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10 things you need to know today

1. Trump criticizes Mueller as ‘true never-Trumper’

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President Trump on Thursday lashed out at Robert Mueller after the outgoing special counsel refuted White House claims that his investigation of Russia’s election meddling had cleared Trump of possible obstruction of justice. Trump for the first time appeared to concede that Moscow helped him beat Hillary Clinton. “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax… And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected,”

Trump tweeted. He later backtracked, saying: “No, Russia did not help get me elected. You know who got me elected? I got me elected.” Trump called Mueller “a true never-Trumper,” and his investigation the “Greatest Presidential Harassment in history.” [Politico, The Washington Post]

2. Trump threatens Mexico with tariffs unless it stops illegal immigration

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President Trump on Thursday said he would impose a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican imports starting June 10, and that the tariffs would rise another 5 percent each month up to a high of 25 percent unless Mexico “substantially stops” the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesus Seade, responded to the surprise announcement by saying Trump’s tariffs would be “disastrous,” and that Mexico would respond “strongly.”

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sent Trump a harsh letter saying “social problems can’t be resolved through taxes or coercive measures.” Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) warned that following through with the tariff threat would “seriously jeopardize passage” of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which the White House just sent to Congress. [The Washington Post, WhiteHouse.gov]

3. Report: North Korea executed 5 officials over failed Trump summit

Vietnam To Host Kim-Trump Summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered the execution of five high-ranking officials over the failure of Kim’s second summit with President Trump in February. South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing a person with knowledge of the matter, reported that Kim blamed the Hanoi summit’s collapse on Kim Hyok Chol, special envoy to the United States, and four other foreign ministry officials who carried out working-level negotiations.

The officials reportedly were all accused of spying for the U.S., and executed by a firing squad in March. The newspaper also reported that Kim’s top aide, Kim Yong Chol, was sentenced to hard labor, and other officials were sent to internment camps for political prisoners. [Bloomberg, The Hill]

4. New Hampshire senators vote to abolish death penalty

New Hampshire lawmakers on Thursday voted to abolish the death penalty in the state. The state Senate passed the measure, apparently with enough votes to override a veto by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who blocked a similar bill last year. The vote ended months of uncertainty by making New Hampshire the 21st state in the country to outlaw capital punishment. It was the last state in New England to do so.

The decision was largely symbolic, as New Hampshire did not have an active capital punishment system and last carried out an execution in 1939. The state has just one prisoner on death row — Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs more than a decade ago. Nine states now have abolished the death penalty since 2007. [The Washington Post]

5. Disaster aid bill stalls for 3rd time

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A bipartisan disaster aid bill on Thursday stalled in Congress for a third time. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the $19.1 billion bill last week, with support from President Trump. But Rep. John Rose (R-Tenn.) was the lone voice against unanimous consent, saying he wanted more debate on the bill before approving it.

The disaster aid bill, which includes aid for Puerto Rico and money to repair infrastructure damaged by natural disasters, has already failed twice in the past week, with Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and then Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) complaining that it didn’t include emergency spending to build Trump’s border wall. Trump himself told Senate Republicans he’d let the bill pass without $4.5 billion in wall funding. [CNN]

6. Tourist boat sinks in Danube River, killing at least 7 South Koreans

A sightseeing boat carrying South Korean tourists collided with a larger cruise ship and sank in the Danube River in Hungary on Thursday. At least seven people were confirmed dead, and 21 others were missing, 19 of them tourists and two were Hungarian members of the boat’s crew, including the captain. Seven people, all of them South Koreans, were rescued, Hungarian officials said.

The South Korean group, which included 30 tourists, two guides, and a photographer, were on an hour-long sightseeing tour of Budapest as part of a European package tour. Hungarian police detained the captain of the cruise ship, which collided with the tourists’ sightseeing boat in a heavy rain. [The Associated Press]

7. Lawyer: Assange missed extradition hearing due to health problems

Julian Assange’s lawyer told a British court on Thursday that the WikiLeaks founder was too sick to appear by video link at a hearing on his possible extradition to the U.S., where he faces criminal charges including a violation of the Espionage Act. Assange was arrested last month after he spent seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy seeking to avoid being sent to Sweden for questioning on a rape allegation and possibly to the U.S. for hacking and posting secret documents.

WikiLeaks said it had “grave concerns” over Assange’s health, which “had already significantly deteriorated after seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy, under conditions that are incompatible with basic human rights.” Assange’s next extradition hearing was scheduled for June 12. [NPR]

8. R. Kelly faces 11 new felony sex abuse counts

Cook County, Illinois, prosecutors have filed 11 new criminal sexual abuse charges against embattled singer R. Kelly, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday, citing court records. The latest charges stem from an alleged offense in 2010. They bring to 21 the total number of charges Kelly faces in Illinois.

Kelly’s attorney, Chicago-based criminal defense lawyer Steve Greenberg, tweeted that the new filing “changes nothing,” and involves renewed charges in an “existing case.” The case involves allegations of aggravated criminal assault, criminal sexual assault by force, and aggravated criminal sexual abuse against a victim who was between 13 and 17 at the time of the alleged assault. [Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune]

9. Former Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran dies at 81

Former Sen. Thad Cochran dies at 81

Former Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R) has died at 81, his successor Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) said in a Thursday press release. The release said Cochran’s family “extends its gratitude for the support shown to the Senator by Mississippians over the years,” and that he “passed away peacefully early Thursday morning.” Cochran, first elected to the Senate in 1978, was the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi in more than 100 years. He went on to be the 10th-longest-serving senator in U.S. history. Time magazine called him “The Quiet Persuader” for his consensus building, while others referred to him as the “King of Pork” for his success steering federal spending to his state. Cochran won a seventh six-year term in 2014 but resigned in April 2018 due to health problems. [Fox News, USA Today]

10. 8 kids declared co-winners of Scripps National Spelling Bee

May 30, 2019; National Harbor, MD, USA; Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao and Rohan Raja are all announced as winners  during the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-404661 (Via OlyDrop)

On Thursday night in Maryland, eight competitors were named co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the first time more than two contestants have won the event. Three hours into the finals, the kids were told there were only enough words left for three more rounds, and those who made it to the very end would share the title. The winners are: Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao, and Rohan Raja. Each winner will receive $50,000 in cash and will appear on talk shows in Los Angeles and New York City. [USA Today]

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