Daily Brief 1

10 things you need to know today !

1. Report: Top FBI official gave Mueller secret memo on Comey firing

Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe wrote a confidential memo last spring describing a conversation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the firing of McCabe’s former boss James Comey, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the discussion. McCabe said Rosenstein told him President Trump originally asked him to reference Russia in a memo used to justify firing Comey. Rosenstein mentioned Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation instead. McCabe, who has given his memo to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, reportedly took Rosenstein’s comment as possible evidence that Comey’s firing really was over the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Trump’s lawyers point to Rosenstein’s involvement as proof Trump wasn’t trying to obstruct justice.

In the document, whose contents have not been previously reported, Mr. McCabe described a conversation at the Justice Department with the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, in the chaotic days last May after Mr. Comey’s abrupt firing. Mr. Rosenstein played a key role in the dismissal, writing a memo that rebuked Mr. Comey over his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton.

But in the meeting at the Justice Department, Mr. Rosenstein added a new detail: He said the president had originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo, the people familiar with the conversation said. Mr. Rosenstein did not elaborate on what Mr. Trump had wanted him to say.

The people who discussed the meeting and the memo did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matters. A spokeswoman for Mr. McCabe declined to comment. Mr. McCabe was fired in March after a finding that he was not candid in an internal investigation. Mr. McCabe has said the firing was a politically motivated effort to discredit him as a witness in the special counsel investigation.

A Justice Department spokeswoman also declined to comment. Mr. Rosenstein has consulted departmental ethics advisers about whether to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and has not done so.

[The New York Times]

2. Trump widely expected to hit EU with steel, aluminum tariffs by Friday

U.S. officials say the steel and aluminum tariffs are based on national security. Above, a steel worker returns to work in Granite City, Illinois.

Barring an unlikely last-minute deal, President Trump will follow through with his threat to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union by Friday. The 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and a 10 percent levy on aluminum will likely be met by swift retaliatory EU tariffs on motorcycles, bourbon, peanut butter, orange juice, and other exports from America, as well as further damage already raw U.S.-European relations. In late April, Trump delayed the tariffs on the EU, Canada, and Mexico until June 1 to allow space for trade negotiations, but his envoys are frustrated that the EU isn’t offering concessions. Trump is not expected to slap the tariffs on Canada and Mexico this week.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development forum in Paris on Wednesday, said negotiations over a possible trade deal between his country and the EU could continue even if Washington applies the tariffs.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who led the investigation into metal imports as a possible threat to national security, hinted on Wednesday that the EU would face tariffs.

But he emphasized the U.S. wants to keep negotiating a possible deal that opens markets in Europe to U.S. exports.“It’s not that you can’t talk just because there are tariffs,” Mr. Ross said in Paris at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “God knows there are plenty of tariffs the EU has in place on us.”

U.S. steel industry groups, and their allies in Congress, say the industry needs to be insulated from excess production in major economies.

European officials have said they plan to swiftly impose levies against as much as €2.8 billion ($3.3 billion) in U.S. exports under a rule at the World Trade Organization that allows members to punish a country immediately for inappropriately seeking a “safeguard” against their exports.

U.S. officials say the steel and aluminum tariffs—as well as possible future auto-industry tariffs—are based on national security, putting them in line with U.S. law and a WTO exception that allows trade measures that protect a country’s security.

The EU says the Trump administration is disguising a move to protect American steel and aluminum industries economically.

“We have not seen any analysis that shows these exports pose a problem to national security,” said David O’Sullivan, the European Union ambassador in Washington.“If the United States wants to open discussions on a possible sort of trade deal, we don’t think slapping tariffs on our aluminum and steel exports is a way to start off,” Mr. O’Sullivan added.

Most EU member states, along with the U.S., are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and many European officials bridle at the suggestion the steel they send to the U.S. represents a national-security risk.

China’s extensive steel and aluminum production, which is blamed for a global glut in those metals, is the ultimate target of global U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.And yet, U.S. steel industry groups, and their allies in Congress, say the industry needs to be insulated from excess production in all major economies, calling it a spillover from China’s overcapacity.

