Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 18, 2018

McMaster says evidence of Russian meddling 'is now incontrovertible,' Florida shooting survivors rally for new gun laws, and more


McMaster says evidence of Russian meddling 'is now incontrovertible'

Following Friday's indictment of Russian nationals by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Saturday "the evidence is now incontrovertible" that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election. His statement stands in contrast to President Trump's Friday claim that "results of the election were not impacted" by Russia's "anti-U.S. campaign." Trump also pushed back on McMaster's remarks in a tweet later Saturday. "General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians," Trump wrote, "and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems."


Florida shooting survivors rally for new gun laws

Floridians gathered in downtown Fort Lauderdale Saturday to rally for stricter gun laws in response to Wednesday's deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland. The crowd of several thousand heard from students who survived the attack. "We are going to be the last mass shooting," said one student, Emma Gonzalez, whose impassioned speech was shared widely online. "If you don't do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur," she charged, "that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you."


Trump denies questioning Russian election meddling

"I never said Russia did not meddle in the election," President Trump tweeted early Sunday. "I said 'it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,'" he continued. "The Russian 'hoax' was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia - it never did!" Trump was referring to comments he made in the first general election debate saying interference efforts "could be Russia," China, or "somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds." However, Trump also said in November of 2017 he "really believes" Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial of election meddling.


Trump attacks FBI on Florida shooting, Russia probe, Iran deal

In a pair of tweets posted Saturday night and Sunday morning, President Trump aired three separate grievances with the FBI. First, he targeted the agency's failure to investigate a January tip about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who confessed the school shooting in Florida this past week. In the same tweet, the president went on to blame this grim error on the FBI's involvement in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. The FBI is "spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign," he wrote. In a follow-up tweet, Trump turned to the Iran deal, criticizing the FBI for not investigating the Obama administration for paying Iran $1.7 billion to settle a decades-old legal dispute and help secure the release of American prisoners.


Manafort accused of bank fraud

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team said in a filing for a bail hearing for Paul Manafort it has uncovered "additional criminal conduct" by the former Trump campaign chair. Manafort is already under indictment for charges including money laundering, false statements, and "conspiracy against the United States." The new misconduct "includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies, including criminal conduct relating to the mortgage on the Fairfax property, which Manafort seeks to pledge" for his $10 million bail, the filing said. No new charges have been filed, and Manafort remains under house arrest.


South Korean president posits 'consensus' that Washington and Pyongyang need to talk

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Saturday he wants to "create an environment" conducive to talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, but that a "consensus is starting to build that there's also a need for talks between the United States and North Korea." In the absence of those negotiations, Moon seemed cautious about moving forward with unilateral conversations that could anger Washington. He declined to formally accept the invitation to talks extended earlier this month by Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.


Netanyahu threatens war with Iran

"Israel will not allow Iran's regime to put the noose of terror around our neck," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. "We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act, if necessary, not only against Iranian proxies that are attacking us but against Iran itself." Netanyahu alleged Iran is attempting to "colonize" Syria, which is located between the two countries. As he spoke, he waved a piece of an Iranian drone recently downed on Israeli land. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif labeled the remarks "a cartoonish circus which does not even deserve a response."


Iranian passenger plane crashes

An Iranian passenger plane heading to Tehran crashed Sunday morning in a mountainous rural region. All 66 people on board, 60 passengers and six crew members, are presumed dead. Retrieval efforts have been hindered by the crash site's remote location and bad weather. Iran has a poor record on aviation safety because international sanctions intended to restrain its nuclear development make it difficult to obtain parts to keep planes in good condition. This plane, operated by Aseman Airlines, was 25 years old.


Gaza teenagers reportedly killed amid Israeli strikes

Two Palestinian teenagers were reportedly killed Sunday while Israel carried out overnight strikes on Gaza in retaliation for a Saturday bombing that wounded four Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military said the strikes targeted 18 Hamas locations, including "weapons manufacturing infrastructure," a tunnel, and a training location. Medics in Gaza reported the two 17-year-old boys were killed by tank fire from Israeli troops who believed they were attempting to cross a territorial line in "a suspicious manner."


Mexican helicopter crash death toll rises to 14

A military helicopter surveying the damage from Friday's earthquake in Mexico crashed Saturday, claiming the lives of 14 people on the ground and injuring 16 more. Original reports put the death toll at two, but by Sunday the number rose to 14 people killed, including one baby. The craft skidded into several vehicles when the pilot lost control during landing. Mexian Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat were both aboard the helicopter at the time of the crash, but like the other passengers, they were not seriously injured.


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