Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 18, 2022

Pelosi to step down as leader of House Democrats, hundreds of Twitter employees leave after Musk's ultimatum, and more

1

Pelosi to step down as Democratic leader in next Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Thursday that she would not seek to stay on as leader of House Democrats in the next Congress. "The hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect," Pelosi, who has spent two decades as party leader, said on the House floor. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), 83, also plans to step aside as the No. 2 Democrat. Hoyer has endorsed Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), 52, to succeed Pelosi, 82. President Biden said Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker, would be remembered as "the most consequential speaker" in the history of Congress.

2

Engineer exodus after Musk ultimatum leaves Twitter on brink

Hundreds of Twitter employees resigned Thursday before a 5 p.m. deadline Elon Musk had given for people to decide whether to leave or sign a pledge to work "long hours" at a new, "hardcore" version of the social media company. More key engineers left than anticipated, which one employee said could cause the system to "stop" if it hits a problem, The Washington Post reported. Musk, who last month completed his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter, and some of his advisers met with some "critical" employees, hoping to get them to stay, The New York Times reported, citing four people with knowledge of the discussions. Musk earlier laid off half of the company's staff and fired internal critics.

3

Dutch court finds 3 guilty in 2014 downing of passenger jet over Ukraine

A Dutch court on Thursday found former Russian intelligence agents Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and a Ukrainian separatist leader, Leonid Kharchenko, guilty of murder for the deaths of 298 people who were on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it was shot down with a Russian surface-to-air missile over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014. The plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All three of the men received life sentences. The court also ordered them to pay $16.5 million in victim compensation. The convictions were widely interpreted as signaling that the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin was being blamed for shooting down the passenger jet, although Moscow denies responsibility. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted holding "to account masterminds is crucial too."

4

Kari Lake refuses to concede to Katie Hobbs in Arizona

Republican Kari Lake, the Trump ally and election denier who lost Arizona's election for governor, is refusing to concede. Lake said Thursday she is pulling together a legal team and gathering evidence that some voters had trouble casting ballots. Before the election, Lake had declined to say whether she would accept the results if she lost. "Rest assured I have assembled the best and brightest legal team, and we are exploring every avenue to correct the many wrongs that have been done this past week," Lake said. "What happened to Arizonans on Election Day is unforgivable." During the campaign, Lake had said she would not have certified the 2020 presidential election results that gave President Biden, not Trump, the state's electoral votes.

5

Russia continues missile attacks across Ukraine

Russia on Thursday hammered cities across Ukraine with its second series of missile strikes in three days. The latest attacks damaged infrastructure, including gas facilities, and injured dozens of civilians in southern and eastern Ukraine. The strikes were part of an ongoing string of attacks that started last month against Ukrainian power and fuel infrastructure ahead of winter. Russia has suffered humiliating battlefield setbacks in recent weeks, including its recent retreat from the key Black Sea port city of Kherson. Moscow, which accused Ukraine's leaders of refusing to discuss peace, has shifted focus to long-range bombing after its battlefield losses and struggles to reinforce its front lines with poorly trained and reluctant conscripts.

6

Judge blocks DeSantis' 'Stop WOKE' education law

A federal judge on Thursday blocked a key portion of Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-Fla.) "Stop WOKE" Act intended to police speech and classroom content at state colleges and universities. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker called the measure "positively dystopian," saying it violated the First Amendment rights of both students and faculty, who — under the 2022 law — had been given standing to sue educational institutions for exposing them to potentially uncomfortable material, such as the 1619 Project on American racial history. When he unveiled the bill in late 2021, DeSantis said it would give "businesses, employees, children, and families tools to fight back against woke indoctrination." The DeSantis administration is expected to appeal.

7

Ex-Trump Organization CFO describes fraud, says Trumps weren't part of it

Allen Weisselberg, the ex-CFO of former President Donald Trump's family business, testified Thursday in the Trump Organization's tax-fraud trial, saying he and the Trump Organization benefited financially from a scheme to compensate executives with perks to avoid paying taxes, but he said the Trumps were not in on it. Weisselberg said he halted several illegal tax moves around 2017 when Donald Trump took office, because "everybody was looking at our company from every different angle you could think of." Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to avoiding taxes on $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation, nearly broke down under cross-examination when defense attorney Alan Futerfas asked whether he was embarrassed about betraying the trust placed in him. "More than you can imagine," he said.

8

GOP operative convicted of funneling Russian money to Trump campaign

Jesse Benton, a former top aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), was convicted Thursday of helping a Russian citizen illegally funnel a political donation to former President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Benton, 44, purchased a $25,000 ticket to a September 2016 Republican National Committee event for Trump and gave the ticket to Russian multilevel marketer Roman Vasilenko, who wanted to support and meet Trump. Vasilenko then gave Benton $100,000. He then contributed $25,000 to the campaign, and pocketed the rest, the Justice Department said in a release. Trump pardoned Benton in 2020 for a separate campaign finance offense, but he was indicted in the Vasilenko case six months later.

9

Lake-effect threatens western N.Y. with historic snowfall

The National Weather Service warned Thursday that a powerful lake-effect snowstorm could paralyze Buffalo and other hard-hit communities. The storm, which started dumping snow on parts of the region Thursday, could bury parts of western New York in up to four feet of snow. "Bands of heavy lake-effect snow began to pour off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario late Wednesday night, and meteorologists say that snow is only one phase of what is shaping up to be a historic and multi-day snowfall event," said AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff. Forecasters issued lake-effect snow warnings that started Wednesday and could remain in effect for several days, with some areas expected to get three inches of snow per hour for extended periods.

10

Ticketmaster cancels sales for Taylor Swift's U.S. tour

Ticketmaster said in a Thursday tweet that it was canceling Friday's public ticket sales for singer Taylor Swift's U.S. tour, citing "extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory." The move came after fans complained earlier in the week that the company's website crashed after Swift's Eras tour in the United States opened Tuesday. Fans swamped the Ticketmaster website, resulting in long waits. Many never managed to get tickets for the tour, Swift's first in five years. The troubles came as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate antitrust committee, sent Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment a letter expressing "serious concern" that the company's industry dominance could be hurting consumers.

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