Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 15, 2018

A gunman kills 17 at a Florida high school, a House panel investigates White House's handling of Porter's security clearance, and more


Gunman kills 17 with semiautomatic rifle at South Florida school

A gunman police identified as an ex-student opened fire with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida on Wednesday, killing 17 people and wounding at least 16 others. Police arrested a suspect, and a federal official identified him as Nikolas Cruz, 19, who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons. Panicked students took cover under desks and teachers barricaded classrooms as the gunman fired shot after shot. One man, Jay Golden, said his daughter sent him texts from a locked room where she was hiding with 40 other students and a teacher. "She was crying," Golden said. "I'm freaking out ... You put your kids in school and it's supposed to be a safe place and this stuff happens all the time."


House panel investigates White House handling of Rob Porter's security clearance

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee launched an investigation Wednesday into the access former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter had to classified material. Porter, with a temporary security clearance, handled paperwork sent to President Trump's desk until resigning after reports that his two ex-wives had accused him of spousal abuse, charges Porter denied. FBI Director Christopher Wray said this week that the FBI completed Porter's background check in July. That contradicted the White House claim that Chief of Staff John Kelly didn't know the full extent of the allegations because the vetting was ongoing. Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said he wanted to know what White House officials knew and how they responded. President Trump broke his silence on the matter Wednesday, saying, he was "totally opposed to domestic violence."


South African President Jacob Zuma resigns

South African President Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday under mounting pressure over corruption allegations. His party, the African National Congress, decided earlier this week to oust him, and warned that it would get rid of him with a no-confidence vote in Parliament if he resisted. "I have therefore come to the decision to resign as the president of the Republic with immediate effect, even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organization," Zuma said in an extended televised address. Zuma's departure marked the end of a humiliating fall for the anti-apartheid hero, who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela. Initially a symbol of hope for the poor, he came to be seen as an engine of corruption. He will be succeeded by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.


3 arrested after SUV rams barricade at NSA headquarters

Authorities arrested three people on Wednesday after a black SUV rammed a concrete barricade at the entrance to the super-secret National Security Agency campus at Fort Meade, Maryland. Shots were fired at the vehicle but there were no apparent injuries from gunfire. The driver, a civilian, and a police officer were hospitalized after the incident with non-life-threatening injuries. Investigators could not immediately say why the vehicle crashed into the barrier, but the FBI did not believe the incident was related to terrorism, FBI Special Agent in Charge Gordon Johnson said. "There is no indication to think this is anything more than an isolated incident," he said. "We are trying to talk to them to understand why they were here."


Stormy Daniels' manager says porn star now free to talk about Trump

Stormy Daniels' manager said Wednesday that the adult film star is now free to talk about her alleged 2011 sexual liaison with President Trump because Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen has publicly acknowledged paying her $130,000 just before the 2016 election. A watchdog group has called the payment hush money that amounted to an illegal campaign contribution. Trump has denied any affair, and Cohen previously denied paying off Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Cohen told The New York Times he paid Daniels with his own money and was never reimbursed by Trump or his campaign, so there was no legal justification for linking it to the campaign. Daniels' manager, Gina Rodriguez, said Cohen's discussion of the payment invalidated their non-disclosure agreement. "Everything is off now," Rodriguez said, "and Stormy is going to tell her story."


Report: Veterans Affairs staff fudged statements to justify paying for trip

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin's chief of staff altered an email and made false statements to justify making taxpayers pay travel costs for Shulkin's wife on a 10-day European trip, V.A. Inspector General Michael Missal reported Wednesday. The top aide changed an email about the trip to create the impression Shulkin would be accepting an award from Denmark, citing it as reason to use public money to pay $4,300 for Shulkin's wife's airfare. The inspector general also said Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets as a gift. The report said it was impossible to determine the value of the meetings Shulkin and his staff held in Copenhagen and London — costing $122,334 — but that "the investigation revealed serious derelictions by V.A. personnel."


Romney expected to announce Senate run

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has decided to launch a bid for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), three people with direct knowledge of the plan told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, postponed a planned Thursday announcement out of respect for victims of the South Florida school shooting. Romney has a history of criticizing President Trump, but is expected to focus on Utah issues in the campaign. In a rare move, Utah Republican Party Chairman Rob Anderson blasted Romney, accusing him of "essentially doing what Hillary Clinton did in New York" by running in a state where he has not spent most of his time.


Intelligence officials warn Americans against using Huawei, ZTE smartphones

The leaders of the CIA, NSA, FBI, and the Defense Intelligence Agency warned in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Americans should avoid using Chinese smartphones made by such companies as Huawei and ZTE, because they could pose a security threat. FBI Director Christopher Wray said it was risky to use smartphones made by any company "beholden to foreign governments" within the U.S. telecommunications network. "It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information," Wray said. "And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage." Such concerns have kept Huawei from gaining market share in the U.S. ZTE pushed back on Thursday, saying it was a trusted partner of U.S. users of its products.


Former Mugabe rival Morgan Tsvangirai dies at 65

Former Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a longtime rival of former autocratic leader Robert Mugabe, died Wednesday from colon cancer. He was 65. Tsvangirai, a former labor leader, led the Movement for Democratic Change party for nearly 20 years, challenging Mugabe in elections in 2002 and 2008. In 2008, Tsvangirai won more votes than Mugabe in the first round but withdrew from the runoff after 200 of his supporters had been killed. Tsvangirai became prime minister in a power-sharing deal brokered by South Africa after the disputed 2008 vote, but the agreement limited his ability to oppose Mugabe. Tsvangirai's death came after months of hospitalization in neighboring South Africa, and just three months after Mugabe, who had ruled since independence in 1980, was ousted by the military.


Shiffrin wins gold in giant slalom

U.S. Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin won the gold medal in the women's giant slalom at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Thursday, fulfilling a vow to improve on her fifth-place finish in the event four years ago in Sochi. Shiffrin's two-run time of 2 minutes 20.02 seconds beat silver-medal winner Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway by 0.39 seconds. The giant slalom is Shiffrin's third-best event, so the win put her in a strong position to win three golds, more than any Alpine skier has won at a single Olympics. On Friday she defends her gold in slalom, her best event. Shiffrin, now one of three Americans to win two Alpine Olympic gold medals, said the moment she realized she had won was "the most amazing, sweetest feeling."


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