10 things you need to know today: April 7, 2023
Biden administration partially blames a lack of planning by Trump for Afghanistan chaos, Tennessee GOP expels 2 state House Democrats, and more
White House report blames Trump for insufficient Afghanistan planning
The Biden administration on Thursday released a report partially blaming the chaos that erupted during the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan on a lack of preparation by former President Donald Trump. The 12-page summary of the report said President Biden was "severely constrained" by Trump's choices, including the 2020 peace deal with the Taliban. The report said the subsequent rapid takeover by the Taliban created problems with evacuating Americans and Afghan civilians. Still, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. forces was "the right one," adding, "The United States had long ago accomplished its mission to remove from the battlefield the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11." Trump accused the White House of "disinformation."
Tennessee Republicans expel 2 state House Democrats
Tennessee state House Republicans on Thursday expelled Democratic Reps. Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis, two of the chamber's youngest Black members. The GOP expulsion resolutions accused Jones, Pearson, and Rep. Gloria Johnson (D) of breaking House rules by chanting into a megaphone during a protest in the chamber calling for gun control after a school shooting in Nashville that left three 9-year-olds and three adults dead. Tennessee lawmakers have only banished members a few times since the Civil War, usually for serious misconduct. Republicans fell one vote short of expelling Johnson, who is white. One Republican described the chanting as "mutiny." Jones and Pearson can run in the special elections that will be held to fill their seats.
Biden administration proposes Title IX transgender sports rules
The Biden administration on Thursday proposed a rule to prevent schools from "categorically" banning transgender students from teams matching their gender identities, making such outright bans a violation of the anti-sex-discrimination Title IX. But the proposal would let K-12 schools prevent transgender athletes from competing at highly competitive levels of sports for older students when letting them play could undermine "fairness in competition" or increase the risk of injuries. The Education Department said the plan would advance the goal of "ensuring equal opportunity in athletics" while providing "much needed clarity" to public schools and universities. Twenty states require athletes to compete under the sex on their birth certificates.
Israel responds to rocket fire from Lebanon with airstrikes
The Israeli military blamed the Palestinian militant group Hamas for a barrage of rockets fired into northern Israel from southern Lebanon, the biggest single rocket attack from Lebanon in 17 years. Israel, which responded with airstrikes inside Lebanon, said six of the 34 rockets hit its territory, damaging buildings. The rest were blocked. The rocket fire came after Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest site, and clashed violently with Palestinians there. Palestinian militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip also fired about two dozen rockets, and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes. The violence came as Muslims observed Ramadan and Jews celebrated Passover.
Supreme Court denies West Virginia request to enforce transgender sports ban
The Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily sided with a 12-year-old transgender girl who challenged West Virginia's 2021 law barring transgender athletes from participating on girls sports teams from middle school through college. The middle schooler competes on girls' cross-country and track-and-field teams. The high court's decision prevents the state from enforcing the rule while lower courts consider the case. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) called the decision a "procedural setback," but said the state would prevail. The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal said the attempt to keep the student off the field was "baseless and cruel." Two members of the court's conservative majority, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, dissented.
Clarence Thomas under scrutiny for lavish gifts from GOP donor
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has "accepted luxury trips virtually every year" from Dallas businessman and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow without disclosing them, ProPublica reported Thursday, citing documents and interviews. In June 2019, Thomas and his wife, Ginni, flew on Crow's private jet to Indonesia and visited islands on Crow's 162-foot yacht, a vacation ProPublica calculated would have cost Thomas $500,000. "The extent and frequency of Crow's apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent" in modern Supreme Court history, ProPublica reported. Thomas stopped reporting gifts on his disclosure forms in 2004 after a Los Angeles Times article highlighted tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts he had accepted over six years, much of it from Crow. Thomas didn't respond to ProPublica's questions.
RFK Jr. files papers to run for president as a Democrat
Environmental lawyer and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to enter the 2024 presidential race as a Democrat, CNN reports. His campaign treasurer, John E. Sullivan, confirmed the filing Wednesday. Kennedy will make an official statement regarding his candidacy on April 19. Kennedy has said if he ran his focus would be to "end the corrupt merger between state and corporate power," which he claims has ruined the economy and middle class. Kennedy is the son of assassinated 1968 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, who served as a senator and attorney general, and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy. A group of his cousins denounced his "deadly" anti-vaccine "misinformation campaign" in a 2019 op-ed.
IRS unveils $80 billion tax collection overhaul
The Internal Revenue Service on Thursday released details on its $80 billion plan to shift to "digital first" tax collection, with a greater emphasis on customer service and catching wealthy tax evaders. The change, which includes the hiring of 30,000 staff members over two years, is part of a 10-year overhaul intended to advance President Biden's economic agenda and help recover some of the $7 trillion in uncollected tax revenue the government is missing out on. Biden wants to use the money to pay for Democratic initiatives like fighting climate change and reducing prescription drug prices. The $80 billion infusion, included in last year's Inflation Reduction Act, is the biggest the IRS has received in its history.
Ice storm kills 2, cuts power to a million people in Canada
An ice storm on Thursday killed two people and knocked out power to more than a million people in Quebec and Ontario, two of Canada's most heavily populated provinces. Strong winds and freezing rain pulled down trees and power lines. One man was killed in Quebec when a tree fell on him. Another died in Ontario when he was hit by a broken tree branch. "Seeing all these beautiful trees down, seeing lives disrupted, seeing similar challenges ... (it) will be a difficult Easter weekend for a number of families," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said some parts of the nation's capital "remain hazardous due to fallen debris and power outages affecting traffic signals."
California salmon fishing season canceled to help depleted stocks recover
Fishery managers on Thursday canceled next year's salmon fishing season off California's coast because years of drought have largely depleted the state's fall run of Chinook salmon. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, a quasi-federal body that oversees West Coast fisheries, finalized the decision, and NOAA Fisheries, a federal agency, will implement it. Salmon fishing off much of Oregon's coast will also be reduced. California's fishing season was also canceled this year, and authorities hope the break will help the salmon population recover. Drought and heat waves drained and warmed California rivers, making it harder for the largest species of Pacific salmon to spawn and reach the ocean.