Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 1, 2018

The FBI and Rep. Devin Nunes feud over secret memo's release, 1 dies when a train carrying GOP lawmakers collides with a truck, and more


FBI feuds with House Intelligence Committee chair over secret memo's release

In a rare public statement, the FBI said it has "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact" the accuracy of a secret memo backed by Republicans. The memo reportedly accuses FBI and Justice Department officials of abusing surveillance laws to get court permission to surveil President Trump's former campaign adviser Carter Page. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the document Monday, but Democrats have argued that it is misleading and could compromise intelligence sources. Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee's top Democrat, said Wednesday that committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) "secretly" made "material changes" not approved by the panel before sending the memo to the White House. A spokesman for the committee's GOP majority dismissed the changes as "minor edits."


1 dies when train carrying GOP lawmakers hits garbage truck

At least one person was killed Wednesday when a chartered Amtrak train carrying dozens of Republican members of Congress to a policy retreat crashed into a garbage truck in rural Virginia. The person who died was in the truck. Nobody was seriously injured on the train. Several lawmakers who are doctors, including former Army surgeon Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), joined nurses and paramedics who were among the passengers and rushed into action to help the injured. The wreck occurred at a crossing with gates, flashing lights, bells, and warning signs. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.


Hope Hicks reportedly vowed Trump Jr. Russia emails 'will never get out'

Mark Corallo, former spokesman for President Trump's legal team, plans to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller how Trump and people close to him crafted a press release about Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians, and how White House Communications Director Hope Hicks said Trump Jr.'s emails about the meeting "will never get out," The New York Times reports, citing three sources. Corallo resigned as spokesman in July 2017, the month the press release was written aboard Air Force One. Hicks reportedly made the comment about the emails during a conference call. Corallo was concerned she might be contemplating a cover-up amounting to obstructing justice. The emails, when released, showed Russians had promised Trump Jr. dirt on Hillary Clinton.


Rep. Trey Gowdy becomes latest Republican to announce retirement

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Wednesday became the latest Republican incumbent to announce he would not seek re-election in this year's midterms. He is the 34th Republican to bow out so far, and the ninth committee chairman. Gowdy's profile rose when he headed the House Select Committee that investigated the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's response to them. Gowdy, a former prosecutor, said it was time to get out of politics and back into the judicial system. "Whatever skills I may have are better-utilized in a courtroom than in Congress," he said, "and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system."


Poland Senate approves controversial Holocaust speech bill

Poland's Senate on Thursday voted to approve controversial legislation banning any intentional effort to blame the Polish state or people for Nazi crimes. The legislation still needs approval from President Andrzej Duda, who says he will sign it. Poland's conservative Law and Justice Party proposed the measure, saying it will defend Poland's good name. It criminalizes some speech about the Holocaust, mandating up to three years in prison for anybody who falsely blames Poland or Poles for Nazi crimes during World War II. The approval of the measure by lawmakers came over objections from the U.S. and Israel, where politicians have accused Polish lawmakers of trying to whitewash the roles Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.


Fed leaves interest rates unchanged in Janet Yellen's last meeting as chair

The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged as expected on Wednesday at the end of its two-day policy meeting, the last under outgoing Chairwoman Janet Yellen. The Fed's Open Markets Committee said it expected the economy and inflation to pick up this year, signaling it would continue raising interest rates. The Fed raised rates three times last year. The committee also formally and unanimously voted to install Jerome Powell, a Fed governor, as Yellen's replacement starting Feb. 3. He is expected to stick closely to Yellen's policies, gradually raising rates that were kept historically low to help the economy recover from the Great Recession. U.S. stocks gained after the Fed statement, then eased back and closed moderately higher.


CDC head resigns after investments in tobacco and health-care companies revealed

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, resigned on Wednesday after revelations about her financial investments in tobacco and health-care companies raised questions of conflicts of interest. Alex Azar, the newly appointed secretary of Health and Human Services, announced Fitzgerald's departure. An agency statement said she was leaving because of "complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all her duties as the CDC director." Azar, a former pharmaceutical company executive, accepted Fitzgerald's resignation on his third day on the job, and less than a day after Politico reported that Fitzgerald traded tobacco stocks after taking the job.


DOJ asks judge to dismiss remaining corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez

The Justice Department asked a judge Wednesday to drop the remaining corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The move to dismiss the indictment came a week after the U.S. district judge, Jose Linares, voided other charges. Menendez was accused of lobbying for a friend, wealthy Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for political donations and trips. "From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail," Menendez said. "I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion."


Interceptor missile misses target in Hawaii test

A U.S. interceptor missile launched from a test site in Hawaii missed a dummy missile in a Wednesday test, the second such failure over the past year of a system being developed by the Raytheon Company. The U.S. did intercept a test missile in an August test off the coast of Hawaii, but the latest failure renewed concerns over America's ability to protect itself against a ballistic missile attack by North Korea or another adversary. Even advocates of missile defense systems warn they cannot provide guaranteed protection. The latest test came as tensions with North Korea remain high after Pyongyang's testing in November of a ballistic missile that could reach anywhere in the U.S.


Court lifts doping ban against 28 Russian athletes

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday overturned Olympic doping bans on 28 of the 42 Russian athletes barred from participating in this month's Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The court reinstated seven medals Russians won in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, including gold in men's skeleton and men's 50-kilometer cross-country skiing. "This does not mean that these 28 athletes are declared innocent, but in their case, due to insufficient evidence, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled, and their individual results achieved in Sochi are reinstated," CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said in Pyeongchang. The 28 athletes now can seek late entry into the Pyeongchang Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee said the ruling "does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation" to the games.


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