10 things you need to know today: February 26, 2017
Tom Perez chosen as new DNC chair, Trump declines to attend White House Correspondents' Dinner, and more
Tom Perez chosen as new DNC chair
The Democratic National Committee on Saturday chose former Labor Secretary Tom Perez as the new DNC chair. Seven candidates were in contention for the position, but Perez, the preferred candidate of many former members of the Obama administration and the Hillary Clinton campaign, was one of two favorites along with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who was backed by the progressive wing of the party, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The chair vote was taken in two ballots — Perez was one vote shy of triumph on the first round — amid some controversy over a last-minute decision to use paper ballots instead of an electronic voting method, a change Ellison supporters viewed with suspicion. The final vote was 235 for Perez and 200 for Ellison. At the same meeting, the DNC rejected a resolution that would have revived a ban on corporate lobbyist donations. President Trump tweeted Sunday morning that the race was "rigged" by Clinton.
Trump declines to attend White House Correspondents' Dinner
In the latest volley of his war on the press, President Trump tweeted Saturday evening that he will break with decades of tradition to skip the White House Correspondents' Dinner, which is scheduled for April 29. "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year," he wrote. "Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!" The White House Correspondents' Association said in a statement it "takes note" of Trump's decision, but will not cancel this "celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic." Several media outlets already canceled their pre- and after-parties in protest of Trump's behavior. The last president to miss the dinner was Ronald Reagan in 1981; he skipped because he was recovering from being shot in an assassination attempt — but still phoned in a message.
French president, Parisian mayor rebuff Trump's Paris comments
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, President Trump told the story of his "very, very substantial" friend Jim, who used to be very fond of vacationing in Paris but no longer visits because "Paris is no longer Paris." French President Francois Hollande on Saturday took issue with the anecdote, which Trump shared in service to a point about fighting terrorism. "There is terrorism and we must fight it together," Hollande said. "I think that it is never good to show the smallest defiance toward an allied country. I wouldn't do it with the United States and I'm urging the U.S. president not to do it with France." Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo previously responded Friday on Twitter, telling Trump she "celebrate[s] the dynamism and the spirit of openness of #Paris."
Planned U.S.-North Korea talks canceled
Scheduled back-channel conversations between representatives of the United States and North Korea have been canceled, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, as the State Department retracted visa approval for the ranking foreign ministry envoy from Pyongyang, Choe Son Hui. The reason for the visa withdrawal is unknown, though it may be tied to North Korea's ballistic missile test earlier this month. The talks were due to take place March 1 and 2 in New York City and were reportedly arranged at North Korea's instigation after President Trump's election. This would have been the first meeting between the two nations on U.S. soil in about six years.
Buffett bullish on America, critical of Wall Street fees in annual letter
Billionaire Warren Buffett published his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders on Saturday, predicting investors "will almost certainly do well" if they stick with a "collection of large, conservatively financed American businesses." The American economy "is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead," he wrote, enthusing about American "economic dynamism." Buffett devoted a large portion of his letter to decrying Wall Street fees that aren't worth it for investors. "The bottom line," he wrote, is when "trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients."
Kim Jong Nam suspects claim they believed the assassination was a prank
Two women — one Vietnamese and one Indonesian — who are suspects in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, say they believed they were participating in a prank when they rubbed a deadly chemical weapon on his face. Asked if she knew what the substance was, one of the women "didn't tell us about that," said Indonesia's deputy ambassador to Malaysia, Andriano Erwin. "She only said that it's a kind of oil, baby oil, something like that." Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the prank story does not ring true, as the women were "trained to swab the deceased's face." Autopsy results on Sunday revealed Kim died within 20 minutes of contact with the poison.
28 injured in Mardi Gras drunk driving crash in New Orleans
A pickup truck operated by a "highly intoxicated" man rammed into a crowd of Mardi Gras parade spectators in New Orleans Saturday night, injuring 28 people, 21 of whom have been hospitalized. The truck struck three vehicles, including a dump truck, before plowing into people watching the parade. The driver was immediately arrested by police, who have not indicated any suspicion of terrorist motives. One eyewitness said the driver seemed too intoxicated to be aware of his surroundings: "He was just kind of out of it."
Fox News' 'Swedish defense and national security adviser' is unknown in Sweden
A man billed as a "Swedish defense and national security adviser" on Fox News is unknown in the Swedish national security community, The Washington Post reported Saturday afternoon. Nils Bildt appeared on a segment of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor on Thursday to argue immigration has made Sweden unsafe, but a Swedish newspaper reported the next day Bildt is not known to Sweden's military or foreign ministry. He emigrated from Sweden in 1994 and was convicted of a violent offense in Virginia in 2014. Bildt is not his original surname; it appears to be intended to suggest relation to Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister whose brother — a different man — is also named Nils. Bill O'Reilly will address the issue Monday.
Manny Pacquiao to fight Britain's Amir Khan in April
Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao will meet Britain's Amir Khan for a "super fight" in April, both boxers said Saturday night on Twitter. "Negotiations between team Pacquiao and team Khan have come to terms for the April 23 bout as this is what the fans wanted," Pacquiao said. Khan, a British Olympic silver medalist, has attempted to organize a fight with Pacquiao, who holds the welterweight World Boxing Organization title, for several years. Though Khan's Olympic win was in the lightweight category, this bout will likely be held in the heavier welterweight class.
Justin Timberlake kicks off the 2017 Oscars
The 89th annual Academy Awards ceremony, hosted by late night comic Jimmy Kimmel, is underway in Hollywood. Singer Justin Timberlake opened the show with a performance of his song "Can't Stop the Feeling," accompanied by a band and several dancers. La La Land, leading the pack with 14 nominations, is the favorite for best picture this year, though Barry Jenkins' Moonlight is considered strong competition for the big win. The ceremony is live on ABC and streaming at ABC.com.