[The Wall Street Journal, CNN]

3. Grand jury indicts Harvey Weinstein on rape charges

Hasil gambar untuk Film producer Weinstein indicted for rape: New York prosecutor

Disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein was indicted Wednesday by a New York grand jury on charges of rape and a criminal sexual act. “This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said. Weinstein was arrested Friday in connection with allegations by two of the roughly 70 women who have accused him of misconduct from sexual harassment to rape. Weinstein has denied the allegations. Ben Brafman, the head of Weinstein’s legal team, said Weinstein intended to plead not guilty and “vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies.”If convicted on the most serious charges, Weinstein could face between five and 25 years in prison.

Earlier on Wednesday, Weinstein declined to testify before the grand jury after a judge denied a request by his lawyers to postpone the appearance. Brafman had argued Weinstein was denied access to information about the case and lacked preparation time.

Hasil gambar untuk Film producer Weinstein indicted for rape: New York prosecutor

“Mr. Weinstein intends to enter a plea of not guilty and vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies,” Brafman said in a statement after the indictment.“We will soon formally move to dismiss the indictment and if this case actually proceeds to trial, we expect Mr. Weinstein to be acquitted.”

The grand jury indictment spares the prosecution the step of having to go before a judge to demonstrate there is enough evidence to bring Weinstein to trial.

Hasil gambar untuk Film producer Weinstein indicted for rape: New York prosecutor

Weinstein remains out on $1 million cash bail ordered by a judge last Friday. Weinstein surrendered his U.S. passport and agreed to wear a monitoring device that tracks his location, confining him to the states of New York and Connecticut.Some of the allegations date back decades. Weinstein has denied ever having nonconsensual sex.

The accusations, first reported last year by the New York Times and the New Yorker, gave rise to the #MeToo movement, in which hundreds of women have publicly accused powerful men in business, government and entertainment of sexual misconduct.Actresses who have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct include Uma Thurman, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Salma Hayek.

[Reuters]

4. Fed unveils plan to ease rule against risky bank trading

Federal bank regulators on Wednesday released a plan to ease the Volcker Rule, which bars banks from making risky trades for their own profit with customers’ money. The Federal Reserve and other regulators said the rule, part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, would remain in place in spirit, but that the government would simplify regulations to make it easier for banks to comply and for the government to enforce it. The proposed changes would impose the toughest restrictions on 18 banks that do the most trading, while applying less stringent requirements on other institutions. “Our goal is to replace overly complex and inefficient requirements with a more streamlined set of requirements,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a Fed governors’ meeting.

Other U.S. financial regulatory agencies, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Securities and Exchange Commission, will discuss and possibly approve the Fed’s proposal in their own meetings in coming weeks. The proposal will be opened to public comment for 60 days.

The Volcker Rule is named for Paul Volcker, a Fed chairman in the 1980s who was an adviser to President Barack Obama during the financial crisis. Volcker urged a ban on deposit-funded, high-risk trading by big banks, arguing that it would help prevent future economic crises.

The use of depositors’ money by banks to make high-risk trading bets for their own profit is known as proprietary trading. For years, it was a huge money-making activity for Wall Street mega-banks like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley. Proprietary trading allowed big banks to tap depositors’ money in federally insured bank accounts — essentially borrowing against that money and using it for investments.Under the Volcker Rule, banks have been limited to trading mainly on behalf of their clients rather than for themselves. But they have pushed back against the rule, and the Trump administration has been sympathetic.

The Fed is an independent regulator that asserts its separation from political pressure and the White House. Trump, though, has had an unusual opportunity to put his stamp on the central bank by filling several key positions on the seven-member Fed board.One key Trump appointee on the Fed board, Randal Quarles, a former investment banker, is the Fed’s top overseer of Wall Street and the leader in seeking to ease financial regulation. He has said the package of rules under Dodd-Frank should be overhauled but not scrapped.

