Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 17, 2019

Harold Maass
Elijah Cummings in Washington


House passes bipartisan resolution condemning Syria pullout

The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to launch its offensive against Syrian Kurds who fought alongside U.S. troops against the Islamic State. The bipartisan rebuke was approved 354 to 60 in a rare break with Trump by most House Republicans. "Today we make clear that the Congress is a coequal branch of government and we want nothing to do with this disastrous policy," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). The vote came as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo headed to Ankara, Turkey, to press Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to accept a ceasefire. [The New York Times]


Rep. Elijah Cummings, House Oversight Committee chair, dies at 68

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) died early Thursday from "complications concerning longstanding health challenges," his office said. Cummings was 68. The Baltimore Democrat did not return to his office this week after undergoing an unspecified medical procedure. Cummings was chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and had become a central figure in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump. A former Maryland state delegate and trial attorney, he clashed frequently with the Trump administration, including in his committee's court fight over subpoenas for Trump's personal and financial records. In July, Trump blasted Cummings and his district, describing the congressman's hometown as "rat and rodent infested." Cummings did not respond directly, but criticized "racist language" used by the nation's leaders. [The Baltimore Sun]


Britain and the EU reach a draft Brexit deal

Negotiators from Britain and the European Union reached a draft Brexit deal Thursday ahead of the start of a two-day EU summit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs the EU to approve the deal at the summit, which starts Thursday, to pave the way for an orderly Brexit on Oct. 31. If the EU approves the revised divorce deal, British lawmakers, who have rejected previous proposals, will vote on it Saturday. Negotiators worked through the night Wednesday trying to finalize customs and sales tax regulations on trade between the Northern Ireland and Ireland. The proposal appeared to hit a last-minute snag when Northern Irish party allies Johnson needs to ratify the deal said overnight they could not support the proposal "as it stands." [CNBC, BBC News]


Trump downplays Syria crisis, says some Kurds worse than ISIS

President Trump on Wednesday tried to downplay the significance of his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of Turkey's offensive against Kurdish forces who helped the U.S. fight the Islamic State in the region. Trump said the Syrian Kurdish fighters were "no angels." He added that the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, is "worse at terror and more of a terrorist threat, in many ways" than ISIS. Trump's characterization of the PKK, a militant Kurdish nationalist group that has launched attacks in Turkey, echoed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's depiction of them. In an Oct. 9 letter, Trump told Erdogan not to be a "tough guy" or "fool," and warned him against "slaughtering thousands of people" in Syria. Erdogan reportedly threw the letter in the trash. [The Washington Post]


Former Pompeo aide testifies he resigned over undermining of diplomats

Former State Department official Michael McKinley, who served as a top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told Congress in closed-door testimony on Wednesday that he resigned over frustration with the Trump administration's undermining of career diplomats in Ukraine, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing several people with knowledge of his statements. A person familiar with McKinley's testimony said he felt he had seen career diplomats "mistreated" and "their careers derailed for political reasons" while serving under Trump. McKinley spent 37 years in the State Department until his resignation last week, which appeared to have been prompted by Marie Yovanovitch's firing as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and the State Department's failure to "defend" her from partisan attacks. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]


Democrats clash with Trump in White House meeting on Syria

Leading congressional Democrats walked out of a White House meeting on Wednesday, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying they left after President Trump had a "meltdown." The Democratic leaders went to meet with Trump about Syria shortly after the bipartisan House vote opposing Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. Pelosi said Trump appeared "shaken" by how overwhelmingly the measure passed. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump unleashed "a nasty diatribe, not focused on the facts," and the Democrats walked out. Trump reportedly got angry when Pelosi told him "all roads with you lead to Putin." White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump "was measured, factual, and decisive, while Speaker Pelosi's decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising. She had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues." [CNN, NBC News]


GM, UAW reach tentative deal to end strike

General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative deal to end the union's strike against the automaker, 31 days into the walkout. Nearly 50,000 UAW members who work for GM have been on strike since mid-September demanding better pay and benefits, profit sharing, and greater job security. Full details on the proposed contract agreement weren't immediately available, but it was expected to include pay raises and policy changes. The nationwide strike came after a four-year contract expired and negotiations broke down. The strike is expected to cost General Motors around $1.5 billion. The proposed agreement still must be approved by a union council, which will meet Thursday, and then ratified in a vote. [Detroit Free Press, The Wall Street Journal]


U.S. requires Chinese diplomats to notify State Department about meetings

The Trump administration has started requiring Chinese diplomats to give the State Department advance notice of all official meetings they have in the U.S., the South China Morning Post reported Thursday, citing a senior U.S. official. The policy covers any visits Chinese diplomats make to see state or local officials. The Chinese envoys only have to notify U.S. officials, not request permission. The move is intended to pressure Beijing into easing restrictions on U.S. diplomats in China. "We've been complaining to the Chinese government for years now," the State Department official said. "The Chinese response is that 'We give you access when appropriate.'" The official said the new policy was not related to U.S. pressure on China over trade issues or human rights. [South China Morning Post]


338 arrested in global crackdown on dark-web child porn

Authorities arrested 338 people in 12 countries in connection with a South Korea-based dark web child pornography site, law enforcement authorities said Wednesday. The seized website, Welcome to Video, allegedly sold access to 250,000 videos of child sexual abuse. It took payment in bitcoin. Officials have rescued at least 23 underage victims in the U.S., Britain, and Spain who had been raped by site users, according to the Justice Department. "Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior," U.S. Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said. [Reuters]


Boxer Patrick Day dies days after devastating knockout

Junior middleweight boxer Patrick Day died from brain injuries Wednesday after suffering a 10th-round knockout loss to unbeaten 2016 Olympian Charles Conwell on Saturday. Day was 27. Conwell knocked out Day with two rights and a left hook, and the back of Day's head slammed onto the canvas. He was taken out of the ring on a stretcher, and never regained consciousness, despite emergency brain surgery. He was disconnected from life-support on Wednesday, surrounded by family and his trainer. On Monday, Conwell posted an emotional letter to Day on social media. "I never meant for this to happen to you," Conwell wrote. Promoter Lou DiBella said Day's "kindness, positivity, and generosity of spirit made a lasting impression with everyone he met." [ESPN]