U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 8, 2017

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THE WEEK

1. Senate votes to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court
The Senate on Friday voted to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, after Republicans voted Thursdayto end the filibuster. Gorsuch was confirmed in a 54-45 vote, with all present Republicans voting in the affirmative alongside three Democrats: Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.). This addition to the bench restores the Supreme Court to nine members for the first time since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016. Gorsuch is expected to join the judges April 17 for the end of the 2016-2017 session, and he could be a deciding vote if the court considers the constitutionality of President Trump’s executive order on travel from six majority-Muslim countries.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Fox News

2. Moscow warns of U.S.-Russia ‘military clash’
President Trump’s decision to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base late Thursday puts Washington and Moscow “on the verge of a military clash,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Friday, labeling the strike “really sad for [Russia’s] now completely ruined relations” with the U.S. and “good news for terrorists.” Russia is in the process of moving a frigate carrying cruise missiles of its own to the Mediterranean. “The world is waiting for the Russian government to act responsibly in Syria,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, replied on Friday. “The world is waiting for Russia to reconsider its misplaced alliance with Bashar Assad.”

Source: The Hill, CNN

3. White House, Chinese state media cheer Trump-Xi meeting
Comments from the White House on Friday and Chinese state media on Saturday echoed President Trump’s positive assessment of his two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. “The two leaders had positive and productive meetings,” said a statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. “The two presidents reviewed the state of the bilateral relationship and noted the importance of working together to generate positive outcomes that would benefit the citizens of both countries.” China’s official newspaper on Saturday said the summit went “as well as it could,” editorializing that “Beijing and Washington have so far managed to do well in preventing conflicts,” which “shows confrontation is not inevitable.” Another state-run outlet said the summit indicated a new “pragmatic relationship” between the two nations.

Source: Reuters, The Hill

4. Obama administration alumni applaud Trump strike, demand refugee admissions
Former Secretary of State John Kerry is “absolutely supportive” of President Trump’s Thursday strike against the Syrian regime and is “gratified to see that it happened quickly,” Politico reported Friday. Kerry is not the only Obama administration alumni who applauds Trump’s willingness to make the strike their own president consistently rejected. “Setting aside my reservations about Trump, in that context I support [military] action now,” said Phil Gordon, a top Obama national security council aide. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also endorsed the attack Friday, but suggested Trump is hypocritical if he does not loosen refugee admissions after justifying the strike on humanitarian grounds.

Source: Politico, CNN

5. Sweden arrests ‘likely’ suspect in deadly Stockholm truck attack
Swedish police said Saturday they have arrested a man who is “likely” the driver responsible for crashing a stolen beer truck into a department store in central Stockholm on Friday, killing at least four people and injuring more than a dozen. “People started running down the stairs when the fire alarm started, and when we came down to the bottom of the building all we could see was a lot of smoke,” one witness of the attack told NBC News. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said authorities believe the crash was a deliberate “terror attack,” and Swedish broadcaster SVT reported that shots were also fired at the scene. The arrested suspect will either be released or have a pre-trial hearing by Tuesday.

Source: CNN, The New York Times

6. Pentagon to investigate if Russia had a role in Syria chemical weapon attack
The Pentagon is investigating whether Russia was behind Tuesday’schemical weapon attack that killed as many as 100 people in Syria, senior military officials told The Associated Press Friday. Officials say a drone belonging either to Russia or the Syrian government was seen just before the attack, and it returned later to bomb the hospital where patients were being treated, perhaps an effort to hide evidence. U.S. officials additionally blamed Russia for its failure to prevent the Syrian government from using chemical weaponry.

Source: The Associated Press, The Week

7. Syrian relief group says base targeted by airstrike has resumed operations
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday Syria’s al-Shayrat air base resumed operations just hours after it was targeted by a 59-bomb U.S. airstrike on Thursday. While the Pentagon said earlier the strike had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure,” Syria may have anticipated the attack and moved key equipment. The runways were reportedly left intact. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also has more than a dozen additional air bases, so the strike is not expected to “have a major effect on military operations of the regime.”

Source: Reuters, The Guardian

8. Economy created just 98,000 jobs in March, missing expectations
The U.S. economy added just 98,000 non-farm jobs in March, falling significantly short of the 185,000 new jobs economists polled by MarketWatch predicted. Despite the weak gains, the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent, hitting the lowest level in nearly a decade. Hiring exceeded expectations in January and February, bolstering the theory that President Trump’s promises to cut taxes and reduce regulations gave the economy a temporary bump; analysts said the sharp slowdown in hiring after a strong first two months of the year might reflect a return to normal, as employers raise wages to attract and keep talent.

Source: MarketWatch, Bloomberg

9. Kushner, Bannon reportedly attempt to smooth differences
Senior adviser Jared Kushner and chief strategist Stephen Bannon are reportedly attempting to smooth their differences as competing power centers in the Trump White House after reports on Friday suggested Bannon was on thin ice. President Trump ordered a “bury-the-hatchet meeting” between the two top aides while senior administration staff weekended at the Mar-a-Lago, Politico reports. “Work this out,” Trump said, per two accounts given to The New York Times, expressing frustration with media coverage of administration infighting. A White House statement to the Times denied the entire narrative. “Once again this is completely false story driven by people who want to distract from the success taking place in this administration,” said White House representative Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Source: The New York Times, Politico

10. Historic California drought officially over
After a rainy winter, California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday declared his state’s historic, four-year drought is officially ended — at least for now. “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said. “Conservation must remain a way of life.” California uses more water each year than is naturally available in the state under normal conditions, and the drought emergency remains in effect in four counties. “Water may appear to be in abundance right now,” said Kate Poole of the Natural Resources Defense Council, but one wet season can’t supply California’s water needs longterm.

Source: ABC News, Los Angeles Times