[The New York Times, The Associated Press]

5. Top North Korean official meets with Pompeo

Former North Korean military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, one of leader Kim Jong Un’s closest aides, arrived in New York on Wednesday and joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for what Pompeo described as a “good working dinner” ahead of their scheduled Thursday meeting. Kim Yong Chol is the highest ranking North Korean official to visit the U.S. in 18 years. His talks with Pompeo are part of a push by both countries to salvage plans for a June summit in Singapore between President Trump and Kim Jong Un aimed at eventually getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. Pompeo has traveled to North Korea twice to pave the way for the meeting, which Trump canceled last week before both sides expressed renewed commitments to make it happen.

Kim Yong Chol and the US secretary of state ate steak, corn, and cheese during their working dinner in New York.

“The US delegation led by ambassador Sung Kim met with North Korean officials today as well and their talks will
continue,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

“So far the read-outs from these meetings have been positive and we’ll continue to move forward in them.””We’re going to continue to shoot for the June 12 and expect to do that,” she added, referring to the original date scheduled for the summit.

Senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have had a "good" meeting in New York.

Mr Trump last week called off the summit after North Korea expressed anger at comments by US officials.But the president later said he was reconsidering his position and US, North Korean and South Korean officials have gone ahead with preparations anyway.

[The Associated Press, Sky News]

6. Russian journalist turns up alive after faking death to foil murder plot

Hasil gambar untuk Kremlin critic turns up alive at televised briefing about his 'murder'

Russian dissident journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was reported murdered in Kiev on Tuesday, turned up alive in a news conference on Wednesday. The Ukrainian Security Service explained to a stunned room that Babchenko, who has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin policy in Syria and Ukraine, had faked his death to help capture assassins who really were trying to kill him and 29 other people. Babchenko, fighting tears, apologized for putting his wife and other supporters through the ordeal. “I’m sorry but there was no other way of doing it,” said Babchenko, 41.

The security service said it had detained a Ukrainian man recruited by Russia to hire an assassin to carry out the killings.30-thousand U.S. dollars was reported to be the reward for Babchenko’s death. Russia said it was happy to see Babchenko alive, but denounced the sting plot as another anti-Russian provocation by Ukraine. There has also been some backlash against Ukraine for the tactic used its security service, with some reporters calling it an pathetic stunt that discredited journalists.

Hasil gambar untuk Kremlin critic turns up alive at televised briefing about his 'murder'

Poroshenko welcomed Babchenko with a hug at the presidential administration and said the journalist and his family would be given protection.Russian state media mocked Ukraine for solving a murder it had staged itself, while the Russian Foreign ministry said it was happy that Babchenko was alive, but said Ukraine has used his story as propaganda.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was also unimpressed.“We are relieved that Arkady Babchenko is alive,” said the CPJ’s Nina Ognianova. “(But) Ukrainian authorities must now disclose what necessitated the extreme measure of staging news of the Russian journalist’s murder.”

Hasil gambar untuk Kremlin critic turns up alive at televised briefing about his 'murder'

But in Kiev journalists who had gathered in the central Maidan square to mourn Babchenko cracked open champagne.

“That was the best news conference in my life,” said Olga Musafirova. “I have never experienced such emotions at any official event. We watched … at a studio of a TV channel and I realized that I burst into tears and it was tears of joy.”

[Reuters]

7. Trump signs bill giving terminally ill access to experimental treatments

Hasil gambar untuk Trump signs 'right to try' drug bill

President Trump on Wednesday signed the Right to Try Act, a Republican priority that lets terminally ill patients use experimental medical treatments not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “Thousands of terminally ill Americans will finally have hope, and the fighting chance,” Trump said.

Supporters, including some Democrats, said the new law would give the dying options for alternative care previously denied to them. Critics said the law could give patients “false hope,” partly because drugmakers don’t have to provide unapproved drugs at patients’ request. “FDA oversight of access to experimental treatments exists for a reason — it protects patients from potential snake oil salesmen or from experimental treatments that might do more harm than good,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.). [The Hill]

8. Texas governor releases school safety plan in wake of deadly shooting

Hasil gambar untuk Texas gov. unveils school safety plan in wake of Santa Fe shooting

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday unveiled a plan for making schools safer following the May 18 shooting that left eight students and two substitute teachers dead at Santa Fe High School near Houston. His 43-page report calls for increasing law enforcement presence at schools, providing more mental health screening for students, arming some teachers, and passing a law allowing for the removal of students who threaten teachers or classmates.

