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Inside Daily Brief (Dec 4th, 2017)

John Dowd, a lawyer for President Trump, claims that he's the one who wrote a controversial tweet over the weekend relating to the firing of Michael Flynn. On Saturday, a message on @realDonaldTrump read: "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!" The tweet raised questions about when Trump found out about Flynn lying to the FBI, why he then waited so long to reveal this information and why he would have pressured former FBI director James Comey to let go of the investigation. There are concerns that the tweet could open the President up to an obstruction of justice charge. On Sunday, Dowd said that it was him, and not Trump, who wrote the message. Dowd said the apparent admission of guilt was a mistake he made while writing the tweet. He said President Trump only found out about Flynn’s lies to the FBI when the former General was charged last week. – CNN

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North Korea said that military drills between the U.S. and South Korea due to start today are "a great provocation" that could trigger a nuclear war. In statements published by state-owned media, Pyongyang said that U.S. President Trump "is running wild" and referred to South Korean officials as "puppet war maniacs." Some 12,000 troops from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will take part in the drill, which has been described as "a realistic air combat exercise." The drill comes shortly after North Korea tested a rocket that experts say could potentially reach the U.S. mainland. Over the weekend, White House national security adviser HR McMaster warned that the likelihood of a war with North Korea was increasing. – NBC

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CVS has agreed to buy health insurer Aetna for $69 billion the largest acquisition in the U.S. this year. CVS shareholders will control 78 percent of the resulting company, and Aetna investors will hold the remainder. The companies expect to save some $750 million a year in cost synergies. Once the transaction is finalized in the second half of 2018, CVS will use its 1,100 walk-in health clinics to provide medical services to Aetna’s 23 million customers. CVS plans to invest heavily in opening more clinics and expand the services they provide. The resulting company's large size will potentially allow it to negotiate better prices with drug makers, meaning bigger discounts to consumers. – REUTERS

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Police in Malta have arrested ten people in connection with the murder of a prominent journalist who was killed by a car bomb in October. The country’s prime minister first announced that eight people had been arrested over their involvement in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He gave no details about the suspects, other than saying that there was "reasonable suspicion" about their involvement. He later tweeted that two more suspects had been detained. Caruana Galizia gained prominence for her reporting on corruption, money laundering and the Mafia. Over the past two years, she was involved in the Panama Papers investigation into offshore tax havens. – AP

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The New York Metropolitan Opera has suspended a renowned conductor over accusations of sexual misconduct. The alleged incidents for which James Levine is accused took place from the 1960s to the 1980s, according to stories published in the New York Post and The New York Times. The incidents allegedly involved victims as young as 16 and 17. "Mr. Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season," the Met said in a statement. – CBS

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German police said that a fake bomb found near a street market in the city of Potsdam might have been part of a plot to blackmail shipping company DHL. The package was said to contain nails, some sort of powder, and fireworks, but it did not contain explosives. After finding the package, police evacuated a Christmas market nearby and later detonated it in a controlled explosion. However, police don’t think the package was part of an act of terrorism; instead, they believe it was part of a plot to extort money from DHL, a local government official said. A similar package was found in Frankfurt last month. – DEUTSCHEWELLE

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Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk plans to deliver a red roadster into Mars's orbit in 2018. The car will be transported by SpaceX's new Falcon Heavy rocket, which can carry up to 37,000 pounds – the equivalent of 14 Tesla Roadsters. "Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing [David Bowie's] Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent," Musk tweeted on Friday. The plan was confirmed by several media outlets over the weekend. – FORTUNE

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The failure of Honduras’ electoral commission (TSE) to name a winner in the Oct. 26 presidential election has triggered a major political crisis. Supporters of opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla have rallied in the streets, claiming that the vote count is being manipulated to ensure that President Juan Orlando Hernandez wins a second term in office. The government has sent the army into the streets, leading to violent clashes in which a 19-year-old protester died. A day after the election, with 40 percent of votes counted, Nasralla had a 5-point lead over his rival. The vote count later stalled and, when it was resumed, Hernandez took the lead. On Monday morning, with almost 95 percent votes counted, Hernandez had a 1.5-point lead over Nasralla. – NPR

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Walt Disney has resumed talks to buy a significant portion of 21st Century Fox. The assets include 20th Century Fox film studio and Fox’s stake in British satellite broadcaster Sky. The transaction will also give Disney control of the FX network and the Hulu video-streaming service. The Fox News Channel and the Fox broadcast network would not be part of the deal. – BBC

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U.S. President Trump is expected to announce a reduction in the size of two federally protected areas in Utah. The 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears monument could be reduced by up to 85 percent, while the 1.8 million-acre Grand Staircase National Monument, could be cut in half. The national monuments were created by former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, respectively. Trump is expected to make the announcement during a speech at the Utah state capitol today. Utah's Republican congressional delegation and conservative groups support the looming decision, saying that it would free land for commercial activities including cattle ranching and mining. Native Americans and environmentalists oppose the move. NPR

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