Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 21, 2022

A House committee votes to release some of Trump's tax returns, Zelensky will meet with Biden and address Congress, and more

1

House committee votes to release Trump tax returns

The powerful House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday along party lines to release some of former President Donald Trump's tax returns. Republicans called the move partisan, and threatened to retaliate against Democrats, including President Biden. Democrats said releasing Trump's tax returns serves the public interest, as the Internal Revenue Service did not audit Trump as required during his first two years in office. The audit only started when Congress requested Trump's returns in 2019. "This was never about being punitive," said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the committee's chair. Trump paid $1.1 million in federal income taxes in his first three years as president, but none in 2020 as his losses mounted, according to data the committee released.

2

Zelensky to meet Biden, address Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was traveling to Washington on Wednesday to meet President Biden about boosting Ukraine's "resilience and defense capabilities," and address Congress. It is believed to be his first trip overseas since Russia invaded its smaller neighbor in February. Biden is expected to announce a nearly $2 billion military aid package that will include a Patriot missile system intended to help Kyiv defend against Russia's ongoing series of missile strikes across Ukraine. "The visit will underscore the United States' steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes, including through the provision of economic, humanitarian, and military assistance," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

3

Senate advances $1.7 trillion spending deal

The Senate on Tuesday unveiled and voted to start debate on a bipartisan $1.7 trillion deal to fund federal agencies through September 2023 and avert a potential partial government shutdown this weekend. The omnibus spending package includes funding for President Biden's economic agenda, increased money for the military, and $44.9 billion in new aid for Ukraine and America's NATO allies. Some Republicans are pushing to delay a final deal until early 2023, when the GOP takes control of the House. Other lawmakers from both parties, recognizing that this is the last big piece of legislation of this Congress, pushed to add stalled initiatives, from improved pandemic readiness to a ban on TikTok on government devices, to help get it passed.

4

Earthquake rattles Northern California, killing 2

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Northern California on Tuesday, killing at least two people and injuring 12. The quake was the strongest the area had seen in years. It cut power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses around Humboldt County. The people who died had medical emergencies during or right after the temblor, making it difficult for medical emergency personnel to get to them quickly, the county sheriff's office said. The deaths were the first in a California earthquake since a magnitude 7.1 quake hit Ridgecrest in the Northern Mojave Desert region in 2019.

5

Taliban halts university access for women

The Taliban's higher education ministry on Tuesday suspended women's access to Afghanistan's universities. The Taliban administration, which took over as U.S. and other foreign troops left the country in 2021, told public and private universities in a letter to shut out female students immediately, and until further notice. The move came as the representatives of the United States and other countries met at the United Nations Security Council in New York to discuss Afghanistan. The U.S. has said policies to protect women's education rights are among the reforms necessary for the Taliban to win formal international recognition. Also on Tuesday, the Taliban released two Americans who had been detained in Afghanistan.

6

DEA has seized enough illegal fentanyl to kill everyone in U.S. this year

The Drug Enforcement Administration said Tuesday it has seized more than 379 million potentially fatal doses of illegal fentanyl in 2022 — enough "to kill everyone in the United States," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said. The DEA had confiscated more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder and 50.6 million illegal fentanyl tablets by mid-December, twice as many tablets as it grabbed in 2021. The seizures came as Mexican drug-trafficking organizations increased their smuggling of the synthetic opioid over the border, and drug overdose deaths continued to rise in the U.S. Mexico's Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels are blamed for much of the deadly fentanyl trade.

7

Regulator fines Wells Fargo $1.7 billion

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday fined Wells Fargo a record $1.7 billion for "widespread mismanagement" that hurt the holders of more than 16 million consumer accounts over several years. The regulator said the bank misapplied loan payments, illegally repossessed vehicles, foreclosed on homes when it shouldn't have, and charged unexpected overdraft fees, among other "illegal activity." The CFPB also ordered Wells Fargo to provide more than $2 billion in compensation to affected customers. "Wells Fargo's rinse-repeat cycle of violating the law has harmed millions of American families," Rohit Chopra, the CFPB's director, said in a statement.

8

Musk says he will resign as Twitter CEO once he finds a replacement

Elon Musk said Tuesday he will step down as Twitter CEO as soon as he finds a successor, "someone foolish enough to take the job." The announcement came two days after he conducted a poll on the social media site asking his 122 million Twitter followers to vote on whether he should resign, and a 57-percent majority responded "yes." Musk completed his $44 billion purchase of Twitter in October, promising to make it a haven for absolute free speech. Since then, he has faced a backlash over unpopular content moderation policies, including brief suspensions of several high-profile journalists. In announcing his plan to find a new CEO, he tweeted that after he resigns he "will just run the software & servers teams."

9

Germany convicts concentration camp typist, 97, of Nazi war crimes 

A German court on Tuesday convicted Irmgard Furchner, a 97-year-old former secretary for a Nazi concentration camp commander during World War II, of complicity in more than 10,500 murders from 1943 to 1945. Furchner was a typist at Stutthof in Nazi-occupied Poland. Although Furchner was a civilian, the judge in the case said she knew about the killings at the camp, where about 65,000 people died of starvation or disease, or were killed in a gas chamber. The victims included prisoners of war and Jews targeted in the Nazi extermination campaign. Furchner was the first woman prosecuted for Nazi crimes in decades. She was sentenced to a two-year suspended jail term.

10

Specials singer Terry Hall dies at 63

Terry Hall, lead singer of the influential British ska band the Specials, has died. He was 63. The band confirmed the news in a statement shared on its social media accounts, saying Hall died after a "brief illness." The band remembered him as "our beautiful friend, brother, and one of the most brilliant singers, songwriters, and lyricists this country has ever produced." Formed in 1977, the U.K. band released songs like "Ghost Town" and "Gangsters." Hall joined soon after its inception to replace vocalist Tim Strickland. The band was also known for its "staunch opposition of racial injustice," CNN noted. Hall later formed Fun Boy Three and released several solo albums before reuniting with the Specials in 2008. The band released a new album, Encore, in 2019.

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