The Rundown for Dec. 21, 2018

MATTIS RESIGNS… Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned yesterday in protest of President Trump’s Middle East policy and decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. In a resignation letter released by the Pentagon, Mattis announced that he will leave at the end of February. Mattis, who was widely considered to be a stable influence in the White House, rebuked Trump in his resignation letter. “One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” Mattis wrote. “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.”

TRUMP ORDERS AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL OPTIONS… The Trump administration has ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. Plans are due after the new year and options to be considered include a complete withdrawal. The current force of 14,000 is expected to be cut in half over the next couple of months, according to the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. The decision was condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike who argued that Afghan forces continue to need U.S. support in their fight against ISIS and the Taliban.

SYRIAN ALLY CRITICIZES U.S. OVER PULLOUT… America’s military partner in northeastern Syria warned yesterday that President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. military forces is a mistake that will benefit ISIS. The Syrian Democratic Forces issued a statement criticizing the U.S. for pulling out before the war is over. “Withdrawal under these circumstances will lead to instability and insecurity, creating a political and military vacuum, leaving its people between the claws of hostile forces and groups,” the statement said. The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets have reported that Trump ordered the withdrawal at the request of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

TRUMP WON’T SIGN SENATE FUNDING BILL… President Trump yesterday raised the likelihood of a government shutdown today by vowing not to sign a Senate-approved temporary spending measure without funding for a border wall. Trump and Republican allies are demanding that the bill covers the $5 billion cost to build a wall along the southern border. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Trump’s refusal to sign the bill after he and a small group of House Republicans huddled with the president at the White House in an unsuccessful bid for his support.

WHITAKER CLEARED TO OVERSEE MUELLER INVESTIGATION… Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker yesterday chose not to recuse himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Whitaker made the decision despite a top Justice Department ethics official’s advice that he should step aside out of an “abundance of caution.” Whitaker’s move angered Democrats, who sought his recusal over comments critical of the investigation he made while a conservative pundit on CNN.

DHS REVEALS ASYLUM PLAN FOR SOUTHERN BORDER… Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has revealed a new plan for dealing with asylum seekers along the southern border with Mexico. Testifying yesterday before members of the House Judiciary committee, Nielsen announced that asylum seekers who enter the U.S. illegally will now have to return to Mexico while they wait for their claims to be processed. The DHS is calling the move “a historic measure.”

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TOUGHENS FOOD-STAMP REQUIREMENTS… The Trump administration yesterday unveiled a plan to tighten food-stamp requirements. The plan would require the roughly 750,000 able-bodied welfare recipients without children who live in areas where unemployment is 10 percent or higher. The proposal would limit a waiver currently in place that removes the job requirement in areas where unemployment is at least 20 percent more than the national average. Under the new rule, the waiver is valid if the regional unemployment rate was above 7 percent, nearly double the national rate of 3.7 percent.

ENTERTAINMENT
WEINSTEIN CHARGES UPHELD… Film producer Harvey Weinstein is heading to trial on five felony sex crimes after a New York judge yesterday rejected his attorneys’ request to drop all charges. The 66-year-old Weinstein, who produced such Academy Award-winning films as “Shakespeare in Love,” “The King’s Speech” and “The English Patient,” faces two counts of predatory sexual assault, one charge of a first-degree criminal sexual act and two counts of rape. Defense attorneys had argued the case was tainted by the conduct of a lead police detective and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

IN THEATERS… “Aquaman” stars Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in the story about the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis who must step forward to lead his people and save the world. The film is rated PG-13. “Bumblebee” centers on an 18-year-old girl who discovers an auto-bot that is battle-scarred and broken in a beach-town junkyard. Hailee Steinfeld and Dylan O’Brien star in the PG-13 film.

SPORTS
NBA SCORES
MIAMI 101 – Houston 99… The Heat erased an early double-digit and held on at the end to edge the Rockets for their third straight win. Josh Richardson scored 22 points to lead a balanced scoring attack. The loss was Houston’s first in six games.

L.A. CLIPPERS 125 – Dallas 121… The Clippers turned away a second-half rally to escape with a win over the Mavericks. Danilo Gallinari pumped in 32 points. Lou Williams delivered 26 points off the bench.

TONIGHT’S NBA SCHEDULE
Detroit is at Charlotte…
Toronto hosts Cleveland…
New York hosts Atlanta…
Indiana is at Brooklyn…
Chicago hosts Orlando…
Milwaukee is at Boston…
San Antonio hosts Minnesota…
Utah is at Portland…
Sacramento hosts Memphis…
New Orleans is at the L.A. Lakers

NHL SCORES
COLUMBUS 2 – New Jersey 1… Cam Atkinson scored the decisive goal on a penalty shot early in the second period as the Blue Jackets held off the Devils. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves.

