Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 5, 2019

Harold Maass
Trump at a White House meeting
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

1.

Trump backs off border closure threat, gives Mexico 1-year warning

President Trump backed away Thursday from his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border. Earlier in the week, Trump said he would shut down the border completely to stem the flow of drugs and undocumented immigrants. On Thursday, Trump said he was giving Mexico a "one-year warning" to discourage illegal immigration from Central America and curb drug smuggling. If Mexico fails to make significant progress, he said, he will act. The most likely first step would be tariffs on cars made in Mexico, because that would be a "very powerful incentive," Trump said. "Mexico understands that we're going to close the border or I'm going to tariff the cars — one or the other," Trump said. [NPR, The Wall Street Journal]

2.

Pelosi: Congress suing to block Trump border wall money

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Congress would file a lawsuit to block President Trump from using money earmarked for national emergencies to pay for his long-promised wall on the southern border. Trump declared a national emergency in February to free up money for the wall after Congress refused to fund it. The House and the Senate both approved a measure rejecting the emergency declaration, but Trump vetoed the legislation. "The president's action clearly violates the Appropriations Clause by stealing from appropriated funds, an action that was not authorized by constitutional or statutory authority," Pelosi said. Attorney General William Barr said the emergency declaration was legal. [Reuters]

3.

Trump says U.S., China close to 'epic' trade deal

President Trump said Thursday that an "epic" trade deal with China was nearly done but could take a few more weeks. He said he would hold a summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign an agreement and end the U.S.-China trade war once the remaining issues are resolved, including how to dial back tariffs imposed during a dispute that has rattled global markets. Trump met at the White House on Thursday with Liu He, China's vice premier and special trade envoy, who had traveled to Washington this week for a new round of trade talks. Trump said Thursday that the talks were going well and the world's two largest economies were getting closer to "the biggest deal ever made." [The New York Times]

4.

Michael Cohen's attorneys seek delay to start of his prison term

Michael Cohen's attorneys sent Congress a letter on Thursday saying President Trump's former lawyer and fixer has found files on a hard drive that could be useful to investigators. Cohen is scheduled to report to prison May 6 to serve a three-year sentence for financial crimes, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress. His attorneys, Lanny Davis and Michael Monico, asked lawmakers in the letter for help persuading the Southern District of New York to let Cohen delay the start of his prison time so the files can be reviewed. "We hope that this memorandum demonstrates that Mr. Cohen needs to be readily accessible and immediately available to provide ongoing assistance to Congress," Cohen's lawyers said in the letter. [CNN, USA Today]

5.

Theresa May asks the EU for another Brexit delay

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday asked the European Union for another Brexit extension, requesting to push the U.K.'s departure from April 12 to June 30. May said she would make contingency plans to participate in European Parliament elections late next month. European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday proposed a longer extension, urging the 27 remaining members of the trading bloc to offer Britain a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the U.K. doesn't crash out of the EU in a way that would cause widespread economic harm. Any extension requires unanimous approval. British lawmakers have repeatedly rejected the Brexit deal May reached with the EU, and they are considering legislation to prevent a "no-deal" Brexit.

6.

Trump accuses Democrats of worst 'presidential harassment' ever

President Trump on Thursday accused Democrats of hitting him with the "highest level of presidential harassment" in U.S. history. "There is nothing we can ever give to the Democrats that will make them happy," Trump tweeted. The complaint came as committees in the Democrat-controlled House approved subpoenas for Trump's tax returns and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's full report on Russian election interference. Trump initially said the report should be made public but later backpedaled, saying he would defer to the attorney general. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox & Friends that the Democrats' scrutiny of Trump showed them to be "sore losers" and "a sad excuse for a political party." [The Washington Post]

7.

House approves call to end U.S. participation in Yemen war

The House voted 247 to 175 Thursday to end U.S. participation in Yemen's civil war. Lawmakers denounced the Saudi-led bombing campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, saying it had deepened an already devastating humanitarian crisis. The vote in the Democrat-controlled House fell largely along party lines. The Senate passed the resolution last month with the support of seven Republicans, so the measure now goes to President Trump, who is expected to veto it. The approval marked the latest in a series of challenges to President Trump, coming after similar rebukes over his policies on Syria, Afghanistan, and NATO. [The Washington Post]

8.

Mormon Church reverses anti-LGBT policy

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Thursday it would start allowing baptisms of children of same-sex couples. The policy marked a sharp reversal of a policy in a church long opposed to gay rights. The church established a rule in 2015 barring the children of same-sex couples from baptisms and other rituals. The controversial decision drove many members away, and now church leaders hope to lure them back under a push by a new church president to be more accepting of mainstream views. "While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline," the First Presidency, the Mormon Church's highest governing body, said. "Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way." [The New York Times]

9.

Trump says he wants Herman Cain on Federal Reserve Board

President Trump said Thursday he wanted to nominate Herman Cain for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, calling the former CEO of the Godfather's Pizza chain "a truly outstanding individual." Cain ran for president in 2012 but his campaign ended after several women accused him of sexual harassment. Cain previously directed the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He is the second political ally with past ethical issues Trump has proposed for the Fed, which is traditionally independent. Last month, Trump said he planned to nominate conservative economist and former campaign adviser Stephen Moore as a Fed governor. The White House on Monday stood by Trump's backing of Moore despite reports about financial problems, including Moore's failure to pay more than $330,000 in spousal support. [The New York Times, Bloomberg]

10.

WikiLeaks tweets that Ecuador plans to expel Assange from embassy

WikiLeaks tweeted Thursday that Ecuador plans to expel the anti-secrecy site's founder, Julian Assange, from its London embassy within "hours to days," and has reached an agreement with the U.K. for his arrest. WikiLeaks said the plan was in response its recent tweet linking to a website alleging corruption during Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno's service as a United Nations special envoy. Assange jumped bail and sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on rape allegations. Assange also wants to avoid being sent to the U.S. to face possible punishment for publishing secret government documents. A senior Ecuadorian official told The Associated Press that no decision had been made regarding Assange. [Bloomberg, The Associated Press]