Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 3, 2019

Tim O'Donnell
John Ratcliffe.


Trump says he won't nominate John Ratcliffe as intelligence chief

President Trump announced on Friday he will no longer nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) as the next director of national intelligence. Trump had picked the Republican congressman to replace Dan Coats on Sunday, but the president on Friday wrote that Ratcliffe has been "treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media" and will, therefore, stay in Congress rather than "going through months of slander and libel." Questions had emerged over whether Ratcliffe was qualified for the position, and media reports suggested he had exaggerated aspects of his background as a prosecutor. Ratcliffe on Friday said he didn't "wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue." [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Defense Secretary Esper says he wants to place missiles in Asia after treaty withdrawal

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Saturday during a visit to Australia that he favors placing ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Asia in the near future. Esper's comments come just one day after the United States withdrew from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on Friday, a decision Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed on Russia, who the U.S. has accused of not complying with the treaty. Esper said he would prefer the missiles be placed within months, but "these things tend to take longer than you expect." U.S. officials on Friday said any deployment would be years away. Esper dismissed fears that the withdrawal was the start of a new arms race. "I don't see an arms race happening, I do see us taking proactive measures to develop a capability that we need," he said. [Reuters, The Week]


Trump signs two-year budget deal increasing spending after Senate approval

President Trump on Friday signed the two-year budget deal that increases spending and suspends the debt ceiling through 2021 following a successful vote in the Senate. The $2.7 trillion budget agreement, which was worked out between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, increases spending by $320 billion. Trump had previously touted the deal as "phenomenal," saying that it "gets us past the election" and telling Republicans that "there is always plenty of time to CUT!" The budget deal faced some opposition from members of Trump's party in both chambers of Congress, with 23 Republican senators voting against it on Thursday. Appropriations bills will still need to be written to keep the government open beyond the end of September. [Politico, The Washington Post]


Hong Kong protests for 9th consecutive weekend

Pro-democracy protesters have gathered in Hong Kong for the ninth consecutive weekend. On Saturday, demonstrators began their march in the city's Mong Kok district, where violent clashes took place during pro-democracy protests in 2014. Police initially denied permission for the march amid warnings from Beijing and the Chinese army, but they eventually relented. During the demonstration, protesters reportedly removed a Chinese national flag from its pole and hurled it into Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor. They also blocked a tunnel and surrounded police stations where non-emergency services were suspended. Oppositions groups are reportedly planning for more demonstrations on Sunday and a city-wide strike on Monday. Some civil servants, ordered to be politically neutral, joined the protesters on Friday. [BBC, The Associated Press]


NYPD judge recommends firing of cop involved in Eric Garner case

A New York Police Department administrative judge on Friday recommended that officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired over his role in the death of Eric Garner. NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado said that Pantaleo used a banned chokehold in 2014 when he stopped Garner, who was captured on video saying "I can't breathe" more than 10 times prior to his death. A medical examiner previously ruled Garner's death a homicide. The NYPD subsequently suspended Pantaleo on Friday, but whether he will be fired is now up to Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill, who is expected to come to a decision later this month. The Justice Department said earlier in July that Pantaleo would not face federal charges. [NPR, The New York Times]


Puerto Rico's new governor sworn in

Veteran politician Pedro Pierluisi was sworn in by a judge as Puerto Rico's governor after former Governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned amid protests. Pierluisi was Rosselló's handpicked successor, but his appointment has not yet been ratified by Puerto Rico's Senate. Critics have argued that the appointment is unconstitutional, including Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz who described it as "unethical and illegal." San Juan's Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted that the municipality would challenge Pierluisi's swearing in first thing on Monday morning. Pierluisi said if he is not ratified, Puerto Rico's secretary of justice will be next in line to fill the role. Pierluisi will reportedly not move into the government's mansion yet and said he will avoid any major changes until after the Senate votes next week. [BBC, The Associated Press]


Kim reportedly oversaw North Korean weapons tests

North Korea said on Saturday that the country's leader Kim Jong Un supervised a rocket launcher test one day after South Korea's military said it detected North Korea firing projectiles twice into the sea off its eastern coast in its third round of weapons tests in over a week. Kim reportedly expressed "great satisfaction" over Friday's tests, which reportedly confirmed the launch system's altitude control and track changing capabilities, as well as its accuracy. President Trump has previously said he was not worried by the "standard" weapons tests because the "far too smart" Kim "does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump." [The Associated Press, Donald Trump]


Sudan's opposition agrees to form transitional government with military council

Sudan's ruling Transitional Military Council and the country's main pro-democracy opposition have agreed to a new transitional government, African Union Envoy to Sudan Mohamed el-Hassan Lebatt said on Saturday. Lebatt said both sides will continue talks over the technical details of the deal on Saturday, but they have "fully agreed on the constitutional declaration" in the wake of the ousting of former President Omar al-Bashir in April. The document outlining the relationship between the transitional government's branches comes after weeks of negotiations overseen by the AU and Ethiopia following violent responses from Sudan's security forces to the opposition's protests. Protest leader Omar al-Dagir reportedly said the deal will be signed on Sunday. During celebrations in Sudan, some people chanted "We're victorious," while the opposition coalition called the deal a "first step with more to follow." [The New York Times, Al Jazeera]


Only 50 percent of Ebola cases in DRC are reportedly being identified

Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Ebola response coordinator, said on Friday that only about half of the cases of Ebola in the country are being identified. He also warned that the current deadly outbreak, which has killed more than 1,800 in the past year, could last up to three years because so many cases are unidentified. Muyembe added that more needs to be done to counter the disease. At least 2,700 people have been infected in the worst outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's history, prompting the World Health Organization to declare it an international emergency. [BBC]


A$AP Rocky released from Swedish custody

A judge in Sweden on Friday ordered the American rapper A$AP Rocky and two other men to be be freed from detention while they await a verdict in an assault trial. A$AP Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was arrested following a June street brawl in Stockholm, being charged with assault a few weeks later. Mayers has said he acted in self-defense, testifying as much during his trial this week after pleading not guilty, while Swedish prosecutors have accused him of "deliberately" attacking Mustafa Jafari. President Trump has spoken out in support of Mayers throughout the case. On Friday, Trump weighed in on his release, writing, "get home ASAP A$AP!" A verdict in the trial is expected on Aug. 14. [The Week, The Associated Press]