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10 things you need to know today: July 18, 2019

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Harold Maass
Trump at a rally in North Carolina
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

House votes to hold Barr and Ross in contempt

The House on Wednesday voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for defying congressional subpoenas. The 230-198 vote was largely along party lines. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he did "everything in my power to avoid" a contempt vote, but that Barr and Ross forced the matter when "they blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight" into why Ross tried to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The House vote calls for the Justice Department to prosecute Barr and Ross, which President Trump's Justice Department won't do. Barr and Ross said they "strongly disagree" with any suggestion that they obstructed the congressional investigation. [Politico]

2.

Trump attacks Rep. Ilhan Omar as supporters chant 'Send her back'

President Trump continued to attack four Democratic congresswomen, calling them out by name during a rally Wednesday night in North Carolina. On Sunday, he tweeted racist comments targeting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), saying they should "go back" to their families' countries of origin. The lawmakers — all outspoken Trump critics and women of color — are fueling "the rise of a dangerous, hard left," Trump said. After Trump blasted Omar, who came to the U.S. from Somalia as a child, and accused her of "launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds," the crowd at the rally erupted in chants of "Send her back!" This not only echoed Trump's tweets, but also the "Lock her up!" rallying cry of Trump supporters aimed at Hillary Clinton. [CNN]

3.

House kills Rep. Al Green's impeachment resolution

The House voted on Wednesday to block a call to immediately launch impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Every Republican and 137 Democrats voted to table the resolution. Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) introduced the resolution on Tuesday after House Democrats passed a resolution condemning Trump's "racist comments" against four Democratic congresswomen. Green's resolution said Trump's comments brought "ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute" to his office, and he used a House rule to force a prompt vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has opposed the idea of an immediate effort to impeach the president, fearing that it would harm the Democrats' legislative agenda. [The New York Times]

4.

23 feared dead in suspected arson attack at Japanese animation studio

A suspected arson attack on Kyoto Animation Co. studio in Japan left at least 23 people feared dead and 36 others injured on Thursday. The Kyoto Fire department said 13 people were confirmed dead and more than 10 others were found inside the building with "no vital signs." Police said a man appeared to have poured gasoline around the studio and ignited it. A 41-year-old suspect was detained. The animation company, founded in 1981, produces animations and anime novels, comics, and books. Its best known work includes Free! and Violet Evergarden, which Netflix picked up in 2018. The company says on its website that it aims for a "humanitarian" corporate culture and "promoting the growth of people" as well as "creating the brightness of works." [CNN]

5.

House votes to repeal ObamaCare tax on expensive insurance plans

The Democrat-controlled House on Wednesday nearly unanimously repealed a steep tax on high-cost health insurance plans that was once considered a linchpin of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. The tax was intended to hold down soaring health-care costs by getting employers to curb costly plans and force employees to spend more on care, while also helping to pay for expanded health benefits for others. The tax was not scheduled to take effect until 2022, and it was opposed by unions, business groups, and Republicans. Despite the Trump administration reporting rising federal deficits, a bipartisan House majority decided to block the tax, a move that is expected to add nearly $200 billion to federal deficits over the next decade, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. [The New York Times]

6.

House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudi Arabia

The House on Wednesday voted to block President Trump's attempt to complete several arms sales benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates despite opposition from Congress. The Senate approved a similar resolution last month. The House vote sends the resolutions to Trump, who is expected to veto them. The Trump administration announced in May that the president would use emergency authority to finalize 22 deals, including sales of missiles and surveillance aircraft, worth a total of more than $8 billion. A bipartisan but not veto-proof majority backed the resolutions in both the House and Senate, seeking to avoid restocking Saudi weapons that lawmakers said were being used against civilians in Yemen's civil war. [The Washington Post]

7.

DNC announces 20 presidential candidates qualifying for next debates

The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday announced which 20 presidential candidates qualified for the party's next debates, scheduled for July 30. The candidates are: Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); former Vice President Joe Biden; governors Steve Bullock (Montana) and Jay Inslee (Washington); mayors Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, Indiana) and Bill de Blasio (New York); former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; former Reps. John Delaney (D-Md.) and Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas); Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio); former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper; author Marianne Williamson; and businessman Andrew Yang. The lineup is the same as the first debates, except Bullock replaces Rep. Eric Swalwell, who dropped out. [CNN]

8.

WHO declares Ebola outbreak a global health emergency

The World Health Organization on Wednesday announced that the deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo is now an international health emergency. The news came after a case was confirmed in Goma, a major regional crossroads with two million people in northeastern Congo. More than 1,600 people have died since August in the latest Ebola outbreak, the second deadliest in history. Still, a WHO expert committee had declined three times to advise the United Nations health agency to declare an emergency, which often attracts greater global attention and aid. "The reality check is that a year into the epidemic, it's still not under control, and we are not where we should be," said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders. "We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results." [The Associated Press]

9.

Puerto Rico protesters clash with police

Police in Puerto Rico early Thursday fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters calling for the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló following the leak of misogynistic and homophobic texts he and his advisers exchanged. On Wednesday, the fifth straight day of protests, some of the U.S. Caribbean island's biggest celebrities joined the demonstrators, some of whom clashed with riot police at a barricade outside the governor's mansion. Protesters said the texts triggered the protests but people also are angry about the government's response to Hurricane Maria and other problems. "They put down women, they put down the LGBT community, people with disabilities," singer Ricky Martin said on his Instagram Stories. "Corruption, it is insane. We are tired, we can't take it anymore." [NPR, ET Online]

10.

Prosecutors drop sexual assault charge against actor Kevin Spacey

Prosecutors in Massachusetts on Wednesday dropped a sexual assault charge against actor Kevin Spacey, abruptly ending the case after Spacey's accuser invoked the Fifth Amendment after learning he could face a felony charge if he deleted phone evidence. Spacey, 59, was accused of groping an 18-year-old man at a Nantucket restaurant three years ago. A Nantucket District Court judge said the loss of the accuser might make proceeding with the case impossible. Michael O'Keefe, the Cape and Islands district attorney, wrote that his office was scrapping the prosecution "due to the unavailability of the complaining witness." Spacey had pleaded not guilty to felony indecent assault and battery after being charged in December. [The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter]