Daily Briefing

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

Harold Maass
EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Sondland revises testimony, acknowledges quid pro quo

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, has revised his testimony to House impeachment investigators and acknowledged he told a high-ranking Ukrainian official that the U.S. would "likely" withhold military aid unless Ukraine publicly promised to investigate Democrats. In four new pages of testimony released Tuesday, Sondland confirmed he participated in spelling out a quid pro quo he previously did not admit. Sondland said he did not know who suspended the aid, nor when or why they did it. Congress also released a transcript of former NATO Ambassador Kurt Volker's testimony. Volker described how he pushed Trump to meet with Zelensky but was denied. Trump maintains there was no quid pro quo, and says his phone call with Zelensky, which triggered the impeachment investigation, was "perfect." [The New York Times]


Democrats surge in Kentucky and Virginia, GOP holds on in Mississippi

Democrats claimed off-year election wins Tuesday in Kentucky and Virginia. In Kentucky, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear declared victory over Gov. Matt Bevin. Bevin, behind by 0.4 percent, has refused to concede. President Trump tried to give the unpopular Republican incumbent a boost with a last-minute Monday rally, telling supporters a Bevin loss would be seen as "the greatest defeat in the history of the world" for Trump. Virginia Democrats flipped both houses of the legislature, gaining full control of the longtime swing state's government. They are expected to pass gun control measures and become the final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Republicans claimed victory in Mississippi, where Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves won the race to replace outgoing Gov. Phil Bryant (R). [CNN, The Associated Press]


Iran takes another step back from nuclear deal

Iran plans to further retreat from its landmark 2015 nuclear deal by injecting gas into centrifuges at its Fordow uranium-enrichment facility, President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran on Wednesday will start putting gas into more than 1,000 centrifuges at the plant, Rouhani said. That marks the beginning of a process used to enrich uranium. Under its deal with world powers, Iran is allowed to keep 1,044 centrifuges at Fordow, but they are supposed to be empty. The deal also banned Iran from enriching uranium at the site for 15 years after the 2015 deal was signed. Rouhani's announcement came hours after the U.S. formally told the United Nations it was withdrawing from the nuclear accord. [The Washington Post]


Nine members of Mormon family killed in Mexico drug-cartel ambush

Drug cartel gunmen killed six children and three women from a prominent Mormon family Monday evening in an ambush on a dirt road in northern Mexico, local authorities said. The victims, all U.S. citizens, included 8-month-old twins. Another eight children survived by hiding in nearby brush. The victims lived in Sonora state in the hamlet of Mora, which was founded by a fundamentalist offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mexican Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said the attackers might have thought the large SUVs belonged to a rival drug gang. President Trump, in a tweet, offered to help Mexico "wage war on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth." Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to meet with Trump. [The Associated Press]


More than 11,200 scientists declare climate emergency

A group of 11,258 scientists from 153 countries are declaring "clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency." In an article published Tuesday in BioScience, William J. Ripple and Christopher Wolf of the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University write it is their "moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat." The declaration of a climate emergency comes one day after the Trump administration notified the United Nations that the United States is removing itself from the Paris climate accord. The article lays out six steps that should be taken to ease the worst impacts of climate change, pertaining to energy, short-lived pollutants, nature, food, economy, and population. [BioScience]


Roger Stone trial gets started with jury selection

Jury selection began Tuesday in Roger Stone's criminal trial on charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering to obstruct lawmakers' Russia investigation. Stone, a longtime confidant of President Trump, was excused from the proceedings after he complained of food poisoning. Jury selection was nearly wrapped up Tuesday and opening statements are expected to start Wednesday. Stone was the last person charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Stone faces charges of falsely telling the House Intelligence Committee that he never spoke to any Trump campaign associates about WikiLeaks' plans to post hacked emails that could be damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign. [The Washington Post, CBS News]


U.K.'s Johnson asks Trump to lift new tariff on Scotch whiskey

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked President Trump to lift his new tariffs on Scotch whiskey and other goods, a Johnson spokesperson said Tuesday. Johnson, who is struggling to save his Brexit plan, also asked Trump in the same phone call not to impose levies on imported British cars. The White House declined to provide details on the trade discussion, offering only a general statement. "The two leaders again reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the special relationship through a robust bilateral free trade agreement once the United Kingdom leaves the E.U.," the White House said. "The president also stressed the need for NATO allies to robustly fund their defenses," it said. The Trump administration last month imposed a 25 percent tariff on Scotch and several other products to retaliate for European Union aircraft subsidies. [Reuters]


AT&T to pay $60 million FTC settlement over 'unlimited' data plans

AT&T has agreed to a $60 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly misleading customers about its "unlimited" data plans. The FTC sued AT&T in 2014, saying it failed to "adequately disclose" to people who signed up for unlimited data plans that their data speeds would be throttled if they used a certain amount of data in a billing cycle. Under the settlement, AT&T can't represent its data plans as "unlimited" without "disclosing any material restrictions on the speed or amount of data." The $60 million will be deposited into a fund used to provide partial refunds to current and former customers who signed up for the unlimited plans before 2011. [The Verge]


Pro-China Hong Kong lawmaker stabbed while campaigning

A pro-Beijing Hong Kong lawmaker, Junius Ho, was stabbed while campaigning Wednesday. The anti-government assailant reportedly approached Ho to give him flowers and ask to take a photo with him, then drew a knife from a bag and stabbed the politician in the chest. Ho and several others quickly overpowered the man, who called Ho "human scum." Pro-democracy demonstrators oppose Ho because of his alleged links to violence against them. After armed masked men attacked demonstrators at a subway station on July 21, Ho was seen shaking hands with some attackers, whom police later identified as members of triad organized crime gangs. The subway attack marked an escalation in tensions between anti-government demonstrators and leaders of the semi-autonomous former British colony. [The Associated Press]


Lawyer tells Buffalo Wild Wings to make changes or face discrimination lawsuit

An attorney for black customers asked to change tables at a Chicago-area Buffalo Wild Wings over their skin color held a news conference Tuesday calling for the restaurant chain to make broad changes or face a discrimination lawsuit. A racially mixed group of about 20 people went to the restaurant on Oct. 26 for a child's birthday party, and say an employee asked them to move to a different table because a regular customer didn't want to sit near black people. "I was appalled," Justin Vahl, one of the adults in the party, said. The franchise fired two employees involved in the incident and said others would undergo sensitivity training, while the customer who started the controversy was banned from the chain's 1,200 restaurants. [The Associated Press, Chicago Tribune]