Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 15, 2018

Bonnie Kristian
Volunteers help rescue residents and their pets from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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Florence downgraded to tropical storm as it batters Carolinas

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon while five people were confirmed dead in North Carolina, including a mother and an infant killed when a tree fell into their home. As of Saturday, the storm is churning slowly inland with top sustained winds of 75 mph. Power companies have reported more than 950,000 outages, and Charlotte-based Duke Energy expects 1 to 3 million of its customers to lose power. Forecasters warned of dangerous flooding even far from shore; because of the hurricane's slow movement, the worst inundation is expected into the weekend. At its peak, Florence was a Category 4 hurricane. [The Charlotte Observer, The Post and Courier]


Trump redoubles denial of Hurricane Maria death toll

President Trump on Twitter Friday night redoubled his denial of the estimated 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico attributable to Hurricane Maria. He quoted a Washington Post story to note officials told him the death toll was just 16 when he visited the island territory last year. "Then, like magic, '3000 PEOPLE KILLED,'" Trump wrote, suggesting in a second post the research that produced the larger figure is illegitimate. The study counts "excess mortality" during the storm and in its aftermath, tallying deaths that would not have occurred under normal conditions. This is not a novel method. [Donald J. Trump, The Week]


Kavanaugh denies sexual assault allegation

A woman who knew Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he was in high school has alleged he once attempted to sexually assault her during a party in the early 1980s, The New Yorker reported Friday. The woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, brought the allegations to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in July. Feinstein referred the matter to the FBI Thursday. "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation," Kavanaugh said. GOP leaders released a letter signed by 65 women who knew Kavanaugh at that time and said he "has always treated women with decency and respect." [The New Yorker, Reuters]


Manafort will cooperate with federal prosecutors

Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes Friday, ahead of his second trial on charges of money laundering and lobbying violations. The deal includes a "17-page cooperation agreement," The Washington Post reports, a marked reversal after Manafort had steadfastly refused to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Mueller's office filed a new criminal information document, which usually signals a plea deal, just hours before Manafort was scheduled to appear in court Friday. Manafort was convicted last month in a separate trial on charges of bank and tax fraud. [NBC News, The Washington Post]


Super Typhoon Mangkhut buffets the Philippines

Super Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall in the Philippines early Saturday, slamming the island nation with the strongest storm conditions on the globe this year. Mangkhut had winds up to 200 mph at its peak, slowing to 165 mph after reaching the shore. By Saturday evening, the center of the storm had moved past the Philippines — though the archipelago is still receiving heavy rains — and into the South China Sea toward Hong Kong. No casualties have been reported so far, but rescue efforts will be limited until the weather clears. [CBS News, CNN]


Pompeo slams 'unseemly and unprecedented' Kerry-Iran meetings

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday vehemently criticized his Obama administration predecessor John Kerry for meeting with Iranian officials after leaving office. "What Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented," Pompeo said. "This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world's largest state sponsor of terror, and according to him, he was talking to them, he was telling them to wait out this administration." Kerry said in a recent interview he has met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif several times. His office said he has given Pompeo detailed and timely reports of their conversations. [CNN, The Associated Press]


Prisoner swap, U.S. bases at issue in Afghan peace talks

The release of hundreds of Taliban-linked prisoners and the status of U.S. bases in Afghanistan are among the issues Taliban leaders want to negotiate in U.S.-backed talks to end the war in Afghanistan. "If they are sincere in talks in the future," a Taliban commander told NBC News for a Saturday report, "they would accept our proposal for a prisoners exchange." The Afghan government is unlikely to concede to this request without a commensurate concession from the Taliban. The number of U.S. bases maintained long-term is also a point of contention; the U.S. wants two, but the Taliban wants zero. [VOA, NBC News]


Botham Jean's family condemns character 'smear'

The family of Botham Jean — the Dallas man who was fatally shot in his own apartment by an off-duty police officer, Amber Guyger, who said she mistook the unit for her own — on Friday condemned the Dallas Police Department's decision to search Jean's home and report the results. "The issue is, why is Botham Jean being investigated as if he is the criminal?" said one of the family's attorneys, Benjamin Crump. Jean's mother, Allison Jean, described the search as a "smear" and a cover-up for Guyger, whose toxicology results, by contrast, have not been released. [NBC DFW, Star-Telegram]


Mother of girl killed by MS-13 fatally struck by SUV before memorial service

Evelyn Rodriguez, whose 16-year-old daughter was murdered by members of the MS-13 gang two years ago, was fatally struck by an SUV after an altercation with the driver shortly before an anniversary memorial service for her daughter's death. Rodriguez was preparing for a candlelight vigil when she was killed; the driver of the SUV called 911, and an investigation is ongoing. After her daughter's death, Rodriguez became a prominent advocate for victims of gang violence. She was among President Trump's invited guests for the State of the Union address in January. [The New York Times, Fox News]


Poll: 67 percent of Americans say NFL players have the right to kneel

A majority of American voters, 67 percent, say NFL players have the right to take a knee in protest during the national anthem, a new Quinnipiac University poll found. However, only 47 percent actually approve of the protests, and 47 percent disapprove. NFL players have kneeled or sat during pre-game anthem ceremonies as a way to protest racial inequality and police brutality. A majority of white voters and men disapproved of the protests, while other groups approved or were split. Republican voters were the only demographic with a majority saying players do not have the right to protest this way. [Quinnipiac University, The Washington Post]