The Obama administration is preparing to unveil legislation to prevent the National Security Agency from systematically collecting data on phone calls, The New York Times reports. While telephone companies would still keep the call records for 18 months, as currently required by law, the NSA would only have access to that data with permission from a judge.
That's a step in the right direction, according to Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We have many questions about the details, but we agree with the administration that the NSA's bulk collection of call records should end," he tells The Times. "As we've argued since the program was disclosed, the government can track suspected terrorists without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance." The data collection was revealed through leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The Obama proposal joins several other bills in Congress to address the NSA data culling. Catherine Garcia
After last week's murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump met briefly with some hospitalized survivors of the shooting, then on Wednesday he hosted more survivors and their families for a "listening session." At the White House event, Trump had a card with five bullet points, reportedly written for him by communications director Hope Hicks, the last of which read "I hear you."
The note card has earned Trump punch lines about feigned empathy, but some of the participants found it off-putting. "Everything I said was directly from the heart, and he had to write down 'I hear you,'" student Sam Zeif tells The New York Times. He was slightly more cutting on MSNBC: "I know I was heard because I saw it on Trump's little card — 'I hear you' — but I don't think I was felt by him."
Stoneman Douglas student shooting survivor Sam Zeif was asked if he felt like he was heard at the White House. He answered, "I know I was heard because I saw it on Trump's little card." https://t.co/jHtRqgyAk5 #parkland pic.twitter.com/WC2HsQCu2X
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) February 22, 2018
Samantha Fuentes, shot in both legs during the Parkland attack and left with shrapnel behind her right eye, also graded Trump low on the empathy scale. When Trump called her hospital room, she told the Times, "he said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, 'I'm a big fan of yours too.' I'm pretty sure he made that up. ... Talking to the president, I've never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn't make me feel better in the slightest."
Other people had more positive reactions. Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the attack, said that Trump "showed us nothing but love" in a private meeting before the listening session. "The guy really cared, you know? He flew us in, he had a bus waiting for us, he made time for us," he said, going so far as to keep a photo of Meadow and sign his son's MAGA hat. Peter Weber
The Late Show has an alternative theory for Trump's refusal to release the Democratic anti-Nunes memo
It has been two weeks, and President Trump still has not released the Democratic rebuttal to the memo compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and nobody is sure why. The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to release the Democratic memo, but Trump said it contains classified information (he ignored similar concerns when he approved release of the Nunes memo, with no redactions). On Thursday, Stephen Colbert's Late Show found a creative way to remind everyone that the Democratic memo is still being withheld.
The Democratic memo apparently shows, among other things, that the FBI did not rely on the Trump-Russia dossier to obtain a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as the Nunes memo claims. So Colbert had the dossier interview the Democratic memo, depicted as blindfolded and in prison. But The Late Show throws in a twist at the end. Watch below. Peter Weber
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) entered the lion's den Wednesday night, attending a CNN town hall on school shootings. "Rubio tried his best to explain his positions, but you could tell he was totally out of sync with the rest of the room," Trevor Noah said on Thursday's Daily Show, playing Rubio getting cheers for saying you'd have to ban every semiautomatic rifle in America to make an assault weapons ban work. "That was such an epic fail — Rubio said the solution like it was the problem," Noah said. Town halls are usually a dud, but "these kids held Rubio's feet to the fire so hard that they got him to do something that most conservatives hate: evolve."
President Trump didn't attend the town hall, "but he did host his own listening session in the Mar-a-Lago of the north, the White House," Noah said, armed with a note card that reminded him "what emotions to feel," notably, empathy. "I feel bad for Donald Trump," he said. "Because you know that we never would have seen that note if he just had bigger hands." Then he laughed: "Seriously, the guy's a 'stable genius' but he can't remember to say 'I hear you'? It's a listening session!"
On Thursday, Trump proposed paying teachers "bonuses" to carry guns in class. "America really is a special place," Noah said. "For years, teachers have been asking for more pay and politicians have said they don't have enough money, but now the president's, like, 'If you're willing to cap some fools, we're gonna make it rain.'" He sighed: "There are so many practical issues with this plan that I don't even know where to begin, but honestly, it's not even worth going through them all. Because once you decide that Ms. Flenderson needs to be locked and loaded during English class, you're not trying to solve the problem anymore, you're admitting defeat." Watch below. Peter Weber
Armed deputy assigned to Parkland high school 'never went in' during the mass shooting, sheriff says
The sheriff's deputy assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took up position outside the school last week about 90 seconds after the suspected 19-year-old gunman started firing, then waited outside for the remaining four minutes of the deadly rampage, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday. "He never went in." Seventeen people were killed during the six minutes of shooting. The deputy, Scot Peterson, was armed and in uniform, and he should have "went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer," Israel said. "I'm devastated, sick to my stomach." He said he informed Peterson on Thursday he was suspended without pay pending an internal affairs investigation, but Peterson chose to resign instead.
