed up in blackface in the past. [The New York Times]


Michael Cohen delays congressional testimony for 3rd time this month

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer, has postponed his plan to testify before Congress for the third time this month. The Senate Intelligence Committee agreed to the postponement "due to post surgery medical needs," Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said Monday. He was scheduled to appear publicly before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7, and behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee hearing the next day. Cohen is now scheduled for an interview with that panel on Feb. 28, and its chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said Cohen is being "fully cooperative." The committees want Cohen to testify before March 6, when he starts serving a three-year sentence for tax crimes, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress. [CNN]


Utah Republicans scale back Medicaid expansion approved by voters

Utah's Republican-led legislature on Monday passed broad changes to a Medicaid expansion approved by voters. The bill, which Republican Gov. Gary Herbert promptly signed, reduced the number of new people covered by about half, and added work requirements. Voters had previously approved two measures: one that expanded Medicaid to people making less than $17,000 a year, and another that raised the sales tax in order to cover the expansion. The new plan that passed the Republican-led legislature only extends Medicaid to 80,000 people, letting 70,000 others buy subsidized insurance on the marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act. State Sen. Allen Christensen (R) sponsored the changes, and claimed there wasn't enough money to cover a full expansion. [The Associated Press]


Pompeo warns allies against using Huawei equipment

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned Western allies that using Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies' equipment in their countries could hurt their chances of partnering with the U.S. Washington is worried Huawei gear can be used for espionage by China. Pompeo made the comments as he started a trip that will take him to Hungary and Poland, two countries where Huawei, the worlds' biggest maker of telecommunication equipment, is seeking to expand. Huawei denies any involvement in spying for the Chinese government or any other. [Reuters]


Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty

Robert Bowers, the man prosecutors say carried out the mass shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 people dead in October, pleaded not guilty to 19 new charges on Monday. Bowers in November had already pleaded not guilty to 44 counts in connection with the shooting, but in January, a federal grand jury indicted Bowers on additional counts, which included 11 hate crime charges. During the shooting, which has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, Bowers allegedly yelled at police that he wanted "all Jews to die." Federal prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will seek the death penalty for Bowers. [USA Today]


Judge orders woman to start sentence for texts urging boyfriend's suicide

A judge ruled Monday that a 22-year-old Massachusetts woman, Michelle Carter, should start her 15-month sentence for sending her suicidal boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, text messages urging him to follow through with a plan to kill himself. Carter was sentenced in 2017 for her role in Roy's 2014 death, but she had been allowed to remain free pending her appeal. The state's highest court upheld her involuntary manslaughter conviction last week. A lawyer for Carter had argued that she should remain free while her lawyers appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Roy's aunt said the family was relieved. "We hope that no one else ever has to feel this pain," Becky Maki said. "His life mattered." [The Associated Press]


Kyler Murray picks NFL over MLB

Kyler Murray, a two-sport athlete and Heisman Trophy-winning Oklahoma quarterback, announced on Monday that he is officially committing to football over baseball. He was a first-round draft pick by the Oakland Athletics in 2018, for which he received a $4.66 million signing bonus. Major League Baseball position players are scheduled to report for spring training on Friday, but analysts like The Ringer's Michael Baumann said it was more "financially prudent" for Murray to join the National Football League, where he'll be on a faster track to stardom and a major contract. "Moving forward, I am firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback," Murray wrote on Twitter. [Kyler Murray]