Daily briefing

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

A Senate panel warns that election security is still under threat, the House approves a $2.7 trillion budget deal, and more

1

Senate Intelligence panel warns of election-security threat

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday unveiled a report warning that Russian election interference in the 2016 election was broader than previously believed. The report described "extensive activity" directed by the Russian government to exploit weaknesses in U.S. election systems and warned that the U.S. "must create effective deterrence" to prevent further cybersecurity issues. The report said Russia targeted election systems in all 50 states, although there was "no evidence that any votes were changed." Lawmakers applauded progress on preventing such foreign meddling over the last three years, but the committee's vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), said he hoped the findings would fuel a stepped up effort to improve election security. "This threat remains urgent," he said.

2

House passes $2.7 trillion budget deal

The House on Thursday passed a $2.7 trillion bipartisan budget deal that would increase military and domestic spending while raising the debt ceiling by $320 billion for two years. Despite President Trump's support for the agreement, many Republicans made it clear they were unhappy the bill lacked spending cuts they wanted. Still, the bill passed 284-149, with 65 Republicans joining the Democratic majority and 132 Republicans voting against it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin led negotiations on the deal, which now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. It will then go to Trump's desk, and he's said he will sign it.

3

Justice Department to reinstate federal death penalty

The Trump administration will reinstate the federal death penalty more than 15 years after the last federal execution, the Justice Department announced on Thursday. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has scheduled executions for five death row inmates for December and January at Attorney General William Barr's direction, and the Justice Department says that additional executions will be later scheduled. Former President Barack Obama instructed the department to pause executions to review lethal injection drug policies in 2014. Barr said the review has been completed and the department has determined it can resume executions. The Justice Department listed the five inmates to be executed in Indiana, all of whom have been convicted of murder. President Trump has advocated for the return of the federal death penalty.

4

House panel approves subpoenas for White House messages on personal accounts

The Democrat-controlled House Oversight Committee voted along party lines Thursday to authorize a subpoena for White House work emails and texts exchanged on personal accounts. The committee's chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), said there was evidence that several White House officials had violated the Presidential Records Act by using private accounts and failing to preserve their messages. "What we do not yet know is why these White House officials were attempting to conceal these communications," he said. The subpoena specifically names Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, but it also could target messages to and from President Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who have acknowledged using personal accounts for work.

5

Scorching heat squashes records across Europe

Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom all broke high-temperature records Thursday as a heat wave swept across Europe. A 100.6 degree reading marked the hottest July day the U.K. has ever seen, while Paris' 108.6 degrees beat a previous all-time high by nearly four degrees. The heat wave overheated electrical lines in London, blocking train service to suburbs. Reports in France are also linking the heat to at least five deaths. Belgium and the Netherlands set triple-digit records on Wednesday, and promptly saw them broken again on Thursday. All of Europe's hottest summers have come in the past 17 years, and scientists say human-caused climate change is a contributing factor, suggesting such extreme temperatures are likely to become more common.

6

4 automakers reach deal with California on fuel efficiency standards

Four major automakers on Thursday announced that they had reached a deal with California on fuel efficiency rules. The agreement, which comes as the Trump administration tries to prevent states from setting their own standards to fight climate change, calls for the automakers to make vehicles with an average efficiency of 51 miles per gallon by 2026, looser than the Obama administration's target of 54 miles per gallon but tougher than the Trump administration's proposal to roll back the standard to 37 miles per gallon. "Ensuring that America's vehicles are efficient, safe, and affordable is a priority for us all," Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, and Honda said in a joint statement.

7

16 Marines arrested on human smuggling, drug charges

Sixteen U.S. Marines were arrested Thursday at their Southern California base on suspicion of smuggling undocumented migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border and drug-related offenses. None of the Marines arrested Thursday at Camp Pendleton were involved in border support. The Marine Corps said in a statement that the arrests stemmed from information gathered in a human smuggling case from earlier this month: On July 3, two Marines were detained for allegedly picking up and transporting three Mexicans for money after the migrants had been dropped off at a point arranged by cellphone. Eight other Marines were being questioned about possible drug crimes in a separate investigation.

8

North Korea calls missile launch a 'solemn warning' to South Korea

North Korea said Friday that its launch of two short-range missiles on Thursday was meant as "a solemn warning" to South Korea to stop building up its arsenal and conducting joint military drills with its allies. Pyongyang referred to South Korean leaders as "warmongers." "We cannot but develop nonstop super-powerful weapon systems to remove the potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the south," North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said, according to state news agency KCNA. Analysts said the message also was meant for the U.S., which is trying to restart stalled negotiations on curbing North Korea's nuclear program. Thursday's launch was the first since Kim and President Trump met last month and agreed to start fresh talks.

9

Trump administration unveils new bailout for farmers hurt by trade war

The federal government will pay American farmers between $15 and $150 per acre under a $16 billion aid package for those hurt by the Trump administration's trade war with China, officials said on Thursday. The payouts, designed to focus on small farmers, are intended to make up for lower prices and lost sales. The latest bailout follows a $12 billion aid package last year. Farmers have been among the hardest hit in President Trump's trade war with Beijing. Shipments of soybeans to China, the No. 1 buyer, fell to a 16-year low in 2018. Democrats objected to the plan, saying farmers need fair trade practices, not a bailout.

10

White House to appeal ruling blocking asylum restrictions

The White House on Thursday vowed to appeal a ruling blocking a new asylum policy that would bar Central American migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. until they have been denied asylum in countries they passed through on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the policy must be placed on hold while legal challenges worked their way through the courts because it could put people in danger. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that a few activists shouldn't be allowed to shop around for a single judge to "dictate immigration policy to the entire nation." The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar in the Northern District of California echoed concerns of lawyers arguing against the Trump policy who have said migrants could face rights violations in Mexico and might have no safe asylum option other than the U.S.

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