10 things you need to know today: October 17, 2023

Biden to visit Israel, judge issues gag order in Trump's federal election-subversion case, and more

President Biden visits Israel
President Biden visits Israel in 2022
(Image credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images)

1. Biden to visit Israel as Gaza offensive looms

President Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday to show support as the country battles Hamas militants, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday night. Biden is taking the high-stakes trip hoping to "forestall a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza while also preventing the war between Israel and Hamas from spreading," according to The New York Times. Blinken met in Tel Aviv with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet as Israel prepares for an invasion of Gaza. About two million civilians remain trapped in the Palestinian enclave. Iran's foreign minister warned that regional militias, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, could launch pre-emptive strikes "in the next few hours" unless Israel halts strikes killing civilians in Gaza. The New York Times

2. Judge issues narrow gag order in Trump election case

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's federal election subversion trial issued a gag order on Monday, barring Trump from making derogatory statements about prosecutors, witnesses and court staff. The order doesn't restrict what Trump can say about Washington politics or the Justice Department as a whole, but it bars him from disparaging special counsel Jack Smith's investigation into his effort to overturn his 2020 election loss. Trump said on social media he would appeal. His lawyers have called the order a violation of his free speech rights that could hurt his 2024 campaign. The judge, Tanya Chutkan, said Trump's "candidacy does not give him carte blanche to vilify public servants who are simply doing their jobs." CNN

3. Brussels police kill gunman after terrorist attack that killed 2 Swedes

Police in Brussels killed a man they said fatally shot two Swedish people and wounded a third person in a suspected terrorist attack that prompted the cancellation of the Sweden-Belgium Euro 2024 soccer tournament qualifier match. After a manhunt, officers confronted the suspect, Abdesalem Lassoued, 45, at a cafe, and found the semiautomatic rifle allegedly used in the attack. Investigators said the gunman was apparently inspired by the Islamic State, and had posted a video on social media saying he killed for God. Prosecutors said the victims likely were targeted because they were from Sweden, which recently raised its terrorism alert level after threats over public desecrations of the Koran. BBC News, The Washington Post

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4. Jim Jordan rallies support before House speaker vote

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) edged closer to becoming House speaker on Monday as several mainstream Republicans dropped their opposition to his bid. The reversals put Jordan, the far-right chair of the House Judiciary Committee, close to the 217 votes needed to be elected speaker in a vote planned for midday Tuesday. Republicans nominated Jordan on Friday after their first pick to replace ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) — withdrew, saying he lacked the votes to prevail. Tuesday's outcome remained uncertain. "The role of the speaker is to bring all Republicans together. That's what I intend to do," Jordan said in a letter to Republican colleagues. The New York Times

5. Biden DOJ reaches settlement over Trump's separated migrant families

The Biden administration on Monday reached a proposed settlement agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union that, if approved by a federal judge, will provide benefits for migrant families separated under the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" border policy. The Justice Department said the proposal would set new standards limiting future migrant family separations to special cases, like when a migrant child's wellbeing or national security are threatened, in medical emergencies, and in criminal matters. The government agreed to pay some housing costs for affected families and parole families that still haven't been reunified. "The practice of separating families at the southwest border was shameful," Attorney General Merrick Garland said. ABC News

6. Putin arrives in China on rare foreign trip

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on a rare trip abroad as he faces an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for alleged Ukraine war crimes. Putin is in China to attend President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road forum, and will meet with Xi on Wednesday, according to Chinese and Russian state media. China has provided Russia with crucial diplomatic support as it faces crushing sanctions over its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Putin's trip is a show of support for Xi's Belt and Road initiative. The project, launched in 2013, has financed $900 billion in foreign infrastructure projects but faces questions about its sustainability, given debt problems and the slowdown of the world's second-largest economy. Bloomberg

7. Supreme Court says Biden administration can enforce ghost-gun ban

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled for the second time that the Biden administration's restrictions on so-called ghost guns can remain in place while legal appeals move forward. The high court ruled 5-4 in August that the government could regulate the weapons — firearms assembled from kits purchased online, without serial numbers or background checks — but two of the manufacturers returned to Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas and won another order barring the government from enforcing the ban. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, but the Supreme Court again repudiated the lower courts, voiding their orders and letting the federal regulations take effect. NPR

8. US, Venezuela exchange sanctions relief for monitored elections

The Biden administration and Venezuela have reached a deal under which the United States will relax sanctions on the South American nation's oil industry and President Nicolás Maduro's authoritarian government will allow democratic elections next year, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing two people familiar with the talks. The U.S. will announce the lifting of the sanctions when the socialist government signs a deal with the U.S.-backed opposition for a competitive and internationally monitored election in 2024. Maduro claimed victory in a 2018 vote widely dismissed as fraudulent. If finalized, the pact would be the most concrete sign of progress in Venezuela's political standoff since the controversial 2018 vote. The Washington Post

9. UPenn, Harvard face donor backlash over Israel response

Former U.S. Ambassador and longtime University of Pennsylvania donor Jon Huntsman announced in a letter to UPenn President Liz Magill that his family "will close its checkbook" over allegations of antisemitism among students and a weak administration response to Hamas' attack on Israel. "Silence is antisemitism," Huntsman wrote. Magill said she and the university were "horrified by and condemn Hamas' terrorist assault on Israel." Students backing Palestinians have clashed with Israel supporters on other campuses, too. The Wexner Foundation, which is dedicated to educating Jewish leaders, said it was ending its support for Harvard's Kennedy School over what it called the university's "dismal failure ... to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders." Deseret News, Boston Herald

10. LinkedIn to cut 700 employees

Professional social-networking site LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, announced Monday that it had cut nearly 700 employees, mostly from its engineering operations. Finance and human resources employees also were affected. The cuts came after LinkedIn saw year-over-year revenue growth slow in eight straight quarters despite accelerating membership. LinkedIn executives Mohak Shroff and Tomer Cohen wrote in a memo to employees that the company needs to "evolve how we work and what we prioritize so we can deliver on the key initiatives we've identified that will have an outsized impact in achieving our business goals." Microsoft announced in January it would cut 10,000 employees. CNBC

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