Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 19, 2019

The Week Staff
Trump at a rally in Orlando, Florida


Trump launches re-election campaign in Orlando

President Trump officially launched his 2020 re-election campaign at a rally on Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, railing against Democrats and setting lofty goals for his second term. In his 90-minute speech to supporters, Trump said Democrats want to "destroy our country as we know it," incited "lock her up" chants aimed at his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, and promised to "come up with the cures to many, many problems ... including cancer." He also revealed that he's changing his campaign slogan from "Make America Great Again" to "Keep America Great." Trump made several false claims during his speech, saying the unemployment rate has never been lower and that he passed the largest tax cut in history. [CNN, The Guardian]


Shanahan withdraws candidacy for defense secretary amid domestic abuse claims

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew from consideration to permanently head the Pentagon on Tuesday. The FBI had been investigating claims of a violent domestic dispute in 2010 between Shanahan and his then-wife, as part of a background investigation ahead of Shanahan's possible appointment as President Trump's defense chief. Shanahan and former wife Kimberley Jordinson both alleged being punched by the other, although Shanahan denies ever hitting Jordinson. A different report also highlighted a potential dispute involving Shanahan's teenage son, William, alleging he hit his mother with a baseball bat. Shanahan, who initially authored a memo defending his son as acting in self-defense, recently amended his statement, saying the act was neither justified nor self-defense. Army Secretary Mark Esper will fill the vacancy left by Shanahan until Trump nominates someone for the permanent position. [The Washington Post, USA Today]


Pompeo sends warning to Iran about triggering U.S. counterattack

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo allegedly gave private warnings to Iraqi officials to pass on to Iranian leaders, saying that any attacks resulting in the deaths of U.S. troops would trigger military action from the U.S. Pompeo, who visited the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in May, warned that a single American fatality at the hands of Tehran or any Iranian proxies would prompt a U.S. response. The alleged warnings come as tensions continue to mount between the U.S. and Iran, with the U.S. accusing Iran of leading an attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Iran announced on Monday its intent to violate the 2015 nuclear deal by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Despite the Pentagon's recently-announced deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, Pompeo said President Trump "does not want war," and the U.S. is in the region to "deter aggression." [The Washington Post, Politico]


Feds seize up to $1 billion worth of cocaine in Philadelphia

Federal authorities seized 33,000 pounds of cocaine valued at $1 billion on Tuesday from a ship docked at a port in Philadelphia. Two members of the ship's crew were arrested following the discovery and could face federal charges. The MSC Gayane made stops in the Bahamas, Panama, Peru, and Colombia before arriving at Philly's Packer Marine Terminal on Monday morning, and authorities believe the cocaine was loaded onto the ship at some point during its voyage. MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., which owns the MSC Gayane, said in a statement it "takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services." Authorities are heralding the drug bust as the third-largest in U.S. history. [The Associated Press, CBS News]


Bipartisan group of lawmakers raise concerns over Middle East deployments

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) joined together to voice concerns over President Trump's recent decision to deploy 1,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East, co-signing a letter to Trump alongside a bipartisan group of senators. The lawmakers posed several questions in their letter to Trump, asking where the forces will be located, what their mission is, and whether they will be applying pressure on Iran. The senators also reminded Trump of Congress possessing the exclusive power to declare war, a right guaranteed by the Constitution, and said it is "critical" for Congress to "fully retain and enforce this authority." Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also signed the letter. [Tim Kaine, Politico]


Trump to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at G-20 summit

President Trump announced in a tweet on Tuesday his plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at next week's G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Trump, who said he spoke to Xi on the phone, teased an "extended meeting" where the two leaders are expected to hash out a deal in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. Chinese state media confirmed the meeting would happen, reportedly saying Xi hopes the U.S. will treat Chinese companies fairly. In May, Trump issued an executive order effectively banning U.S. companies from working with Chinese tech giant Huawei or its technology over concerns that China could use it to spy on Americans. The meeting announcement boosted U.S. stocks amid ongoing concerns about whether the two countries' volatile trade strategies will have long-term effects on the global economy. [CNBC, Donald J. Trump]


Trump declines opportunity to apologize to Central Park Five

President Trump refused to apologize for taking out advertisements demanding the Central Park Five be given the death penalty in 1989 following the rape of a jogger in Central Park. The five black boys implicated in the attack were later exonerated and given a $41 million settlement after another man confessed to the crime. Trump at the time paid for several newspaper ads reading "BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!" When asked Tuesday by journalist April Ryan if he would ever apologize to the men, Trump said: "They admitted their guilt ... some of the prosecutors think the city should never have settled that case and we'll leave it at that." The infamous case is back in the spotlight with the release of Netflix's miniseries When They See Us. Trump defended his newspaper ads to Larry King in 1989, saying: "Maybe hate is what we need if we're gonna get something done." [CNN]


Father of Sandy Hook victim wins defamation lawsuit

The father of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has won a defamation lawsuit against authors claiming the massacre did not occur. Lenny Pozner, whose son Noah died in the shooting, is the lead plaintiff in several cases filed against Sandy Hook deniers. Tuesday's summary judgment was brought against the authors of the book Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, which has now been pulled by its publisher after claiming Pozner's son's death certificate was fake. Pozner has also sued conspiracy theorist and InfoWars founder Alex Jones, who previously described the shooting as a "giant hoax." [The Associated Press, CNN]


Boris Johnson takes lead in U.K. prime minister race

Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has edged ahead in the competition to become the U.K.'s next prime minister following the elimination of one of his rivals, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, from the race on Tuesday. Johnson — who says he believes in removing the U.K. from the European Union on Oct. 31, whether or not an exit deal is in place — won 126 of the 313 votes cast by Conservative lawmakers in their second round of balloting, leaving five nominees in the race to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May as the Tory leader. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had the next-highest number of votes, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and upstart candidate Rory Stewart all also advanced to the next round of elimination voting, which will take place Wednesday. The Conservative Party's members will then get to choose between the two candidates left standing. [The Associated Press]


U.N. calls for investigation into former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's death

The United Nations is calling for an independent investigation into the death of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi after he collapsed and died inside a Cairo courtroom on Monday. Morsi, who was Egypt's first democratically elected president after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown during the Arab Spring, had been imprisoned and reportedly held in solitary confinement for six years. He allegedly suffered from diabetes and liver disease while in prison and was denied the proper insulin dosage and special dietary treatment. Supporters and various human rights groups have also called for an investigation, and the U.N. wants a probe to determine whether Morsi's lack of access to medical care or his prolonged stay in solitary confinement contributed to his death. Morsi was buried on Tuesday in a suburb of Cairo. [The Washington Post]