10 things you need to know today: March 30, 2017

Judge in Hawaii extends suspension of Trump's travel ban, North Carolina leaders strike deal on repealing bathroom bill, and more

North Carolina is poised to repeal HB2
(Image credit: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

1. Judge extends suspension of Trump's revised travel ban

A U.S. district judge in Hawaii, Derrick Watson, on Wednesday extended his nationwide halt on President Trump's "travel ban," which seeks to temporarily block entry to the U.S. by refugees and people from six majority Muslim nations. The White House says the policy is necessary to provide time to strengthen vetting procedures to keep out terrorists. The state of Hawaii argues that the policy discriminates against Muslims and damages Hawaii's economy. Watson's original March 15 hold on the travel ban was intended to last just two weeks, but on Wednesday he blocked the ban until the state's lawsuit has gone through the courts.

USA Today

2. North Carolina leaders agree on bathroom-law repeal deal

North Carolina Republican lawmakers said late Wednesday that they had reached a deal with Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, to repeal the state's controversial "bathroom bill," which bars transgender people from using public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The compromise still would prevent local governments and schools from enacting LGBT anti-discrimination protections. Gay rights groups said the restrictions were unacceptable. Cooper said the compromise was "not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation." GOP leaders said they would hold debate and a vote on the legislation Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether they had enough votes to pass it, or whether passage of the compromise would be enough to end the numerous boycotts the original bill triggered.

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The Associated Press

3. Senate panel to start interviews in Russia inquiry

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders said Wednesday that they would begin as soon as Monday to privately interview 20 people they asked to meet for their investigation into Russian meddling in last year's election. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee's chairman, said the testimony could become part of a future public hearing "if there's relevance," and added that the committee's staff has been reviewing an "unprecedented amount" of intelligence information. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat, said, "I have confidence in Richard Burr that we together, with the members of our committee, are going to get to the bottom of this." The committee leaders' rare news conference came as controversy over the actions of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) have stalled that panel's Russia investigation.

The Washington Post

4. Merkel rejects a key Brexit demand

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday rejected a central proposal made by British Prime Minister Theresa May in her letter officially launching the process of Britain's exit from the European Union, saying that the EU would only negotiate the U.K.'s future relationship with the trading bloc after its departure was arranged. In her six-page letter triggering negotiations, May said the two sides should "agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union." Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said there would be "no winners" from Brexit, and the coming two years of negotiations would focus on "damage control."

The Guardian

5. Trump approval rating falls to new low

The latest Gallup tracking poll, released Wednesday, found that President Trump's approval rating has continued to drop since the failure of the House GOP effort to replace ObamaCare, hitting a new low of 35 percent. Fifty-nine percent of the poll's respondents said they disapproved of Trump's job performance. The rating marks a historic low compared to other U.S. presidents' ratings at this point in their first terms. This is the second time this week that Trump's approval rating has reached a new low. A Gallup poll released Monday put Trump's approval rating at 36 percent.


6. Ivanka Trump takes formal unpaid job in White House

Ivanka Trump, President Trump's elder daughter, said Wednesday that she would start working in the White House in an unpaid but formal role, as a senior adviser to her father. Ivanka Trump already has an office in the West Wing. Last week she said she would be serving in an unofficial role, but that sparked an outcry from critics who said in such a capacity she could sidestep some rules and disclosures required of federal employees. "I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules," she said in a statement, "and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees."

The New York Times

7. 2 Christie allies sentenced to prison over Bridgegate

Two allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for their roles in the Bridgegate scandal. Former Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly was sentenced to 18 months in prison over the scandal, in which officials closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in retaliation against a mayor who would not endorse Christie's 2013 re-election bid. Former high-ranking Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official Bill Baroni got a two-year sentence. Both were found guilty last fall of conspiracy and fraud. Judge Susan D. Wigenton called the politically motivated September 2013 lane closures "an outrageous abuse of power."

The New York Times

8. 13 die in Texas church bus crash

Thirteen people died Wednesday when their church minibus collided with a pickup truck in Texas. The bus was carrying seniors from First Baptist Church of New Braunfels home from a retreat. The bus was traveling south when the northbound pickup appeared to have veered into its lane on a curve with a 65 mph speed limit, and hit it. Twelve people on the bus, including the driver, died at the scene. Another died after being taken to a hospital, and the 14th person on the bus was injured and hospitalized in serious condition. The driver of the pickup also was injured. Investigators could not immediately say what caused the crash.


9. China confirms upcoming summit between Xi and Trump

China's foreign ministry confirmed Thursday that President Xi Jinping would hold his first meeting with President Trump at Trump's Mar-a-Lago private club in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6 and 7. Ministry spokesman Lu Kang did not offer any other specifics. The planned talks come as the two nations, the world's largest and second-largest economies, face a variety of contentious issues, including North Korea, China's military build-up in the disputed South China Sea, and disagreements on trade. "Both sides should work together to make the cake of mutual interest bigger and not simply seek fairer distribution," Lu said.


10. Samsung reveals first new smartphone since Note 7 fires

Samsung unveiled the new version of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, in the company's first product introduction since its disastrous recall of the Note 7 last year after some of the devices caught fire. The company is depending on the Galaxy S8 to put the Note 7 debacle behind it, and face off against tough competition from Apple and Huawei. The new device offers a Siri-like voice assistant, Bixby, and a bevel-less "infinity" display. "The S8 is unquestionably a strong product but Samsung must now deliver a faultless launch to move on from the difficulties of 2017," said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, in an email to CNBC. The phone's official release date is April 21.


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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.