Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 9, 2019

Harold Maass
William Barr testifying


House panel votes to hold Barr in contempt

The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-16 along party lines on Wednesday to recommend that the House hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over an unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump. Trump asserted executive privilege over the Mueller report, the first time he has invoked the executive authority. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the White House had now provoked a "constitutional crisis." White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused Nadler of forcing Trump's hand with a "blatant abuse of power." [The Washington Post]


China vows to respond in kind if Trump imposes new tariffs

China on Wednesday threatened to respond in kind if President Trump follows through with a threat to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports this week. Beijing said Trump's "escalation of trade tensions did not suit the interests of the people of the two countries or the people of the world." Trump repeated his vow to hike the levies in a tweet, and accused China of trying to put off finalizing a trade deal in the hope of negotiating a softer deal with a future administration of "very weak Democrats," so they can continue to "ripoff the United States" for years into the future. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to participate in the latest round of trade talks Thursday and Friday in Washington. Trump said the Chinese delegation is "coming to the U.S. to make a deal. We'll see." [South China Morning Post]


Maduro government 'kidnapped' opposition figure, Guaidó says

Venezuelan intelligence agents have "kidnapped" National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano, opposition leader Juan Guaidó said Wednesday. Zambrano was the first opposition leader arrested in a crackdown launched after a failed uprising against embattled President Nicólas Maduro last week. Intelligence agents found Zambrano inside his car, and after he refused to get out, they towed the vehicle to the notorious political prison El Helicoide, British newspaper The Guardian reported. Guaidó suggested Zambrano was detained in the hopes that this would shatter the opposition-led National Assembly. The U.S. State Department called Zambrano's detention "illegal and inexcusable." Pedro Carreño, a top member of Maduro's Socialist party, said if opposition leaders "continue down the path of coup-mongering they will end up in jail." [The Guardian]


Trump broadens sanctions against Iran

President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on Iran's metal sector, its largest non-petroleum source of revenue. The move came hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Tehran would scale back its adherence to its landmark 2015 nuclear deal, which exchanged limits on its nuclear program for sanctions relief. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord a year ago. Rouhani did not scrap the deal entirely, but he gave European nations 60 days to decide between following Trump's lead and saving the deal by defying U.S. sanctions and continuing to buy Iranian oil. Trump said in a statement Wednesday that Tehran "can expect further actions unless it fundamentally alters its conduct." [CNN, The New York Times]


New York lawmakers advance bill on releasing Trump state tax returns

The New York State Senate on Wednesday approved a bill seeking to help Congress get ahold of President Trump's state tax returns. The bill would change state law to allow the state Department of Taxation and Finance commissioner to release returns requested by the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation, provided lawmakers need them for a "specific and legitimate legislative purpose." The Trump administration has refused House Democrats' request for Trump's federal tax returns. "The state return should generally match the federal return," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said, "and obtaining it from New York State will enable us in Congress to perform our oversight function and maintain the rule of law." The bill has also advanced in the New York State Assembly, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has said he would sign it. [NBC News]


Senate panel subpoenas Donald Trump Jr.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about his previous testimony before Senate investigators concerning Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference. The committee also wants to ask about his account of a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. It's the first known subpoena of one of President Trump's children, pitting a Republican committee chair against a member of a Republican president's family. Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017, saying he was only "peripherally aware" of the Trump Organization's proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow during his father's presidential campaign. Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, challenged that claim in his February House testimony. [Axios, The New York Times]


North Korea tests missiles for second time in a week

North Korea launched an "unidentified projectile" from its northwest coast on Thursday, the South Korean military announced. It was the second such test in less than a week. Five days earlier, North Korea fired several short-range missiles that flew up to 125 miles before coming down in the sea between North Korea and Japan. State media KCNA on Wednesday quoted a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry saying last week's launch was a self-defense military drill, rejecting criticism that it was provocative. Some analysts have interpreted the launches as signs of Pyongyang's frustration over the stalling of talks over its nuclear arsenal and the lifting of sanctions following the collapse of leader Kim Jong Un's second summit with President Trump in February. [The New York Times, NBC News]


Student killed in Colorado school shooting rushed gunman

The student killed in a shooting at a Colorado science and technology school was shot when he rushed one of the two gunman and slammed him into a wall, witnesses and officials said Wednesday. Kendrick Castillo, 18, was in a literature class when one of the two alleged attackers, identified as 18-year-old student Devon Erickson, entered the classroom. "The next thing I know, he's pulling a gun and telling nobody to move," student Nui Giasolli told NBC's Today show. "That's when Kendrick lunged at him, and he shot Kendrick, giving us all enough time to get underneath our desks to get ourselves safe, to run across the room to escape." Two other students then disarmed the suspect and pinned him down. An armed security guard also confronted one of the gunmen. [The Associated Press, ABC News]


Denver decriminalizes 'magic mushrooms' after early count suggested defeat

In a surprising turnaround, the city of Denver released "final unofficial results" showing that an initiative seeking to decriminalize hallucinogenic "magic mushrooms" was narrowly approved, 50.56 percent to 49.44 percent. Earlier unofficial results suggested the measure was headed to defeat, with "no" votes in a substantial lead. The initiative seeks to make Denver the first U.S. city to essentially prohibit the enforcement of criminal penalties for possession of psilocybin mushrooms intended for personal use. The results won't be certified until May 16. "The last 24 hours have been a hell of a ride," said Kevin Matthews, leader of Decriminalize Denver, which pushed the ordinance. "Most of the votes are in, though there are still some outstanding absentee ballots. This is the unofficial, official victory." [Los Angeles Times]


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle name their son Archie

The U.K.'s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have named their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, Buckingham Palace announced on Wednesday. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex publicly debuted the royal baby for the first time since his birth on Monday. "It's magic," Markle said. "It's pretty amazing. I have the two best guys in the world, so I'm really happy." She also said that their son has the "sweetest temperament" and has been "really calm." Harry added that "parenting is amazing." The couple also introduced Archie, who is seventh in the royal line of succession, to Queen Elizabeth II. [CNN, The Associated Press]

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