The Presidential Daily Brief


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    House Sanctions Deal Puts Trump in Bind

    Does he dare veto it? Amid Russiagate scrutiny, House Republican and Democratic leaders have agreed on a sanctions package targeting the Kremlin over election meddling, Ukraine and cybersecurity that limits President Donald Trump’s ability to blunt it. While Trump wants flexibility to set Russia policy, the bill requires him to seek congressional approval for “significant” changes. Making things harder is that last month’s Senate-approved bill includes Iran, and the House measure adds North Korea, as sanction targets — actions the president’s urged. The full House reportedly plans a Tuesday vote on the bill.

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    President Says He Has ‘Complete’ Pardon Power 

    No, pardon me. The president tweeted Saturday that he had “complete power to pardon” his aides, family members and, presumably, himself. It’s never been done, but the Constitution only prohibits the chief executive from thwarting an impeachment, so some experts say it’s possible. Other reports have said Trump wants to stymie one Russiagate inquiry by investigating the alleged conflicts of interest of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s now probing the president’s business ties to Russia, in addition to other links his campaign appears to have had to Kremlin election meddling.

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    POTUS Tweet Blasts ‘Illegal Leak’ That Implicates Sessions

    But is it “fake?” After the Washington Post reported that Ambassador Sergey Kislyak told his Kremlin superiors he’d talked politics with Attorney General Jeff Sessions — something Sessions has denied — Trump called it an “INTELLIGENCE LEAK.” Such disclosures “must stop,” Trump also tweeted. In another post, the commander-in-chief accused the New York Times of thwarting an effort to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, apparently inspired by a U.S. general who told Fox News Friday that a 2015 lead on Baghdadi’s whereabouts “went dead” after a newspaper reported it.

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    Sean Spicer Resigns Amid White House Shakeup

    He had style, if not grace. The White House press secretary reportedly resigned Friday over the president’s appointment of Wall Street financier and vocal Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, which also chafed Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and advisor Steve Bannon. Known for his peculiar, often heated responses to reporters’ questions, the famously lampooned Spicer won some loyalty among correspondents he sparred with over “alternative facts.” One lamented that his replacement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had “less humor,” while Spicer departed with Trump’s highest praise: “Just look at his great television ratings.”

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    Poland Court Fight Has Europe on Edge

    They were doing so well. Despite a celebrated economic miracle, Poland is careening headlong toward disaster — dragging the European Union along with it. The Law and Justice Party-dominated senate today passed a law “reforming” the judiciary, giving the ruling party broad powers to replace high-court judges who certify elections. It’s brought thousands of protesters into the streets — a poll shows 55 percent of Poles favor a presidential veto — and warnings from officials in Brussels, who’ve threatened to strip Poland of its EU voting rights if it neuters democratic institutions.

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    Abortion Pills’ Success Spawns New Battleground

    They can’t live with this. After state-level medical restrictions helped shutter clinics providing surgical abortions, the procedures have declined to their lowest numbers in decades. But women and their doctors have been turning to medication abortions — permissible up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy — as an alternative that’s on track to overtake its invasive counterpart. To confront this new challenge, abortion foes have employed psychology, promoting a regret narrative, while conservative states are enacting laws requiring doctors to offer a medical “antidote” to the termination drugs — even though its safety remains unproven.

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    Did the U.S. Surrender Syria?

    It’s complicated. American forces are still aiding the effort to oust ISIS from its Raqqa stronghold. But a Washington Post report says President Trump is canceling a covert program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight against the Russian-backed regime of Bashar Assad. The report was quickly blasted by ailing Republican Sen. John McCain, who called it “short-sighted” and playing into “Russia, Assad’s hands.” Meanwhile, a Trump security adviser indicated that the Syrian president’s ouster doesn’t need to accompany a political settlement, and the rebels say they feel “betrayed.” 

  8. Upcoming Russiagate Testimony, Dead Refugees at Wal-Mart and Turkey’s $11 Billion Grab

    The Week Ahead: On Monday and Tuesday, presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees, respectively, on Russiagate. And on Wednesday, Donald Trump Jr. is set to similarly testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Know This: Police in Texas found eight of  two dozen smuggled refugees dead inside a shipping container parked at a San Antonio Wal-mart early today. Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador who infamously met with President Trump’s inner circle, has “concluded his assignment” and will return to Russia. And Turkey’s government has taken some $11 billion in commercial assets in the wake of last year’s failed coup, in an unprecedented taking that is poisoning trade.

