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10 things you need to know today: April 4, 2019

A House panel approves a subpoena for the full Mueller report, Biden vows to change his behavior after complaints, and more


House committee approves subpoena for full Mueller report

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve a subpoena for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's full report and all evidence gathered by his team. The panel also authorized subpoenas for evidence from top former advisers to President Trump, including former strategist Stephen Bannon, former communications director Hope Hicks, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and former White House counsel Don McGahn. The committee did not immediately issue the subpoenas, but gave Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) permission to do it later. The party-line vote marked the first step by Congress to force Attorney General William Barr to release Mueller's findings on Russia's 2016 election meddling. Nadler said the report "probably isn't the 'total exoneration' the president claims it to be," so Congress needs to take a look for itself.


Biden vows to change behavior after complaints of unwanted touching

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a possible 2020 presidential candidate, promised Wednesday to be "more mindful and respectful of people's personal space" after four women said he made them uncomfortable by touching them inappropriately at public events. "Social norms have begun to change, they've shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset, and I get it," Biden said. "I hear what they're saying. I understand it." One of the women said Biden hugged her "just a little bit too long" at an event on sexual assault when she was 19. Some prominent Democratic women, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), defended Biden, saying he didn't mean to be disrespectful and warning allies not to weaken a potential candidate who might have the best chance to beat President Trump.


Report: Some Mueller investigators say Barr downplayed their findings

Some of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators have told associates that Attorney General William Barr did not accurately summarize their findings, saying Mueller's report was more damaging to President Trump than Barr indicated, The New York Times reported Thursday. Two days after Mueller submitted his nearly 400-page report to Barr last month, the attorney general sent Congress a four-page memo summarizing the key conclusions. Barr noted that the Mueller inquiry found no evidence of collusion between Trump's campaign and Moscow, but noted that Mueller explicitly did not exonerate Trump on whether the president tried to obstruct justice. Barr and his deputy cleared Trump, saying there wasn't enough evidence of obstruction. Mueller investigators reportedly have told associates the evidence on obstruction was more alarming than Barr suggested.


McConnell invokes 'nuclear option' to advance more Trump nominations

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday used the so-called "nuclear option" to bypass a 60-vote threshold to advance lower-level executive branch nominations, allowing the nominations to be moved along with a simple 51-vote majority. McConnell used Senate procedural tactics to limit debate and push through President Trump's non-Cabinet-level executive and district judgeship nominations. McConnell's actions are expected to speed up the confirmation process. McConnell used the same tactics on Supreme Court confirmations, which long required 60 votes, to get Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh confirmed. Politicians long avoided going nuclear, until 2013 when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked it to confirm then-President Barack Obama's Cabinet and district judge nominees.


Ethiopia says 737 MAX pilots followed Boeing instructions before crash

The pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing MAX 8 plane that crashed last month, killing 157 people, followed Boeing's recommended procedures but could not correct a nosedive shortly after takeoff, according to the first official report on the disaster. "The crew performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft," Ethiopia's transport minister, Dagmawit Moges, said Thursday as she delivered the report in the capital, Addis Ababa. Moges recommended that Boeing review an automated flight control system suspected of pointing the nose down due to faulty sensor readings. The findings increased pressure on Boeing ahead of the rollout of a software fix for the system following similar crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia five months apart.


Brunei enacts death-by-stoning anti-LGBT law

Brunei on Wednesday put into effect a law that includes death by stoning for sex between men or adultery, and amputation of limbs for theft. The measure sparked global outrage expressed by other governments, human rights groups, and others. The tiny but oil-rich monarchy on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia based its new penal code on an interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, which can vary widely. "Brunei's new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn't even be crimes," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Wednesday. Robertson called on Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world's wealthiest people, to "immediately suspend" punishments that violate human rights.


U.S., China start 9th round of trade talks

The U.S. and China on Wednesday started their ninth round of talks aiming to end a trade war that has rattled global markets. Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the two sides made "good headway" in the last meetings, in which U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met in Beijing with Chinese counterparts led by Vice Premier Liu He. Kudlow said he was optimistic that the two countries would get closer to a deal this week. "They'll be here for three days, maybe more," he told reporters at a roundtable sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. "We're not there yet and we hope this week we get closer." U.S. stock futures were nearly flat early Thursday, inching down as investors awaited news from the talks.


Trump signs call for crackdown on fake goods sold online

President Trump signed a memorandum on Wednesday aiming to curb the sale of counterfeit merchandise online, sending a warning to Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and other online marketplaces. "This is a shot across the bow to those companies. If you don't clean it up, then the government will," Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro said. The marketplaces have been struggling to discourage the sale of fake products by third-party vendors. The Trump administration is requiring the Homeland Security, Commerce, and Justice departments to report back within 210 days. Investigators said in a 2018 Government Accountability Office report that 40 percent of the goods they bought on major online marketplaces were fake.


House panel asks IRS for 6 years of Trump tax returns

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) sent the Internal Revenue Service a letter on Wednesday formally requesting six years of President Trump's tax returns. Neal is asking for Trump's personal tax returns from 2013 to 2018, and the tax returns for eight of Trump's businesses, by April 10, CNN reports. In his letter, Neal said the committee needs to see the returns while discussing legislation connected to the IRS practice of auditing sitting presidents. Neal told CNN in a statement that this is about "policy, not politics. My preparations were made on my own track and timeline, entirely independent of other activities in Congress and the administration." Trump said he is under audit and "would not be inclined" to released his tax returns until the audit is over.


1st parent pleads guilty in college admissions scandal

Peter Jan Sartorio, 53, on Wednesday became the first of 33 parents charged in a college-admissions bribery scandal to plead guilty. The deal involving Sartorio, a California packaged-food entrepreneur, came as actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, as well as some other defendants, appeared in a Boston court. Sartorio was accused of paying $15,000 in cash to have someone correct answers on his daughter's ACT exam. Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to cheat on her daughter's exam. Fifty people in all have been charged in the scheme, which also rigged tests and gave bribes to coaches to help get some of the students into highly selective schools, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California.


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