Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 19, 2022

Prosecutors describe the "unspeakable" Parkland killings as shooter faces possible death penalty, Europe's deadly heat wave reaches the U.K., and more


Prosecutor describes Parkland killings in trial's penalty phase

Prosecutors on Monday described the "unspeakable" mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, as the sentencing phase of the confessed killer's trial began. Lead prosecutor Mike Satz said the attacker, former student Nikolas Cruz, had planned to murder people at a school for a long time before doing so in 2018. He added that all 17 of the killings were "heinous, atrocious, and cruel." Satz described each killing in detail, and said the killer walked over bodies, took off his vest, put down his rifle in the stairwell, and ran out after the murders, vanishing among students and teachers as they evacuated. Cruz could face the death penalty.


Deadly European heat wave spreads to U.K. 

The heat wave that has fueled wildfires in Spain, France, and Portugal reached the United Kingdom on Monday. The temperature is expected to reach an all-time U.K. record of 104 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday. The government declared a national emergency. British schools, sports facilities, and summer camps shut down. Trains were canceled. Bob Ward, communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said the temperatures were "well above anything we've ever seen before," and warned the heat wave could result in 2,000 deaths. At least 1,100 people have already died of heat-related causes in Spain and Portugal. Spain's prime minister blamed global warming, saying: "Climate change kills."


Rep. Jody Hice subpoenaed in Georgia's Trump election inquiry

Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis has subpoenaed Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) to testify before a special grand jury investigating possible crimes connected to former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election results, according to a new court filing. Hice reportedly received the subpoena last month. On Monday, he filed a motion to quash the subpoena. Willis started the investigation after Trump, in a phone call, pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to reverse his loss in the state to President Biden. Hice said any discussions he had as he looked into "alleged irregularities" were proper in his role as a member of Congress.


Fauci says he'll retire by end of Biden's term

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, said in an interview published by Politico on Monday that he plans to retire by January 2025, which coincides with the end of President Biden's term. Fauci, 81, has served as a government scientist for more than 50 years, and is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He has also served as a top adviser on the pandemic under both former President Donald Trump and Biden. "I am not going to be on this job forever," he said. "If somebody says, 'You'll leave when we don't have COVID anymore,' then I will be 105," Fauci added. "I think we're going to be living with this." 


2 charged with illegally using foreign funds to donate to Trump campaign

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said Monday they have charged two New York state residents with illegally using funds from Chinese and Singaporean investors to donate $600,000 to then-President Donald Trump's re-election campaign. The 2017 contributions were part of an alleged scheme by suspects Sherry Li and Lianbo Wang to portray themselves as politically connected as they tried to solicit financial backing to build a China-themed park Li called "Chinese Disneyland" in upstate New York. U.S. campaign finance laws prohibit foreigners from contributing to political candidates, although they can attend fundraisers.


Pence clashes with Trump in Arizona governor's race endorsement

Former Vice President Mike Pence backed housing developer Karrin Taylor Robson in Arizona's Republican gubernatorial primary on Monday, marking his latest clash with former President Donald Trump in this year's election season. Pence is expected to campaign with Robson on Friday as Trump holds a rally for rival GOP candidate Kari Lake, a former TV news anchor. Pence called Robson "the only candidate for governor that will keep Arizona's border secure and streets safe, empower parents and create great schools, and promote conservative values." Lake has aggressively pushed Trump's baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him by fraud. Whoever wins the Aug. 2 GOP primary is favored to win the general election.


Gazprom tells European customers it can't guarantee supply

Russia's Gazprom has told European customers it can't guarantee it will maintain their regular gas supplies under their current contracts, Reuters reported Monday, citing a copy of a letter it reviewed that was sent by the Russian state gas monopoly. Gazprom said the potential cutoff of gas was due to "extraordinary" circumstances, signaling a potential escalation of tensions between Europe and Moscow over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The July 14 letter from Gazprom said it was invoking a force majeure or "act of God" clause, a standard element of business contracts describing extreme circumstances that release a party in the contract from their legal obligations.


Jury selection begins in Bannon's criminal contempt trial

Jury selection began Monday in the criminal contempt trial of Stephen Bannon, one-time strategist for former President Donald Trump. Bannon has failed to comply with subpoenas he received last year from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters aiming to block Congress from certifying the 2020 election results. Bannon's lawyers said as the trial loomed that he is now willing to testify to the committee, on his terms. Justice Department lawyers say the trial is necessary to punish Bannon for refusing to comply earlier, not to compel his testimony now. The Jan. 6 committee has scheduled a Thursday hearing intended to focus on Trump's "dereliction of duty" on Jan. 6.


Buffalo mass shooting suspect pleads not guilty to hate-crime charges

Payton Gendron, the white gunman accused of killing 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, pleaded not guilty Monday to federal hate crime charges. The suspect's federal public defender said the defense hoped the case could be resolved "short of trial." If convicted, Gendron could get the death penalty, although the Justice Department said it would decide later whether to seek capital punishment. Gendron, 19, was indicted last week on the hate crime charges and weapons counts. Investigators believe Gendron, motivated by white supremacist beliefs, drove more than three hours to a Tops Supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood intending to kill as many Black people as possible.


Prosecutors decline to charge Colbert crew over Capitol bit

Federal prosecutors announced Monday they have dropped charges against Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's puppet master, Robert Smigel, and others associated with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert who were arrested in the U.S. Capitol complex on June 16. Smigel and the Late Show producers and crew were charged with misdemeanor unlawful entry for being in a Capitol office building without an escort after the third House Jan. 6 committee hearing. "We do not believe it is probable that the office would be able to obtain and sustain convictions on these charges," prosecutors said in a statement. Colbert joked on his show that his crew was arrested for "first-degree puppetry," or "high jinks with intent to goof."


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