Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 2, 2019

Harold Maass
An American flag in China


Trump says he'll impose new tariffs on Chinese goods in September

President Trump said Thursday that he would impose 10 percent tariffs on another $300 billion worth of goods imported from China next month, scrapping a trade-war truce he had struck with Chinese President Xi Jinping in June. Stocks had been up sharply, but the news sent them plunging. Trump said he was going ahead with the new tariffs starting Sept. 1 partly because China had not fulfilled a promise to buy more U.S. agricultural products. Trump has already hit China with 25 percent levies on $250 billion worth of its exports to the U.S. Nearly all Chinese imports will now be affected. China threatened countermeasures. "We won't accept any maximum pressure, intimidation, or blackmail," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. [The New York Times, Reuters]


U.S. agrees to reduce Afghanistan troops in deal with Taliban

The Trump administration has agreed to withdraw up to 6,000 of its remaining 14,000 troops from Afghanistan in a deal with the Taliban, in exchange for a cease-fire and renunciation of al Qaeda. The terms, if approved, would amount to an initial accord on ending the 18-year war in the country. "I would say that they are 80 or 90 percent of the way there," one official said. "But there is still a long way to go on that last 10 or 20 percent." Some U.S. and Afghan officials are expected to approach the deal with skepticism, as they question the Taliban's trustworthiness. The deal was struck after months of negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan-born U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad. [The Washington Post]


Report: Prosecutors subpoena Trump Organization over Stormy Daniels hush money

The Manhattan district attorney's office has subpoenaed the Trump Organization, requesting documents related to hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, several people briefed on the matter told The New York Times Thursday. Daniels said she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels in exchange for her silence. The Trump Organization reimbursed Cohen, and the Times reports prosecutors are looking into whether any senior executives filed false business records claiming the reimbursement was a legal expense. [The New York Times]


Senate approves $320 billion budget deal lifting debt ceiling

The Senate on Thursday passed a $320 billion budget deal that increases spending caps and raises the debt ceiling over the next two years. The 67-28 vote came after many fiscal conservatives expressed concerns with the deal struck between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, noting that it could add up to $1.7 trillion to the deficit over a decade. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly struggled to wrangle support from Senate Republicans. Just 65 Republicans voted for the measure when it passed in the House last week. Ahead of the vote, President Trump tweeted his support for the "phenomenal" deal, urging Republicans to "go for it," saying "there is always plenty of time to CUT!" Trump is expected to sign the deal. [The Hill]


Majority of House Democrats now want to start impeachment inquiry

More than half of House Democrats are in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) on Thursday became the latest Democratic lawmaker to come out in favor of launching the proceedings, doing so in an op-ed. This means 118 of 235 voting Democratic members in the House now support this move, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has resisted. Pelosi in recent months has cautioned that were Democrats to pursue impeachment at the moment, Trump would simply be acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate. Deutch is the 23rd Democrat to come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry since Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election. [Politico, Sun-Sentinel]


Trump escalates rhetoric against Baltimore

President Trump on Thursday stepped up his criticism of Baltimore and other diverse cities he said were run by Democrats who "deliver poverty for their constituents and privilege for themselves." Trump, speaking at a rally in the swing state of Ohio, said federal funding sent to these cities was "stolen money and it's wasted money, and it's a shame." Trump has previously singled out Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the African-American chair of a House committee investigating the Trump administration, and his majority-black Baltimore-area district, prompting allegations of racism from Democrats. This time he didn't mention any lawmakers by name. "We can name one after another, but I won't do that, because I don't want to be controversial," Trump said. [The Washington Post]


Puerto Rico leadership crisis erupts ahead of Rosselló's resignation

Puerto Rico was thrust into a leadership crisis on Thursday as lawmakers delayed a confirmation vote on former congressman Pedro Pierluisi, whom Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has nominated to succeed him when he resigns Friday. Rosselló named Pierluisi to be the island's next secretary of state, which would put him next in line to be governor. But Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz wants the job, too. Pierluisi is considered non-controversial. Rivera Schatz is associated with Puerto Rico's political and business elite, so he could face the same anti-government outrage that forced out Rosselló. Rivera Schatz said the Senate would hold a hearing on Pierluisi on Monday. Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Wanda would be next in line to replace Rosselló, but she has said she doesn't want the job. [The Associated Press]


North Korea launches more missiles

North Korea on Friday launched one or two more short-range missiles, the second such test this week, senior U.S. officials said. The tests have been interpreted as a sign of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's frustration over the collapse of talks on denuclearization and sanctions relief, and his anger over looming joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. The launches are considered a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions barring Pyongyang from firing ballistic missiles. President Trump shrugged off the latest launches. "Short range missiles. We never made an agreement on that. I have no problem," he said. "These are short-range missiles, they're very standard." [CNN]


Olympian Ashley Wagner says she was sexually assaulted at 2008 skating camp

Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner told USA today that a fellow skater, the late John Coughlin, sexually assaulted her in 2008 when he was 22 and she had just turned 17, the newspaper reported Thursday. Wagner, a three-time national champion and 2014 Winter Olympics team bronze medal winner, said Coughlin got into her bed after a party at a skating camp in Colorado, then kissed and groped her. "I was absolutely paralyzed in fear," Coughlin said. Warner is now 28 and retired from the sport. She is the highest-profile skater to speak out about being sexually abused in connection with the sport. She is the second top skater to make abuse allegations regarding Coughlin, who killed himself Jan. 18 after being suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. [USA Today]


RFK's granddaughter dies at Hyannis Port compound

Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the 22-year-old granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, died Thursday of an apparent overdose at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, her family and law enforcement officials said. Her grandmother, Ethel Kennedy, said: "The world is a little less beautiful today." Kennedy Hill was studying communications at Boston College and was due to graduate in 2020. She had written about battling depression in the school newspaper at Deerfield Academy, where she was in the class of 2016. Her death is the latest tragedy to hit the Kennedy family, including the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Robert F. Kennedy five years later. Kennedy Hill's uncle David Kennedy died of an overdose in Florida in 1984. [The Boston Globe]