10 things you need to know today: March 5, 2017

Obama rep says Trump wiretap claim 'simply false,' pro-Trump rallies organized nationwide, and more

Presidents Trump and Obama
(Image credit: Pool/Getty Images)

1. Obama rep says Trump wiretap claim 'simply false'

President Trump's tweeted allegation that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election is not true, Obama representative Kevin Lewis said Saturday. "A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice," Lewis said. "As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false." Trump's comments came under widespread scrutiny after his Twitter announcement. Horror author Stephen King took a creative approach, tweeting a short story of the wiretap in which Obama also "stole the strawberry ice cream."

CNN The Guardian

2. Pro-Trump rallies organized nationwide

"Maybe the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN should have their own rally," President Trump tweeted last weekend in response to demonstrations against his administration. "It would be the biggest of them all!" On Saturday, his supporters met that challenge, organizing "Spirit of America" rallies drawing hundreds in 28 states and Washington, D.C. Counter-protesters showed up in many locations, with taunts and fist fights breaking out between the two groups at least in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Berkeley, California. Most events, however, were peaceful, and organizers in Austin asked attendees to bring "donations for the homeless and veterans." "We came out today because Trump deserves to see he still has people for him," said an Ohioan Trump supporter named Margaret Howe, who marched because she is worried political division will devolve into civil war. "It's just all sad."

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NPR The Associated Press

3. Trump's wiretapping claim comes under scrutiny

President Trump's Saturday claim that former President Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the election received widespread pushback later Saturday, predominantly from Trump's Democratic critics and former members of the Obama administration. "No President can order a wiretap," tweeted former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. "Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you." Trump "is either lying, or he declassifed a judicial warrant possibly targeting him" said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.). "I think we need to know which it is." Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) was less explicitly critical but indicated he'd like "to get to the bottom of this."

The Hill

4. U.S. suspends fast processing for temporary tech visas

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Friday announced the suspension of expedited processing for the H-1B visa, a temporary residency option for graduate-level workers in STEM fields including mathematics, medicine, and computer science. The agency regularly suspends quick processing for a few weeks to deal with application backlogs, but the length of this suspension is unusual. The visa program is particularly popular among tech firms in the San Francisco Bay Area, where foreign workers often stay three to six years in computer engineering positions. The fast processing suspension will begin April 3 and last for up to six months, affecting applications for 2018 visas.

Reuters SFGate

5. New immigration executive order expected Monday

President Trump is expected to sign a new executive order Monday to replace the suspended order that temporarily blocked U.S. entrance from seven majority-Muslim countries and shut down all refugee admissions. "Fundamentally, you're still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country," said White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller of the new order. "But you're going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by" the two courts that prohibited the original rule's enforcement. It is unknown whether the White House will continue the legal battle over the first order, as Trump initially pledged to do.

Politico The Washington Post

6. Malaysia expels North Korean ambassador

North Korean ambassador Kang Chol was expelled from Malaysia Saturday in connection with the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which occurred in a Malaysian airport. Kang has been given 48 hours to exit the country. The expulsion came after Kang said Malaysia could not be trusted with the investigation into Kim's death and reportedly did not attend a diplomatic meeting where his presence was requested Friday night. "Malaysia will react strongly against any insults made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation," said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

Al Jazeera BBC News

7. Mexico opens legal defense centers at U.S. consulates

Mexico on Saturday opened legal defense centers at its consulates in all 50 U.S. states in response to President Trump's hardline immigration policy. "We are not promoting illegality," said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. "Today we are facing a situation that can paradoxically represent an opportunity, when suddenly a government wants to apply the law more severely," he added. "It is becoming more than evident that to apply the law, which is the obligation of any state, would also imply a real economic damage to this country which highlights the need for immigration reform." Videgaray urged the United States to devise a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Reuters The Hill

8. 110 dead in 48 hours in Somalia due to severe drought

Severe drought has killed 110 people in Somalia in the past 48 hours, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said Saturday at a meeting of the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll is specific to the Bay region of the country, but the United Nations estimates that as many as 5 million Somalis — roughly half the country's population — are in need of relief aid as ongoing drought conditions threaten widespread famine. Cholera also "broke out in Goof-guduud, Awdiinle, and Berdale locations in Bay region," said Mohamed Fiqi, a state agriculture minister. "Children, women and old people are among the dead, the death toll increases."

The Associated Press PM News Nigeria

9. Seattle shooting of Sikh man investigated as a hate crime

Police in the Seattle area are hunting for an attacker who shot a Sikh man in the arm as he stood in his own driveway. The shooter reportedly yelled, "Go back to your own country," as he shot the victim, who lost consciousness but is expected to make a full recovery. The attack is being investigated as a hate crime. "We're early on in our investigation and the shot resulted in non life-threatening injuries, however we are treating this as a very serious incident," said local police chief Ken Thomas. "To think that this could happen in our community was very surprising and extremely disappointing." The victim is a U.S. citizen who was born in India.

CNN The Seattle Times

10. Pence demands The Associated Press apologize for publishing his wife's email address

Vice President Mike Pence demanded an apology from The Associated Press on Saturday after the news outlet published his wife's personal email address in a story about his use of a private email account as governor of Indiana. "Last night the @AP published my wife's private email address, violating her privacy and our security," Pence tweeted. "When we requested they take it down, they refused. The @AP owes my wife an apology." An AP representative said the story was edited to remove Karen Pence's email "after learning Mrs. Pence still used the account." The Pence family's lawyer said the damage has already been done, and Karen Pence has been subjected "to vitriolic and malicious emails."

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of TheWeek.com. She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.