“We all share a common bond: And that is we want action to prevent another shooting like what happened at Santa Fe High School,” Abbott, a staunch gun-rights advocate currently campaigning for re-election, said during a news conference at Dallas school district headquarters.

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Authorities have charged a 17-year-old student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, with capital murder in the attack. He’s accused of using a shotgun and pistol that belonged to his father.

The suspected shooter also had explosive devices, including a molotov cocktail, that were found in the school and nearby, said Abbott, who has called the assault “one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools.” Police found pressure cookers and pipe bombs around the school, a law enforcement source told CBS News around the time of the shooting.

Pagourtzis is jailed without bond.   The family of one of the students killed in the attack has filed a lawsuit against Pagourtzis’ parents.

[CBS News]

9. Lava from Hawaii volcano cuts off highway, forcing more evacuations

Fast-moving lava flows from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano blocked a major evacuation route, sparking fresh mandatory evacuations for people in nearby neighborhoods on Wednesday. The lava crossed Highway 132 on Tuesday and was approaching the Four Corners intersection where it meets Highway 137.

A flow of lava moves to the doorsteps of the Puna Geothermal

Both highways are critical routes for residents trying to get out of the area, and authorities are worried they might have to use bulldozers to cut a new emergency route through a jungle, or use military helicopters to get people out. [USA Today]

10. Kim Kardashian West talks prison reform with Trump

Hasil gambar untuk Kim Kardashian asks Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson

Reality star Kim Kardashian West went to the White House on Wednesday to discuss prison reform with President Trump. The socialite had already been in contact with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to advocate for the pardon and release of 62-year-old Alice Marie Johnson, who is more than two decades into a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. West thanked Trump in a tweet after the meeting, saying she hoped he would grant clemency to Johnson, and that she and others like her would get a “second chance at life.” Trump tweeted that he and West had a “great meeting” and “talked about prison reform and sentencing.”

Who is Alice Marie Johnson?

Johnson was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1996 for a first-time, non-violent drug offence. She was convicted for her role, along with 15 others, in a large cocaine distribution ring in Tennessee.

According to her family and supporters, Johnson has been a model inmate who is active in many programmes, including work in the prison hospice. She fitted all of the criteria for former President Barack Obama’s Clemency Project 2014, but was denied just days before the end of his term.

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“This is the last time I’ll put my family through the heartache of expectations,” Johnson told the BBC at the time.Despite that, Mrs Kardashian West’s interest appears to have revitalised the effort.

Amy Povah, the founder of CAN-DO Clemency, has been advocating for Johnson’s release since 2014 and says she has helped collect signatures from 70 organisations who support the pardon, as well as a letter of support from the retired warden of Johnson’s prison.

All of that material may be submitted to President Trump.”She’s always stood out to me as being exceptional,” says Ms Povah. “She’s not bitter or angry, she’s this ray of sunshine.”

What happens next?

The pardon process is entirely up to the president’s discretion, and it is unknown at this point whether he plans to announce a decision to coincide with Mrs Kardashian West’s visit.

Hasil gambar untuk Kim Kardashian asks Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson

Johnson’s daughters remain hopeful that – at least for their family – the long wait may soon be over.

“We are praying for mercy in my mom’s case… that this nightmare is finally coming to an end,” Tretessa Johnson told the BBC.

What has the reaction been?

Hasil gambar untuk Kim Kardashian asks Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson

Many on social media have been critical of Mrs Kardashian West’s unlikely role as a prison reform advocate and say there are thousands of cases that deserve closer examination.

Some have questioned her credentials to speak on the subject, suggesting there are more qualified people who should have met Mr Trump.

[Politico, BBC News]

The Week MHI 

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