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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 9, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

Trump lawyers reject Mueller's interview terms

President Trump's personal lawyers on Wednesday rejected the latest terms presented by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team for an interview with the president for the Russia investigation. Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's lawyers, confirmed that Trump's representatives had sent Mueller's team a response, but he did not divulge what they said. People familiar with the matter told The New York Times that Trump's lawyers countered Mueller's proposal by saying Trump would submit to narrower questioning. Trump's lawyers reportedly do not want him to answer questions about whether he tried to obstruct justice. "We're restating what we have been saying for months: It is time for the Office of Special Counsel to conclude its inquiry without further delay," Trump's lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said. [The New York Times]

2.

Trump administration hits Russia with sanctions over nerve agent attack

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia over the attempt to kill former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in England this year using a Soviet-developed nerve agent. The State Department said the new sanctions would take effect later this month. The decision came despite President Trump's stated goal of improving relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government. The State Department said it determined this week that Russia was behind the attack on Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter, both of whom nearly died from the poisoning with the Novichok nerve agent. The Kremlin strongly denies any involvement. [The Washington Post]

3.

Man arrested at New Mexico compound allegedly trained kids for school shootings

The 11 children rescued recently from a filthy, ramshackle compound in northern New Mexico were being trained by the father of a missing Georgia boy to commit school shootings, prosecutors said in court documents news organizations obtained Wednesday. The documents say the missing boy's father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, was training the children how to use assault-style rifles on the property near the Colorado border to make them able to "kill as many people as possible." Wahhaj and four other adults have been charged with child abuse since the search of the compound, where the remains of a boy yet to be identified were found. Wahhaj's son has been missing since December. [The Associated Press]

4.

Early Trump supporter Rep. Chris Collins charged with insider trading

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday arrested Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) on insider trading charges. Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse President Trump, is accused of tipping off his son, Cameron Collins, about confidential corporate information he heard at a congressional picnic at the White House last year. Collins allegedly heard that Innate Immunotherapeutics, a biotechnology company, had received disappointing news regarding a key drug trial, and frantically passed it on to his son. Cameron Collins and several others used the tip to avoid more than $700,000 in losses, prosecutors said. Rep. Collins turned himself in to the FBI. He later told a judge in a Manhattan federal court, "I plead not guilty," and his lawyers said he would be "vindicated and exonerated." [The Washington Post]

5.

Gates faces questions about affairs as his testimony ends

Star witness Rick Gates wrapped up his testimony in the bank and tax fraud trial of his former boss, Paul Manafort, but not before defense lawyers attempted to chip away at his credibility by suggesting he had several extramarital affairs while he worked for Manafort. Gates acknowledged Tuesday that he had a relationship with a woman in London that may have been facilitated by money he admitted stealing while working for Manafort's international political consulting business. Defense attorney Kevin Downing pressed him further Wednesday about his "secret life," suggesting Gates had four affairs. Prosecutors objected that the information was irrelevant. The defense said the questions were fair because Gates, who testified he helped Manafort hide foreign earnings from the IRS, could nullify his plea deal if he gave false testimony. [Politico]

6.

Virginia declares emergency for white-supremacist rally anniversary

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Charlottesville officials declared a state of emergency in the city on Wednesday ahead of the Aug. 12 one-year anniversary of the white supremacist rally that left one counterprotester dead. Northam said the declaration was an "administrative tool" necessary to mobilize the Virginia National Guard and other resources in case of unrest. Virginia State Police Superintendent Gary Settle said more than 700 state police will be on duty over the weekend and "fully prepared to act" to prevent any violence. The 2017 "Unite the Right" rally drew neo-nazi and white supremacist groups, along with a strong showing of counterprotesters, to Charlottesville. One counterprotester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed when a self-proclaimed white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd. The driver, James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, faces murder charges. [CNN, CBS News]

7.

Venezuela accuses opposition lawmakers of being linked to assassination attempt

Venezuela's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the arrest of former National Assembly leader Julio Borges, a top opposition leader currently in Colombia, in connection with an alleged attempt to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro with two exploding drones over the weekend. Another opposition figure, Juan Requesens, was detained in the case late Tuesday. The crisis-plagued South American nation's pro-government constitutional assembly stripped both of the lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution, saying they had played roles in the attempt to kill the country's increasingly unpopular socialist leader. Maduro accused the two of involvement in the plot, without citing any evidence. The opposition denies involvement, saying the government is exploiting the event to crack down on opponents. [The Associated Press]

8.

New York halts new ride-hailing licenses in blow to Uber, Lyft

New York on Wednesday became the first major U.S. city to pause issuing new vehicle licenses for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing services. The City Council overwhelmingly approved capping the services for a year while the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission examines the industry. The legislation also authorizes the city to set drivers' minimum pay rates. New York's aggressive move poses a new obstacle to Uber's efforts to move past recent negative publicity about its corporate culture, and continue to grow. Uber has been valued at $62 billion, and is aiming for an initial public offering of stock next year. Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, said the bills would help lift low driver wages and "stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt." [The New York Times]

9.

Argentina's Senate rejects landmark abortion-rights bill

Argentina's Senate early Thursday rejected a bill that would have decriminalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The current law only allows exceptions to an abortion ban in cases of rape, or risk to the woman's health. The 38 to 31 vote came after a contentious campaign in the heavily Catholic country, homeland of Pope Francis. During the Senate debate, the Roman Catholic Church held a "Mass for Life" at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. Proponents of the bill had hoped it would spark widespread change in Latin America, where 97 percent of women live in countries that ban abortion, or limit the procedure to rare cases. After the vote was announced, police broke up several confrontations outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires. [CNN, The New York Times]

10.

Oscars adding category for most 'popular' film

The Oscars will add a new category awarding Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film in 2019, the Academy announced Wednesday. It's the first category addition since 2001, when the Oscars began awarding Best Animated Feature. The Academy also committed to restricting its annual awards broadcast to three hours for a "more accessible Oscars," and will move the show up from Feb. 24 in 2019 to Feb. 9 in 2020. Vanity Fair speculates the category addition is aimed at boosting the show's dwindling viewership, and an effort to attract mainstream moviegoers who want to see popular films like Black Panther rewarded. Eligibility and requirements for the new category are "forthcoming," per the Academy's announcement. [Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter]