10 things you need to know today: March 21, 2017

Comey confirms investigation into Russian election meddling, Gorsuch vows to 'apply the law' as confirmation hearing starts, and more

James Comey
(Image credit: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

1. Comey confirms Russia investigation in House hearing

FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday that his agency is investigating whether Russia tried to influence last year's election, and "whether there was any coordination" between Russia and President Trump's campaign. Comey declined to provide specifics on whether anyone in particular is suspected of a crime, saying he didn't want to "wind up smearing people." The extraordinary acknowledgement of the investigation, which started last July, contradicted Trump's assertion that "Russia is fake news" his political enemies were using to undermine him. Comey also said there was no evidence to support Trump's claim that former President Barack Obama had him wiretapped during the campaign.

The New York Times The Washington Post

2. Gorsuch vows to 'apply the law,' not make it

Judge Neil Gorsuch vowed Monday not to forget the "modest station we judges are meant to occupy in a democracy" if he is confirmed to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. In his opening statement in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the appeals court judge stressed "the importance of an independent judiciary," saying it was up to Congress to make laws, up to the executive branch to enforce them, and up to judges to "apply the law in people's disputes." Gorsuch is a highly respected conservative jurist. Democrats, in their opening statements, questioned whether Gorsuch would favor businesses over individuals, and questioned the fairness of confirming President Trump's nominee when Republicans refused to even consider former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. Gorsuch will face questions from committee members on Tuesday.

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The Washington Post The Associated Press

3. House GOP leaders release proposed changes to health law

Top House Republicans late Monday unveiled proposed amendments to their proposal to replace ObamaCare in a bid to win over more lawmakers before a scheduled Thursday vote. The changes would let the Senate increase tax credits for people age 50 to 65, speed up repeal of some ObamaCare tax increases, and make sharper cuts to Medicaid, including letting states impose work requirements for some Medicaid recipients. Members of the House Freedom Caucus said they would still have enough "no" votes to defeat the bill. President Trump plans to reach out to fence-sitters personally on Tuesday in a bid to win over enough votes to pass the plan.

The Associated Press CNN

4. U.S. bans large electronic devices from cabins of some U.S.-bound flights

The Trump administration plans to prohibit travelers on some airlines flying out of several Middle Eastern and North African countries from carrying large electronic devices into the cabins of U.S.-bound flights in response to an unspecified terrorist threat. The rule affects foreign airlines operating out of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Morocco. No American carriers will be affected. Passengers will be able to carry the affected devices, including tablets, laptops, and cameras, in checked luggage.

Reuters Los Angeles Times

5. Prosecutors grill ousted South Korean president

South Korean prosecutors on Tuesday began questioning ousted former President Park Geun-hye in connection with the corruption investigation that got her ousted from office this month. The interrogation was expected to last hours at a prosecutors' office. Prosecutors are trying to determine whether there is enough evidence to ask a court for a warrant to arrest Park over the allegations of bribery, extortion, and abuse of office. Park made the latest in a series of apologies before the meeting. "I am sorry to trouble the people," Park said. "I will respond faithfully to the investigation."

The New York Times

6. Fox News sidelines commentator after wiretapping claim

Fox News has pulled former judge Andrew Napolitano off the air over his claim that a British intelligence agency had wiretapped Trump Tower during last year's election campaign at the request of former President Barack Obama. U.S. intelligence agencies say there is no evidence of such a surveillance effort, and the British government called the claim "ridiculous." Trump has cited Fox in support of his recent tweet accusing Obama of "wiretapping" him, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last week quoted Napolitano in defense of Trump's allegations.

The Hill

7. IRA leader turned peacemaker Martin McGuinness dies

Martin McGuinness, a former Irish Republican Army leader turned peacemaker, died early Tuesday at a hospital in his hometown of Derry. He was 66. McGuinness was diagnosed with a rare heart disease in December. In 1972, he was the IRA's second-in-command in Derry during the Bloody Sunday killing of 14 civil rights protesters by soldiers, and he was a leader of the paramilitary organization when it was carrying out bombings in the city. Twice imprisoned — once after being caught near an explosives-laden vehicle — he went on to be a key negotiator of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, and served as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland alongside three Democratic Unionist Party leaders from 2007 to January of this year. Prime Minister Theresa May said she could never condone McGuinness' earlier path, but he "ultimately played a defining role in leading the republican movement away from violence."

BBC News

8. Trump drops on Forbes' list of world's wealthiest people

President Trump has dropped 220 spots on the Forbes list of the world's billionaires in the year since he ran for, and won, the White House. The list, published Monday, put the net worth of the nation's first billionaire president at $3.5 billion, a drop of $1 billion since the release of last year's rankings. Trump is now tied with 19 others as the world's 544th richest person. Forbes notes that Trump's fortune was affected by some one-time expenses, such as the $66 million he put into his presidential campaign and the $25 million he had to fork over to settle the Trump University lawsuit. It was his core real estate business that had the biggest impact, however. "Forty percent of Donald Trump's fortune is tied up in Trump Tower and eight buildings within one mile of it," Forbes said, adding that, "Lately, the neighborhood has been struggling (relatively speaking)."

Forbes CNN

9. FBI finds missing Tom Brady Super Bowl jerseys

The FBI has recovered New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's jersey from Super Bowl 51, the NFL announced Monday. The jersey was stolen from the Patriots' locker room after last month's game, in which the Patriots made a historic overtime comeback to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28. The FBI found Brady's Super Bowl 51 jersey and his game jersey from the Patriots' victory in Super Bowl 49 in 2015, which had also gone missing, "in the possession of a credentialed member of the international media," the statement said. "I know they worked hard on this case," Brady said in a statement, "and it is very much appreciated."


10. Philanthropist David Rockefeller dies at 101

Billionaire banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller died Monday at his home in Pocantico Hills, New York. He was 101. Rockefeller was the world's oldest billionaire, and the last surviving grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller. He served as Chase Manhattan's president, chairman, and CEO over 35 years at the company, expanding the bank's international presence and having a hand in U.S. foreign policy and financial affairs. He also won a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 for his philanthropy, and gave more than $900 million over his lifetime to numerous causes, including New York's Museum of Modern Art and his alma mater, Harvard University.

The New York Times Bloomberg

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.