Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 6, 2019

Trump responds to deadly mass shootings, Treasury Department designates China a currency manipulator, and more


Trump condemns 'barbaric' shootings in El Paso and Dayton as death toll rises

President Trump on Monday vowed to "act with urgent resolve" after this weekend's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, but said "mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun." The death toll in the back-to-back shootings rose to 31 on Monday — 22 in El Paso and nine in Dayton — and Trump said the U.S. must "condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy" to address racially motivated violence. Earlier, Trump tweeted that Republicans and Democrats "must come together to get strong background checks," but he did not mention background checks in his statement. He also pointed to violent video games as a factor and suggested reforms to mental health laws that would "better identify mentally disturbed individuals." Trump will visit El Paso on Wednesday.


Treasury Department designates China a currency manipulator

The trade war between the United States and China escalated Monday when the U.S. Treasury Department designated China a currency manipulator after Beijing allowed its currency to slide to its lowest level in a decade. It's been 25 years since the United States last designated China a currency manipulator. The People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, said the yuan dropped due to President Trump's "unilateralism and trade protectionism measures and the imposition of increased tariffs on China." Monday was rough for America's three top stock indexes, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite, and S&P 500 all seeing their biggest percentage drops of 2019, due to tensions between the U.S. and China.


Markets see worst drop of 2019 as trade war heats up

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite, and S&P 500 all saw their biggest percentage drops of 2019 on Monday, following a string of declines that started Thursday. The drops all came after President Trump announced new tariffs on China, and after China responded by devaluing its currency Monday morning to its weakest level in a decade. The Dow closed down 767 points at the end of the day for a 2.9 percent drop. The tech-heavy Nasdaq meanwhile closed down 278 points, or 3.5 percent, and the S&P 500 went down a total of 87 points, or 3 percent. Stock futures mostly rebounded Tuesday morning when China's central bank stabilized the yuan after setting its reference rate lower than the psychologically important level of 7 per dollar.


Trump campaign regularly posted ads on Facebook using the word 'invasion'

Since January, President Trump's re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 Facebook ads focusing on immigration that use the word "invasion," The New York Times reported. He also used the word "invasion" in several tweets regarding immigrants at the border. Trump's word choice is in the spotlight following Saturday's massacre at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, which left at least 22 people dead. The suspect is believed to have written an online screed ahead of the attack, declaring it "a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." Data from Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic communications firm tracking 2020 presidential candidates' digital advertising, shows that since late March, Trump has spent an estimated $1.25 million on Facebook ads about immigration. The "invasion" ads were a small portion of the ad buy, the Times reports, with most first running between January and March and a few dozen launching in May.


Report: North Korea stole $2 billion through cyber attacks to fund weapons program

A new United Nations report states that North Korea is using "widespread and increasingly sophisticated" cyberattacks to steal money to fund its weapons of mass destruction programs, Reuters says. The confidential report, compiled by a group of independent experts and obtained by Reuters on Monday, was submitted last week to the U.N. Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee. The report said that by stealing money from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, North Korea has brought in an estimated $2 billion. The attacks are becoming harder to trace, Reuters reports, and the experts are investigating at least 35 incidents in 17 countries. These cyber actors are reportedly operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea's top military intelligence agency.


Trump hits Venezuelan government with full embargo

President Trump issued an executive order late Monday freezing all U.S.-based assets of Venezuela's government, sharply escalating economic measures aimed at removing President Nicolás Maduro from power. The executive order immediately applies to all property and assets of Venezuela's government and its officials, prohibits any U.S. companies or individuals from dealing with them, and threatens retaliation for any foreign company or individual that does business with them. Currently, China and Russia conduct significant business with Venezuela. Under the new order, Venezuela joins Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria as the only countries under full U.S. embargo. Maduro accused the U.S. of trying to sabotage ongoing talks with the opposition sponsored by Finland.


Puerto Rico's Supreme Court to consider lawsuit seeking to remove new governor

Puerto Rico's newly sworn-in governor, Pedro Pierluisi, is facing a lawsuit to remove him from office. After Ricardo Rosselló on Friday stepped down as governor, Pierluisi, who Rosselló had picked as secretary of state earlier that week, was sworn in. But this immediately sparked legal questions about who needed to approve his confirmation. On Monday, Puerto Rico's Senate filed a lawsuit seeking to remove Pierluisi, to be heard by Puerto Rico's Supreme Court. In a statement, Pierluisi said he would respect the result of the Senate's vote on his secretary of state position after previously saying he would resign were the vote not successful. The next in line would be Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, who previously said she has "no interest in occupying the position of governor."


Mail bomber Cesar Sayoc sentenced to 20 years

Cesar Sayoc was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday in a Manhattan federal court after mailing pipe bombs to people and entities perceived to be critics of President Trump. Sayoc sent 16 packages to Democratic politicians and news entities in October 2018, and pleaded guilty to 65 counts and to sending the packages. His lawyers had argued for a 10-year sentence due to an apparent untreated mental illness. Sayoc listed the people he'd mailed packages to, including former President Barack Obama, billionaire donor George Soros, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The devices inside the packages were crude pipe bombs that probably wouldn't have ignited. Government prosecutors argued that the devices' actual danger wasn't the point.


Newspaper companies GateHouse Media and Gannett to merge in $1.4 billion deal

Gannett, publisher of USA Today, and one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States, is being acquired by GateHouse Media in a deal worth roughly $1.4 billion. The merger will create the largest U.S. newspaper company, with a print circulation of 8.7 million, media expert Ken Doctor told The Associated Press Monday. Combined, Gannett and GateHouse Media will have more than 260 daily newspapers and more than 300 weeklies. GateHouse Media is owned by the New Media Investment Group, and said it will work on a digital transformation of its newspapers. The new company will operate under the Gannett name, and its headquarters will remain in McLean, Virginia.


R. Kelly charged with prostitution and solicitation in Minnesota

Authorities in Minnesota on Monday charged the R&B singer R. Kelly with two prostitution and solicitation charges, The Associated Press reports. This came in connection with a 2001 incident in which Kelly allegedly paid an underage girl he met at a concert $200 to come back to his hotel room and take off her clothes. Kelly was charged in February with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and in July was arrested on federal charges over his alleged abuse of underage girls. Kelly, who was recently denied bail in New York, has rejected the allegations, and his attorney on Monday called the new Minnesota charges "beyond absurd." Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman on Monday said, "We're going to make sure that justice is done in Minnesota."


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