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10 things you need to know today: June 14, 2019

Harold Maass
Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a news conference
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Pompeo blames Iran for apparent tanker attacks

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers carrying petrochemicals in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz, a key waterway for oil shipments. Iran's United Nations mission said it "categorically rejects" this "unfounded" claim. The U.S. military released a video it said showed members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers, suggesting they were trying to remove evidence. One of the tankers was Japan-owned. It was attacked just as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was ending a visit to Tehran aimed at easing tensions in the region, raising the question of whether the attack was intended to undermine the diplomacy. [The Washington Post, The Associated Press]


Trump says Sarah Huckabee Sanders leaving as press secretary

President Trump announced Thursday that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would leave her post next month. Trump called Sanders "a warrior," and said she should run for governor back home in Arkansas. Sanders is one of the few close Trump aides remaining from his campaign. Sanders said serving in the job was "the honor of a lifetime," and that she would remain an "outspoken and loyal" Trump supporter. Since Sanders succeeded Sean Spicer in the job in mid-2017, she has done away with regular White House press briefings and faced questions about her credibility. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report said she had falsely claimed that "countless" FBI agents told her they supported Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey. [The Associated Press]


Watchdog recommends firing Kellyanne Conway

The Office of Special Counsel, a government watchdog, said Thursday that President Trump should fire senior adviser Kellyanne Conway for violating a federal ethics law against partisan comments by federal employees. The office, which is unrelated to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, said in a letter accompanying a report that Conway was a "repeat offender" of the Hatch Act's prohibition against campaign politics in the federal workplace. The letter, signed by agency head Henry Kerner, said Conway's flouting of the law, "if left unpunished," sends the message that other federal employees can do the same. "Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law," the letter said. The White House rejected the assessment and demanded that Kerner withdraw the report. [The New York Times]


FEC chair stresses that accepting foreign election help is illegal

After President Trump said he would accept political dirt on opponents offered by foreign governments, Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub tweeted a statement Thursday clarifying that it is illegal to "solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election." She added: "This is not a novel concept. Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation." She added that anyone failing to tell the FBI about any "prohibited donation" or who "accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation." Trump earlier defended his remarks, tweeting that it would be "ridiculous" for him to report every conversation he has with a world leader to the FBI. [Ellen L. Weintraub, Donald J. Trump]


DNC announces list of 20 candidates who qualified for first debate

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday unveiled the list of 20 Democratic presidential candidates who qualified to appear in the first debate on June 26 and 27. Candidates for the party's 2020 nomination who regularly top polls, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), unsurprisingly made the cut. Lesser-known candidates Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), author Marianne Williamson, and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) also made it. The Democrats who didn't qualify by gaining at least 1 percent support in three polls or receiving donations from 65,000 unique donors were: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel; Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam; and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.). [NBC News]


Rep. Duncan Hunter's wife admits they misspent campaign funds

Margaret Hunter, wife of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), pleaded guilty Thursday to a corruption charge and agreed to testify against her husband. The couple were indicted last year on allegations that from 2010 to 2016 they spent more than $200,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, including trips, dinners, and clothes. Margaret Hunter served as Rep. Hunter's campaign chair, and he suggested she was to blame for any improper use of funds. Both initially pleaded not guilty, but Margaret Hunter changed her plea Thursday under a deal with prosecutors. She could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, and said she accepted responsibility for what she did. "I am deeply remorseful, and I apologize," she said. [The Associated Press, CNN]


New Zealand mosque massacre suspect pleads not guilty

Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man accused of killing 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March, pleaded not guilty Friday. Tarrant, 28, faces terrorism, murder, and attempted murder charges for the mass shooting. Tarrant's denial of guilt provoked audible gasps in the courtroom. His plea means survivors of the attacks and the families of those killed will have to prepare for what could be a long trial starting next May. Outside the courtroom on Friday, a man was escorted away after allegedly speaking in favor of white supremacy. Authorities are expected to take steps to prevent Tarrant from using his trial to promote his self-proclaimed white supremacist beliefs.


Target to expand same-day deliveries as shipping wars escalate

Target on Thursday expanded its same-day delivery options for online shoppers, the latest move in a battle by retail giants to get goods to customers faster. Target said shoppers in 47 states will be able to order about 65,000 items for delivery the same day for a $9.99 fee per order. Target is sending the goods using Shipt, the membership-based grocery delivery platform it bought in 2017 for $550 million. Before, Target only offered same-day delivery for Shipt subscribers, who pay $99 per year. Target's push came after Amazon in April said it would offer members of its $119-per-year Prime service free same-day delivery of 3 million-plus products. Walmart later said it would offer free same-day grocery deliveries on orders over $35 from some of its markets. [USA Today, Reuters]


Cuba Gooding Jr. charged with groping

Cuba Gooding Jr. was charged with a misdemeanor in New York on Thursday as he faces two groping allegations. The actor surrendered to the NYPD for questioning and was charged with forcible touching. A woman told police that Gooding Jr. grabbed her breast at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar in New York on Sunday. The NYPD has confirmed that a second woman also filed a police report on Monday accusing Gooding Jr. of groping her in a Manhattan club in 2008. Gooding Jr., who won an Oscar for his role in Jerry Maguire, denied the allegation. His attorney, Mark Heller, said his client "has not acted inappropriately in any shape or form" and that video from the rooftop bar proves as much. [CNN, NBC News]


Raptors beat Warriors to win their first NBA title

The Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship on Thursday by beating the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The Raptors won the best-of-seven series 4-2, denying the Warriors a third straight title. In the final game, the Raptors took an early lead as point guard Kyle Lowry scored the team's first 11 points. The Warriors stayed in it, exchanging the lead with the Raptors 14 times in the first half, but lost Klay Thompson to a knee injury when he was fouled on a dunk attempt in the third quarter. Fred VanVleet's clutch three-pointer with 3:44 left gave the Raptors the lead for good. Kawhi Leonard took Finals MVP. [ESPN, Yahoo Sports]