Finally, a victory. After a historic Senate rules change to prohibit a filibuster, a largely partisan Republican 54-45 vote confirmed President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, restoring a conservative court majority. It happened Friday, on Trump’s 77th day in office, on the heels of a GOP failure to repeal Obamacare and a “rolling disaster” of court decisions, infighting and investigations into administration links to Russian election meddling. Gorsuch will be privately sworn in Monday, and his impact could be felt immediately on pending gun control and church-and-state cases.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He’s entered the fray. President Donald Trump ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, killing six people, and called on other nations to join the U.S. in “seeking to end this slaughter.” Trump’s views on the six-year conflict shifted suddenly after President Bashar Assad’s forces deployed suspected chemical weapons on a rebel-held village on Tuesday. Russia condemned Trump’s strike as an “act of aggression,” while the White House maintained that military force was necessary to restrict the use of chemical weapons.
Somebody’s watching the watchman. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has stepped aside, albeit temporarily, from a probe into suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. election after repeatedly refusing to recuse himself. The California congressman explained that he’s under investigation because multiple ethics complaints were filed against him — charges Nunes dismissed as politically motivated. Critics had been pressuring him to step aside after the former Trump campaign adviser shared classified information with the White House. GOP Rep. Mike Conaway will now fill Nunes’ role heading the Russia investigation.
In China, nobody can see his tweets. Expectations are high on both sides of the Pacific for President Donald Trump’s first in-person meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, to be held today and tomorrow at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The summit is expected to set the tone for relations between the world’s two largest economies. Both leaders have a delicate task ahead, negotiating the framework of their trade relationship despite Trump’s naked animosity toward China on the campaign trail and his inflammatory pre-meeting tweets about trade deficits.
The future is anybody’s guess. At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Russia vetoed a demand for an investigation of a suspected chemical weapons attack on a Syrian village, one that most Western leaders blame on Russian ally Bashar Assad, who denies the charges. After the vote failed, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley hinted that sometimes states are “compelled to take our own action.” President Trump said the attack changed his attitude toward Assad and the Syrian conflict, though he didn’t specify his plans or potential policy changes.
He’s on the outside now. President Trump’s chief strategist, whose appointment to the National Security Council was considered extraordinary, has lost his seat at the table — reportedly over clashes with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Meanwhile, allies characterized Bannon’s NSC post as a watchdog for former adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned in February. Bannon’s demotion is widely seen as a victory for Flynn’s replacement, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and for comedians and protesters that characterized Bannon as a Svengali to Trump, a joke that apparently chafed the president.
It’s a margarine call. After rejecting a $143 billion takeover from Kraft Heinz, Unilever has done the multinational version of soul-searching and decided to get out of the spread game. Along with selling its margarine business, Unilever will double the savings target of its three-year cost-cutting initiative and buy back $5.3 billion in shares. This will also mean job cuts — though it’s not yet clear how many — and a rethink of the company’s current dual nationality, which splits its structure between Britain and the Netherlands.
Know This: Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, talked for more than 15 hours in an effort to filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination. Voters in the Gambia are heading to the polls for their first free parliamentary vote in more than two decades. And Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has denied that there’s ethnic cleansing underway against her country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, saying that’s too strong a term.
Remember This Number: $16 billion. That’s the estimated amount in banknotes and coins in pre-euro currencies that were never exchanged for new money — and a third of that is now completely worthless as several cash exchange deadlines have passed.
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They’re paving a way to better living. A number of small Midwestern cities are proving themselves especially adept at civic rejuvenation, thanks to a mix of pragmatism, determination and luck. Instead of focusing purely on the economic, these cities are proof that by cultivating community-focused programs, optimism and business will increase too. In small cities like Carmel — an Indy suburb revitalized by investments in ambitious art projects — that meant looking beyond spreadsheets to reimagine communities from the ground up, with full engagement from residents themselves.
Can they recharge the industry? Zunum Aero, a hybrid and electric aircraft startup that’s been flying under the radar for three years, is banking on it. Airline giants JetBlue and Boeing have now invested an undisclosed amount in the Seattle company, which hopes to “reinvent regional air travel.” Its electric jets rely primarily on battery power and produce 80 percent lower emissions than traditional aircraft. Zunum’s short-haul planes, which will carry 10 to 50 passengers and fly up to 1,000 miles, are set to take flight in the next decade.
Houston, we have a new record. By April 24, Peggy Whitson will have spent more than 534 cumulative days in space, making her the most experienced U.S. astronaut ever. Now the NASA flight engineer — who at 57 is already the world’s oldest and most experienced spacewoman — is extending her stay aboard the International Space Station by three additional months. Whitson, already in the record books with the most spacewalks by a woman and as the first woman to command the ISS, will return to Earth in September.
Tap into that ice-cold zeitgeist. Pepsi, likely hoping to capture the oh-so-hip spirit of youth resistance, released a commercial this week starring Kendall Jenner as a blonde-wigged model who loses her lipstick in favor of marching, denim-clad, with a group of young protesters confronted by a line of uniformed police. Jenner offers one of the officers a Pepsi, which he accepts, thereby … solving police brutality? Pepsi’s been roundly mocked on the internet, and has now pulled the ad altogether, apologizing for having “missed the mark.”
They’re delivering the goods. The retail giant will be replacing Twitter as the digital outlet for this year’s Thursday Night Football games, also beating out the likes of Facebook and YouTube. Amazon reportedly paid $50 million for the right to stream 10 NFL games over the upcoming season, far exceeding the $10 million paid by Twitter last year for the same privilege. While CBS and NBC will be broadcasting and streaming five Thursday games apiece, Amazon will offer all 10 internationally as part of their Prime services.