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10 things you need to know today: April 24, 2019

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Harold Maass
Trump at a conference
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1.

Trump opposes lawmakers' efforts to follow up on Mueller report

The White House plans to fight a House Judiciary Committee subpoena calling former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify next month. The Trump administration plans to assert executive privilege to block McGahn's testimony, and will also fight other requests from lawmakers investigating possible obstruction of justice described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. McGahn, mentioned 157 times in Mueller's report, told investigators President Trump once pressured him to oust Mueller. Trump told The Washington Post he does not want any current or former White House aides to testify before congressional panels in connection with Mueller's report. "There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it's very partisan — obviously very partisan," Trump said. [The Washington Post]

2.

Biden expected to announce presidential bid Thursday

Former Vice President Joe Biden plans to announce Thursday that he is running for president in 2020, according to Tuesday news reports. Biden, 76, has consistently appeared near the top in polls and would instantly be considered among the frontrunners in a crowded field of 20 people vying for the Democratic nomination. Sources familiar with Biden's plans confirmed the news to The Associated Press and CNN. Biden's team has been preparing for a possible campaign for months. Biden reportedly is scheduled to hold his first campaign event Monday in Pittsburgh. "The theme for the announcement is going to be 'the battle for the soul of America,'" one source said of Biden's campaign launch, which will come in the form of a video. [The Associated Press, CNN]

3.

Sri Lanka mourns bombing victims as ISIS claims responsibility

Mourners in Sri Lanka on Tuesday began mass burials of the victims of suicide bombings at three churches during Easter Sunday services, and at three hotels. The death toll from the coordinated attacks rose to more than 350 people on Tuesday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility and released images purportedly showing the attackers' leader. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said investigators had not yet determined what foreign links the bombers had. Authorities have blamed the attacks on the little-known homegrown Islamist extremist group National Towheed Jamaar, and one Sri Lankan leader said the bombings were meant as retaliation for the recent shooting spree at two Christchurch, New Zealand, mosques.

4.

Trump meets with Twitter's Dorsey after censorship complaint

President Trump met at the White House Tuesday with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey after accusing the social media site of playing "political games" by quietly removing some of his 60 million followers. Trump, who has threatened to regulate Facebook, Google, and Twitter after accusing them of anti-conservative bias, said fellow conservatives have complained that they have mysteriously lost followers, too. Dorsey reportedly repeated Twitter's explanation that follower figures fluctuate as the company deletes spam accounts, a practice that Dorsey said had also affected his own follower count. Twitter, Facebook, and Google deny censoring conservatives. Twitter said the White House meeting, called by Trump, focused largely on "protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections" and discussing the opioid crisis. [The Washington Post]

5.

U.S. markets return to record territory

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite, two of the three main U.S. stock indexes, rose to record highs on Tuesday, capping a swift recovery from a late 2018 plunge. Tuesday's gains came after stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings reports by several major companies, including Twitter, Lockheed Martin, and Hasbro. The S&P is now up 25 percent from its Christmas Eve low. Eighty percent of the S&P 500 companies that have reported so far this earnings season have beaten Wall Street's expectations. Investors are reacting to "a really great string of earnings reports, most of them outpacing expectations, as well as some pretty good commentary on future estimates from CEOs," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Weeden. Futures for the main U.S. indexes were flat early Wednesday. [Bloomberg]

6.

Conservative justices express openness to census citizenship question

The Supreme Court's conservative majority showed signs of willingness to uphold the Trump administration's plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite evidence it could lead to millions of Hispanics and immigrants going uncounted. Such an undercount could affect elections for a decade. The census figures affect how many seats states have in the House of Representatives, and states with more immigrants lean Democratic. Three lower courts have blocked the plan because of the possibility of discouraging immigrants from participating. Two of the judges said this would violate the Constitution's call for a once-a-decade population count, regardless of citizenship status. Liberal justices questioned the reason for adding the question. "This is a solution in search of a problem," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. [The Associated Press]

7.

IRS fails to hand over Trump taxes by congressional deadline

The Internal Revenue Service let a Tuesday deadline pass without releasing President Trump's tax returns as requested by the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) that he was still deliberating and would make a final decision by May 6 on whether to release Trump's returns. He said in a letter to Neal that the request raised constitutional and privacy issues that the Justice Department is exploring. Mnuchin questioned Democrats' motives, saying "exposure for the sake of exposure" is not adequate justification. Numerous legal experts have said there was little precedent for turning down such a congressional inquiry. Neal has twice formally asked the IRS for Trump's returns. Mnuchin has asked for more time in both instances. [The Washington Post, Reuters]

8.

Brothers sue Smollett lawyers for defamation

Two brothers, Abimbola Osundairo and Olabinjo Osundairo, are suing actor Jussie Smollett's lawyers, accusing them of defamation for continuing to say they targeted Smollett in a "criminally homophobic, racist, and violent attack." Chicago prosecutors have dropped charges against Smollett, who was accused of paying the brothers to stage the attack, even though authorities maintain they could prove the attack was a hoax. Smollett's lawyers have said publicly he told the truth about being attacked. "These lies are destroying our character and reputation in our personal and professional lives," the brothers said. Smollett's attorneys, Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian, called the lawsuit "ridiculous" and "a desperate attempt" to "further profit from an attack they admit they perpetrated." [The Associated Press]

9.

U.N. report: 1 million species face extinction due to human activity

A draft United Nations report obtained by Agence France-Presse says up to 1 million species face extinction, many within decades, as a result of human influence. The report, set to be revealed on May 6, said deforestation has led to the loss of greenhouse gas-absorbing trees, polluted waters are killing protein-rich fish, and pollinating insects are dying rapidly. The pace of species loss is "tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years," the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report says. The causes are shrinking habitats, hunting, climate change, pollution, and invasive species, all of which can be traced to human activity. [Agence France-Presse]

10.

1st drug CEO faces criminal charges over opioid crisis

Former Rochester Drug Co-Operative CEO Laurence Doud III has become the first drug company executive to be criminally charged in connection with the national opioid epidemic, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday. Prosecutors said Doud, 75, "made the deliberate decision" to ignore pharmacy customers who were distributing opioids for non-medical purposes, seeking to make more money for the company and himself. His pay more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 thanks largely to soaring sales of such drugs as oxycodone and fentanyl. Doud, who faces two conspiracy counts, surrendered in New York City. His lawyer said he would fight the allegations. The company also was charged, and entered a deferred prosecution agreement. [The Associated Press]