The Presidential Daily Brief


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    US Slaps New Sanctions on Russia

    The Trump administration today introduced tough new sanctions against Russia, targeting seven tycoons and 17 government officials in a move apparently designed to demonstrate that President Donald Trump is willing to stand up to the Kremlin. Among those hit by the measures — which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said were in response to Russia’s destabilization in the world — include key energy players Igor Rotenberg and Kirill Shamalov, both of whom are tied to Vladimir Putin. The move comes days after the White House confirmed Trump invited his Russian counterpart to Washington for a meeting.

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    Trump Administration Floats $100 Billion in New China Tariffs

    As the trade war between the world’s two largest economies escalates, the White House has instructed officials to consider billions in additional taxes on Chinese products. President Trump says it’s due to “China’s unfair retaliation” against Washington’s $50 billion in tariffs over alleged Chinese intellectual property abuse, which China countered with its own $50 billion list of American products to tax. On Friday, Beijing pledged to respond again if necessary — though further actions may impact both global markets and China-facilitated talks between the U.S. and North Korea next month.

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    Former South Korean President Gets 24 Years Jail Time

    In a verdict broadcast live, Park Guen-hye — who last year became her country’s first democratically elected president to be impeached — was sentenced to 24 years and fined $17 million on charges of corruption and bribery. The 66-year-old, who is already in prison, didn’t appear at the sentencing hearing. The verdict puts an end to Park’s case, which underscored the connections of South Korea’s political elite and its corporations, and could fuel support for current President Moon Jae-in and his anti-corruption platform.

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    Trump Denies Knowing About Stormy Daniels Payoff

    “No.” That was President Trump’s one-word response to whether he knew about his lawyer paying the adult film star $130,000 just days before his election. It was his first public statement on the matter of Daniels being paid for not speaking about their alleged affair. He said he didn’t know where the money came from, while Daniels’ lawyer later said he looks forward to testing Trump’s lack of knowledge under oath. Meanwhile, complaints filed with the Justice Department claim the payment would count as an illegal undisclosed campaign contribution.

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    UN Rejects Russian Call for Joint Probe Into Poisoned Spy

    Don’t bring Midsomer Murders into this. But Russia’s U.N. ambassador did just that, citing the kitsch British murder mystery show when denying that his country had anything to do with a nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent in Britain. He said anyone watching the show would know many “clever ways to kill someone” and that Britain was “playing with fire” by accusing Russia in the mounting diplomatic crisis. The U.N. Security Council denied his request to include Russia in a joint investigation into the poisoning.


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    Thousands Rally in Slovakia Over Journalist’s Murder

    Last month, mass protests in Slovakia moved Prime Minister Robert Fico to resign, and yesterday 45,000 people rallied in the streets in cities across the Eastern European nation demanding more change. The flash point was the February murder of reporter Jan Kuciak, who was investigating ties between the Mafia and high-level businesspeople. After his posthumously published investigations implicated a relative of police chief Tibor Gaspar, protesters are calling Gaspar’s conduct into question and demanding his resignation. They’re joined by a powerful ally: Slovakia’s left-leaning President Andrej Kiska.

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    Returning From Tragedy, Virgin Fires Up Space Plane

    Next stop: the final frontier. The VSS Unity — named by Stephen Hawking but owned by Richard Branson — ignited its rockets and cracked the sound barrier Thursday morning. It was Virgin Galactic’s first space flight since 2014, when its original VSS Enterprise spaceship crashed, killing one of its pilots. Testing was stopped until the program could add mechanical and procedural safety measures. While Unity’s rocket fired for just 30 seconds, it was enough to propel the plane above 84,000 feet, where Branson hopes to one day carry paying passengers.

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    More Women Than Ever Running for Congress

    Is their place in the House? A record 309 women are vying for congressional seats — eclipsing the previous record of 298 set in 2012. The jump’s seen as an outgrowth of the Women’s March that greeted President Trump’s inauguration, with many candidates aiming to help the Democrats capture 23 seats and a lower chamber majority. First up is physician Hiral Tipirneni, who aims to flip Arizona’s solidly red 8th District in May’s special election against state Sen. Debbi Lesko in a race that’ll add a congresswoman either way.

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    ‘Black Panther’ to Break Saudi Cinema Ban

    “It’s hard for a good man to become king.” The superhero film — now the 10th-highest-grossing ever after raking in $1 billion worldwide — will reportedly be the first to play in Riyadh after a 35-year ban on cinemas was lifted. Cinema chain AMC expects to open dozens of theaters in the kingdom as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s modernizing reforms. It’s still unclear if the screenings will be segregated by gender — and what will be censored when Black Panther opens April 18.

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    Jordan Spieth Leads Augusta National

    Watch the birdie. After hitting birdies on five straight holes, Spieth finished in front on the first round of the Masters with a score of 66. Tony Finau was only two strokes behind despite spraining his ankle during a hole-in-one celebration on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods posted a 73 in his first major since 2015, keeping himself in the running. And last year’s winner, Sergio Garcia, hit five balls into the water for the worst score at the 15th hole in Masters’ history. The tournament continues through April 8.