Daily Briefing

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

Harold Maass
Julian Assange with police
Jack Taylor/Getty Images


White House proposed releasing migrants in sanctuary cities

President Trump's top aides proposed releasing detained migrants into "sanctuary cities" represented by Democrats to retaliate against opponents of his immigration policies, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing Homeland Security officials and administration emails. White House officials, led by immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, suggested sending detained undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities in November, as Trump was condemning a migrant caravan approaching the U.S.-Mexico border, and in February, during a standoff with Democrats over border-wall funding. The San Francisco district represented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reportedly was one of the Democratic strongholds the White House suggested targeting. Pelosi's office called it "despicable" to treat human beings as "pawns." The White House said the idea was "floated and rejected." [The Washington Post]


U.S. unseals hacking indictment against Assange

The U.S. has charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack government computers to get U.S. secrets, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday. British police arrested Assange and carried him out of Ecuador's London embassy, where he sought refuge seven years ago to avoid being sent to Sweden for questioning on rape allegations. Ecuador President Lenin Moreno said he kicked out Assange after "repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols." Moreno called Assange a "spoiled brat" who treated his hosts disrespectfully. Assange was brought before a British court, marking the first step in his U.S. extradition, which he vowed to fight. His lawyers said the charges would chill press freedom, although he wasn't charged for publishing classified documents. [The Associated Press, Reuters]


Ex-Obama White House counsel accused of lying to Mueller team

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted former Obama administration White House counsel Greg Craig on charges of making false statements and concealing information about his work for Ukraine. The case stems from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling. Craig, 74, is the highest-profile Democrat to face charges related to Mueller's investigation, which led to charges against numerous associates of President Trump. Craig was the latest defendant targeted based on a once-obscure law against failing to register as a foreign agent. Craig's lawyers called the indictment "unfair and misleading," saying Craig had no desire to mislead authorities "because he had not done anything that required his registration." [CNN]


GOP defections appear to sink Cain's Fed appointment

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) on Thursday joined three other Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Cory Gardner of Colorado — in opposition to President Trump's selection of Herman Cain to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. With 53 Republicans in the 100-seat Senate, three defections would be enough to sink Cain's nomination. Cain, who once ran Godfather's Pizza, served as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in the 1990s. He ran for president in 2012, pitching his so-called "9-9-9" tax plan, but his candidacy fizzled after he faced sexual harassment allegations. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the FBI is still working on Cain's background check, and that he remained Trump's pick "at the moment." [The Washington Post]


Ohio governor signs heartbeat abortion bill

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed into law on Thursday a new abortion bill which passed the state legislature Wednesday. The legislation prohibits abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat, which is usually around the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy. It includes an exception to save the life of the mother but does not have exceptions for pregnancies conceived through rape or incest. Similar "heartbeat bills" have already passed in five other states, though two are held up by court challenges. Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed the Ohio legislation twice in anticipation of similar court battles, and the ACLU of Ohio has already promised to fight the new law in court. [The Associated Press, Cincinnati Enquirer]


Ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt confirmed as interior secretary

The Senate on Thursday voted 56-41 to confirm David Bernhardt as the new interior secretary. Bernhardt was previously the deputy secretary and served as acting secretary following the departure of his predecessor, Ryan Zinke. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats, joined Republicans in backing Bernhardt. In addition to previous roles at the Department of Interior, Bernhardt has worked as a lobbyist representing energy industry and agribusiness clients. Several Senate Democrats and government watchdog groups have pushed for investigation into whether he has misused his positions at the department to benefit former clients. [The Hill, The New York Times]


Grand jury indicts Avenatti on fraud charges

A federal grand jury has indicted attorney Michael Avenatti on 36 counts, prosecutors disclosed Thursday. Avenatti, the lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump, is charged with wire, tax, bank, and bankruptcy fraud. He allegedly stole millions of dollars from five clients and used the money for personal expenses, including a private jet. Prosecutors also said Avenatti submitted fake tax forms to receive a loan and failed to file personal income tax returns since 2010. Avenatti had previously been arrested for allegedly trying to extort Nike, as well as for alleged wire and bank fraud. Avenatti denied any wrongdoing, saying he would plead not guilty and looked "forward to the entire truth being known." [CNN, The Washington Post]


Protests continue against Sudan regime after Bashir ousted

Thousands of protesters vowed to continue demonstrating in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, despite the ouster and arrest of the long-time president, Omar al-Bashir. Protesters defied a curfew imposed by a new military council that government opponents said was no different from the previous administration. "This is a continuation of the same regime," said Sara Abdeljalil of the Sudanese Professionals Association. "So what we need to do is to continue the fight and the peaceful resistance." The standoff stoked fears of violent clashes between the crowds and security forces. [BBC News]


Deputy's son charged in arson fires at Louisiana black churches

Louisiana authorities on Thursday confirmed that the suspect arrested for arson fires at three historically black Louisiana churches was 21-year-old Holden Matthews, the son of a sheriff's deputy. State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning said the suspect might have been influenced by "black metal" music, a subgenre of heavy metal with anti-Christian, satanic, and paganistic themes that has an "associated history with church burnings." Gov. John Bel Edwards called the attacks a reminder of "a very dark past of intimidation and fear." Matthews was charged after police traced his debit card to the purchase of a gas can, rags, and a lighter at a local Walmart hours before the first fire, at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre on March 26. [CNN]


Disney sets streaming service price at $6.99 a month

Disney announced Thursday that it would launch its Disney+ video streaming service on Nov. 12. The service will give subscribers access to Disney's vast film and TV library, as well as new shows. In its first year, the service will run 10 original films and 25 original series, including three Avengers spinoffs. Subscriptions will cost $6.99 monthly, or $69.99 annually. "We are starting from a position of strength and optimism," CEO Bob Iger said. The subscription cost came in within the range analysts had predicted, at roughly half the price of Netflix's standard HD plan. Disney expects to sign up 60 to 90 million subscribers by 2024. [The New York Times, CNBC]