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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 22, 2019

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Harold Maass
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1.

Trump calls for recognizing Israel's authority in disputed Golan Heights

President Trump on Thursday tweeted that he wanted the U.S. to recognize Israel's control over the disputed Golan Heights, reversing a decades-old U.S. policy. Israel seized the 460-square mile plateau from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. "After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and regional stability," Trump wrote. A day earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has pushed for exactly this shift. "Thank you President Trump," Netanyahu tweeted. Critics said Trump was calling for the U.S. to violate a United Nations resolution adopted after the 1967 war. [Donald J. Trump, The New York Times]

2.

Top Democrat: Kushner uses WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders

The chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), revealed in a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone on Thursday that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have used a private messaging app and personal email to conduct official business, possibly violating federal records laws. Cummings said a lawyer for the couple told the committee late last year that Kushner used both a private email account and WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service, to communicate about White House business, sometimes with foreign contacts, while Ivanka Trump failed to preserve some emails when she didn't reply to them. The lawyer partially denied Cummings' account in a letter Thursday. Cummings said the White House has failed to provide documents for the committee's investigation into the matter. [NPR, The New York Times]

3.

EU agrees to a short Brexit delay

European Union leaders on Thursday granted British Prime Minister Theresa May's request for a brief delay to her country's exit from the trading bloc. The U.K. had been scheduled to leave on March 29, but British lawmakers twice rejected May's Brexit plans. They also ruled out a "no-deal" Brexit. European leaders called on May to pass a deal or present a workable alternative by April 12. If Parliament does endorse a deal, Britain will be able to leave the EU on May 22. European leaders grilled May Thursday on why she had requested a three-month delay and why British politicians couldn't agree to the negotiated deal. "You could feel the patience running thin," an official said. [The Washington Post, BBC News]

4.

Trump signs order for colleges to show they back free speech

President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order requiring colleges and universities receiving federal grants to certify that they are protecting free speech standards on campus. Trump and others on the right have complained that higher education institutions have squelched conservative views. "Under the guise of speech codes, and safe spaces, and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of great young Americans," Trump said. Critics said Trump's order could result in unnecessary bureaucracies in government and on campuses. "We do not need the federal government to mandate what already exists: our longstanding, unequivocal support for freedom of expression," said Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]

5.

North Korea withdraws from liaison office with South Korea

North Korea on Friday pulled out of a liaison office with South Korea, citing "instructions from the superior authority," according to South Korea's Unification Ministry. The abrupt move followed last month's summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which ended without a deal on denuclearization and sanctions relief. The liaison office opened last September near the border between the two Koreas as part of a push to improve relations. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to open the office during their historic April summit. [The Washington Post]

6.

Cyclone death toll rises in southern Africa

The death toll from Cyclone Idai increased in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique on Thursday, surpassing 500 as floodwaters continued to rise in some areas. Torrential rains caused a dam to overflow in Zimbabwe, threatening communities downriver. Zimbabwe Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri said more than 120 bodies had been washed into neighboring Mozambique, and others were being recovered from swollen rivers. "Most of the bodies were washed into Mozambique, and because they were in a really bad state, they could not keep the bodies," Muchinguri said. "So they ended up burying them." Mozambique's environment minister, Celso Correia, said rescue workers have saved about 65,000 people from flooded areas. "Obviously all numbers are preliminary," Correia said. "They are changing every day, every moment." [The Associated Press]

7.

Trump continues criticizing McCain despite protest from politicians, veterans

President Trump on Thursday resumed his criticism of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), calling him "horrible" for voting against a Republican bill seeking to end ObamaCare in 2017. Trump also said McCain gave the FBI a controversial dossier about Trump's Russia ties for "very evil purposes." McCain died seven months ago from brain cancer. Vietnam veterans groups joined senators from both parties in calling for Trump to stop attacking McCain, who served as a Navy pilot and spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "This entire dustup is disgraceful; it's deplorable; and it's destructive," Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told CNN. McCain's youngest daughter, Bridget, tweeted a rare public statement asking Trump to be "decent and respectful," reminding him, "We only said goodbye to him almost 7 months ago." [The Hill, The Washington Post]

8.

Cesar Sayoc pleads guilty to sending explosives to Trump critics

A Florida man, Cesar Sayoc, pleaded guilty Thursday in a New York federal court to sending pipe bombs to prominent critics of President Trump ahead of last year's midterm elections. His targets included former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and former Vice President Joe Biden. CNN also was targeted. None of the bombs detonated, and nobody was hurt, but the bombs stoked fears of partisan violence. Sayoc will be sentenced in September and could face life in prison for dozens of charges, including using weapons of mass destruction and mailing explosives with intent to kill. Prosecutors dropped a charge punishable with a mandatory life sentence in exchange for the guilty plea. "I'm extremely sorry," Sayoc said. [The Associated Press]

9.

Guaidó says Venezuelan intelligence forces detained chief of staff

Venezuelan intelligence forces on Thursday raided the home of opposition leader Juan Guaidó's chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, and detained him. Guaidó has declared himself the South American nation's interim president with the backing of the U.S. and numerous other nations. The interior minister of President Nicolás Maduro, who won re-election in a vote plagued by fraud allegations, called Marrero part of a "terror cell" plotting against the government. The minister, Nestor Reverol, said authorities had identified other plotters and were searching for them as well as a cache of weapons. The opposition said the government planted the weapons and fabricated the terrorism as part of a crackdown on opponents. The U.S. condemned Marrero's detention. [The Washington Post]

10.

Jimmy Carter becomes longest-living U.S. president

At 94 years and 172 days old, Jimmy Carter is now the longest-living U.S. president. Carter, the 39th president, was born on Oct. 1, 1924. When former President George H.W. Bush died in November, he was 94 years and 171 days old. Carter was also the first American president born in a hospital. In office for one term, he has spent the last several decades dedicated to service, building houses with Habitat for Humanity and launching the nonpartisan and nonprofit Carter Center, which focuses on public policy. In 2002, he received the Nobel Prize. Carter announced in 2015 that he had cancer, which started in his liver and spread; he underwent surgery, and is now cancer-free. [NBC News]