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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 15, 2019

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Harold Maass
Trump at a rally
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1.

Trump expected to sign budget deal but declare border emergency

Congress on Thursday overwhelmingly passed the $333 billion spending and border security deal needed to avoid a government shutdown at midnight Friday. Before the Senate voted, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told lawmakers that President Trump had committed to signing the bill, which includes only a fraction of the $5.7 billion he has demanded for his border wall. McConnell also said that Trump would declare a national emergency on the border, which will let him bypass Congress and find other money to get the wall built. News of that plan, which Trump has floated for weeks, drew immediate condemnation from Democrats, and divided Republicans, although McConnell said he would support it. The Justice Department reportedly has warned the declaration could be blocked by courts. [The Washington Post, CNBC]

2.

Amazon drops plans for headquarters in New York City

Amazon announced Thursday that it is canceling its plan to build a big new headquarters in New York. The facility would have brought the city 25,000 jobs, but critics of the plan objected to the city's promise of nearly $3 billion in tax breaks to one of the richest companies in the world. "We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York," the online retail giant said in a blog post, citing political opposition as reason for the decision. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who had lobbied for the project, slammed politicians who opposed it, accusing them of putting "their own narrow political interests above our community." Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) rejoiced, saying, "everyday New Yorkers and their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed." [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

3.

Barr confirmed, sworn in as attorney general

William Barr was sworn in as attorney general on Thursday shortly after the Senate confirmed him in a 54-45, mostly party-line vote. Barr was nominated by President Trump in December and replaces Matthew Whitaker, who served as acting attorney general for three months following the departure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Barr, who previously served as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, said in his January confirmation hearing that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be allowed to finish his investigation, although he could not promise he would release Mueller's report publicly. "If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation," Barr said. [USA Today, CNN]

4.

India accuses Pakistan of link to deadly Kashmir bombing

A car bomb exploded near a convoy of Indian paramilitary personnel in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing at least 37 people. It was one of the deadliest attacks in the disputed region in recent years. India blamed the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the Indian government also said it had "incontrovertible evidence" that Pakistan had a "direct hand" in the attack. After a Cabinet Committee on Security meeting on Friday, Indian leaders said they would take "all possible diplomatic steps" to isolate Pakistan from the international community over the bombing. Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it strongly rejects "any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations." [CNN, The Associated Press]

5.

Activists file lawsuit over Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy

The Southern Poverty Law Center and American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed a lawsuit against a host of individuals and agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, over the Trump administration's policy requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their cases to be decided. The advocacy groups filed the suit on behalf of 11 asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. On the same day, a Mexican immigration official said the "Migrant Protection Protocols" initiative, often referred to as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, officially got underway this week as the U.S. started sending Central American families seeking asylum back across the border into Mexico. [CBS News, Reuters]

6.

McCabe confirms DOJ discussed removing Trump from office

Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe confirmed for the first time in a CBS 60 Minutes interview that top Justice Department officials discussed recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office after his May 2017 decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey. McCabe, in an interview to be aired in full Sunday on 60 Minutes, also said he had ordered the FBI team investigating Russian election meddling to examine whether Trump's actions amounted to obstruction of justice. Trump has called McCabe, who was fired in March 2018, a "disgrace," and the White House says he has no credibility. McCabe is promoting his book, The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump. [CBS News, CNN]

7.

Trump physical shows 'very good health' despite weight gain

The top White House doctor, Navy Cdr. Sean Conley, said Thursday that President Trump's most recent physical, conducted last week, indicates that he "remains in very good health overall." Despite the positive assessment, Trump, who is 6 feet, 3 inches tall, showed a weight increase to 243 pounds, up from 239 pounds in January 2018. That gives him a body mass index of 30.4, which puts him in the category of obese. Trump's total cholesterol was down but his dose of cholesterol medication was increased. Last year, then-physician Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson joked that Trump "might live to be 200 years old" if he improved his diet. Trump received a diet and exercise plan, but "admits he has not followed it religiously," said Hogan Gidley, principal deputy White House press secretary. [The Hill, CNN]

8.

Trump Organization abandons plans for 2 new hotel chains

President Trump's company, the Trump Organization, said Thursday that it is abandoning plans to open two new hotel chains — the Scion and American Idea brands — largely because of a hostile political environment. "We live in a climate where everything will be used against us, whether by the fake news or by Democrats who are only interested in presidential harassment and wasting everyone's time, barraging us with nonsense letters," said Eric Trump, one of the president's sons and a leader of the business. The Trump Organization unveiled plans for the hotel chains, which were to cater to budget and mid-priced travelers, in March 2017, promising to line up developers fast, but most of the deals fizzled. [The Associated Press]

9.

Denver teachers reach agreement to end strike

Denver teachers are ending a strike that began Monday after reaching an agreement with the school system that will provide an extra $23 million for pay and give teachers an average salary increase of nearly 12 percent next year. Thousands of Denver teachers had walked off the job in their first strike in 25 years to protest a performance pay structure they said was confusing and hard to predict. The strike, which left schools in Colorado's largest school district open but understaffed, was the latest in a series of teacher protests around the U.S. As part of the deal to bring teachers back to work, Denver Public Schools also agreed to overhaul the incentive pay system. [The Washington Post]

10.

Fierce storm with record rainfall hits California with flooding, mudslides

A brutal winter storm heavy with subtropical moisture continued to spread damage across California on Thursday, after breaking daily precipitation records a day earlier. Sacramento got 1.94 inches of rain on Wednesday, shattering the record of 1.61 inches set in 1926. The moisture-rich storm, known as an atmospheric river, first hit Northern California and headed south. It caused widespread flooding on Thursday, forcing some people to evacuate their homes. It also triggered some mudslides, including one that dislodged a Marin County home from its foundation and sent it sliding into another house. Rescuers pulled a woman from the debris. "Surprisingly, she was in great condition," Southern Marin Fire District Capt. Doug Paterson said. [Los Angeles Times]