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10 things you need to know today: March 8, 2018

Harold Maass
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Trump prepares to sign tariff decree

President Trump plans to move ahead with formally imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the White House said Wednesday. The move, expected on Thursday, could exempt Canada, Mexico, and other countries on "national security" grounds, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Canada and European countries have strongly urged Trump not to go through with the tariffs, and threatened to retaliate if he does. The tariffs would not take effect immediately. The statute under which Trump has authority to impose them calls for a two-week implementation period that would give affected countries and companies time to lobby for changes to Trump's plan, although Trump has said offering some countries exemptions would create problems. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Florida lawmakers approve gun control, school safety measures

Florida's Republican-led state House on Wednesday passed a school safety package with an unprecedented collection of gun control measures, three weeks after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 dead. The bill would raise the minimum age on firearm purchases from 18 to 21, impose a three-day waiting period on gun purchases, provide $400 million for school police officers and mental health counselors, and allow certain school personnel to be armed. The measures came despite opposition from the National Rifle Association. Democrats unsuccessfully pushed for a ban on assault-style rifles like the one used by the gunman in Parkland. The bill passed 67-50 in the state House, and 20-18 in the Senate. Gov. Rick Scott (R) opposes arming teachers, and has not indicated whether he will sign the bill. [The New York Times, Politico]


South Korean envoys arrive to brief U.S. on North Korea talks

Two South Korean envoys are scheduled to arrive in the U.S. on Thursday to meet with Trump administration officials to discuss talks Seoul held this week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. South Korean National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon are expected to meet with top administration officials, including either President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, a South Korean official said. The South Korean officials are expected to brief their U.S. counterparts on Kim's apparent willingness to discuss stopping nuclear weapon and long-range missile tests if the U.S. guarantees the North Korean regime's security, potentially ending months of rising tensions. [Reuters]


Parkland, Florida, shooting suspect formally charged with 17 murder counts

Confessed Parkland, Florida, school shooter Nikolas Cruz was formally indicted by a grand jury on 17 premeditated murder charges on Wednesday. He also was charged with 17 counts of attempted murder. The 19-year-old former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student is accused of entering the school with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, which he purchased legally after passing a background check, and gunning down students and teachers. Cruz's public defender has said the teen is willing to plead guilty if prosecutors agree not to pursue the death penalty. The Broward County state attorney has not yet decided what to do about the offer. The massacre has sparked nationwide protests in favor of gun control. [The Associated Press]


Trump attorney got arbitrator to order Stormy Daniels to keep silent

President Trump's private attorney Michael Cohen obtained a secret temporary restraining order in a private arbitration proceeding to prevent adult-film star Stormy Daniels from talking about her alleged affair with Trump. News of the proceeding emerged Wednesday when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that an arbitration proceeding against Daniels "was won in the president's favor." Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles alleging that a nondisclosure agreement requiring her to stay silent about an "intimate" relationship with Trump was invalid because Trump never signed it. Her attorney described the arbitration hearing as "bogus" and said Cohen was using "threats" to keep Daniels quiet. [NBC News, The New York Times]


Kushner tries to soothe strained relations with Mexico

Jared Kushner, President Trump's senior aide and son-in-law, met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and other top officials in Mexico City on Wednesday in a bid to repair relations damaged by Trump's proposed steel and aluminum tariffs, and his planned border wall. It is Kushner's first visit as Trump's designated point person on relations with Mexico, which was one of four countries reported to have had private discussions about manipulating Kushner by using his inexperience and the financial troubles of his family real estate business. Kushner did not invite U.S. Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, one of Washington's most experienced Latin America experts, to his meetings. Plans for Trump and Peña Nieto to meet were abruptly scrapped in February after a phone argument over the border wall. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Trump reportedly asked witnesses about their interviews with Mueller

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been notified that in recent months, President Trump asked two witnesses about their discussions with investigators, three people familiar with the conversations told The New York Times. Trump asked former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in December how his interview went and if the special counsel's team had been "nice," two people told the Times; he also told an aide in January that White House Counsel Don McGahn needed to issue a statement refuting an article written by the Times that said Trump asked McGahn to fire Mueller. Both incidents went against advice from his lawyers, who told Trump to avoid doing anything in public or private that could be construed as interference in the special counsel's investigation. [The New York Times]


Forest Service chief resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations

The head of the U.S. Forest Service, Tony Tooke, announced his resignation on Wednesday, effective immediately, as he faced an internal investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, PBS NewsHour reports. Tooke is accused of having had relationships with subordinates before he was elevated to chief last September. A NewsHour investigation also uncovered a wider culture of sexual harassment and assault at the Forest Service, and retaliation against employees who reported harassment. Tooke said he was stepping down to "make way for a new leader that can ensure future success for all employees and the agency." Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue thanked Tooke for his four decades of service but said "in order to effectively lead any organization, you must have the moral authority" to inspire its workers. [PBS NewsHour]


U.K. police say Russian double agent attacked with nerve agent

British police said Wednesday that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, appear to have been poisoned with a nerve agent. The Sunday attack left both in critical condition in a London hospital. A police officer who responded to the shopping center where the Skripals were found on a bench also is being treated for exposure to the substance. Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence colonel, was released from Russia in a spy swap after being convicted as a double agent there. "It has not been declared a terrorist incident and at this stage we are keeping an open mind as to what happened," police said. [USA Today]


U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum rescinds Suu Kyi's human rights award

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., this week took back the prestigious Elie Wiesel Award from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's de facto political leader, over her handling of the military's brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. The museum called out Suu Kyi, who received the human rights award in 2012 for her advocacy of democracy and opposition to Myanmar's military dictatorship, for failing to use her "moral authority" to defend the Rohingya, who have fled the country by the hundreds of thousands. [NPR]

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