Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 14, 2017

Michael Flynn resigns as national security adviser, crews rush to repair damaged California dam, and more


Michael Flynn resigns as national security adviser

Michael Flynn resigned late Monday as President Trump's national security adviser, after just over three weeks on the job. Flynn quit hours after The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department had warned the White House that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador before Trump's inauguration, and could be subject to blackmail. Flynn, a retired general, initially denied that he had discussed sanctions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and Vice President Mike Pence backed up that claim in interviews. Flynn said in his resignation letter that he had inadvertently briefed Pence with "incomplete information," and said he had apologized to Pence and to Trump.


Crews work to repair California dam as storms loom

Crews are rushing to repair the damaged emergency spillway at California's Oroville Dam on Tuesday, as approaching storms threaten to raise water levels in Lake Oroville, renewing the possibility that the overflow channel could fail. The potential for catastrophic flooding has forced officials to evacuate 188,000 people living downstream from the area, about 150 miles northeast of San Francisco. The water level dropped by about 3.5 feet early Monday, giving crews time for emergency repairs. Forecasters warned that a moderate storm on Wednesday and a "really big and strong storm" on Friday could renew the danger of a catastrophe.


Trump and Trudeau discuss trade, avoid clash over immigration

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with President Trump at the White House on Monday, where both leaders stressed the importance of their countries' bond while acknowledging sharp differences over immigration and other policies. Trudeau said he would not lecture Trump over his executive orders seeking to temporarily halt the U.S. refugee program and suspend travel from seven majority-Muslim nations, but that Canada would continue to "pursue our policies of openness" while maintaining security and serving as a "positive example in the world." Trump said he wanted "to have a big, beautiful, open door" but "we cannot let the wrong people in."


A divided Senate confirms Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary

The Senate on Monday narrowly confirmed Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary over strong Democratic opposition. All 52 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted in favor of confirmation in the 53-47 vote. Democrats said Mnuchin did not belong in the job, accusing him of allowing avoidable foreclosures at Pasadena's OneWest Bank, which he led after the financial crisis. Republicans said Mnuchin was well qualified. "Under any objective standard, Mr. Mnuchin has ample experience, credentials, and qualifications for this important position," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday, accusing Democrats of "pointless delays" to confirming Mnuchin.


Suicide bombing kills 13 during Pakistan protest

A suicide bomber detonated explosives on a crowded street outside the provincial legislature in Lahore, Pakistan, on Monday, killing at least 13 people and injuring dozens more. The blast hit as hundreds of pharmacists and drug company officials were protesting peacefully. Two senior police officials and four officers were among the dead. "The spot where the blast took place is always under threat," said Rana Sanaullah, law minister for Punjab province. The government has put in place complex security arrangements, but the demonstration "gave the opportunity to terrorists to strike," he said.


Judge denies request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction

A federal judge on Monday denied a request from the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to temporarily halt construction of the last stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The tribes say the oil pipeline would threaten their water source and sacred grounds if it is built on its proposed path under Lake Oahe. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement to Energy Transfer Partners to finish the 1,170-mile pipeline after President Trump signed an executive order calling for reviving the project, which former President Barack Obama halted to explore alternative routes. Protesters continue to oppose the project, but Trump said "everybody is going to be happy in the end."


Trump's approval rating hits new low

President Trump's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low, according to a Gallup tracking poll released Monday. As of Feb. 11, just 40 percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 55 percent disapprove. Around the same time in former President Barack Obama's first term, Obama boasted a 65 percent approval rating and a 21 percent disapproval rating. Trump's latest numbers mark a steep drop from when he first took office; on Jan. 22, he stood at an even 45 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval rate.


Virginia judge blocks Trump travel ban

A federal judge in Virginia on Monday temporarily blocked federal officials from enforcing President Trump's travel ban against residents or university students in the state, marking the latest in a series of setbacks for Trump's executive orders on immigration and refugees. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said the ban probably violates First Amendment protection of religious freedom, and would cause "irreparable injury" to Virginia residents and institutions. The executive order barred travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days. Brinkema said she did not issue a nationwide injunction because she wanted to "avoid any claim" that it is "defective because of overbreadth." Earlier in the month, a Seattle judge blocked the ban nationwide, and an appeals court last week ruled against reinstating it.


U.N. condemns North Korea missile launch

The United Nations Security Council on Monday condemned North Korea's recent missile launch, calling it a "grave violation" of Security Council resolutions. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley had called on the Security Council to "hold North Korea accountable" and show its isolated communist leaders that "these launches are unacceptable." The U.N. secretary-general's office said Pyongyang "must return to full compliance with its international obligations and to the path of denuclearization." North Korea rejected the U.N.'s statement, saying its missile program was for self-defense.


U.S. places Venezuelan official on drug-kingpin blacklist

The Treasury Department on Monday put Venezuela's new executive vice president, Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah, on a blacklist for alleged drug traffickers. The U.S. accused El Aissami, a former minister of justice and interior, of helping to run a vast network that transported drugs from South America to the U.S. and the U.K. The blacklisting freezes El Aissami's assets in the U.S., and bars him from doing business with U.S. companies. U.S. officials said the move was not meant to punish the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, although diplomatic ties between the U.S. and his socialist government are frayed.


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'No reason' for optimism that Taliban's ban on girls' education will end, human rights analyst warns
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Emmanuel Macron.
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