Trump says Flynn's Russia dealing were 'lawful'; US Senate passes tax plan

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  • President Donald Trump said on Saturday there was “absolutely no collusion” between his campaign and Russia. Trump was responding to his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleading guilty to lying to authorities about meetings with Russians. Trump says he had to fire Flynn, because of his lies to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI. Flynn also admitted in a court document that a senior member of Trump’s transition team directed him to make contact with Russian officials. On Twitter, the president said that Flynn’s actions during the transition following the 2016 election “were lawful.”  In a statement he released after his morning court appearance, shown here on CNBC, Flynn said he was working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Mueller is tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • The U.S. Senate voted 51-49 in favor for a tax package that would cut taxes for businesses and the wealthy. The overhaul is the largest change to tax laws in 30 years and would add $1.4 trillion over 10 years to the $20 trillion of national debt to finance changes they say will boost the economy. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the corporate tax rate would be permanently lowered from 35 percent to 20 percent, while future foreign profits of US-based firms would be mainly exempt from tax. The non-partisan Senate Joint Committee on Taxation said most Americans across all income levels would see modest tax breaks until 2026 an after that families earning under $75,000 a year would likely face higher taxes. (Washington Post) The bill will now need to be merged with separate legislation that has passed the House of Representatives, a process that begins on Monday.
  • Authorities in Honduras imposed a 10-day dusk-to-dawn curfew to curb violent protests that erupted after an election that has been plagued with accusations of vote rigging. The government also expanded powers for the army and police. Opposition leaders said the move would stifle protests over a presidential vote count has been ongoing for five days. The Associated Press reported that the country’s electoral court had finished counting nearly 95 percent of the vote boxes from the November 26 presidential election by late Friday. President Juan Orlando Hernandez had a thin lead over his challenger, TV-host Salvador Nasralla, but thousands of disputed votes could still swing the outcome.

What we’re reading

  • It all started with some tweets. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill was days away from announcing a new energy strategy for his state after a once-in-a-century storm had wreaked havoc on South Australia. The storm brought down down power lines and infrastructure, causing a state-wide blackout when he got the news that Tesla chief Elon Musk wanted to solve the state’s energy woes. Musk had offered to build the most powerful battery ever made, and do it faster than ever imagined. “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free,” Musk tweeted. This piece from the Sydney Morning Herald, lays out how the project eventuated. On Friday, Weatherill turned on the largest ion battery in the world. The 100-megawatt battery system provides 129-megawatt hours of energy, reduces intermittency issues, and manages increased demand during summer peak loading periods, potentially providing enough energy to power 30,000 homes for eight hours. Weatherill called it “history in the making.” — Charles Anderson
  • Two months ago today, six teen girls survived the worst mass shooting in modern US history. This story in the Washington Post by John Woodrow Cox outlines what they endured, then and after. — Charles Anderson


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