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10 things you need to know today: March 31, 2017

Harold Maass
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1.

Flynn offers Russia testimony in exchange for immunity

President Trump's former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has told the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees he will testify about possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity from "unfair prosecution," his lawyer, Robert Kelner, said Thursday. "General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit," Kelner said. Flynn served as an adviser during Trump's campaign and later as his national security adviser, but he resigned in February after it was revealed he communicated with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. before Trump's inauguration as former President Barack Obama was preparing to announce sanctions against Russia over its meddling in the election.

2.

North Carolina lawmakers repeal controversial 'bathroom bill'

North Carolina Republican-led legislature on Thursday approved legislation repealing the state's controversial "bathroom bill," and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed the compromise into law. Cooper and GOP leaders struck the deal aiming to begin repairing the damage done by the bathroom law, which required transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates rather than the one they identify with. Gay rights groups criticized the new measures because they still bar local governments from enacting protections against anti-LGBT discrimination, and it was unclear whether the change would be enough to end boycotts triggered by the original bill, known as House Bill 2 or HB2.

3.

Ousted South Korean president arrested over bribery scandal

South Korean authorities arrested ousted former President Park Geun-hye on charges connected to the corruption scandal that got her impeached three weeks ago. Prosecutors announced at the start of the week that they were asking a court for clearance to arrest Park for abuse of power, taking bribes from companies, and leaking confidential information. "The court recognizes the need, necessity, and reasonableness of the suspect's arrest," Judge Kang Bu-young texted reporters on Friday. "Major crimes have been ascertained and there is a concern that the suspect might attempt to destroy evidence."

4.

Pence casts tie-breaking vote on letting states cut Planned Parenthood funding

Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate on Thursday to approve legislation that will let states cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. The bill now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign it. The Obama-era regulations protected funding for organizations providing women's health services, regardless of whether they offered abortions. The rollback was deadlocked 50-50 when two members of the narrow Senate majority, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, sided with Democrats in opposition to repealing the regulation. Democrats said the change would hurt women by limiting their access to health care. Republicans said it was the Obama administration that hurt local communities through regulatory overreach.

5.

Trump tweets criticism of conservative Freedom Caucus

President Trump harshly criticized conservative Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus in a flurry of tweets on Thursday. Members of the Freedom Caucus helped doom the GOP leadership's proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare, a plan strongly backed by Trump, when they opposed the legislation last week, arguing that it preserved too much federal funding for health-care subsidies. "The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!" Trump tweeted. Some conservatives pushed back forcefully. "Most people don't take well to being bullied," said Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.).

6.

First two Democrats say they will support Gorsuch confirmation

Two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — said Thursday that they would vote to confirm President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Manchin, who frequently crosses the aisle to side with the GOP, said he found Gorsuch to be "an honest and thoughtful man," and that he had "not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court justice." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will not support Gorsuch and has urged Democrats to block an up-or-down vote on Trump's nominee. Manchin and Heitkamp gave Republicans two of the eight Democratic votes they need to sidestep a filibuster.

7.

White House invites congressional investigators to review classified material

The White House on Thursday invited leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees to review classified material that relates to surveillance of associates of President Trump. "There's a desire to make sure that both sides of the aisle as well as both chambers have that information," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. The White House declined to comment on a New York Times report that said two White House officials had helped provide House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) with intelligence reports indicating that communications by Trump and some of his associates had been inadvertently intercepted in normal foreign surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies.

8.

Fire destroys bridge on busy highway in Atlanta

A massive fire destroyed a bridge on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, causing what the mayor said would be a long-term "transportation crisis." The fire was reported underneath the bridge's northbound side at 6:21 p.m., forcing authorities to close one of the nation's busiest stretches of highway during the evening rush. Nobody was on or under the bridge when it collapsed in a flaming heap at around 7 p.m. Thousands of motorists were stuck in place while State Troopers rerouted traffic. Gov. Nathan Deal said no injuries were reported. Atlanta already had the fourth worst traffic in the U.S. before the closure of the heavily used highway. The FBI said there was no evidence of a link to terrorism.

9.

Malaysia sends home 3 North Koreans and the body of Kim Jong Nam

Malaysia on Friday sent home three North Koreans wanted for questioning in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The body of Kim Jong Nam also was returned on the plane under a deal Malaysia struck with Pyongyang after a drawn-out diplomatic clash. As part of a swap, North Korea agreed to release nine Malaysian citizens held in Pyongyang. U.S. and South Korean officials say North Korean agents assassinated Kim Jong Nam, and Malaysian police took statements from the three North Koreans before letting them leave the country. Malaysia also has named five other North Koreans it wants to question.

10.

Women's Final Four set to tip off in Dallas

The Final Four of the NCAA women's basketball tournament opens Friday night in Dallas with Stanford playing South Carolina, followed by top-ranked UConn against Mississippi State. Stanford will be aiming for its third title, but UConn is the favorite to win it all. The Huskies have won 111 straight games, 36 of them this season, and they are aiming for their 12th national championship. They're also the four-time defending champs, and they beat Mississippi State a year ago 98-38. The winners of Friday's games will meet in the title game on Sunday. The men's Final Four is coming up on Saturday.