Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 21, 2019

Tim O'Donnell
Donald Trump.
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Trump reportedly pushed Ukrainian president to investigate Biden's son

President Trump reportedly urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, reportedly pushing eight times in a single phone call for Zelensky to work with his attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Trump reportedly wanted to probe whether Biden worked to shield from investigation a Ukrainian gas company with ties to his son, Hunter Biden. The phone call was the subject of a whistleblower complaint last month, which Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire reportedly refused to pass on to Congress. The intelligence official who made the complaint reportedly alerted Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who marked the complaint an "urgent concern." On Friday, Trump denied having any "dicey" conversation with a foreign leader, writing, "there was nothing said wrong." [The Wall Street Journal]


Pentagon announces 'modest' deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia

The Pentagon announced Friday that President Trump has agreed to send a "modest deployment" of American troops to Saudi Arabia in response to strikes last week against two major Saudi Arabian oil facilities, which the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia believe were orchestrated by Iran. In addition to the hundreds of troops, the U.S. will deploy air and missile defense systems. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the decision was "defensive in nature" and was reportedly made in response to requests from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are seeking protection for their "critical infrastructure." When asked if the White House was considering a military strike against Iran, Esper said "that's not where we are right now." Iran said Saturday it was ready to respond to any act of aggression. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


El Salvador, U.S. ink asylum deal

The United States and El Salvador signed a "cooperative asylum agreement" Friday in what is seen as another attempt by the Trump administration to curb the flow of migrants from Central America coming into the U.S. Few details about how the agreement will work or when it will go into effect were provided, but acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the pact "is one significant step forward." El Salvador's Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco told The Associated Press that the agreement could lead to migrants from third countries obtaining refuge in El Salvador if they pass through on their way to the U.S., although most northern migration routes don't include the country. Criticism was swift, with opponents arguing that El Salvador is not safe enough to serve as a refuge. [NPR, The Associated Press]


DHS adds white supremacy to counterterrorism priority list

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced Friday that white supremacy would become a top priority under the department's new strategy to fight terrorism and "targeted violence." McAleenan cited last month's shooting in El Paso, Texas, as a major reason for the change. The shooting in a largely Hispanic community was seemingly motivated by racism. This and other shootings "galvanized" DHS to look "beyond terrorists operating abroad" and start tackling "violent extremists of any ideology," McAleenan said in a Friday speech. The plan calls for analyzing the "nature and extent" of domestic terror threats. DHS will also crack down on technology companies hosting hate-filled websites, provide active shooter training to local law enforcement, and run antiviolence messaging campaigns. [The Atlantic, NBC News]


16th weekend of Hong Kong protests starts peacefully, turns violent

For the 16th consecutive weekend, anti-government, pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong. The organizers said Saturday's march, which was approved by an appeal board after an initial police objection, is about livelihood issues. The march began peacefully, but a violent standoff between some protesters and riot police broke out later in the day. Hong Kong Police accused the demonstrators of setting fire to a national flag, destroying property, and carrying weapons. Police reportedly warned protesters to "stop illegal acts" before firing tear gas. A sit-in at the Yuen Long train station was also planned for Saturday night to mark two months since gangs of men attacked commuters and protesters there. [The South China Morning Post, CNN]


Millions march in global 'climate strike' ahead of U.N. summit

Millions of protesters around the world participated in Friday's "global climate strike," a series of rallies urging measures to combat climate change ahead of a United Nations summit in New York. An estimated 300,000 turned out at 100 rallies in Australia to kick off the day of youth-led protests, inspired in part by the "Fridays for Future" demonstrations by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. More than 800 events were planned around the U.S., and Europe and Asia held hundreds more. About 60,000 rallied in New York City, where Thunberg spoke to protesters. Demonstrators say not enough is being done on local, national, and international levels to curb emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. [BBC News, The Associated Press]


Trump announces sanctions on Iran's central bank

President Trump announced new sanctions on Iran on Friday, which he claimed are the "highest sanctions ever imposed on a country." The president spoke about the sanctions targeting Iran's central bank in the Oval Office following an attack on Saudi oil facilities over the weekend. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed the attack on Iran, while Iran has denied responsibility. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that "Iran's brazen attack against Saudi Arabia is unacceptable" and the U.S. "will continue its maximum pressure campaign against Iran's repressive regime." Mnuchin also called the step "very big" because "we've now cut off all source of funds to Iran." [The New York Times, CNBC]


4 dead after Utah bus crash

Four people were killed and several others were injured — including five critically — when a tour bus crashed Friday near Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The bus was reportedly carrying 30 tourists from China. The Utah Highway Patrol confirmed that it believes the driver, who was injured in the crash, drifted off the road to the right before over-correcting to the left, which caused the vehicle to roll one time before landing on the guardrail. The Chinese embassy in the United States thanked the first responders and said it was sending personnel to provide assistance to the crash victims. [USA Today, NBC News]


Game of Thrones expected to win big at the 2019 Emmys

Game of Thrones is expected to take home the top drama prize at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards. The hit HBO show has won Outstanding Drama Series for its past three seasons, and it's likely to set a new record for most Emmy wins for a single season of television. HBO's Veep, which also aired its final season this year, looks set to pick up the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, though some experts foresee an upset by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Fleabag. Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Killing Eve's Sandra Oh, Barry's Bill Hader, and Pose's Billy Porter are seen by prognosticators as front-runners in the lead acting categories. The Emmys will air Sunday on Fox. [Vox, Gold Derby]


Antonio Brown released from Patriots following sexual assault allegations

Wide receiver Antonio Brown was released from the New England Patriots on Friday following an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. A woman has accused him of rape and sexual assault, while another woman has accused him of inappropriate conduct and sending threatening text messages. Brown has denied the accusations through an attorney. Brown has been at the center of several claims of wrongdoing, allegedly refusing to comply with NFL equipment policies and facing fines after an altercation with the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, in addition to allegedly failing to pay former assistants. He was released from the Raiders and picked up by the Patriots before the season, playing just one game with New England as the allegations became public. [The Washington Post, ESPN]