    See This: Did you miss it? Saturday’s second annual OZY FEST featured Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential tease, Jeb Bush’s forehead “tire mark,” and Sen. Kristin Gillibrand’s “level of ridiculousness” that might end in Trump’s impeachment. But it wasn’t just about politics, Samantha Bee and Malcolm Gladwell notwithstanding, with musical performances by Jason Derulo and Zara Larsson and stand-up by SNL’s Michael Che and much more. See it on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and look for #OZYFEST for an insider’s perspective, while has original stories and video.


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    Chris Froome Wins Fourth Tour de France

    Steady won this race. Briton Chris Froome enjoyed a relaxed cruise through Paris today, confident he’d share the victor’s traditional champagne toast with his fellow Team Sky cyclists — even though he didn’t win any of the race’s 21 stages. Now one glass trophy away from tying the record of five, Froome, 32, sealed his lead in Saturday’s Marseilles time trial after several contenders and a teammate crashed and withdrew. He won with his tightest margin, 54 seconds ahead of Colombian Rigoberto Uran, and declared that each year, “winning the tour is getting more difficult.”

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    Jordan Spieth Wins British Open After Disastrous Start

    He was history. After suffering four bogeys yesterday on Royal Birkdale’s front nine — and a 13th-hole tee shot so astray that he ended up behind equipment trucks on the driving range — the 23-year-old’s chances looked slim. But Spieth recovered, finishing 12-under — three shots ahead of fellow American Matt Kuchar, who’d briefly held the lead. Spieth’s the youngest golfer since 1979 to claim the Claret Jug, and joins Jack Nicklaus with three majors before age 24. Nicklaus himself praised Spieth’s “great display of guts, determination and skill.”

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    The Meek Are Inheriting Wall Street

    Can Atlas shrug it off? Alpha-male investment managers are losing their grip. Years of meager returns and the development of finance-savvy artificial intelligence bled $326 billion from actively managed funds last year, while $429 billion flowed into passively managed and algorithm-run funds. Even hedge funds took a $106 billion hit, partly from big investors like pension funds and college endowments opting to invest directly in privately-held firms, aka ”shadow capital” — a record quarter of all private equity investments — perhaps forcing Wall Street titans to share their burden.

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    Rethinking the Human Genome

    We’re universally unique. While mutations were thought both negative and corollary to certain diseases, an influx of genetic data is suggesting the opposite: Mutations are the norm. On average, humans carry 400 of them, but our limited understanding means that rather than answering questions like, “Is my cancer risk high?” many variations remain unexplained. That means people carrying these genetic anomalies don’t know whether they’re pathogenic or benign. Now patients who learn they have variants are finding that testing companies patent their genetic data, so if they want a second opinion, they’ll have to sue.

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    Cheese Science Is Taking ‘Got Milk?’ to the Next Level 

    They’re milk’s special forces. Dairy Management Inc. is waging war against Americans’ disdain for lactose and fat. Embedding with companies like Taco Bell, the government-sponsored group is making sure innovative cheese products find their way onto menus and into consumers’ bellies. The average American eats 35 pounds of the stuff annually, but that’s not enough to revive an ailing dairy industry with a 1.3-billion-pound cheese glut. DMI’s working on that — but some small farmers worry they’ll be left behind while Big Dairy skims all the cream.

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    Prisoner Podcasters Shed Light on Life Behind Bars

    They haven’t stopped askin’ why. California’s fabled San Quentin State Prison is home to inmates Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams — who, with local artist Nigel Poor, have turned to a podcast to tell the stories taking place around them. “Ear Hustle” documents prisoners’ first-person narratives, detailing cellmate selection and bonding with cockroaches and snails, in a bid to make people see inmates as human beings. Having hit number one on the U.S. iTunes podcast charts, Woods and Williams are planning to broadcast to dozens of prisons around the world.

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    What’s a Cave Diver to Do When the Air Runs Out?

    They were two days he’ll never forget. When Xisco Gràcia, 54, plunged into the underwater caves of Mallorca, little did he realize it would be a harrowing journey to the brink. After exploring the underwater labyrinth with a friend, the pair became trapped a kilometer from the entrance, facing death with depleted air tanks. While his companion used their remaining oxygen to escape, Gràcia waited, wondering if he’d survive. Help eventually came — after 60 hours in the water — and now the experienced diver’s ready to go back.