Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 8, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Stimulus bill talks hit another dead end after 2 weeks of negotiations

Congressional Democrats and White House leaders were again unable to agree on terms for the next CARES Act on Friday, closing out a second week of negotiations while remaining gridlocked. Democrats don't have the votes to support any bill under $2 trillion and Republicans won't accept anything over it. While Democrats offered to slash $1 trillion off their $3.4 trillion proposal if Republicans added $1 trillion to theirs to meet in the middle, White House officials refused, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. Democrats previously rejected Republicans' standalone measure to temporarily continue the $600/week unemployment boost that has now expired. White House officials said they had advised President Trump to take unilateral action on stimulus measures, however, Trump likely doesn't have the power to allocate funding via executive action. [CNN, CNBC]

2.

Intel official: Russia boosting Trump, China 'prefers' he lose re-election

A top intelligence official says Russia is "using a range of measures" to "denigrate" former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election, while China "prefers" that President Trump, "whom Beijing sees as unpredictable," does "not win re-election." William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, released a statement on Friday detailing the "intentions and activities" of U.S. adversaries in the presidential election, which describes how intelligence officials are "concerned" about interference, primarily from China, Russia, and Iran. "Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump's candidacy on social media and Russian television," the statement said. Finally, Evanina said Iran seeks to "undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections." [The Washington Post]

3.

Unemployment rate declines to 10.2 percent as economy adds 1.8 million jobs

The U.S. unemployment rate declined to 10.2 percent in July, as the economy added 1.8 million jobs, the Labor Department said on Friday. Previously, last month's June report showed the unemployment rate decline to 11.1 percent, with 4.8 million jobs added. The July report surpassed expectations, as experts were anticipating about 1.48 million jobs would be added and that the unemployment rate would decline to about 10.6 percent. However, the unemployment rate is still higher than during the Great Recession, and experts raised concerns about the recovery's slowing pace. "The economy is still in a massive hole, but we're crawling back out," University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers tweeted. "The problem is that the pace of improvement has slowed to a crawl." [The Wall Street Journal, CNBC]

4.

Report: Whitmer met with Biden in person as VP decision nears

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer traveled to Delaware last weekend to meet with former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, two high-ranking Michigan Democrats told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. If the reports are accurate, Whitmer would be the first known potential running mate to sit down for an in-person meeting with Biden, who is reportedly narrowing down his list of contenders. Whitmer's office declined to confirm or deny the trip, and Biden's campaign declined to comment, but flight records show a chartered plane flew from Lansing, Michigan, to Delaware last Sunday. Whitmer, a first-term governor of a battleground state, has long been considered a possible running mate for Biden. [The Associated Press, The Hill]

5.

U.S. sanctions Hong Kong officials who implemented national security crackdown

The U.S. Treasury and State Departments levied sanctions against 11 Hong Kong and China officials on Friday, most notably Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam. The sanctions are in response to severe crackdowns on freedoms those officials have taken against Hong Kongers at Beijing's direction. These officials helped implement Hong Kong's "draconian" national security law in late June, and were involved with "actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability or autonomy of Hong Kong," the Treasury Department said. It lets China punish people who protest for democracy, who speak to journalists, or who otherwise oppose China's government. The U.S. also recently sanctioned Beijing officials over China's human rights abuses of the Uighur Muslims and other minority groups. China barred entry to some U.S. lawmakers in response. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

6.

Falwell Jr. takes 'indefinite leave of absence' from Liberty

Liberty University announced Friday that its president and chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., has agreed to take an "indefinite leave of absence" from his roles after a request from the executive committee of its board of trustees. The evangelical Christian university, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, did not provide a reason for why Falwell is stepping away, but he did recently come under fire for posting a photo deemed inappropriate on his Instagram account that has since been deleted. The photo was not the first time Falwell sparked controversy — he has been accused of silencing students and professors "who reject his pro-Trump politics," instilling a culture of fear on campus, and mishandling the university's coronavirus pandemic response. [Fox News, BBC]

7.

Indian passenger flight overshoots runway, killing 18

An Air India Express plane overshot the runway after landing at Calicut International Airport on Friday amid heavy rain near the city of Kozhikode, killing 18 people on board, including the pilot and co-pilot, and seriously injuring 16 others after the aircraft split in two. The flight was carrying 190 passengers and crew. One official said it was a "miracle" the casualty toll was not higher, especially because fuel had leaked out without catching fire. Still, it was India's worst passenger air crash in a decade. India's Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri praised the lead pilot and said it was too early to determine the precise cause of the accident. Investigators have found the Boeing 737's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. [BBC, Reuters]

8.

DEA charges former Angels employee in Skaggs' death

The Drug Enforcement Agency has charged Eric Kay, a former director of communications for the Los Angeles Angels, with illegally supplying drugs to pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died in his hotel room in Texas last year. The 27-year-old Skaggs was found to have a toxic mix of alcohol, fentanyl, and oxycodone in his system. A criminal complaint affidavit shows Skaggs sent Kay text messages the day before he was found dead asking him to deliver pills to his room. In a statement, the attorney for Skaggs' family said the family is "deeply heartbroken to learn that Tyler would be alive today if not for a pill containing fentanyl" delivered by Kay. The statement also asked the Angels to make public a report the team commissioned that found "no one in management" was aware a team employee illegally supplied drugs to Skaggs. [ESPN, Yahoo Sports]

9.

At least 8 killed, 14 wounded in attack on Somali military base

At least eight soldiers were killed and 14 others wounded at a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Saturday after a suicide bomber reportedly detonated a vehicle at the base's gates. The death toll is reportedly expected to rise. The Islamist militant group Al-Shabab, which has waged an insurgency for a decade and often targets Somalia's security forces, claimed responsibility for the attack, BBC reports. Al-Shabab used to control large swaths of the country, but was pushed out of most large towns and cities, including Mogadishu. But it has continued to carry out bombings and assassinations in the capital and surrounding areas, Al Jazeera notes, as the group seeks to overthrow Somalia's internationally recognized government. [Al Jazeera, BBC]

10.

Friends reunion delayed again

The planned Friends reunion, set to bring back the hit sitcom's original cast on HBO Max, has yet again been delayed. The unscripted special was scheduled for filming in March, but production was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope was to finally film in August. "It's supposed to happen maybe in August, the middle of August," David Schwimmer recently told The Tonight Show, saying despite the plan, "we'll wait until it's safe." No new date has been announced. Since the reunion is meant to take place on the show's original soundstage in California, it can't be filmed virtually. The special was intended to be a major draw to HBO Max when the streaming service debuted in May. [The Hollywood Reporter, Variety]