Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 5, 2021

White House rejects latest GOP infrastructure counteroffer, Facebook suspends Trump through at least 2023, and more

1

White House rejects latest GOP infrastructure counteroffer

President Biden rejected the Senate Republicans' latest infrastructure counteroffer, the White House said on Friday after he spoke with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), the GOP's lead negotiator. Republicans proposed an additional $50 billion in spending, but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that while Biden "expressed his gratitude" for Capito's "effort and goodwill," the move still fell short of the White House's goal. Biden has signaled that he's willing to continue to trim the overall cost of the package and meet Republicans somewhere in the middle, but the two sides remain at odds over several other factors, including how to finance the plan. The White House and Capito's team have both said they'll continue talks next week.

2

Facebook suspends Trump through at least 2023

Facebook announced Friday that former President Donald Trump's accounts will remain suspended for two years, through at least January 7, 2023. The decision follows the ruling by Facebook's Oversight Board last month to uphold Trump's suspension — which was initially imposed following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — while at the same time calling it "not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored." At the end of the two year period, Facebook said it will "look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded" and that if Trump's suspension is then lifted, "there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts."

3

Employers added 559,000 jobs in May

Employers added 559,000 jobs in May, slightly disappointing expectations while also signaling that hiring is picking back up as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment dropped to 5.8 percent, down from 6.3 percent in January. Economists had expected May's job report to show 677,000 jobs gained. The report follows April's shocking job numbers, when only 266,000 jobs were added, about 700,000 fewer than were expectedThe Washington Post's Heather Long explained that the economy has now regained about 67 percent of jobs lost during the pandemic, leaving about 7.4 million jobs to go. Following the report, President Biden said Friday that it "makes sense" for enhanced unemployment benefits to end in September, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Republican governors have "every right" to curb them, though the administration has not said whether it believes the aid is constraining hiring.

4

Federal judge overturns California's assault weapons ban

Judge Roger Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Friday overturned the state's assault weapons ban, which was put into place in 1989. Benetiz called the ban a "failed experiment," writing that "Government is not free to impose its own policy choices on American citizens where constitutional rights are concerned." He added that the law banned "fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles," as opposed to just "bazooka, howitzers, or machine guns," and described the AR-15 assault rifle as "a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment," comparing it to a Swiss Army knife. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the ruling is "a direct threat to the public safety and the lives of innocent Californians," while the state's Attorney General Rob Bonta vowed to appeal it.

5

G7 reaches agreement on global minimum corporate tax rate

The Group of Seven on Saturday agreed to back a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent and enact measures to make sure companies paid taxes in the countries where they operate. Representatives from the world's richest nations met face-to-face in London to hammer out the details. British finance minister Rishi Sunak called the pact "historic," while U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the "unprecedented commitment" would end what she describes as a "race to the bottom" on global taxation. The G7 agreement seeks to end the practice of countries competing to attract major businesses with low tax rates and exemptions, which Reuters notes "has in turn cost their public coffers hundreds of billions of dollars," and it may set the stage for a global pact next month.

6

White House to review Trump-era endangered species policies

The Biden administration on Friday announced that it plans to review and revise five Trump administration policies related to endangered or threatened species, including those that weakened protections for critical habitats. The Trump administration also rolled back protections for specific species like the northern spotted owl and gray wolves. Multiple environmental groups praised the White House's initiative, though they signaled that they hope the Biden administration moves quickly. "Time is of the essence," Earthjustice said in a statement. "Each day that goes by is another day that puts our imperiled species and their habitats in danger." The White House's review process could take several months or even years to complete. 

7

Hong Kong activist released on bail after arrest over Tiananmen Square vigil

Hong Kong activist Chow Hang Tung, whom police allege was the organizer of an unauthorized vigil Friday to commemorate the victims of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, was released on bail Saturday. Chow, the vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Movements of China, called the charge "completely absurd" and a "complete abuse of power." She is due to report to the police station on July 5. Historically, annual Tiananmen vigils have been allowed in Hong Kong, but authorities banned them for the second consecutive year Friday, citing coronavirus restrictions. Critics, however, view the ban as another sign of increased suppression of the city's freedoms by the Chinese government.

8

McGahn testifies before House Judiciary Committee

Former White House Counsel Donald McGahn on Friday testified before the House Judiciary Committee about former President Trump's efforts to undermine former special counsel Robert Mueller's federal probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) refused to discuss specifics about the closed-door interview, but he said McGahn "testified at length to an extremely dangerous period in our nation's history" and that he was "clearly distressed" by Trump's refusal to listen to his legal advice. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a panel member and Trump ally, said McGahn was "unable to identify anything unlawful on the part of the president or any other member of the president's administration."

9

Nigeria bans Twitter over president's deleted tweet

Nigeria indefinitely suspended Twitter on Friday after the social media company deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari. The nation's information minister claimed the ban was because of "the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence." Buhari's tweet had threatened separatists in the nation's southeast by invoking the violence of the Nigerian Civil War, which cost millions of lives in the 1960s. Twitter flagged the tweet as violating its "abusive behavior" policy, and deleted it; the platform also temporarily froze Buhari's account. "Twitter is a potent political force in Nigeria ... where a poorly-funded and partisan media is little trusted by the estimated 200 million population," The Wall Street Journal explains.

10

No evidence of alien spacecraft in government report, U.S. officials say

Senior U.S. officials briefed on the highly anticipated government report about aerial phenomena witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years said the findings reveal no evidence of extraterrestrial activity — but they reportedly don't rule out the possibility, either. The report apparently also suggests the objects don't appear to be evidence of secret U.S. technology. Per NBC News, that explanation hasn't been completely eliminated, but The New York Times writes that the theory has indeed been squashed by the report. The report does not rule out the possibility that the pilots were witnessing other nations' technology. The report, compiled by the director of national intelligence and secretary of defense, is due to Congress at the end of June, but it's not clear whether it will be made public.

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