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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 26, 2019

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Harold Maass
Robert Mueller in Washington
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1.

Mueller agrees to testify to Congress in July

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify publicly before Congress next month about his investigation into Russian interference to benefit President Trump in the 2016 election, and Trump's possible attempts to obstruct the inquiry. The House Judiciary and Intelligence committees announced late Tuesday that Mueller had agreed to appear on July 17 in response to a subpoena. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said Americans want to "hear directly" from Mueller to better "understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia's attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign's acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates' obstruction of the investigation into that attack." Mueller previously said his report was his testimony. [The Washington Post]

2.

Trump's Customs and Border Protection leader resigns

John Sanders, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, plans to step down next month, a federal official said Tuesday. The news came after a wave of public outrage over the agency's treatment of migrant children detained trying to cross into the U.S. over the southern border. Also on Tuesday, CPB officials revealed that more than 100 children removed from a filthy Texas shelter had been returned to the facility due to overcrowding elsewhere. The children were among more than 300 minors who were held at the shelter for weeks without access to showers, clean clothes, or enough food. Mark Morgan, an immigration hardliner who became acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this month, will replace Sanders. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

3.

Trump warns any Iran attack will be met with 'overwhelming force'

President Trump on Tuesday said that "any attack by Iran on anything American" will be "met with great and overwhelming force," which may, in some areas, "mean obliteration." Trump also criticized Iran's "very ignorant and insulting statement" after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a televised address called Trump's newly-imposed sanctions "outrageous and idiotic" and said the White House is "afflicted by mental retardation." Trump on Monday hit Iran with sanctions following Iran's shooting down of a U.S. drone. He said the sanctions would deny Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others "access to key financial resources and support." Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Trump administration was closing "the doors of diplomacy." [The Washington Post, The Associated Press]

4.

House passes $4.5 billion emergency border aid package

The House voted along party lines Tuesday to approve $4.5 billion in humanitarian aid to address poor conditions endured by migrants detained trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill includes tight rules on how the Trump administration can spend the money. A similar measure with far fewer restrictions on the spending has bipartisan support in the Senate. President Trump expressed displeasure over some of the restraints in the House bill. "There are some provisions, I think, that actually are bad for children," Trump said in an interview for an upcoming book about his immigration policies. House Democrats said the limitations were necessary to guarantee the money would be spent for humanitarian purposes, not things like immigration raids or Trump's border wall. [The New York Times]

5.

Melania Trump spokesperson to become White House press secretary

First lady Melania Trump tweeted Tuesday that her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, will become President Trump's next press secretary and communications director. Grisham also will keep her job as Melania Trump's communications director. "She has been with us since 2015 - @POTUS & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country," Melania Trump tweeted. "Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse. #BeBest" Grisham will replace outgoing White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has said her last day will be Friday, as well as former White House Communications Director Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive, who left the administration in March. [CNN]

6.

Illinois becomes 11th state to legalize recreational pot

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Tuesday signed a bill making his state the 11th to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The new law allows residents to purchase and possess up to an ounce (28.35 grams) of pot. Non-residents can have up to 15 grams at a time. Legalizing marijuana was one of Pritzker's campaign promises. The legislation could lead to the clearing of the records of nearly 800,000 people who have been convicted for buying or possessing small amounts of marijuana. People 21 and older will be able to buy cannabis at approved dispensaries. Pritzker has said that legalizing pot sales could generate up to $1 billion a year in tax revenue. [Fox News]

7.

Photo of drowned migrant man and daughter highlights border dangers

The drowning deaths of a migrant man and his 23-month-old daughter in the Rio Grande, confirmed Tuesday by a Mexican local government official, highlighted the dangers facing Central American migrants trying to get into the U.S. to escape violence and poverty in their home countries. The tragedy was captured in a photograph of the bodies of the man, identified as Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, and the child lying together, face down in shallow water. The image, captured by journalist Julia Le Duc, was published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. Le Duc reported that the family from El Salvador had been unable to make a request for asylum to U.S. authorities. Frustrated, they tried to swim across the river but were swept away by a strong current. [The Associated Press]

8.

San Francisco bans e-cigarette sales

San Francisco on Tuesday voted to ban sales of e-cigarettes, including products from locally-headquartered Juul. The city's mayor, London Breed, has 10 days to review the legislation and potentially sign it into law. If she does, it will go into effect in seven months, after which it will be illegal to sell nicotine vaporizer products in stores or for online retailers to ship the goods to San Francisco. It will be the first ban of its kind in the country. City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who co-sponsored the bill, said that the increase in e-cigarettes has led to higher rates of nicotine addiction among young people. Cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as recreational marijuana, remain legal in the city. [Bloomberg]

9.

Prosecutors say Rep. Duncan Hunter used campaign money for romantic affairs

Federal prosecutors say in a new court filing that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) illegally used campaign money on meals and vacations related to romantic affairs with five women, including lobbyists and congressional aides. The new document, filed late Monday, listed expenses linked to the alleged affairs, such as a $7 beer at a hotel bar during a ski trip with one woman, and an Uber ride after another alleged liaison. Rep. Hunter and Margaret Hunter, his wife and one-time campaign chair, were indicted last year on allegations they spent more than $200,000 in campaign money on themselves. Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty last month to corruption and agreed to testify against him. [The Associated Press]

10.

Stock futures climb after Mnuchin says China trade deal '90 percent' done

U.S. stock index futures surged early Wednesday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said U.S. negotiators were close to sealing a trade deal with China. "We were about 90 percent of the way there ... and I think there's a path to complete this," Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 0.4 percent, while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq rose by 0.5 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. Mnuchin said he was confident that President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could make progress toward resolving remaining sticking points when they meet during the Group of 20 summit this weekend. [CNBC]