Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 15, 2017

MSNBC reveals details of Trump's 2005 tax return, DOJ accuses admiral and seven others in Navy bribery case, and more


Trump's 2005 tax return sent to journalist

President Trump earned more than $150 million and paid $36.5 million in income tax in 2005, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported on Tuesday. He paid another $1.9 million in self-employment taxes. Someone mailed Trump's return, unsolicited, to investigative journalist and tax specialist David Cay Johnston, who discussed them with Maddow. Trump also reported a $103 million business loss that year. Trump's earnings and federal income taxes mean he paid an effective 25 percent tax rate, higher than the 10 percent the average American pays but below the 27.4 percent that people earning $1 million a year paid in 2005. Most of what Trump paid was due to the alternative minimum tax, which he has sought to eliminate. The White House noted that "it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns," slamming the "dishonest media" for making Trump's taxes "part of their agenda" while Trump focuses on tax reform to "benefit all Americans."


DOJ accuses admiral and 7 others in Navy bribery scandal

The Justice Department on Tuesday charged eight current and former Navy officials with corruption and other crimes stemming from the "Fat Leonard" bribery case. One of the people charged was Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, a high-ranking Navy intelligence officer. The other defendants included Navy captains and a retired Marine colonel. The Navy personnel were indicted for allegedly accepting bribes, including lavish gifts such as $20,000 boxes of Cohiba cigars, as well as prostitutes, from Singapore-based defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis. The contractor has pleaded guilty to charges that he received insider information in exchange for the bribes, and used it to gouge tens of millions of dollars from the Navy from 2006 to 2014.


Exxon denies Tillerson's email alias was meant to hide anything

ExxonMobil said Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an email account under an alias while he served as the oil company's CEO because he needed a way to communicate with his top executives, and his primary account was inundated with too many messages. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is investigating whether Exxon has tried to mislead shareholders and the public about climate change, wrote to a judge on Monday accusing Exxon of hiding the account because Tillerson used it to discuss environmental issues, which Exxon denied. "This was not an alias used to discuss only climate change," Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said. "It was an account used for everyday business by senior executives who needed to reach" Tillerson.


Thousands of flights canceled, roads closed as storm slams Northeast

A powerful late-winter storm covered much of the Northeast with heavy snow on Tuesday, forcing authorities in some cities to close roads and schools. Airlines grounded 6,000 flights in the region. The nor-easter's snowfall fell short of forecasts in New York and Philadelphia, but reached up to 30 inches in some inland areas. The storm, the biggest in an otherwise mild winter, disrupted power to nearly a quarter million people between Virginia and New England. "It's horrible," said Don Zimmerman, a retired gumball-machine technician in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania. "I thought winter was out of here. ... It's a real kick in the rear."


French presidential candidate Francois Fillon charged with embezzlement

French prosecutors said Tuesday that they had placed presidential candidate Francois Fillon under formal investigation for misuse of public funds. The center-right candidate was charged with arranging for his wife, Penelope Fillon, to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money for work she never did. Fillon denies the allegations, and vows to keep campaigning, although he once said he would drop out if he was targeted in a formal investigation. Fillon was once the favorite to lead the voting in April and May, but since the scandal erupted he has fallen behind far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron in polls.


Dutch election marks first 2017 test of anti-immigrant right's strength

Dutch voters head to the polls on Wednesday in closely watched parliamentary elections that will determine whether a wave of populism, which already has fueled the U.K. Brexit decision and President Trump's win in the U.S., will be repeated in the Netherlands. Far-right anti-immigrant firebrand Geert Wilders, who wants to ban Islam and exit the European Union, is one of the frontrunners for prime minister. He is vying against liberal Dutch incumbent Mark Rutte in what will be the first of several Western European contests in 2017 testing the strength of the anti-immigrant nationalists on the far right.


Iraqi forces kill ISIS commander in Mosul

Iraqi government forces reportedly killed the Islamic State's commander in Mosul's Old City on Tuesday. The death of the ISIS commander, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary, marked the latest sign of progress in an offensive aiming to drive the Islamist extremist group out of its last major urban stronghold in the country. Iraqi federal police are making a push to capture the Iron Bridge, one of five spans over the Tigris River connecting government-held eastern Mosul with the city's western half. Government forces already control two of the bridges.


White House tells State Department to slash U.N. funding

The White House has instructed the State Department to cut 50 percent of U.S. funding for United Nations programs, Foreign Policy reported Tuesday The order came as the White House prepared for the Thursday release of its 2018 budget proposal. The proposal would affect peacekeeping efforts across the world, including in Syria and Yemen, as well as campaigns that provide vaccines to children, fight famine, and monitor nuclear weapons programs. The U.S. is the biggest contributor to the U.N.'s budget, funding 22 percent of the organization's costs. The proposal would "leave a gaping hole that other big donors would struggle to fill," said U.N. expert Richard Gowan, potentially leading to "the breakdown of the international humanitarian system as we know it."


Pirates make ransom demand for tanker, crew seized off Somalia

The armed pirates who seized an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia have demanded a ransom, the European Union Naval Force said on Tuesday. The amount of the ransom demand was not immediately reported. The operation, which serves as the E.U.'s anti-piracy operation in the region, managed to make contact with the ship's master, who confirmed that armed men had taken control of the ship, the Comoros-flagged Aris 13. The Monday hijacking was the first such attack on a big commercial vessel in the area, which is patrolled by NATO navies, as well as by China, India, and Iran.


Stock futures edge up ahead of Fed decision on rates

U.S. stock futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Wednesday ahead of the conclusion of Federal Reserve policy makers' two-day meeting. The Fed, reacting to a steady stream of upbeat employment and inflation data, is expected to announce a quarter-point interest rate hike, its third in 15 months after holding rates near zero for nearly a decade. Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq-100 futures rose by 0.2 percent, while S&P 500 futures gained 0.3 percent. The gains roughly offset the main U.S. indexes' declines from Tuesday's downbeat session.


Thailand is turning plastic waste into personal protective equipment
A monk in Thailand wearing PPE made from plastic bottles.
getting creative

Thailand is turning plastic waste into personal protective equipment

Taliban foreign minister asks to address the United Nations
Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
seeking legitimacy

Taliban foreign minister asks to address the United Nations

Xi Jinping may have just signaled the end of international coal financing
Xi Jinping.
climate change

Xi Jinping may have just signaled the end of international coal financing

French still unhappy with Biden, but Boris Johnson stays positive
Boris Johnson.
'breath of fresh air'

French still unhappy with Biden, but Boris Johnson stays positive

Most Popular

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?
Elizabeth Holmes and James Mattis.
Samuel Goldman

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?

Don't try to predict Manchin's reconciliation vote, says former adviser
Joe Manchin.
an enigma

Don't try to predict Manchin's reconciliation vote, says former adviser

J&J: Booster provides 100 percent protection against severe COVID-19
Johnson & Johnson

J&J: Booster provides 100 percent protection against severe COVID-19