PHILADELPHIA 2 – Nashville 1… Claude Giroux netted a tiebreaking goal midway through the second period and the Flyers made it stand in edging the Predators. Jakub Voracek opened the scoring with a first-period goal. Goalie Carter Hart stopped 31 shots in his second NHL start.

TORONTO 6 – Florida 1… Auston Matthews found the net twice and had two assists to lead the Maple Leafs in their rout of the Panthers. John Tavares also scored two goals. Morgan Reilly had four assists.

PITTSBURGH 2 – Minnesota 1… Bryan Rust scored both Penguins goals in their win over the Wild. Casey DeSmith stopped 40 shots at goal.

Detroit 4 – CAROLINA 1… Niklas Kronwell had a goal and an assist in leading the Red Wings past the Hurricanes. Goalie Jonathan Bernier made 38 saves.

BOSTON 3 – Anaheim 1… David Pastrnak scored a goal and assisted on two others as the Bruins handled the Ducks. Torey Krug added a goal and an assist.

Chicago 5 – DALLAS 2… Patrick Kane netted two goals and had an assist as the Blackhawks topped the Stars. Alex DeBrincat added a goal and two assists. David Kampf assisted on two goals.

Montreal 2 – ARIZONA 1… Paul Byron scored a go-ahead goal early in the third quarter and the Canadiens held on to down the Coyotes. Shea Weber broke a scoreless tie with a power-play goal 22 seconds into the second period.

Tampa Bay 5 – CALGARY 4 (SO)… Victor Hedman and J.T. Miller scored in the shootout to send the Lightning past the Flames. Nikita Kucherov had two assists in regulation.

VANCOUVER 5 – St. Louis 1… Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen each had a goal and an assist as the Canucks skated past the Blues. Alexander Edler assisted on two goals.

VEGAS 4 – N.Y. Islanders 2… The Golden Knights scored four unanswered goals to double up on the Golden Knights after spotting them a 2-0 second-period lead. Nate Schmidt scored a goal and had two assists.

Winnipeg 5 –  SAN JOSE 3… Nikolaj Ehlers scored twice over the final three minutes to complete a hat trick and send the Jets past the Sharks. Blake Wheeler set up three goals. Mark Scheifele added two assists.

TONIGHT’S NHL SCHEDULE
Buffalo is at Washington…
New Jersey hosts Ottawa…
Chicago is at Colorado

TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
#2 DUKE 69, #12 Texas Tech 58…
#21 HOUSTON 60, Utah State 50

COLLEGE FOOTBALL SCORE
Marshall 38, South Florida 20 in the Gasparilla Bowl

TONIGHT’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Florida International (8-4) plays Toledo (7-5) in the Bahamas Bowl…
BYU (6-6) plays Western Michigan (7-5) in the Potato Bowl

SATURDAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Memphis (8-5) plays Wake Forest (6-6) in the Birmingham Bowl…
Army (10-2) plays Houston (8-4) in the Armed Forces Bowl…
Buffalo (10-3) plays Troy (9-3) in the Dollar General Bowl…
Hawaii (8-5) plays Louisiana Tech (7-5) in the Hawaii Bowl

SATURDAY’S NFL SCHEDULE
Washington (7-7) is at Tennessee (8-6)…
the L.A. Chargers (11-3) host Baltimore (6-6)

SUNDAY’S NFL SCHEDULE
Atlanta (5-9) is at Carolina (6-8)..
the N.Y. Jets (4-10) host Green Bay (5-8-1)…
Houston (10-4) is at Philadelphia (7-7)…
Miami (7-7) hosts Jacksonville (4-10)…
Buffalo (5-9) is at New England (9-5)…
Indianapolis (8-6) hosts the N.Y. Giants (5-9)…
Tampa Bay (5-9) is at Dallas (8-6)…
Cleveland (6-7-1) hosts Cincinnati (6-8)…
Minnesota (7-6-1) is at Detroit (5-9)…
San Francisco (4-10) hosts Chicago (10-4)…
the L.A. Rams (11-3) are at Arizona (3-11)…
New Orleans (12-2) hosts Pittsburgh (8-5-1)…
Kansas City (11-3) is at Seattle (8-6)

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Denver (6-8) is at Oakland (3-11)

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