U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 13, 2017

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. Trump threatens to cripple ObamaCare to force Democrats to negotiate
President Trump on Wednesday threatened to hold up $7 billion in ObamaCare cost-sharing subsidies for low-income health insurance buyers to get Democrats to negotiate on health-care reform. Trump told The Wall Street Journal his administration might not have legal authority to make the payments, which reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income ObamaCare participants, because the spending was not specifically authorized under the Affordable Care Act. “ObamaCare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump said. “What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Trump’s strategy “cynical,” saying the president was “threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal, CNBC

2. Putin and Tillerson say U.S.-Russia trust deteriorating
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson an icy reception in Moscow on Wednesday, saying that U.S.-Russia relations have worsened under President Trump. “One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved but has rather deteriorated,” Putin said in an interview broadcast on Russian television. Tillerson arrived for the visit urging Russia to stop supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a chemical weapons attack the U.S. blames on Syria, but Russia claims was perpetrated by rebels hoping to pin the blame on Assad. After meeting with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Tillerson said trust between the two countries had fallen to a low point. At the White House, Trump said U.S.-Russia relations may be “at an all-time low.”

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

3. Russia vetoes U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria chemical attack
Russia on Wednesday vetoed a resolution seeking to condemn last week’s chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held town in northern Syria. The Western-backed resolution also called for an immediate investigation into the apparent sarin gas attack, which killed 87 people, some of them children. Ten countries, including the U.S., Britain, and France, voted in favor, with Russia and Bolivia opposed, and China, Kazakhstan, and Ethiopia abstaining. Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, said before the vote that Russia already had proposed to the U.S. that an independent international investigation be conducted to get to the bottom of the April 4 attack.

Source: The Associated Press

4. Ex-Trump campaign chair to register as foreign agent
Paul Manafort, who once served as President Trump’s campaign chairman, plans to retroactively register as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice, his spokesman said Wednesday. Manafort received “formal guidance” from the government to do so because he reportedly earned millions of dollars from 2006 to 2009 secretly working for a billionaire Russian aluminum magnate close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The spokesman, Jason Maloni, said Manafort’s lobbying for the foreign client “was not conducted on behalf of the Russian government,” and the work ended before he joined Trump’s campaign. Immediately after leaving Trump’s campaign last year, a shell company controlled by Manafort received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Trump.

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

5. Trump says NATO ‘no longer obsolete’
President Trump made a U-turn in his position on NATO, saying in a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that the 28-nation military alliance “is no longer obsolete” because it has shifted its focus to fighting terrorism. Trump repeatedly called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization obsolete during his campaign. Trump did repeat a call for NATO members to spend more on defense during his meeting with Stoltenberg. “If other countries pay their fair share instead of relying on the United States to make up the difference we will all be much more secure,” Trump said. Stoltenberg said he and Trump had “an excellent and very productive meeting.”

Source: NBC News, BBC News

6. Spicer apologizes for ‘inexcusable’ Hitler gaffe
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer ramped up his apology for his suggestion that Bashar al-Assad was in some ways worse than Adolf Hitler, calling the comparison an “inexcusable and reprehensible” mistake. The U.S. blames Assad’s military for a sarin gas attack on civilians, and Spicer said Tuesday that during World War II Hitler “didn’t even sink … to using chemical weapons” against his people. Critics called for Spicer to be fired, saying his comment glossed over the mass killing of Jews in Nazi gas chambers and amounted to a form of Holocaust denial.

Source: CBS News

7. Trump administration looks for ways to create deportation force
The Trump administration is exploring ways to put together a nationwide deportation force, something President Trump promised during his campaign, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing an internal Department of Homeland Security assessment. The document indicates that the review has located 33,000 more beds for undocumented immigrants who are detained by the team. Homeland Security officials also have started talking with local police forces that might get enforcement authority for the program, and picked possible sites for construction of Trump’s promised border wall. Administration officials said the plans are still being developed and have not been formally approved, but they are part of the effort to carry out Trump’s executive orders to step up deportations and border security.

Source: The Washington Post

8. Two more officers placed on leave over United passenger’s treatment
The Chicago Department of Aviation put two more security officers on leave on Wednesday over the treatment of a United Airlines passenger who was dragged off a Sunday flight, bringing the total to three. The incident provoked an angry backlash against the airline, which has apologized and promised a review of its policy on handling overbooked flights. Newly surfaced video footage appeared incompatible with United CEO Oscar Munoz’s claim that the passenger, Dr. David Dao, had to be removed because he was “belligerent.” Dao’s lawyers filed an emergency request in an Illinois court to make United preserve video recordings and other evidence of what happened.

Source: CNN, Reuters

9. First Muslim woman to serve as U.S. judge found dead in New York
The body of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first Muslim woman to serve as a judge in the U.S., was found in the Hudson River on Wednesday a mile from her Harlem home. Abdus-Salaam was found floating fully clothed near the river’s Manhattan shore. There were no immediate signs of foul play, and sources told the New York Post her death appeared to be a suicide. Abdus-Salaam was a widely respected jurist, and the first African-American woman to serve on New York’s highest court. “She was a conscientious, thoughtful judge who never lost her humility,” said city Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter. “This is an unspeakable tragedy.”

Source: New York Post, New York Daily News

10. Comedian Charlie Murphy dies at 57
Comedian Charlie Murphy, the older brother of Eddie Murphy, died of leukemia Wednesday morning. He was 57. Charlie Murphy co-wrote some of his brother’s movies, including Norbit and Vampire in Brooklyn. He also co-starred on Are We There Yet?, The Boondocks, and Black Jesus. He is perhaps best known for his role as a co-star on Dave Chappelle’s sketch series, Chappelle’s Show. TMZ reports that Murphy had been undergoing chemotherapy and that family members were shocked because they believed his health was improving. Charlie Murphy’s wife, Tisha Taylor Murphy, died of cervical cancer in 2009. They had two children together, and Murphy had a third child from an earlier relationship.

Source: TMZ