Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 25, 2018

House Democrats release counter-memo, South Korea says North Korea is ready to talk to Washington, and more


House Democrats release counter-memo

House Intelligence Committee Democrats on Saturday published their counter to the Nunes memo, a controversial document compiled under Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee chair. The Nunes memo alleges the FBI acquired FISA court permission to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page using the Steele dossier, which was created with funding from a Clinton campaign lawyer, not telling the court the information's source. The new memo defends the FBI, claiming the agency was conducting its own probe of the Trump campaign for seven weeks before obtaining the Steele dossier. The dossier was only narrowly used in the surveillance application, the counter-memo says, with proper identification of its political provenance. President Trump condemned the counter-memo while claiming it proves surveillance abuses against his campaign.


South Korea says North Korea is ready to talk to Washington

The North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, indicated "North Korea is willing to have talks with the U.S., and the North agrees that inter-Korean relations and North Korea-U. S. relations should advance together," said a statement from South Korea's presidential administration Sunday. South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged negotiations to "fundamentally resolve" the Korean conflict, the statement said, reporting that North Korea now agrees. In a public statement earlier Sunday, however, the Kim Jong Un regime condemned the United States' latest round of sanctions. Washington "brought the threat of war to the Korean peninsula," Pyongyang said, marring Olympic unity.


China's Communist Party proposes nixing presidential term limit

The Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee on Sunday announced a proposal to remove the presidential term limit that would constrain the rule of President Xi Jinping. Under the present structure of the Chinese Constitution, Xi is limited to two five-year terms, the second of which is due to end in 2023. If the constitutional amendment is approved, Xi could potentially stay in office indefinitely. His anti-corruption campaign has been popular among the public, but comments about the proposal on Weibo, China's Twitter analogue, suggested extending the term limit would be preferred over ending it.


United Nations passes Syria ceasefire resolution

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria so humanitarian aid can be delivered to civilians in crisis. The resolution was briefly delayed by edits demanded by Russia, and it is unclear whether the ceasefire will be adequately enforced. This comes after reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that Syrian government strikes have killed some 500 civilians, including about 120 children, over the course of a week in the East Ghouta suburb of Damascus. The activist group says Russian planes are assisting with the attacks, but Russia denies direct engagement.


Mexican president cancels visit plans after phone call with Trump

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto scrapped plans to visit Washington in February or March after an argumentative phone call with President Trump on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported Saturday night, citing officials from both countries. Trump reportedly "lost his temper" in a discussion of his unrealized pledge to build an extensive wall along the United States' southern border with Mexican funding. "Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall," American officials reportedly told the Post.


Trump talks memo, guns, parade in Fox interview

President Trump phoned in for an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro Saturday night, holding forth on a wide range of topics. He declared the Democratic counter-memo, published earlier that day, "really fraudulent" and its authors worthy of investigation. On guns, he again proposed arming teachers as an antidote to school shootings. A mass shooter would be deterred by "some offensive power in there," Trump said, while "a gun-free zone is like target practice." And though he insisted "the generals would love" a military parade, the president seemed to back off from the idea by noting it could be too expensive.


Trump touts CPAC support, 'Armed Educators' in weekend tweets

President Trump went on a Twitter spree Saturday, repeatedly tagging Fox News as he ranged across half a dozen topics. He eagerly touted straw poll results from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where he scored a 93 percent approval rating and 50 percent support for his Twitter habits. Trump's national approval rating is stuck in the low 40s. Trump also reiterated his enthusiasm for arming teachers to deter school shootings. "Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them," Trump said, adding that this is an issue for state-level governance.


Broward sheriff probes claim multiple deputies did not immediately enter Florida school during shooting

The Broward County Sheriff's Office on Saturday said it is investigating reports that more than one of its deputies did not enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, "when they should have" during the Valentine's Day mass shooting. Sheriff Scott Israel previously said the deputy assigned to the school was suspended without pay and then resigned because he never entered the school to protect students or confront the shooter. The allegations that additional deputies did not respond appropriately comes from the Coral Springs Police Department.


Delta, United join NRA boycott

Delta and United Airlines on Saturday announced they are cutting ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA). The airlines join the Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Alamo, and National car rental brands as well as First National Bank of Omaha, Best Western hotels, MetLife insurance, and more than a dozen other companies in ending deals with the NRA. Delta previously offered discounted airfare for NRA members, and United offered discounts on flights for the organization's annual conference. Companies are dropping the NRA in response to customer outrage following this month's mass shooting at a Florida high school.


Warren Buffett talks tax cuts, debt in annual letter

Billionaire Warren Buffett published his annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway on Saturday. Berkshire's net worth grew by $65.3 billion in 2017, Buffett said, but $29 billion of that gain came from the Republican tax plan passed in December. The tax law lowered the nominal corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. For individual investors, Buffett cautioned against going into debt to purchase stock because the market may drop. "Even if your borrowings are small and your positions aren't immediately threatened by the plunging market, your mind may well become rattled by scary headlines and breathless commentary," he wrote.


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