Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 2, 2019

A whistleblower describes White House security clearance issues, House Democrats plan to subpoena full Mueller report, and more


Whistleblower alerts Democrats to security clearance issues

House Democrats said Monday that a White House whistleblower had told them that the Trump administration brushed off objections and gave security clearances to at least 25 people, including the president's daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and National Security Adviser John Bolton. Tricia Newbold, a White House security adviser, told congressional Democrats that the clearances initially were denied due to such issues as possible foreign influence, conflicts of interests, financial difficulties, drug abuse, or other problems. Newbold is one of several career staffers in charge of reviewing clearance applications. Her allegations were spelled out in a memo House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) released Monday. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) called Cummings' memo "a partisan attack on the White House."


Democrats to subpoena full Mueller report

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Monday that his committee would vote on Wednesday to authorize a subpoena of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's full, unredacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. House Democrats previously set an April 2 deadline for Attorney General William Barr to deliver them Mueller's full report. Barr has said that Mueller did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia, but did not determine whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr promised on Friday to release a version of the report by mid-April. Though Democrats will likely authorize the subpoena, it will be up to Nadler to decide when to issue it.


Clash over Puerto Rico stalls emergency relief bill in Senate

A massive emergency relief bill for natural-disaster victims failed to clear the Senate on Monday as Democrats and Republicans fought over President Trump's opposition to additional food and infrastructure aid for Puerto Rico, which is still trying to recover from 2017's Hurricane Maria. Republicans refused to support a House-approved recovery bill, citing Trump's position on Puerto Rico funding and insufficient funding for Midwestern states hit hard by flooding and tornadoes. Democrats opposed the $13.45 billion legislation because they said a proposed $600 million for Puerto Rico's food stamp program was not enough to meet the U.S. Caribbean territory's recovery needs. The Democrat-backed House bill contains hundreds of millions of dollars more for Puerto Rico.


Supreme Court rules against death-row inmate

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled against a Missouri death-row inmate, Russell Bucklew, who argued that due to a rare medical condition he could die in agony if the state gives him a lethal injection. Bucklew argued that would be unconstitutional because it would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. "The Eighth Amendment has never been understood to guarantee a condemned inmate a painless death," said Justice Neil Gorsuch for the 5-4 conservative majority. "That's a luxury not guaranteed to many people, including most victims of capital crimes." Members of the liberal minority dissented sharply. "If a death sentence or the manner in which it is carried out violates the Constitution, that stain can never come out," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.


2nd woman says Biden touched her inappropriately

A second woman on Monday accused former Vice President Joe Biden of inappropriately touching her. Amy Lappos of Connecticut told the Hartford Courant that Biden pulled her close to rub noses while she was volunteering at a 2009 political fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.). "It wasn't sexual, but he did grab me by the head," Lappos said. "He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth." Biden, who is considering running for president in 2020, has said he has expressed affection to many women during his decades-long political career but never did anything he felt was inappropriate.


U.K. lawmakers reject 'soft' Brexit options

British Parliament on Monday rejected two "soft" Brexit proposals, continuing a string of votes against several alternatives for moving ahead with the U.K.'s planned exit from the European Union. Lawmakers also voted against backing a second referendum, or canceling Brexit. "I can't say with any confidence what will happen, and, in that respect, I think I'm frankly not in a minority," said House of Commons Speaker John Bercow. The House of Commons has failed to make progress since trying to seize control of the process from Prime Minister Theresa May, whose proposed Brexit deal has been rejected three times. Britain now has nine days before an EU deadline to accept a deal, or crash out of the trading bloc without one.


White House stands behind Fed nominee Stephen Moore

The White House on Monday stood by President Trump's proposed nomination of Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve board in the wake of reports about Moore's financial problems, including his failure to pay more than $330,000 in spousal support. The Guardian newspaper reported over the weekend that Moore's divorce records indicated a court had held Moore in contempt for not paying the spousal support. An administration official said the information from the divorce would not change plans for the nomination of Moore, a Trump ally. A Virginia judge temporarily sealed the divorce records at the request of Moore's former wife, Allison Moore.


New Zealand gun ban clears first vote

New Zealand lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed new gun restrictions in an initial vote. The bill would ban the types of semiautomatic weapons a gunman used to kill 50 people at two mosques last month. It could be rushed into law by late next week with nearly unanimous backing, after just one lawmaker voted against it. "We are also driven by the memory of 50 men, women, and children who were taken from their loved ones on the 15th of March," Police Minister Stuart Nash said. "Their memory is our responsibility. We don't ever want to see an attack like this in our country again. We are compelled to act quickly."


Report: Trump weighs naming 'immigration czar'

President Trump is considering naming a border or immigration "czar" to coordinate immigration policy as various federal agencies participate in a push to curb illegal immigration, The Associated Press reported Monday, citing four people familiar with the discussions. Trump's top candidates reportedly include former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, both far-right conservatives known for their hardline immigration views. Kobach served as a leader on Trump's short-lived election fraud commission. White House press aides, Kobach, and Cuccinelli did not immediately respond to the AP's requests for comment.


Baltimore mayor takes indefinite leave amid growing scandal over book sales

Embattled Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) announced Monday she is taking an indefinite leave of absence. She has faced mounting calls for her resignation, and Maryland's governor has requested a state criminal investigation into "deeply disturbing" allegations involving sales of her self-published children's book to companies and organizations with substantial business with the city and state. The University of Maryland Medical System spent $500,000 on 100,000 copies of Pugh's Healthy Holly books from 2012 to 2018, while Pugh sat on its board, and Kaiser Permanente bought about 20,000 copies for $114,000 while bidding for a $48 million city contract awarded by a board Pugh controlled. Pugh cited her deteriorating health for her leave of absence.


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