Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 12, 2019

Tim O'Donnell
Marie Yovanovitch.
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Yovanovitch: Trump pushed State Department to remove her

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified on Friday that President Trump pressured the State Department to remove her before she was suddenly ousted from her position in May. Yovanovitch appeared before several House panels as part of Trump's impeachment inquiry, and said Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani had fabricated several allegations against her in an effort to remove her from her post. Giuliani reportedly wanted Yovanovitch gone because he believed she was biased against Trump and was unwilling to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son's business dealings in Ukraine. Yovanovitch denied Giuliani's claims. She said a State Department official told her they were under significant pressure from Trump to push her out despite no wrongdoing. Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether Giuliani broke lobbying laws as a result of the matter. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to step down

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is resigning from his post after six months, President Trump confirmed Friday. Trump tweeted that he and McAleenan "worked well together" and that the secretary helped decrease the number of crossings at the U.S.'s southern border, but he now wanted "to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector." However, reports indicate that McAleenan was privately at odds with the Trump administration's immigration policies, which led to frustrations within the White House. During his tenure, though, McAleenan did expand a program that has forced around 50,000 migrants to remain in Mexico and signed deals with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras that would deny asylum protections in the U.S. to migrants if they failed to apply for asylum in another country during their journey. [Politico, The New York Times]


Turkish forces reportedly capture key Syrian border town during offensive

The Turkish military and a Syrian war monitor said Turkish forces have captured Ras al-Ayn, a key Syrian border town, Saturday as part of Ankara's offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters after U.S. troops pulled back from the area. The fighting is reportedly ongoing and Syrian Kurdish forces appear to be holding out in some parts of the town. More broadly, U.S. and Kurdish officials have said the Turkish incursion has halted the U.S. and Syrian Kurdish forces' fight against the Islamic State, which was a common refrain among Trump's critics when he ordered the U.S. troops out of the region. Hundreds of fighters with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have reportedly been relocated to the front lines against Turkey and away from ISIS operations. Meanwhile, the Pentagon confirmed the U.S. is sending 3,000 more troops to Saudi Arabia. [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]


U.S. trade deal with China will hold tariffs steady at 25 percent

President Trump announced Friday that he and China had agreed on a deal that halts his plan to increase tariffs from 25 to 30 percent next week. It doesn't lower tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods or call off increases slated for December. The agreement marks a break in more than a year of tensions. China also said it would buy $40 to $50 billion of U.S. farm goods. There will be a "phase two" deal, Trump added, also suggesting Hong Kong's fight with the mainland would "take care of itself." Trump has spent 15 months in a trade deadlock with China, spurring soybean surpluses for U.S. farmers and heightened prices on some consumer goods. News of the deal boosted stocks, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 320 points. [The Associated Press, CNBC]


Wildfires spread across southern California

A wildfire in the Los Angeles area spread rapidly on Friday amid strong winds and dry weather, leaving more than 20,000 homes under evacuation orders, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. The fire grew from 60 acres Thursday evening to 7,500 acres Friday evening, and was 13 percent contained. Many schools and major freeways are closed, and at least 31 structures have been destroyed. At least one person died due to cardiac arrest, per LAFD. Meanwhile, seven other fires are blazing across California. Winds are calming in the northern part of the state, prompting Pacific Gas & Electric to begin inspection and power restoration after a planned outage for an unprecedented number of customers began Wednesday in an attempt to avoid fallen power lines contributing to wildfires. [CBS News, NBC News]


Judge strikes down Trump policy blocking poor migrants from visas and green cards

On Friday, a federal judge in Manhattan struck down the Trump administration's "public charge" rule, which would've made it harder for immigrants to receive visas if they were deemed likely to rely on public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, or housing aid. The promise of the rule had already reportedly led undocumented immigrants to shun their benefits, but has now received a nationwide ban that the Trump administration will probably challenge. Advocacy groups and state attorneys general sued to block the policy. The judge for the Southern District of New York sided with them, temporarily blocking the policy from taking effect nationwide and saying it could cause "irreparable harm." [The New York Times, USA Today]


Typhoon Hagibis makes landfall in Japan

Typhoon Hagibis made landfall in Japan on Saturday, as more than 600,000 people have been ordered to evacuate, and another 8 million people have been issued evacuation warnings. The storm has already caused flooding and power outages. One man reportedly died after being pulled from a flipped car, another person is currently missing, and 33 others were injured. Hagibis reportedly contains maximum winds of up to 122 mph, which puts it in line with a Category 3 Atlantic hurricane. "When the winds suddenly hit, they blew the roof off my house," one resident of Japan's Chiba prefecture said. "The noise was awful. One of my three children was injured but is now in the hospital."


California governor signs law banning private prisons

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Saturday that requires the state to phase out private, for-profit prisons and immigrant detention centers by 2028. California currently houses 1,600 inmates in three private prisons throughout the state, but their contracts — which expire in 2023 — cannot be renewed, and no new contracts can be drawn up after this year unless the state needs them to keep the prison population under a court-ordered cap. Activists reportedly hope the ban will launch a nationwide movement against private detention centers, which are often criticized for their poor conditions. Opponents of the bill, like the California State Sheriffs Association, argue that it will lead to overcrowding in state prisons. [The Sacramento Bee, The San Francisco Chronicle]


Fox News host Shep Smith abruptly leaves network

Fox News announced Friday its longtime anchor Shepard Smith is leaving after 23 years, with Friday's show being his last. Smith in a statement said he asked Fox News to allow him to leave to "begin a new chapter" and that "after requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged." His time slot will be filled by a "series of rotating anchors" until a replacement is set, Fox News said. This announcement came as a surprise; Smith signed a new multi-year contract in 2018. Fox News' Neil Cavuto said on the air Friday he was "a little stunned" by the news. Smith has been a frequent skeptic of President Trump, quick to offer fact-checks that put him at odds with many of his colleagues and drew Trump's ire. [The Daily Beast, The New York Times]


Aleksei Leonov, 1st person to walk in space, dies at 85

The first person to perform a space walk, Alexei Leonov, died Friday in Moscow, the Russian space agency announced. Leonov was 85. The Russian Air Force pilot turned cosmonaut became a hero in the Soviet Union when he scored a big win in the nation's space race against the U.S. and spent 10 minutes tethered outside his spacecraft in 1965. Leonov was determined to become the first person to go to the moon as well, but the Soviets abandoned that goal after the U.S. achieved it. Leonov returned to space in 1975, despite a near-fatal incident during his first walk when his spacesuit unexpectedly inflated while he was outside the ship. [The New York Times, The Guardian]

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