When Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev bombed the finish line of the Boston Marathon a year ago, Russia and the U.S. were still at least frenemies. Now, as the two countries are increasingly at loggerheads over the situation in Ukraine, a new report has found that Russia withheld potentially critical information from the FBI that could have helped the U.S. nab Tamerlan Tsarnaev before the bombing, according to The New York Times.
"They found that the Russians did not provide all the information that they had on him back then, and based on everything that was available the FBI did all that it could," a senior American tells The Times. The report, from the inspector general of the intelligence community, has not been made public, but it reportedly largely exonerates the FBI. So what did Russia fail to do?
First, here's what Russia did do: In 2011, after Tamerlan visited the restive Russian province of Dagestan, Russian officials told the FBI that he "was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer" and "had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country's region to join unspecified underground groups," The Times reports.
Based on these warnings, the FBI examined Tamerlan's school, criminal, and internet records, and interviewed him, his parents, and friends. When that turned up nothing, FBI agents in Moscow asked Russian intelligence for more information. Russia declined. After the bombing, Russia turned over some other information, like an intercepted call between Tamerlan and his mother in which they discussed Islamic jihad. According to the inspector general's report, that information could have given the FBI more legal authority to monitor Tamerlan.
That's a lot of what-ifs. It does sound like Russia could have been more generous with its intelligence, but it's also still kind of incredible that Russia and the U.S. were sharing the fruits of their spying at all. This final quote, from a senior U.S. official to The New York Times, kind of sums it up: "Had [the FBI] known what the Russians knew they probably would have been able to do more under our investigative guidelines, but would they have uncovered the plot? That's very hard to say." It always is with counterfactuals. Peter Weber
Thousands of emails made public on Wednesday by an Oklahoma judge show that Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, had close relationships with oil and gas producers and electric and fossil fuel companies, as well as political groups backed by the Koch brothers, while serving as the Republican attorney general of Oklahoma.
Pruitt sued the Obama administration's EPA 14 times during his tenure, and emails show that his office worked with these companies to put together drafts of letters for Pruitt to sign, seeking to stop new regulations. One email sent to Pruitt from an executive at the Koch-supported Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, thanked him and his bosses for all they did "to push back against President Obama's EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states." Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate 52-46 on Friday, despite protests from Democrats and environmentalists. The emails were released as part of a lawsuit filed against Pruitt by the liberal watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy. Catherine Garcia
During an unannounced visit Wednesday to the recently vandalized Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, Vice President Mike Pence declared there is "no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism." More than a hundred tombstones were damaged or toppled over the weekend at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery, located just outside of St. Louis, part of a trend of increasing acts of anti-Semitism across the nation.
"We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those that perpetrate it in the strongest possible terms," Pence said, noting the vandalism is a "sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate." Pence was in Missouri on Wednesday for a meeting with executives at a Fabick Cat plant.
The vice president's condemnation of anti-Semitism came just a day after President Trump vowed the "horrible" and "painful" anti-Semitic threats are "going to stop."
Catch a snippet of Pence's remarks below. Becca Stanek
— CNN (@CNN) February 22, 2017
Jay Z will become the first rapper ever inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, producer and guitarist Nile Rodgers revealed Wednesday on CBS This Morning. "He's changed the way we listen to music, he's changed the way we have fun, the way that we cry," Rodgers said, calling Jay Z a "revolutionary."
The 21-time Grammy winner is in the 2017 class of inductees alongside Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Max Martin, Robert Lamm, James Pankow, and Peter Cetera. Madonna, George Michael, and Cat Stevens were among the nominated artists who didn't make the cut.
Jay Z — known for hits like "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," "Empire State of Mind," and "Big Pimpin'," as well as for being married to Beyoncé — was reportedly "so over the moon" about his induction. "He was flipping out, he was going crazy," said Hall of Fame President Linda Moran.
