Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 16, 2017

A judge in Hawaii blocks Trump's revised travel ban, Trump's budget calls for deep non-military cuts, and more


Judges block Trump's revised travel ban nationwide

A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday blocked President Trump's revised temporary ban on travel to the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim countries. The judge, Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu, wrote that a "reasonable, objective observer" would interpret Trump's executive order as an attempt "to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose." Watson said letting the policy take effect Thursday at midnight, as scheduled, would have caused irreparable harm. Trump vowed to appeal and slammed Watson's decision, saying his travel restrictions would give the U.S. time to improve the procedures it needs to screen visitors and keep out would-be terrorists. "This ruling makes us look weak, which by the way we no longer are, believe me," Trump said late Wednesday at a campaign-style rally in Nashville. A second federal judge, presiding in Maryland, also issued a temporary block on the ban early Thursday morning.


Trump budget includes broad cuts sparing only military, border security

President Trump unveiled his 2018 budget proposal Thursday, providing the clearest view yet of the policies he wants to use to deliver on his campaign promises. The plan includes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and a substantial bump for border security, while calling for deep cuts to most federal agencies, including roughly 30 percent cuts at both the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department. Trump's chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has said Trump's spending plan would aim to "dismantle the administrative state." The president's budget is considered a window into Trump's thinking but it stands little chance of being enacted, as Republican congressional leaders have said major elements of the budget will be dead on arrival in Congress.


Fed raises interest rates for second time in 3 months

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it was raising its benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point for the second time in three months. Fed policymakers had telegraphed the move, which lifts the rate to a range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent, by saying improving employment and inflation data showed that the economy was strong enough to justify raising rates. Some economists had expected the Fed to pick up the pace of its rate hikes, but the central bank's leaders stuck with their forecast of two more increases this year and three in 2018. "The simple message is — the economy is doing well," Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said. U.S. stock futures gained early Thursday as a rally inspired by the Fed decision continued.


House intelligence chair says no evidence exists to back Trump wiretap claim

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), delivered a sharp repudiation of President Trump's claim that former President Barack Obama had his New York City skyscraper wiretapped during last year's campaign. "We don't have any evidence that that took place," Nunes said. "I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower." Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he never told Trump anything suggesting a wiretap. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) went so far as to say he would block Trump's nomination of Rod J. Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general unless the FBI answers his questions about the matter.


Dutch voters hand anti-Muslim firebrand Geert Wilders a defeat

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte declared victory over far-right anti-Muslim firebrand Geert Wilders on Wednesday in parliamentary elections that were seen as the first test of populist movements in Western Europe this year. Wednesday was "an evening where the Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said no to the wrong kind of populism," the center-right Rutte told cheering supporters in The Hague. Wilders led opinion polls for months before tumbling in recent weeks. The vote was seen as a bellwether for upcoming elections in France and Germany, where other anti-immigrant candidates are challenging the political establishment.


Trump orders review of Obama fuel-efficiency standards

President Trump on Wednesday ordered a review of tough automobile fuel-efficiency standards imposed by the Obama administration. The decision was interpreted as a sign that Trump plans to ease fuel standards in what would be a significant victory for automakers and a bitter defeat for environmental groups and Democrats. "The assault on the American auto industry is over," Trump told cheering union workers. He promised to "ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories." Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said Trump's move would hurt consumers. "President Trump's roll-back of fuel economy emissions standards means families will end up paying more at the pump," Markey said.


U.S. indicts Russian spies and hackers for Yahoo breach

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed indictments against two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with a cyberattack that compromised the accounts of 500 million Yahoo users in 2014. The charges mark the first criminal hacking case the U.S. government has ever filed against Russian agents. The two Russian officials — Dmitry Dokuchaev and his superior, Igor Sushchin — are officers in Russia's Federal Security Service, a successor of the Soviet-era KGB. The alleged hackers named in the indictment were Alexsey Belan, who is on the list of most-wanted cyber criminals, and Karim Baratov, a Kazakhstan-born Canadian citizen who was arrested in Canada.


U.S. weighing doubling of troops to back Syria offensive against ISIS

The U.S. is likely to send another 1,000 soldiers to support the fight to drive the Islamic State out of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the terrorist group's de facto capital. The deployment could double the number of U.S. military personnel in Syria if it is approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Trump. Trump accused former President Barack Obama of being too soft on ISIS and ordered the Pentagon to prepare a new plan to destroy the terrorist group. Mattis gave him an outline of his approach in late February.


911 dispatcher in Tamir Rice case disciplined

Two years after a Cleveland police officer fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Cleveland police are disciplining the 911 operator who handled the 2014 call for failing to tell responding officers that a caller said Rice, who was African-American, was "probably a juvenile" and his gun was "probably fake." Dispatcher Constance Hollinger received an eight-day suspension, without pay, police Chief Calvin Williams wrote in a disciplinary letter dated March 10. Rice's mother, Samaria Rice, said the penalty was "unacceptable," according to family attorney Subodh Chandra. "Eight days for gross negligence resulting in the death of a 12-year-old boy," Chandra said. "How pathetic is that?"


Tillerson calls for change in approach on North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday called for North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs, saying the isolated communist nation "need not fear" the U.S. Tillerson, speaking after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, said that it was time for a "new approach" to reining in Pyongyang's "dangerous and unlawful" nuclear weapons program, because 20 years of efforts to denuclearize North Korea have failed. Tillerson's trip — his first to Asia since leaving his job as Exxon Mobil CEO to become President Trump's top diplomat — comes as tensions are high on the divided Korean Peninsula after the North's latest missile tests, which it said were a response to U.S.-South Korea military drills it claimed were practice for an invasion.


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