Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 20, 2019

Harold Maass
Trump at a trade expo
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images


Trump warns that war would 'be the official end of Iran'

President Trump on Sunday stepped up his rhetoric against Iran, threatening in a tweet: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran." He went on to say, "Never threaten the United States again!" The warning came following a U.S. decision to beef up its military presence in the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence suggesting Iran or militants allied with it were planning an attack on U.S. assets in the region, and shortly after a rocket of undetermined origin fell in Iraq's heavily fortified Green Zone near the U.S. Embassy, causing no casualties. Trump took a more measured approach in an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday night. "I'm not somebody that wants to go into war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly — by far most importantly," he said. "I don't want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran, you can't let them have nuclear weapons — you just can't let that happen." [CNN, Newsweek]


NYT: Deutsche Bank ignored suspicious activity in Trump, Kushner accounts

Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialists in 2016 and 2017 recommended reporting transactions that involved legal entities controlled by President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to a Treasury Department financial-crimes watchdog, The New York Times reported Sunday. Bank executives reportedly rejected the recommendation. Some of the alleged transactions involved Trump's charitable foundation, which has since shut down. A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization told Reuters the story was "absolute nonsense," and that the company has "no knowledge of any 'flagged' transactions with Deutsche Bank. In fact, we have no operating accounts with Deutsche Bank." A Kushner Companies spokeswoman called the suggestion of dodgy transactions "made up and totally false." [The New York Times, Reuters]


Billionaire investor to pay off Morehouse graduates' student loans

Billionaire investor Robert F. Smith shocked graduating seniors at Morehouse College during his commencement speech on Sunday when he told them he would pay off the student-loan debts of everyone in their class at the historically black, all-male college in Atlanta. "On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we're going to put a little fuel in your bus," he said. The students responded with a standing ovation. Morehouse President David Thomas said Smith had made a "liberation gift" that could total $40 million for the 396 students. "We're looking at each other like, 'Is he being serious?'" salutatorian Robert James said. "That's a lot of money." Another graduate, Jonathan Epps, called the gift a "tremendous blessing" and the most generous act he had ever seen. [CNN]


India prime minister appears to have won re-election

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, appeared headed to have won re-election in his country's huge parliamentary elections, according to Sunday exit polls. Modi survived in the largest democratic vote ever despite widespread voter dissatisfaction over unemployment and the troubles of struggling farmers. Exit polls showed that many of the country's 900 million voters responded positively to Modi's forceful Hindu nationalist politics and the strong image his government has projected abroad. "Modi remains incredibly popular despite everything that's happened in the last five years," said South Asia expert Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Nothing really sticks to him." At least seven exit polls projected that Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies would take at least 280 of the 545 seats in the lower house of Parliament, enough to let them choose the prime minister. [The New York Times]


Demonstrators rally against Alabama abortion ban

Hundreds of demonstrators chanted "my body, my choice" and "vote them out" on Sunday during a march to the Alabama Capitol in protest of the state's abortion ban, which Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed into law last week. Similar protests also were held in Birmingham and Huntsville. "Banning abortion does not stop abortion. It stops safe abortion," said Staci Fox, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, at the demonstration in Montgomery. The law, the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation in the nation, essentially bans abortions with no exceptions for cases of rape and incest. It was intended as a challenge to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Several other states have approved bans on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. [NBC News]


Trump calls Republican 'loser' after impeachment remarks

President Trump on Sunday lashed out at Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the first Republican in Congress to suggest Trump could be impeached, calling the lawmaker a "loser," and a "total lightweight." Trump tweeted that Amash "opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy." The president's response came a day after Amash said Trump's behavior, as described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, had reached the "threshold for impeachment." Other Republicans, even Trump critics, declined to join Amash. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called Amash "courageous" but said there wasn't evidence to "prove an obstruction-of-justice case" against Trump. "Justin Amash has reached a different conclusion than I have," Romney said. [The New York Times]


Buttigieg uses Fox News town hall to criticize some of the channel's stars

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg participated in a Fox News town hall in New Hampshire on Sunday, and used the forum to slam two of the conservative cable-news channel's primetime opinion hosts, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, slammed Carlson for saying immigrants make the U.S. dirty, and Ingraham for suggesting detention centers for child migrants were like summer camps. When asked why he agreed to participate in a Fox News town hall, something fellow candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently said she would never do, Buttigieg said: "Even though some of those hosts are not there in good faith, I think a lot of people tune into this network who do it in good faith." [CNN]


Explosion injures tourists on bus near Egypt pyramids

An explosion hit a tourist bus near the Grand Egyptian Museum next to the pyramids of Giza on Sunday, injuring at least 16 people. The bus reportedly was carrying 25 South African tourists. The injured included seven South Africans. The rest of the victims were Egyptian civilians. Most of the injuries were minor. An explosive device detonated near the museum fence as the bus passed. Islamist extremist militants have targeted tourists in Egypt before, but no group immediately claimed responsibility for this attack. The tourism minister said the victims were being "fully supported in their onward travels." [BBC News]


Game of Thrones finale sparks mixed, emotional reactions

HBO's wildly popular Game of Thrones came to an end after eight seasons with the airing of the series finale Sunday night. The surprise ending [no spoilers here; but spoilers here] that spelled out who filled the power vacuum in Westeros left fans split at the end of a controversial and rocky final season. Twitter blew up with criticism from fans. The show's stars posted tributes to the project. Sophie Turner, who started playing Sansa Stark when she was barely 13 years old, credited the experience with making her the person she is today. "At 23 I leave you behind, but I will never leave behind what you’ve taught me," she wrote on Instagram. "To the show and the incredible people who make it, thank you for giving me the best life and drama lessons I could have ever asked for." [The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times]


Koepka wins second straight PGA Championship

Brooks Koepka won the PGA Championship on Sunday, hanging on despite losing all but one stroke of the record seven-shot lead he took into the golf championship's final round. As Koepka headed for his fourth straight bogey, the crowd at Bethpage Black on Long Island started chanting "DJ!" for Dustin Johnson, who closed in before missing his chance to catch up with Koepka with two straight bogeys of his own. Koepka's 74 was the highest final round for a PGA winner since 2004. "I'm just glad I don't have to play any more holes," Koepka said. "That was a stressful round of golf." The victory made Koepka the first male player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors (the U.S. Open and the PGA) simultaneously. [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]