Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 27, 2019

Government can divert Pentagon funds for border wall, Supreme Court says, Trump announces asylum deal with Guatemala, and more


Government can divert Pentagon funds for border wall, Supreme Court says

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Trump administration can divert $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds to build a portion of a wall along the southern border after lower courts had blocked the move. The court was split, with the five conservative justices siding with the administration, arguing that the government "made a sufficient showing" that the groups challenging the decision did not have grounds to bring a lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union which represents the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition in the fight against the wall said they would continue litigation. "This is not over," Dror Ladin, staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, said. "We will be asking federal appeals court to expedite the ongoing appeals proceeding to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump's border wall."


Trump announces asylum deal with Guatemala

President Trump on Friday announced an agreement with Guatemala that will require migrants traveling through the country to seek asylum there rather than the United States. American officials said the deal could go into effect within weeks, but critics are expected to challenge it in court, arguing that Guatemala is one of the world's most dangerous countries and, therefore, should not be considered a place of refuge for those fleeing violence. Guatemala's Constitutional Court has also granted multiple injunctions on the deal preventing the government from entering into it without congressional approval. American asylum laws require that almost all asylum seekers who arrive at the U.S. border be allowed to seek refuge in the country, unless they passed through a "safe third" country, which is what Guatemala would be considered if the deal does go into effect.


House Judiciary Democrats considering possible impeachment inquiry

The House Judiciary Committee is filing an application for the Mueller report's underlying grand jury material as Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) says Democrats are "in effect" already conducting an impeachment inquiry. Nadler on Friday said the information Democrats are seeking is "critically important for our ability to examine witnesses." Nadler said the petition for the materials mentions that the panel is considering "whether to exercise its full Article I powers" and "articles of impeachment are under consideration." Nadler said while "in effect" the committee's probe is an impeachment inquiry, their investigation is not "limited" to the possible outcome of impeachment. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) also said Democrats are now "crossing a threshold ... entering into an examination of whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment."


Police fire tear gas amid unauthorized pro-democracy Hong Kong protest

Hong Kong police have reportedly fired tear gas at an authorized protest involving tens of thousands of demonstrators on Saturday. The march was called to condemn an assault on pro-democracy protesters by masked men wielding wooden and metal sticks last week. Police came under fire for arriving late to the scene and failing to stop the attacks, which are being blamed on triad gang members. Saturday's protest was banned in an unusual move, as Hong Kong normally allows demonstrations to proceed. The demonstration began peacefully, but became chaotic as the day went on. Police said protesters threw projectiles and vandalized a police car. Protesters have maintained the marches will continue until the city's government responds to their requests, which include the complete withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill and an inquiry into alleged police brutality.


Justice Department approves $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint

The $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint has been approved by the Justice Department. Under the settlement announced on Friday, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint prepaid will need to be divested to Dish. The Department of Justice's antitrust division said that the merger, "without this remedy, would substantially harm competition." T-Mobile and Sprint also must "make available to Dish at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations," the Justice Department announced. Numerous attorneys general are challenging the merger between the third and fourth biggest wireless carriers in the U.S., and it now must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chair Ajit Pai in May said the merger "is in the public interest" and recommended it be approved.


GOP Rep. Martha Roby announces 2020 retirement

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) on Friday announced she will not run for another term in 2020. This decision comes after Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) earlier this year said that she, too, would not run again in 2020, an especially difficult announcement for Republicans considering her position as National Republican Congressional Committee recruitment chair. This means 2 out of 13, or 15 percent, of the Republican women currently serving in the House are set to leave next year. Roby is also the third Republican to announce retirement in the past week after Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) and Pete Olson (R-Texas). With speculation Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) may run for Senate, these numbers could grow. The number of Republican women currently serving in Congress is the smallest since 1995.


U.S. economy slows to 2.1 percent growth annual rate in 2nd quarter

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.1 percent annual rate in the second quarter of 2019, slowing down from the previous quarter but not as much as had been expected. The Commerce Department on Friday reported this 2.1 percent figure, which was a significant slowdown from the first quarter's 3.1 percent growth but better than the 1.9 percent economists predicted. Consumer spending was higher than estimated, rising 4.3 percent. Business investment, however, was weaker. The department also revised its previous estimate that compares the growth in 2018's fourth quarter to 2017's fourth quarter, downgrading it from 3 percent to 2.5 percent, meaning President Trump's goal of 3 percent growth was not reached by this metric. Still, the changes aren't a major shift in the broader trajectory of the economy.


Balcony collapses in South Korea, killing two

Two people died and 16 were injured following a second-story balcony collapse inside a nightclub in Gwangju, South Korea, on Saturday. The two men who were killed were from South Korea, while 10 foreigners were injured. Eight of the people who suffered injuries were in Gwangju for the 2019 Fina aquatic World Championships, including three American water polo players. U.S. women's water polo player, Kaleigh Gilchrist, required surgery on her leg. Police said they detained one of the nightclub's owners and summoned three other club officials to investigate whether the balcony was an unauthorized structure. "This is an awful tragedy," Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo said.


Europe's heatwave could now cause catastrophic melting of Greenland's ice sheet

The same heat wave that swept across Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom this week, breaking high-temperature records reaching up to 114 degrees, is wafting over to Greenland and could cause catastrophic melting, the United Nations said Friday. The Greenland ice sheet, one of the world's largest ice sheets, has been struggling in recent weeks, according to Denmark data tracking the gains and losses of the ice mass. "In July alone, it lost 160 billion tonnes of ice through surface melting," said U.N. World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis. "That's roughly the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Just in July. Just surface melt — it's not including ocean melt as well." If the Greenland ice sheet melts entirely, it would raise global sea levels by 7 meters, or approximately 23 feet, Denmark's data shows.


Disney nabs 3rd $1 billion movie of 2019

Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin has now officially grossed $1 billion at the worldwide box office, becoming the third Disney release of 2019 to do so after Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. Three out of the four films that have made more than $1 billion this year were released by Disney, with the fourth, Spider-Man: Far From Home, being distributed by Sony but taking place in the Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney is now on pace to potentially end the year with as many as seven movies joining the billion-dollar club, with movies like The Lion King, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Frozen II expected to be box office hits. Disney only released three billion-dollar films in 2018: Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, and Incredibles 2.


Blinken calls for a diplomatic solution as U.S. prepares to back Ukrainian insurgency
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Concerns about Afghan air force were 'being actively addressed,' Pentagon spokesperson says
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we were working on it!

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U.S., Russia to hold high-stakes talks on Ukraine
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SecDef draws ire of GOP after missing Afghanistan weapons report deadline
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