Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 5, 2018

Harold Maass
Michael Flynn leaves a courthouse
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
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Mueller recommends no prison time for Flynn

Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in a sentencing memo released Tuesday that Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security adviser, provided "substantial assistance" in the Russia investigation and should serve little or no prison time for lying to the FBI. Flynn was the first of five Trump associates to plead guilty. He admitted to lying to investigators about his conversations with Russia's ambassador after the 2016 election and before Trump took office. Mueller's filing came two weeks ahead of Flynn's sentencing, and it provided new details on Flynn's cooperation with Mueller's team, including that he had participated in 19 interviews with prosecutors. Many details were withheld, however, because they are part of ongoing investigations. [The Washington Post, The Associated Press]


U.S. stocks dive on renewed fears of trade war, economic slowdown

U.S. stocks plummeted on Tuesday on disappointing bank earnings and growing skepticism about the temporary truce in the U.S.-China trade war. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 799 points or 3.1 percent, while the broader S&P 500 index dropped by 3.2 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite plunged by 3.8 percent. Shares of banking giants Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Capital One sank to 52-week lows. The yield on the three-year Treasury note rose above that of its five-year counterpart. Such a so-called yield curve inversion often signals a coming recession. U.S. stock markets are closed Wednesday, a day of mourning for former President George H.W. Bush, but futures point to a modest rebound on Thursday. [ABC News, CNBC]


Mourners pay respects to Bush

Americans from across the country poured into the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday to pay their respects to former President George H.W. Bush, who died Friday at 94. They joined diplomats, military generals, politicians, and former heads of the CIA, which Bush once ran. Bob Dole, 95, a former Senate Republican leader, struggled out of his wheelchair with help, and saluted the casket of his fellow World War II veteran. Other dignitaries included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and on Tuesday led a delegation of generals who served Bush in Operation Desert Storm. Bush will be honored in a state funeral at Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday, which has been declared a national day of mourning. [NPR, The New York Times]


Trump renews tariff threats days after striking truce with China

President Trump on Tuesday tweeted that trade negotiations with China are "ongoing" following a temporary truce that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to on Saturday. Trump said he wants countries who "come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation" to "pay for the privilege of doing so," arguing that tariffs will "always be the best way to max out our economic power." Dubbing himself "a Tariff Man," the president threatened to impose tariffs once again if the two nations can't reach a "fair" agreement in the next 90 days. "Let the negotiations begin," he wrote. China's ministry of commerce said Wednesday that the talks between Xi and Trump last weekend were "very successful" and that Beijing would begin implementing the terms of the truce promptly. [Donald J. Trump, MarketWatch]


CIA briefing increases senators' confidence Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi killing

Senate leaders said Tuesday after a briefing from CIA Director Gina Haspel that they believed Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was behind the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the crown prince "is a wrecking ball. I think he is complicit in the murder of Khashoggi in the highest possible level." Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) agreed. "I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening," he said. Investigators say the crown prince exchanged numerous texts with one of the accused killers around the time Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia acknowledges government officials killed Khashoggi but say it was a rogue operation that had nothing to do with the crown prince. [NPR, ABC News]


Epstein settles lawsuit that would have let sexual abuse victims testify

Jeffrey Epstein, a politically connected hedge-fund manager accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls, made a last-minute plea deal Tuesday to avoid a civil trial that would have let some alleged victims testify against him in court for the first time. Epstein agreed to apologize and pay a settlement to lawyer Bradley Edwards, who said Epstein tried to ruin his reputation in retaliation for his representation of some of Epstein's accusers. In 2005, Epstein was investigated for assembling a network of underage girls to sexually abuse at his Palm Beach mansion. In 2008, he reached a deal to plead guilty to two counts of soliciting prostitution, one with a minor. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail, but got out five months early. [NBC News, NPR]


Moonves obstructed sexual-misconduct investigation, report says

Ousted CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves destroyed evidence and misled investigators in an effort to protect his reputation and $120 million severance deal, according to a draft of a report lawyers prepared for the company's board reviewed by The New York Times. Moonves was once one of Hollywood's most influential executives, but he was forced to step down in September after numerous women accused him of sexual misconduct in and outside the workplace. Lawyers hired by the network said Moonves was "evasive and untruthful at times," and "deliberately lied about and minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct." His actions would justify denying him his lucrative severance package, the lawyers said. [The New York Times]


Hackers targeted GOP campaign arm ahead of midterms

Hackers stole thousands of emails from at least four aides to the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2018 midterm campaign, Politico reported Tuesday, citing three senior party officials. The breach was discovered in April, and the FBI was alerted after an internal investigation. Senior House Republicans were not informed until Politico contacted the NRCC on Monday. NRCC officials said they decided to keep the breach quiet to avoid compromising the effort to catch the hackers. The committee said an "unknown entity" was behind the intrusion. Political operatives and lawmakers have stepped up their cybersecurity since the high-profile Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta ahead of the 2016 elections. [Politico]


Avenatti says he won't run for president in 2020

Michael Avenatti, porn star Stormy Daniels' lawyer, announced Tuesday that he would not run for president in 2020. "After consultation with my family and at their request, I have decided not to seek the presidency of the United States in 2020," Avenatti said. "I do not make this decision lightly — I make it out of respect for my family. But for their concerns, I would run." Avenatti had been raising money for Democrats and visiting early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. His decision not to run came after weeks of turmoil. Avenatti was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in Los Angeles last month, an allegation he denies. Later, Daniels said Avenatti had filed a defamation suit against President Trump against her wishes. [CNBC, The Daily Beast]


American Film Institute announces list of best films of 2018

The American Film Institute on Tuesday released its picks for the 10 best films of 2018: BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Eighth Grade, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Favorite, First Reformed, Green Book, Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place, and A Star Is Born. The AFI's best films list often forecasts the Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards. Last year, seven out of the 10 films on the AFI's top 10 list went on to receive a Best Picture nomination. The organization also recognized The Americans, Atlanta, This Is Us, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, among others, as top TV programs of the year. [American Film Institute]