Daily briefing

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

Biden vows to push bill protecting abortion rights if Democrats win in November, Steele dossier source Igor Danchenko found not guilty of lying to FBI, and more

1

Biden pledges to push bill to protect abortion rights

President Biden promised Tuesday that the first bill he will send to the new Congress if Democrats expand their majorities in the midterm elections is legislation to restore nationwide abortion rights eliminated when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Biden said at a Democratic National Committee event that "extremist Republicans" don't have the final say on the issue. "Your right to choose rests with you," he said, "and if you do your part and vote, Democratic leaders of Congress, I promise you, will do our part." The comments came ahead of November midterms, as many Democrats campaign on the abortion rights issue and Republicans stress crime and economic problems.

2

Steele dossier source acquitted in 2nd loss for Special Counsel John Durham

A federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday acquitted Russian-born researcher Igor Danchenko — a primary source for a discredited 2016 dossier on former President Donald Trump's alleged Russia ties — on charges of lying to the FBI. The indictment charged Danchenko of knowingly misleading FBI agents investigating allegations in the dossier, which was indirectly funded by Democrats, about his communications with some of his "sub-sources." The verdict marked the latest defeat for the investigation of Special Counsel John Durham. Trump's then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 tasked Durham with examining the origins of the FBI's inquiry into Russia and Trump. Durham has now lost his only two cases that went to trial.

3

Russian strikes cause blackouts across Ukraine

Russian airstrikes targeting Ukrainian infrastructure have cut electricity and water service to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, leaving more than 1,000 towns in blackouts on Tuesday, including part of the capital city, Kyiv. President Volodymyr Zelensky said 30 percent of the country's power stations had been destroyed by escalating Russian airstrikes over the last eight days. A Western official said Russia, which has had to retreat from some occupied areas in the face of a strong Ukrainian counteroffensive, has been "attempting to destroy Ukraine's electricity network" with long-range strikes, including with an increasing number of Iranian-made "kamikaze" drones.

4

Special master tells DOJ, Trump lawyers he needs more information on Mar-a-Lago documents

Judge Raymond Dearie, the court-appointed special master reviewing documents FBI agents seized from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in August, expressed frustration Tuesday with the difficulties he is encountering getting information from Justice Department and Trump lawyers. He told Trump's lawyers to provide more information to back up their claim that some of the documents are privileged. "What's the expression — 'Where's the beef?' I need some beef," Dearie told the lawyers in a conference call. Trump's team says some of the documents are protected by attorney-client or executive privilege, and a federal judge in Florida appointed Dearie to conduct an impartial review and determine what documents the Justice Department can use in its criminal investigation of Trump's handling of government documents after he left office.

5

Biden to announce release of 15 million more barrels of oil from strategic reserve

President Biden will announce Wednesday that he is releasing another 15 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the last portion of the 180 million barrels he approved selling earlier this year to help contain gas prices, White House officials tell The New York Times. The U.S. will release the oil in December, and Biden will consider releasing more later in the winter. Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine threatens to drive up fuel prices again this winter, as the OPEC+ alliance, which includes Russia, prepares to cut production to boost prices. The sales will be a "wartime bridge" as the U.S. pushes to increase domestic production, White House officials said. The reserve, which can hold about 700 million barrels of oil, is down to about 400 million.

6

Californian convicted in 1996 disappearance, murder of college student

A California jury on Tuesday found Paul Flores, 45, guilty in the 1996 murder of Kristin Smart, a college student who was last seen with Flores after an off-campus party near California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, where they both were students. Prosecutors said Flores killed Smart, who was 19, in his dorm room after an attempted rape. A separate jury found Flores' father, 81-year-old Ruben Flores, not guilty of helping his son bury Smart's body under a deck at his home about 12 miles from Cal Poly. Prosecutors said the body was moved before investigators looked there. It has never been found. The case was dormant until a popular podcast, Your Own Backyard, uncovered new information and prompted witnesses to talk to authorities.

7

IRS raises 2023 standard deduction, tax brackets due to inflation

The Internal Revenue Service announced Tuesday that it is increasing the standard deduction and income thresholds for all tax brackets for the 2023 tax year, to adjust for high inflation. Paychecks will reflect the changes starting in January, with taxpayers getting more take-home pay due to withholding adjustments. The standard deduction will rise by $1,800 for married couples filing jointly, $1,400 for heads of households, and $900 for single taxpayers and married taxpayers filing separately. The top tax rate of 37 percent will apply to individuals whose income is above $578,125 and married couples filing jointly with an income of more than $693,750. In both cases, that's up 7 percent from 2022.

8

Amazon workers reject union at upstate New York facility

Amazon workers at an upstate New York facility have voted against unionizing in a setback for activists trying to organize the online retail giant's employees. The National Labor Relations Board reported that about 66 percent of the employees casting ballots rejected the proposal to join the Amazon Labor Union. The group won a landmark vote at a Staten Island warehouse earlier this year. A spokesperson said Amazon was happy that the employees had decided to continue working under a "direct relationship" with the company. Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, said the fight "for fair treatment for all Amazon workers" would "continue and expand." "It isn't a loss, it's an ongoing battle," he said.

9

American citizen jailed in Saudi Arabia over tweets posted in U.S.

An American citizen, 72-year-old Saad Ibrahim Almadi, has been arrested in Saudi Arabia and sentenced to 16 years in prison over tweets he posted criticizing the Saudi government while in the United States, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Almadi's son Ibrahim said Saudi officials had tortured his father. Almadi is not a dissident, just a retired project manager who was exercising his free-speech rights in the U.S., his son said. "He had what I would call mild opinions about the government," he told Post columnist Josh Rogin. Almadi, a citizen of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, was convicted of supporting terrorism and trying to destabilize the kingdom. The State Department says it is expressing concerns about Almadi's case "consistently and intensively" with Saudi officials.

10

Iranian climber returns to Iran after competing abroad without hijab

Elnaz Rekabi, a 33-year-old female Iranian climber, returned to Iran Wednesday after sparking controversy by competing in the International Federation of Sport Climbing's Asian Championships in Seoul on Sunday without wearing a hijab, as required under Iran's morality laws. Videos of Rekabi competing in a ponytail with no headscarf circulated on social media. Many people assumed she was showing support for massive protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by Iran's morality police for "inappropriate attire," fueling concerns about what would happen to Rekabi when she returned home. Rekabi said her head covering fell off "unintentionally" when she "unexpectedly" was called to climb a wall. IranWire, a website critical of the government, said Rekabi would be imprisoned.

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