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10 things you need to know today: July 6, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigns after ethics scandals

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, facing at least 11 federal investigations, has resigned, President Trump announced Thursday. "Within the agency, Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this," Trump tweeted. Pruitt was believed to have kept in Trump's good graces despite mounting ethics scandals thanks to his record pursuing Trump's promise to unravel EPA regulations, and his reputation as an outspoken Trump booster. Pruitt was criticized for allegedly using his staff to find his wife a job, spending thousands to fly first class and buy a spy-proof phone booth, and paying a lobbyist's wife a below-market rent of $50 a night to stay in her condo. Pruitt's deputy, Andrew Wheeler, will start as acting administrator of the EPA on Monday. [The Washington Post, Axios]

2.

U.S., China hit each other with tariffs in trade war

The Trump administration's new 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods took effect on Friday, marking the start of a trade war between the world's two biggest economies. China immediately retaliated with tariffs on a group of selected imported U.S. goods, including pork, soybeans, and automobiles, with roughly the same value. The levies transformed President Trump's threatened trade war from words to actions. Trump on Thursday said he was prepared to impose tariffs on up to $450 billion worth of Chinese goods if Beijing doesn't make its trade policies more fair. "At the moment, I don't see how this ends," said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Asian stocks closed higher after the tariffs kicked in, but U.S. stock futures edged down. [The New York Times, MarketWatch]

3.

Former Thai Navy SEAL dies in effort to rescue boys trapped in cave

A retired Thai Navy SEAL diver died early Friday after falling unconscious while he was underwater. The diver, 38-year-old Saman Kunan, was working as a volunteer, taking oxygen tanks into the flooded cave where 12 members of a boys' soccer team and their coach have been trapped since June 23. A fellow diver tried unsuccessfully to revive him. "We won't let his life be in vain. We will carry on," said Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of the SEALs unit. Rescuers are trying to drain some water from the cave, hoping to get the boys out before looming rains make conditions more dangerous, although some don't appear ready for an hours-long scuba dive to safety. [NBC News, The Associated Press]

4.

Trump narrows down list of potential Supreme Court nominees

President Trump is narrowing down his list of potential Supreme Court nominees, with federal appeals judges Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge at the top of his short list, The Associated Press reported Thursday, citing a person familiar with Trump's thinking. Trump has been interviewing people on a list of 25 potential replacements for retiring swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, aiming to announce his pick early next week. Vice President Mike Pence also has met with some of the contenders. The list was vetted in advance by conservative groups. Democrats are pushing hard to enlist a couple of moderate Republicans to help prevent the confirmation of a justice who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion. [The Associated Press]

5.

Former Fox News executive joins White House communications office

Bill Shine, former co-president of Fox News, is the new deputy chief of staff in the White House communications office, President Trump announced on Thursday. Shine has already been working at the White House for several days, reports CNN, additionally serving as an assistant to the president. The former cable news executive was reportedly pushed out of the company last year over his handling of the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal, but has reportedly remained close with Fox News star Sean Hannity, a close friend of Trump's. The White House statement touted Shine's "two decades of television programming, communications, and management experience." [CNN, ABC News]

6.

HHS raises estimated of number of migrant children separated from parents

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar acknowledged on Thursday that hundreds more undocumented migrant children might have been separated from their parents than the Trump administration has previously reported. HHS said last month in updates to reporters and Congress that it had custody of about 2,000 migrant children separated from their parents at the Mexican border under President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy. "Somewhere less than 3,000 [children] is the maximum," Azar said, adding that about 100 of the kids are under 5. "We are erring on the side of inclusion until we can rule any connection out." Two House Oversight Committee leaders sent a bipartisan letter to administration officials on Thursday demanding information on every detained child. [Politico, The Washington Post]

7.

Japan executes doomsday cult leader and six followers

Japan on Friday executed doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara and six of his followers for their roles in a deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subways and other crimes. Members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult released sarin nerve gas into subway cars during rush hour on March 20, 1995, killing 13 people and sickening more than 6,000. Along with the other crimes, the cult members killed 27 people in total. Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and five of the six cult followers hanged were convicted for taking part in the subway plot. Two were scientists who oversaw production of the sarin gas, and one was among the men who carried out the attack. Six more followers remain on death row. [The Associated Press]

8.

Trump takes swipes at Democrats in Montana rally

President Trump on Thursday mocked two Democrats, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), but vouched for Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the latest in a series of campaign rallies he has attended to boost Republicans and tout his agenda. Trump refused to apologize for calling Warren "Pocahontas" to mock her claim of Native American ancestry, saying he would toss her an ancestry DNA test kit and dare her to take it. He also took a swipe at the #MeToo movement, saying, "We are going to do it gently because were the #MeToo generation, so we have to be very careful." Trump also said Waters had a low IQ. He made the comments in Montana, at a rally to support GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale as payback for Democratic Sen. Jon Tester's role in torpedoing Trump's nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson as head of the Veterans Affairs Department. [The New York Times]

9.

19 die in explosion at Mexico fireworks workshops

Two explosions killed at least 19 people at fireworks workshops outside Mexico City on Thursday. Rescue workers were among the dead. Firefighters, police, and other rescuers rushed to help after the first blast, and were on the scene when the second one hit. "Emergency crews attended the call of the first explosion, when a second incident occurred, killing and injuring members of these groups," the state government said in a statement. The disaster occurred in the municipality of Tultepec, a town known for its fireworks production. The blasts were the latest in a series of accidents at fireworks markets, workshops, and warehouses in the town in recent years. A series of explosions in a market killed about three dozen people in December 2016. [Reuters]

10.

4th wrestler says GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, a former coach, ignored sex abuse

A fourth former Ohio State University wrestler came forward on Thursday to say that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) knew about alleged sexual abuse by the team's former doctor but did nothing about it. The wrestler, Shawn Dailey, told NBC News that Dr. Richard Strauss, who died in 2005, groped him half a dozen times in the mid-1990s. Dailey said he was too embarrassed to tell Jordan, then the assistant wrestling coach, but that Jordan participated in conversations where the abuse of other wrestlers was mentioned. Jordan, a vocal supporter of President Trump, has denied knowing about any misconduct. Trump said he thinks the accusers are lying and believes Jordan "100 percent." [NBC News, Yahoo Sports]

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