Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 25, 2022

Biden unveils plan to forgive $10,000 in student loans for most borrowers, Uvalde school board fires embattled police chief, and more

1

Biden forgives $10,000 in student loan debt for most borrowers

President Biden on Wednesday announced his long-awaited plan to cut federal student loan debt, saying he will forgive $10,000 for borrowers earning under $125,000 a year, or couples making under $250,000. Biden also said recipients of Pell Grants who make less than $125,000 annually will be eligible for another $10,000 reduction. Biden said the plan will help middle-class Americans "saddled with unsustainable debt." He also announced the extension of a pandemic-era pause of student loan payments through the end of the year. Advocacy groups praised the plan, although some called for erasing more debt. Republicans opposed the program, independently estimated at $300 billion over a decade. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called it a "debt transfer scam."

2

Uvalde school board fires embattled police chief

The Uvalde, Texas, school board voted unanimously Wednesday to fire the district's embattled police chief, Pete Arredondo, who has been widely blamed for the 77-minute delay before officers confronted the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in May. The decision came after an emotional hearing in an auditorium packed with about 200 people, including parents of some of the murdered children, demanding accountability. Arredondo was placed on administrative leave in June; the superintendent recommended firing him in July. He didn't attend the hearing, citing death threats, but his lawyers said it was "patently false" to say he was incident commander because officers from numerous local, state, and federal agencies responded to the shooting.

3

U.S. to send Ukraine another $3 billion in military aid

President Biden on Wednesday announced another $3 billion in security aid for Ukraine. The latest round of military assistance came as Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day, and as Russia's invasion entered its seventh month. "Over the past six months, Ukrainians have inspired the world with their extraordinary courage and dedication to freedom," Biden said in a statement as he announced the package, which includes six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, laser-guided rocket systems, Puma drones, "Vampire" counter-drone systems, and mortar and artillery rounds. Officials from the U.S. and Ukraine have warned of Russian attacks on or around the holiday, which marks Ukraine's declaration of its independence from the Soviet Union on Aug. 24, 1991.

4

Russian rockets kill 22 on Ukraine's Independence Day

A Russian rocket attack killed at least 21 people at a Ukrainian train station as Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day on Wednesday, marking the country's formal break from the Soviet Union in 1991. About two dozen others were wounded. President Volodymyr Zelensky had warned for days that the Kremlin might try "something particularly cruel" around the holiday, and the U.S. Embassy had urged Americans in the embattled country to leave if they could. The rocket barrage hit Chaplyne, a town of about 3,500 people in the central Dnipropetrovsk region. Zelensky's office said rocket fire earlier in the day killed an 11-year-old child in the same area. "Chaplyne is our pain today," Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

5

DOJ releases memo justifying Barr's decision not to charge Trump with obstruction

The Justice Department on Wednesday released a secret 2019 memo detailing the DOJ's reasoning for not charging former President Donald Trump with impeding Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation. A federal appellate court had ordered the department to release the unredacted memo, written by two top DOJ political appointees for then-Attorney General Bill Barr. The memo says Trump's actions, including firing his FBI director and pressuring his White House counsel to recant testimony, didn't amount to obstruction of justice, particularly since Trump "reasonably believed" the investigations impeded his work as president. Legal experts criticized the memo. Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor, told The New York Times the document was a "get out of jail free" card for Trump.

6

Idaho judge blocks arrests of doctors for abortions to protect women's health

A federal judge in Idaho on Wednesday blocked part of a state abortion law that would have let authorities arrest doctors for terminating a pregnancy that threatens a woman's health. The Idaho law, scheduled to take effect Thursday, bans abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman's life, not just her health, is in danger. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the law violates a federal act requiring hospitals participating in the federal Medicare program to provide care in "emergency medical conditions," giving the administration its first victory in a post-Roe lawsuit. On Tuesday, a Texas judge blocked enforcement in the state of the Biden administration's guidance requiring hospitals to provide emergency abortions even in states that ban the procedure.

7

Judge tells Trump lawyers to explain request for special master

A federal judge in Florida gave former President Donald Trump's lawyers until Friday to expand their arguments supporting Trump's request for the appointment of a special master to oversee the review of boxes of highly classified and top secret government documents the FBI seized in a search of his Mar-a-Lago home. Judge Aileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida ordered Trump's legal team to explain precisely what Trump wants, and why the court can intervene. Cannon also asked Trump's lawyers to explain how they believe the review by a special master would affect a magistrate judge's order for the Justice Department to propose redactions of the FBI affidavit that was used to justify issuing the search warrant.

8

California expected to ban sale of new gas cars by 2035

California plans to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars starting in 2035 under a policy unveiled Wednesday. State regulators are scheduled to vote Thursday on launching the plan, which will start with restrictions on new gasoline-powered vehicle sales leading up to the outright ban. California is the biggest U.S. auto market, so its transition is expected to speed up the global shift to EVs. More than a dozen states usually set auto emissions standards modeled after California's. "This is huge," said Margo Oge, an EV expert who led the Environmental Protection Agency's transportation emissions program under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Other states following California's lead "will drive the market, and drive innovation," she predicted.

9

Trump calls for Senate GOP to replace McConnell as leader 'immediately'

Former President Donald Trump escalated his feud with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday, urging Senate Republicans to boot him as their leader "immediately." Trump cited a story in The Federalist describing alleged ties between China and McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao. "Mitch McConnell is not an Opposition Leader, he is a pawn for the Democrats to get whatever they want," Trump said in his statement. Trump has lashed out numerous times since the Kentucky Republican criticized him over the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack by a mob of Trump supporters hoping to reverse the former president's 2020 election loss to President Biden. McConnell recently said the GOP might not take control of the Senate in November, as previously expected, because of the "quality" of some of its nominees, which was interpreted as a criticism of Trump's hand-picked candidates.

10

Jill Biden tests positive with COVID rebound case

First lady Jill Biden has tested positive with a rebound COVID-19 case, the White House announced Wednesday. She will return to isolation. Jill Biden first tested positive while on a family vacation in South Carolina, where she stayed through a five-day quarantine period before rejoining President Biden in Delaware after testing negative. She isn't experiencing symptoms, and the White House has notified everyone who had contact with her. President Biden also had a recent infection followed by a rebound case. He, like the first lady, had taken the antiviral Paxlovid. The president tested negative for the coronavirus Wednesday in an antigen test. He will test more frequently and wear a mask when near others for the next 10 days, in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the White House said.

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