Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 16, 2018

Thousands mourn school shooting victims at Florida vigil, senators reject a bipartisan immigration deal, and more

1

8,000 attend vigil honoring victims of Florida school shooting

About 8,000 people attended a vigil in Parkland, Florida, Thursday night to mourn the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. South Florida police said the suspected shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, confessed to the rampage, which left 17 people dead. Cruz, a former student expelled for fighting, made his first court appearance on Thursday and was formally charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. A judge ordered him held without bail. In the day following the massacre, details emerged about Cruz's history of making threats. One person said they had alerted the FBI last year when someone identifying himself as Nikolas Cruz posted a Youtube comment saying he was going to commit a school shooting.

2

Senators reject a bipartisan immigration deal

Senators on Thursday rejected a bipartisan immigration deal ahead of a self-imposed Friday deadline, leaving unresolved the fate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. They stand to lose Obama-era protections against deportation that President Trump ordered to be phased out as early as March 5. The defeat came after 24 hours of tense negotiations and a looming veto threat from Trump, who is insisting that Congress approve a proposal submitted by the White House. Senators rejected that plan, too. Trump has said his plan is the only one he will sign. It includes legal status for 1.8 million young immigrants, at least $25 billion in added border security, and curbs to legal family-based migration programs and the scrapping of a diversity visa lottery program.

3

Second appeals court rules against Trump's latest travel ban

A second appeals court on Thursday ruled that the most recent incarnation of President Trump's controversial travel ban is probably unconstitutional. The U.S. appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, immediately put the decision on hold, because the U.S. Supreme Court has already agreed to consider the Trump administration's appeal of a ruling against the restrictions by a San Francisco-based appeals court, saying it was essentially the same as previous versions of the ban blocked because they appeared to target Muslims. The Supreme Court allowed most of the latest ban, which includes travel restrictions on people from other countries such as North Korea and Venezuela, to take effect pending its review.

4

Trump vows to make schools safer, doesn't mention guns

President Trump called this week's school shooting, which left 17 Florida high school students and teachers dead, the work of "hatred and evil" in his first public remarks on the tragedy. He pledged action to address mental health problems and make schools safer. "To every parent, teacher, and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain," Trump said. In his six-minute speech, Trump did not mention guns, or Democrats' calls for laws to curb access to weapons like the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle police say the attacker used. "Let's have a conversation about this right now," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). "Let's do what needs to be done and let's get these assault weapons off our streets."

5

Bannon talks to Mueller, but sidesteps most questions from House panel

Stephen Bannon, President Trump's former chief strategist, was interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team as it investigates Russia's election meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates, NBC News reported Thursday. Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said Bannon dodged most of their questions, agreeing only to answer "no" to 25 questions authorized by the White House in a hearing. Lawmakers reportedly are considering "further steps" to compel Bannon to answer questions, with Democrats suggesting holding him in contempt. "The breadth of that claim of executive privilege is breathtaking and insupportable and indeed, at times, it was laughable," said Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel.

6

V.A. secretary agrees to repay some of controversial travel bill

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Thursday he would repay government money an inspector general's report said he had improperly used to pay his wife's travel expenses. Shulkin maintained that he had done nothing wrong, but acknowledged that "the optics of this are not good." He committed to repaying taxpayer money used to cover parts of a 10-day trip to Europe last summer that included high-end accommodations for a Wimbledon tennis match and sightseeing excursions with his wife. The V.A. inspector general, Michael Missal, concluded that Shulkin's chief of staff had altered an email and made false statements to justify making taxpayers pay travel costs for Shulkin's wife, falsely claiming that he was to accept an award in Denmark.

7

Bronx brothers accused of hoarding explosives for bomb plot

Federal authorities on Thursday arrested a former New York City charter high school teacher and his twin brother and charged them with stockpiling 32 pounds of explosive material in a bomb-making scheme. The former teacher, 27-year-old Christian Toro, allegedly paid students $50 an hour to break open fireworks and take out the explosive powder. Investigators said they had found a diary with references to "Operation Flash," and an index card reading, "Under the full moon the small ones will know terror." Christian Toro and his brother, Tyler Toro, were arrested at their Bronx apartment. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the arrests "likely saved many, many lives."

8

Trump inaugural committee paid $26 million to firm of first lady's friend

President Trump's inaugural committee donated less of its record fundraising haul to charity than expected, and paid nearly $26 million to the event-planning firm of first lady Melania Trump's adviser and longtime friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, according to tax filings released Thursday. The nonprofit 58th Presidential Inaugural Commitee raised $107 million from wealthy donors and corporations, more than enough to cover expenses for Trump's January 2017 inauguration and related events. The committee's chairman, Thomas Barrack Jr., had promised to spend carefully and donate leftover money to charity. The filings showed that about $5 million had gone to charities, including $3 million for hurricane relief, and $1.75 million for groups that decorate and maintain the White House and vice president's residence.

9

Dow regains 25,000 level after five days of gains

U.S. stocks rose for the fifth straight session on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 1.2 percent to regain the 25,000 level for the first time in nearly two weeks. The S&P 500 also added 1.2 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite rose by 1.6 percent. The Dow and S&P are still 4 percent to 6 percent below last month's highs, but well above the low points they hit when their losses reached 10 percent below their peak, putting them officially in correction territory. Analysts had warned a selloff was coming, but now they're suggesting the plunge might have gone further than it should have, fueled by fears that rising inflation would prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than previously expected to keep the economy from overheating. Stock futures edged higher early Friday.

10

Amazon confirms that Jeffrey Tambor will not return to Transparent

The Emmy-winning dramedy Transparent is losing its main star, Amazon confirmed Thursday. Actor Jeffrey Tambor, who portrayed the transgender main character Maura Pfefferman, will not return to the show after being investigated for sexual harassment as Amazon declined to renew his contract. Tambor's personal assistant, Van Barnes, first made the allegations against him, followed by Tambor's Transparent co-star Trace Lysette in November. Tambor released two statements in response, expressing regret that his actions were "misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive" but denying any wrongdoing on his part. He also condemned the "politicized atmosphere" on the set of Transparent. It remains unclear how the show's plot will be affected by Tambor's dismissal, or whether this will be Transparent's last season.

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