Peterson, 54, had been with the Broward County Sheriff's Office since 1985, and a school resource officer at the high school since 2009. "The investigation will continue" into Peterson's performance, Israel said. "When we in law enforcement arrive to an active shooter, we go in and address the target and that's what should have been done." Before the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, officers were generally told to wait outside until a SWAT team arrived, but now they are told to confront the shooter, even if, like Peterson, they are alone and outgunned. Research has shown that an officer on the scene can slow down or stop a suspect, USA Today reports, even though about a third of those officers are shot.
The Broward County Sheriff's Office also released information on 23 calls related to the suspected shooter going back a decade, progressing from suicide concerns to fears about him harming others, including calls in February 2016 and November 2017 expressing fears that the suspect might shoot up a school. Israel said he has placed two deputies on restricted duty while the department looks into whether they mishandled tips about the suspect. Peter Weber
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted by a grand jury in St. Louis on Thursday for conduct stemming from a 2015 extramarital affair. The charge — a single count of felony invasion of privacy — stems from reports that Greitens, in an effort to cover up his marital transgression, threatened his affair partner that he would release an intimate photo of her if she spoke about their relationship.
Greitens' threat was first reported by local St. Louis news station KMOV, after the woman's ex-husband approached the network. The man had surreptitiously recorded a conversation he had with his then-wife, in which she apparently confesses to the affair with Greitens, describing how Greitens invited her to his home and posed her for a compromising photo before saying, "You're never going to mention my name, otherwise there will be pictures of [you] everywhere."
The blackmail allegation against Greitens led to a criminal investigation by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, whose office handed down the indictment Thursday. Greitens has denied blackmailing the woman, the Springfield News-Leader notes, though he has admitted to having the affair.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Robert Patrick said Thursday that he saw Greitens "being led away in the custody of" St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts. Read the statement from Gardner's office below. Kimberly Alters
NEW: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted by St. Louis grand jury on one count of invasion of privacy. pic.twitter.com/G0W7AyiXnP
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 22, 2018
Teachers union president slams Trump's proposal to arm teachers: 'Would kindergarten teachers be carrying guns in holsters?'
President Trump's plan to arm teachers to prevent school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida, has an important opponent: actual teachers.
In a statement Thursday, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said her union's position is firm, even among teachers who are gun owners: "Teachers don't want to be armed, we want to teach. We don't want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15."
She had some practical questions, too:
How would arming teachers even work? Would kindergarten teachers be carrying guns in holsters? Is every classroom now going to have a gun closet? Will it be locked? When you have seconds to act when you hear the code for an active shooter, is a teacher supposed to use those seconds getting her gun instead of getting her students to safety? Anyone who pushes arming teachers doesn't understand teachers and doesn't understand our schools. Adding more guns to schools may create an illusion of safety, but in reality it would make our classrooms less safe. [Randi Weingarten]
Special Counsel Robert Mueller levied 32 new charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on Thursday, the latest development in the Justice Department's sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The charges against Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, and Gates, a former campaign aide and Manafort's business associate, include multiple charges of tax and bank fraud.
The indictment, handed down Thursday by a federal grand jury, includes a litany of financial crimes, alleging the men filed false income tax returns and failed to disclose foreign accounts. One specific charge claims that Gates helped Manafort launder "more than $30 million in income," Reuters reported. In October, Manafort and Gates were indicted on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to launder money, in the first round of charges to result from Mueller's probe.
The timing of the Thursday filing is notable, The Washington Post noted, because there is "significant uncertainty in the case about when a trial might happen, or even who the defense lawyers will be." Gates' three lawyers have all asked to be dismissed from the case.
Since October, George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, and Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Last week, 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies — including an infamous "troll farm" known as the Internet Research Agency — were charged with conspiracy for online efforts intended to influence the election, the first charges from Mueller's office that concern election meddling specifically.