Artists become eligible for the Hall of Fame 20 years after their first hit; Jay Z's first was his 1996 album Reasonable Doubt. Though Jay Z was nominated last year, he wasn't selected. "To be honest with you, last year we talked about it a lot," Moran told The New York Times. "Our board and community wasn't ready. This year we felt that they had been educated enough."
The induction ceremony is slated for June 15 at the Marriott Marquis in New York. Becca Stanek
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once had his eyes set on the highest attainable office for a public servant: the Oval Office. When that didn't work out, he set his eyes on the second highest: the vice presidency. That didn't quite work out either.
After a couple false starts along the way (see: Christie as Trump's hostage; Christie as Trump's unwilling meatloaf-eating partner), Christie might finally be looking to do something a little more deserving of his signature "Jersey attitude." The divisive governor is reportedly among the candidates to replace Mike Francesa as the host of WFAN 660-AM's afternoon drive show, New York's biggest sports-talk radio program, NorthJersey.com reports.
"I would certainly at least want to consider him," said the station's program director, Mike Chernoff, of Christie last week. "If he's interested and we're interested, it's worth pursuing."
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) February 22, 2017
Christie, by all indications, appears on board. "As my son said — he said, I can't believe I've been listening to you talk about sports my entire life and that someone might actually pay you to do that," Christie explained.
Philadelphia sports fans might not quite believe it either. Get a taste of what could be in store for WFAN below. Jeva Lange
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) February 16, 2017
As life expectancies around the world continue to rise, the United States finds itself with the lowest life expectancy of all high-income countries, a new study published in the Lancet has discovered. While women in South Korea are projected to live to an average age of 90.8 years by 2030, American women are only expected to live 83.3 years, similar to what's expected in Mexico or Croatia.
Researchers blamed a number of factors for Americans' unimpressive outlook, including greater obesity rates, homicides, road accidents — and a lack of universal health care. Majid Ezzati, a professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London, said part of why South Korea is so successful, on the other hand, is the country's investment in childhood nutrition, education, and technology, and also widespread access to good health care.
In 2015, the global life expectancy was 71.4 years. "This [study] shows that even if there is a limit to longevity, we are nowhere near it," Ezzati said. "We should be planning for more life." Jeva Lange
The latest Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday revealed Americans have a pretty bleak impression of their new commander-in-chief. President Trump earned his lowest net approval rating since he took office, with just 38 percent approving of the job he's done so far and 55 percent of Americans disapproving.
Americans didn't rate Trump's "personal qualities" much better:
- 55 percent said Trump "is not honest."
- 55 percent said he lacks "good leadership skills."
- 63 percent said he "is not level-headed."
- 60 percent said he "does not share their values."
In what might be the biggest blow to Trump, the poll also found that Americans trust the media — which Trump recently declared the "enemy of the American people" — more than they trust Trump to tell "the truth about the important issues."
All in all, Quinnipiac University Poll assistant director Tim Malloy deemed this a "terrible survey one month in." "President Donald Trump's popularity is sinking like a rock," Malloy said in a press release. "He gets slammed on honesty, empathy, level-headedness, and the ability to unite. And two of his strong points, leadership and intelligence, are sinking to new lows."
The poll was conducted by telephone from Feb. 16-21 among 1,323 registered voters. The margin of error among registered voters is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. Becca Stanek
The White House might be temporarily "sidelining" Kellyanne Conway from television after reporters and TV show hosts raised questions about her credibility, CNN reports. Conway has not given a television interview since last week when she claimed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn volunteered his resignation, prompting clarification from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said President Trump had asked Flynn to resign.
Conway was reportedly "off message," a person familiar with the discussions told CNN. "Clearly they're having much more of a drama-free week. Having Kellyanne off television is helping them." Another person familiar with Conway's alleged sidelining told CNN: "Trump was using her as an effective surrogate, then she started becoming ineffective, so they're letting the heat cool off."
The White House has flatly denied CNN's reports. "This is another wild goose chase," White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said. "Kellyanne has a number of media appearances this week and also has a large portfolio at the [White House] and is spending significant time focusing on it." Jeva Lange