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10 things you need to know today: July 19, 2019

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Harold Maass
Trump in the Oval Office
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1.

Trump disavows supporters' 'send her back' chant

President Trump on Thursday disavowed the "send her back" chants his supporters directed at Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) at a Wednesday night rally, and said he tried to shut it down. "I felt a little bit badly about it," Trump said. Video of the rally showed Trump actually waited more than 13 seconds after the chants began to resume his speech, and he continued disparaging Omar. The rally chants echoed Trump's racist Sunday tweet directed at Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen of color, telling them to "go back" to the countries their families came from. Democratic lawmakers on Thursday called for enhanced security for Omar and other members of Congress. [The Washington Post, The Hill]

2.

Trump plans to nominate Scalia's son as labor secretary

President Trump announced Thursday that he plans to nominate Eugene Scalia, son of late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as secretary of labor. Scalia served as a top lawyer in former President George W. Bush's administration and is now in private practice in Washington. Trump said Eugene Scalia "has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected." Democrats are expected to oppose the nomination because of Scalia's record representing Walmart and other companies that have battled unions and pushed for easing labor laws. If confirmed, Scalia will replace outgoing Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. The former prosecutor stepped down after facing criticism for his role in a lenient 2008 plea bargain for financier Jeffrey Epstein, a former Trump friend. [The New York Times]

3.

Judge denies Epstein bail pending sex trafficking trial

A federal judge denied Jeffery Epstein bail on Thursday, meaning the financier will remain behind bars pending his trial on charges of sex trafficking and sexually abusing dozens of girls as young as 14. Epstein, 66, was arrested earlier in July after a raid on his Manhattan townhouse, where authorities found "a vast trove of lewd photographs" of nude young women, some possibly minors. More than 10 years ago Epstein received a cushy plea deal on similar charges. Judge Richard Berman said prosecutors had produced "clear and convincing" evidence that Epstein posed a flight risk and a danger to the community. Investigators found cash and a fake passport in his home. Epstein's lawyer denied his client posed a flight risk, and said he had "disciplined himself" since his 2008 plea deal. [BuzzFeed News]

4.

Trump: Navy ship 'destroyed' Iran drone

A U.S. Navy ship "destroyed" an Iranian drone that threatened the vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping route for oil exports from the Persian Gulf region, President Trump said Thursday. Trump said the drone flew within 1,000 yards of the USS Boxer and ignored "multiple calls to stand down" before it was destroyed. "This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters," Trump said. "The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities, and interests." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran had "no information about losing a drone today." The news came a day after Iran reportedly seized a foreign oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz. [Reuters, USA Today]

5.

Documents show Trump-Cohen contact during hush-payment negotiations

President Trump and his then-lawyer Michael Cohen maintained close contact during the period when Cohen was working on hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had affairs with Trump more than a decade ago. Newly public documents show that Cohen had a series of conversations with Trump, National Enquirer executives, and Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks shortly before the 2016 presidential election, when Cohen was working to set up payments to silence the women. A Federal Bureau of Investigation agent wrote in an April 2018 affidavit made public Thursday that the timing and content of the communications "concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public." [The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press]

6.

House passes $15 minimum wage bill that is doomed in Senate

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 in a 231-199 vote. If passed into law, the legislation would raise the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour, for the first time since 2009. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) celebrated this "historic day," saying that "no one can live in dignity with a $7.25 an hour wage." Republicans oppose the bill, arguing it would result in the loss of jobs, and it's not expected to advance in the Senate. "This would depress the economy at a time of economic boom," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Thursday. "We're not going to be doing that in the Senate." [The Washington Post, Reuters]

7.

CNN debate draw sets up Biden-Harris rematch

CNN on Thursday held a draw to determine the lineups for its two Democratic presidential debates on July 30 and 31. On the first night, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will appear together, giving them a chance to differentiate their candidacies as they battle for the same voters in the party's progressive wing. On the second night, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will face off again, setting up a possible repeat of Harris' questioning of Biden's record on busing and race that was seen as a key part of Harris' widely praised performance in that forum. The Democrats are trying to avoid separate debates for first- and second-tier candidates by randomly dividing the field of 20 debate participants. [CNN, The Washington Post]

8.

EPA refuses to ban pesticide linked to child-health problems

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday it will not ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide associated with health problems in children. During the Obama administration, the EPA produced scientific studies showing chlorpyrifos could damage brain development in children and prohibited its use, but in 2017, Scott Pruitt, then the agency's administrator, reversed course. This led to a legal battle, and in April, a federal appeals court told the EPA it had to make a final decision on the ban by July. In a statement, the agency said there is not enough data to show that an unsafe amount of pesticide residue is left in or on treated foods. [The New York Times]

9.

Toys 'R' Us attempts U.S. comeback

Toys "R" Us' new owner, Tru Kids Brands, announced Thursday that the iconic toy store was starting a comeback in the U.S. with two new stores. The chain collapsed and closed all 700 of its U.S. stores more than a year ago. The new stores will be smaller than old Toys "R" Us outlets, and will offer a "highly engaging retail experience designed for kids, families, and to better fit within today's retail environment," Tru Kids said. The new stores, which will open in Houston and Paramus, New Jersey, before the holiday shopping season, will sell fewer toys than the old stores did. Tru Kids, which bought the Toys "R" Us brand last October, says it will open more stores in "prime, high-traffic retail markets" next year. Toys "R" Us still has 900 stores overseas, in Europe, Asia, and India. [CNN]

10.

4 Chicago police officers fired for cover-up in fatal shooting

The Chicago Police Board on Thursday fired four police officers it said helped cover up the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white officer in 2014. The nine-member board unanimously voted to dismiss Sgt. Stephen Franko, and officers Janet Mondragon and Ricardo Viramontes, after finding that they exaggerated the threat posed by the 17-year-old McDonald. All but one board member voted to force out Daphne Sebastian for violating department rules, but not for making false reports. The Fraternal Order of Police criticized the firings and said the officers did nothing wrong. None of the officers faced criminal charges. The officer who shot McDonald, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted of murder in October and is serving a more than six-year prison term. [The Associated Press]